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[Octopus]: Varys, our brooding O. mercatoris


Staff member
Sep 4, 2006
With the first batch, I only had 6 and kept them all in a large breeder net. I had them in the standard type net for a short time and lost the one when it climbed up the net and couldn't find the water but the other five lived together for several months before I split them into groups of two and three and after 11+ months the males are all still alive but showing signs of old age (Miss Broody was never seen again after the second mating). My second brood has not faired well but I don't think it is from babies eating babies. The young started to come out for feeding early but then started disappearing and not coming out when I would feed. Now I think it may have been the adult males entering the nets causing the extreme shyness and loss of young but this is only conjecture.

WATCH OUT! If you THINK you have a baby in the baster and then it does not come out, do not assume it slipped out the bottom. They are very hard to see in the baster. Be sure you completely refill the baster if you think one escaped and check again with it full of water. Mine would stick to the inside of the baster and were all but invisible with no water.

Love the Mercaplex Octominiums!
Jan 18, 2008
Long overdue update on Varys' hatchlings....

Ah... where to begin? (Get some popcorn, this could take a while :popcorn:)

So the eggs started hatching on Friday (2/22) and continued through about Tuesday (2/26). Varys had pretty much stopped accepting food by this point. At that time, at total of 15 babies had shown up and we removed each into the octominiums as we found them (we had six units set up). By 2/25, we had already lost 5 babies. Nitrate was high (20-30 ppm) so we did water changes and moved the remaining babies in their octominiums to another tank just to be safe. We never did actually see one of the babies eat any of the amphipods we had put into the octominiums or any of the cyclopeeze we targeted at them. At this point, we began to suspect that food was an issue as well. The babies seemed to lose function and coordination of their arms and curled up into sad little balls that eventually couldn't hold on to anything and wafted around in the current. It was tragic! :cry: Needless to say, we were horrified and ashamed. By Thursday (2/28), all of the remaining babies were dead and no new ones had hatched in 2 or 3 days. We were so depressed at this point that we didn't want to get online and have to write about it.

On Friday (2/29), the live mysids and gamma pods showed up (the timing was our fault, not the supplier's fault). We were about to leave town, so we dumped them into the other reef tanks to feed our other critters while we were out of town for the weekend. We spent the weekend consoling ourselves, trying to figure how we would do things differently next time... although we both agreed that "next time" wouldn't be anytime soon.

We were wrong.

When we got home on Sunday evening (3/2), we were stunned to find 3 new babies in Varys' tank! :bugout: By the next morning, we had spotted 6. The morning after that, we spotted 10. This put the total up around 25 babies? We can only guess that when we first saw the eggs, Varys was only halfway done, and continued to lay a bunch more afterward.

So. Time to implement all those things we had discussed!

#1 Quit using the octominiums. 100% mortality rate = bad. Babies were left in Varys' tank.
#2 Get live foods ASAP. By this point, our LFS had managed to get in a shipment of "Tigger Pods" (Tigriopus californicus -- basically live cyclopeeze).
#3 Order more live food from Sachs.
#4 Stuff Varys' tank with a ridiculous amount of macro algae (with many gamma and amphipods living in it) and start turning on the whites and actinics during the day to help reduce nitrates.
#5 Get gamma pods from the filter media in the saltwater tanks at the college.
#6 Pray.

The results?

On Monday night (3/3), the babies immediately began feeding on the tigger pods. We turned out the light in the octo tank, but left the actinics on in the mantis tank next to it. This attracted all of the little red pods to that wall where they concentrate like moths under a porch light. The babies lined the wall with their little arms shooting this way and that, snagging pods and stuffing their little mouths.
(Video of 3 babies chasing tigger pods on the glass)

They are usually very good about giving each other space, but occassional non-violent encounters and startled inkings occured. On Wednesday evening (3/5), four of the babies accepted frozen mysid heads from the end of a pipette! :biggrin2: But that is tiring work and requires the patience of Job! They fed from the pipette again the next morning. On Thursday night, we added about 30 gamma pods collected from the tanks at work and several of the babies continued to eat the tigger pods, but they had no luck catching the larger gamma pods.

We weren't out of the woods yet though (and may not be even now). By Friday (3/7) afternoon, 3 babies had died, so we did more water changes. Fortunately, the live mysids showed up later that day. All 200 mysids went right into the tank with the babies. It was a madhouse! At least five of the babies showed up to catch live mysids.

And then, a moment of panic! It looked as though one of the babies had actually caught one of the other babies and was trying to eat it! A few gentle proddings with a bamboo skewer weren't enough to make it let go. It kept stumbling along the the glass and then trying to swim away while tenaciously clutching its great big dinner.

:octorun: "This is mine and you can't have it!" :octorun:

Fortunately, when the baby swam away, it was easier to see its catch and we realized that it had actually nabbed an enormous gamma pod that was at least as big as the little octo itself!

One of the babies was out during "lights on" today, and we aren't sure what to make of that, but it did go back into hiding a short while later. We hope this is not a sign of impending doom. (Baby daywalker video)

So... it's been quite a roller-coaster ride. We are definitely doing better with the second half of this batch, but overall, we've had a 75% mortality rate and obviously aren't very good at this. Poor Varys. All that self-sacrifice and effort. We've never had this much difficulty with any of our other saltwater inverts (even some of the more delicate ones) and felt like helpless, hapless idiots. We really want to keep these last few kiddos alive and would welcome any additional advice.


Staff member
Sep 4, 2006
Great videos! I have been fretting that you haven't posted.

After your experience with the octominiums and my 99% (I still have one and a second is once again loose in the tank and may or may not be alive) mortality rate, I would agree that feeding is the primary issue. When I only had 6, I only lost one when I had over 20 I lost almost all of them and I have been leaning toward feeding density as a factor. Unlike you, I only found the bodies of about 4, the rest disappeared. I turned off the flow in the net at night to allow more food to stay in the net and this may have been a mistake. With the first ones, I did this after they were several days (maybe even a couple of weeks, I didn't record the timing) old. The flow may have helped the Cyclop-eeze seem more like live food and possibly should have been left on at night or at least turned back on after an hour.

Another possible factor is the age of the babies. I know that in cuttles, if they hatch before totally consuming the yolk sack they are unlikely to survive. The first that died within a couple of days may have hatched too early while the later ones may have matured enough to make it.:fingerscrossed:

Water quality is always a concern with octos and I do pretty heafty water changes on a regular basis (especially since Miss Broody disappeared and now MIA has not been seen for a week). However, my two most active adults (Sisturus and Medusa) live in a 15 gallon tank, are a week shy of a year old and remain active and interactive as well as continuing to eat well. HideNSeek (in the 45 gallon tank with the breeder net) has become more recluse and no longer not shows up for dinner but I have been able to locate him nightly and the crabs continue to disappear. The water quality in the larger tank should be better than in the smaller one - at least as far as nitrates are concerned - so I am disinclined to think that the water is a factor in my case.

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