Given my recent questions about octopus care I thought it would be good to put these into a single thread. This is not species specific, but rather just general care and troubleshooting for the newly acquired octopus. I am not an expert and these are my own observations along with information gathered from various internet resources and the people on here, so feel free to add to it and correct me if you feel I've misstated something. What to look for in a new octopus When selecting an octopus, appearance can mean a lot. If an octopus looks unhealthy, it probably is. Even a stressed out octopus can still look healthy, so here are some suggestions for what to look for. Coloration: A healthy octopus should exhibit colors that it normally would. This is certainly not the only indicator of health, as a dying octopus can exhibit coloration and even a dead octopus can still exhibit color changes, but you certainly don't want to buy an octopus that is simply white and has no color at all. A healthy octopus should be able to change colors rapidly according to mood and also should be able to blend in with its surroundings. If it's discolored and lacking any pigmentation, this could be a sign that it is on its deathbed. Texture: Octopuses can change their appearance by more than just their coloration. A healthy octopus should be able to change the texture of its skin, typically at least in the mantle. If upon observation it is consistently smooth and the typical species exhibits lots of texture to its skin, then it may have lost control over the ability to texturize itself. This should definitely not be considered as the only way of telling health, however, as an octopus may simply not want to exhibit any texture or it may be one that typically does not. A good example of an octopus that does not normally exhibit any texture is one that lives in muddy or sandy bottoms. These will match the texture of the environment they are naturally occurring in. "Body Control": An octopus has one of the most advanced nervous systems out there for invertebrates and also has an extraordinary level of control over its various body parts. This goes beyond simple textures on their bodies and includes the ability to manipulate individual body parts from their arms to their eyes to their mantles. This is probably best off listed by body part. Arms: What can be misleading about an octopus' health is that the arms have so many nerves in them that the arms can almost take on a life of their own. That said, a healthy octopus will have enough control over its arms that they are active from tip to webbing. The arms should have fairly uniform coloration from tip to base and the suckers should all be able to grasp. If the arm does not respond to stimulus or is unable to grab onto something, then that's a sign that the arm is not working properly. Look for an octopus to respond to a feeding stick by extending an arm up the stick and grabbing onto it to examine it. An arm that waves loosely in the water is a sign of an unhealthy arm or worse, an unhealthy octopus. Even if the octopus is responsive and the arms can move around, if they are corkscrewed at the ends, this is a sign of an unhealthy octopus, perhaps one that is close to death. Look for signs of the octopus curling its arms and extending them to examine things. Eyes: An octopus has an incredible amount of control over its eyes. This can be anything from extending or retracting the eyes to the responsiveness of the eye itself to light. If an octopus has uneven eyes, this may be a sign that you need to investigate more. It's not that it they cannot extend their eyes unevenly, which they can, but if the eyes are simply uneven for no reason, then that could be a sign of a loss of control. Likewise, the pupils of an octopus' eyes should respond to light. If the octopus is sitting in the dark and the pupils are completely closed up, this is a sign that it has lost control over them. If an octopus' pupils are wide open in the brightest light, that's the same warning signal. Also, make sure you can actually see the octopus' eyes themselves. If they are completely hidden all of the time, that's not a good sign. Mantle: The mantle of an octopus contains all of its important body parts and organs. If an octopus has a mantle that droops to the side or is extremely uneven, that's probably another sign that it's unhealthy. The mantle itself should be expanding and contracting regularly as the octopus draws in water through its incurrent siphons (a.k.a. gill slits) and then releases it through its siphon. If one or both of the incurrent siphons are not closing properly, then the octopus is not breathing properly either. If the mantle is constantly deflated and appears to be more like a puddle than a muscle, then it's a good indicator that the octopus is not healthy. Webbing: If the octopus is supposed to have webbing between its arms, make sure that it's there... I don't have an octopus with extensive webbing so can't say whether it uses this a lot or not! Behavior: An octopus should act like an octopus! If it is just sitting there or it gets blown around by the current in the tank, then it's probably not healthy. Look for reactions, proper breathing, and one that will eat in the store! If it has just arrived, don't expect it to eat, but if it's had a couple of days in the store then it should be eating. Just because an octopus grabs onto something does not mean that it's eating. Make sure that it grabs it and brings it to its mouth. It should also cup its arms around it and surround the food with whatever webbing it has. If it just sits on it, then it's probably not eating it. One sign of eating is an octopus which raises its body up a bit and the base of the arms goes down around the food so that the suckers can all grab onto the food so it gives the appearance of squeezing the food. As mentioned above, also look for reactions to stimulus and healthy breathing. Also, an octopus which is sitting out in the open is possibly not very healthy. Their natural behavior is to hide unless there's a reason to be out so if it's just sitting there and is unresponsive, it's either been tipping back the bottle or it's not healthy. If it is sitting there and you poke it with a stick and it starts to writhe, shoot ink, and display coloration and body texture before fleeing, then it's probably healthy and had a reason for sitting there. Speaking of inking, if an octopus cannot ink at all, that's a sign that it's probably either too exhausted to ink or that it has used up all of its ink. If it's randomly inking in the tank, that's probably not a good sign either... How to Transport and Acclimate an Octopus One common reason for the failure of an octopus to survive is a problem encountered during transport. This can be from the shipping from the ocean to the wholesaler, from the wholesaler to the retailer, or from the retailer to your own home. You have no control over how the octopus is transported up until the point in time when it is transported to your home, so make sure to take precautions over how you handle it. Also, make sure that where you get it from has done whatever they can to properly acclimate it. If it's a temperate species and it's being kept in warmer conditions, that's something to be careful of as it may already have suffered enough damage to not make it. Anyway, here are some tips for making sure that the octopus is properly transported. At a minimum, double bag it and make sure that there is a blackout bag or at least some newspaper blocking out the light from getting into the bag. Also, make sure there's enough water in the bag just in case it does ink. If they're willing, you may even want to put something into the bag for it to hide in, just make sure it's not sharp or rough on the edges so it won't damage the octopus in transit. Control the temperature! Make sure to maintain the temperature as much as possible. If the octopus goes through too much temperature change then it may damage it. When you get it home, acclimate as slowly as possible. You may want to transfer it into something that it cannot chew through. Drip acclimation would be best, but make sure that whatever you put it in that it doesn't crawl out. When it's ready to go into the tank, it will probably crawl out, so make sure that it's able to crawl out without being harassed by other tank inhabitants (if any) and that it's able to do so safely. If the temperature of your system and the temperature of where the octopus was being kept is more than a couple of degrees, don't force the issue. You do not want to temperature acclimate more than a couple of days per day, so you may want to adjust your tank temperature before adding the octopus (better yet, change the temperature of your tank to match the tank at the store before bringing the octopus home - this will also give you a chance to watch it in the store and make sure that it's healthy).