How do you all deal with the short life span of the octo's? I am thinking about setting up a tank and getting into this, but I think it would break my heart to see one grow and then a year to two years later it pass. How do you deal with this?
Reality is much harsher than you think. Since there is no source for captive bred, all our octopuses are wild caught. The ones currently available and suitable for a home aquarium live between 12 and 15 months (at best guess since the very youngest we have seen lived a full year in the tank). You will most likely acquire an animal that is at least 5 months old so keeping one for a full year is rare.
Dealing with this is difficult for all of us and I often state that it is likely the reason I keep multiple octopuses at one time. There are a few that it is possible to raise the young if you happen to get a female with fertile eggs but the numbers of hatchlings living more than a month are very small. The one exception (and also a somewhat longer lived animal) is the Pacific bimac (bimaculoides). One member was able to raise 100 of the hatchlings from his WC female and several people have kept them 18 months or more. Unfortuanately, this Pacific species requires a chiller and is not commercially available. Members who have kept them do their own collecting.
The life span is why I recommend establishing a tank for a variety of species and not a specific octopus. In a nut shell this means at least a 55 gallon tank (and to incorporate the most commonly currently available, a 65 gallon min is recommended), sump and skimmer.
when people buy octos due they really know what they are getting or is it more of a chance type deal. I really do not live in an area where I can go out and catch one..I live by Chicago. Is there a source online that sells them?
Well, really it's all chance. However, there are a few vendors that seem to get certain species fairly regularly, Such as Liveaquaria.com and the 'Indonesian' octopus. a good portion of the time it is an Aculeatus that shows up, but sure enough every now and then a Macropus or something else may show up, so basically there is still some chance in it. I would say that ordering one from your Local Fish Store (LFS) is a 100% gamble.
The short lifespan SUCKS! its horrible. to make it easier some of us keep multiple tanks, with different octos in each. Since Octopus Anonymous, has not been formed yet the octopus addiction can get outta control fast
I think there are two main reasons that the short life span is a big negative: sadness at the loss of a pet, and the inconvenience of needing to go through the find, buy, "what species did I get?" cycle. This won't work for everybody, but I use logic to get around the sadness. When my octopus dies of old age, I remind myself that the wild is a very dangerous place for an octopus, and that I've very likely given my octopus a longer life than it would have had under any other circumstances. When an octopus dies of old age in my tank, it's the best of all possible outcomes, and I'm emotionally at peace with that.
As for the inconvenience, I "cheat" because I catch my own bimacs, for free, and for me it's fun to hunt for them at low tide, so I don't find replacing a bimac to be a chore. I also do what I can to maximize the life span of my octopus. While it is not scientifically confirmed for octopus, there is evidence that many animals have longer life spans if med a minimal diet, and for cold blooded animals if they are kept at the lower end of their temperature range. I think Roy has written that in his lab he routinely keeps bimacs for two years with cool temperatures and frugal feeding. When I caught my current bimac, about 14 months ago, it was more than half of it's adult size already. I keep it at 56 degrees and feed it every two of three days, and only enough to keep if from getting smaller/thinner. I strongly suspect that one can maximize the life span of any octopus by keeping it at the low end of its natural temperature range, and feeding a minimum amount, but enough to allow for slow growth, or for a fully grown octopus, just enough to maintain bulk.
We strongly recommend a species only tank. Sometimes, for awhile, octos will live with fish but over time this has not worked out. One of our very active members wrote a great article on his experience that included the time frames as things went from peacful to a reign of terror and I would invite you to read It Works Until It Doesn't. CaptFish is not the only member to experience this but he took the time to document it. It is typical for trying to keep a mixed tank.