New from Asheville area, NC

Blue Ridge Reef

Dec 8, 2011
Hey guys! I'm a pet shop owner, focusing on aquatics. I've had two octos in my life, the longest lived was 13 months, and losing her was heartbreaking. Cephlapods of all manner have been something I've wanted to attempt since, but a store environment seems less than ideal (no matter how many signs state not to tap, folks still do). I'm looking into either a two way glass or some type of diffuser or film, as well as perhaps putting a plexiglass false front on it. The tank I have in mind is a 125 gallon, with a filtration system and H&S skimmer for roughly a 1,000 gallon system. I may yet decide to go another route, if proper care is simply going to be impractical. I do have a spare chiller, and find nautiluses fascinating (as well as cuttles), but perhaps I should wait for some breakthroughs in the species' care rather than being a guinea pig and depriving one of these magnificent animals their normal life span. At any rate, I'm here to learn, and will post plenty of details and photos if I do decide to go the ceph route.


Certified Ceph Head For Life
Staff member
Sep 4, 2006
Gainesville, GA
As you are guessing, nautilus are not recommended because of dwindling numbers (staff member, gjbarord is helping research the wild population as part of his PhD). In the wild they are believe to live 20 or more years, in captivity, 18 months seems to be a common limit.

Cuttlefish are being captive bred and raised but are still not usually obtainable from these limited sources. The small Sepia bandensis from the Philippines is pretty much the only cuttle we see for sale (there are none native to our hemisphere) and are often available as eggs. TONMO members have been successful at breeding one generation but little more. Thales (a pioneer in raising and breeding bandensis) is working with captive raising of the flamboyants with the California Academy of Sciences but this species is one that should be only attempted by someone with heavy prior experience raising a less threatened species.

Octopuses for the home aquarium are all wild caught as breeding anything but the nocturnal dwarf, O. mercatoris, presents space and cannibalism problems. TONMO has recorded a few successes with multiple generations of the mercs (the original keepers raising all surviving hatchlings with none for sale), success with hatchling bimaculoides and I have been successful in raising a pair of O. brieareus from a hatchings (I did attempt a mating with the sibblings that produced a few young but none survived). The Caribbean octopuses are plentiful (most years) and don't appear to be under excessive stress (possibly because they are not heavily fished for food). The more exotic animals from muck environments (Wonderpus photogenicus and Thaumoctopus mimicus) remain on our list of experts only due to dwindling environments, failure to survive well in aquaria - suspected capture and holding problems - and the planktonic hatchling biology that does not allow us to raise young.

Of the often available Caribbean octopus species for a 125 gallon tank, I would recommend an Octopus briareus. It is a beautiful animal that will often be day active as it matures (all octopuses I have kept have been noctural and shy when young) and has very showy webbing (65+ recommended minium but it won't be lost in a 125). If you can minimize the lighting and acclimate it to eating early, it would make a nice display animal. This is a large egg species and it is difficult but viable to raise a few of the hatchings should you get a fertilized female. There are a few indications that this species will be abundant this year.

A 125 might house a Caribbean/US Atlantic vulgaris but is on the small side for the larger individuals of this species (a 150 - 175 is better > 200 best). We don't see them often and they are never shipped labeled as vulgaris (most vendors cannot identify species). If you find an octopus caught locally by fishermen in NC, it will likely be vulgaris but most of our octopuses come from further south.

Octopus hummelincki can easily live in a smaller tank (55 gallon minimum recommended). This species is day active but the size range is extreme. I have kept some that were dwarf sized and others that were medium (shorter arms and mantle than O. briareus but thicker mantle). The dwarf sized animals would likely be hard to find in a 125 but not the medium sized. This species has come from the Keys but is more often from Haiti. We have seen most females of this species begin to brood within a month of being placed in an aquarium (usually very close to the two week mark). This is antecdotal observation and it is likely that an about to brood female may be out foraging (appetite is usually excessive when they arrive) and more easily caught rather an some direct attribute of being place into a captive environment. It is small egged so there is no chance of raising young.

Lastly, Octopus bimaculoides is a Pacific animal (chiller required) that is hardy and does well in an aquarium but is most often found along the CA coast. CA has made it illegal to sell these animals (you can catch them and eat them or catch them and put it in your own aquarium but you cannot sell a live one). Occassionally we see hatchlings available from educational projects or a member will catch one and ship it with the keeper paying for shipping only. This is a large egg animal and, other than the dwarf O.mercatoris, has been the most successful to raise from hatchling.

At the top of our Octopus Care forum there are stickies entitled List of Our Octopuses 20xx. The lists show the species and contain links to the various journals.

I find that keeping the animals where they can view activity creates a more active animal. Most of ours are kept in the breakfast room (our daily eating area but also a main traffic room). I particularly like using an eating area because they can watch non-threatening activity and acclimate to humans. I am not sure how you would go about this kind of acclimation in a store but talking to your local aquarium about their proceedures for any animals might bring forth suggestions.

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