The right habitat for the species

Discussion in 'Octopus Care' started by Neogonodactylus, Mar 23, 2008.

  1. Neogonodactylus

    Neogonodactylus Haliphron Atlanticus Staff Member Moderator

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    As I read through various threads, it bothers me that aquarists often assume that any tropical or semi-tropical octopus can live happily in a reef tank populated by corals. Many of the species of octopus available through suppliers are collected from habitats that have few if any corals and these animals typically do not associate with corals, sponges, etc. Good examples would be muck species such as wunderpus, the mimic and O. marginatus. These species live in and forage on sandy substrates. They would rarely, if ever, be found in association with corals.

    A recent case in point is the discovery of the rare, iteroparous octopus, O. chierchiae in a commercial shipment. This species is found in the tropical eastern Pacific. While it might be assumed that this species could be kept in a reef tank, from my experience, it is typically found in tide pools and on open, rocky slopes living in cavities formed by boring organisms such as razor clams. The are found in association with algae and corolline algae, but rarely corals.

    With our increasing ability to grow and propagate a diversity of corals, reef tanks are made up of a greater variety of species of coelenterates - many which can harm other organisms. If their nematocysts don't cause damage their calcarious skeletons may.

    I would urge that when considering an octopus for your home tank, consideration be taken regarding what is the natural habitat that this species occupies and can it be supplied. Too often an animal is discovered in a LFS and is taken home to be plopped into the reef tank with no consideration of whether this species naturally occurs with coral and of whether the species of coral in the tank are potentially injurious.

    Roy
     
  2. L8 2 RISE

    L8 2 RISE Haliphron Atlanticus Registered

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    I will agree with you that it appears this is happening with a few of the octos here. I will be sure to consider this when I get an octo, hopefully sometime in the next year.
     
  3. Nancy

    Nancy Titanites Staff Member Moderator

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    Thanks for bringing up this issue. I hope we can move towards a better understanding of how best to keep each species as we become better at keeping cephs.

    A goal over the next year might be to assemble descriptions of the habitat of commonly kept octopuses. O. mercatoris often comes as a hitchhiker with live rocks and coral, so it should do well in a reef tank.

    Another thing that bothers me about many reef tanks is that the corals are often jammed up against each other with no spaces in between (very common for the Tank of the Month on Reef Central)- if you compare to a real reef, this sort of tank is not "natural". So we need to think about the aquascaping of a reef tank would most octopus friendly.

    Other species, as Roy points out, are not from a reef environment and we need to consider what sort of tank envonment would be best for them. We are also constrained by needing to use live rock to help with our filtration.

    Will be interesting to hear some other thoughts on this.

    Nancy
     
  4. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

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    Thanks for these insights. I think this will be a useful thread to refer people to when they ask about corals, aquascaping, and other tank decoration/environment issues.

    I thought there was a thread or an article around about "safe" corals for octos, but I couldn't find it when someone asked recently. The "common wisdom" here seems to be that soft, non-stinging corals are the only ones that are OK, for the reasons you mention, and because they tend not to need the very bright lighting that seems to make many octos uncomfortable. I know some of the things that reef-keepers come with a lot of strong opinions on are often at odds with making a good environment for cephs, since cephs seem to have rather different lighting, circulation, and filtration requirements than reef setups.

    Of course, you make the good point that even "safe" corals may be so different from the octo's natural environment that it could be uncomfortable or stressful. It seems like many of the "muck" species (does aculeatus fall into this category as well?) are hard to accommodate in tanks, since my impression of their normal behavior is that they have a wide mud-flat area to explore, so they'll be far more limited in a tank... from the behavior we've seen (e.g. the wunderpus Fontanelle hiding behind the overflow more than borrowing in the mud) it seems like in tanks, they may seek out more shelter, perhaps because they don't have the ability to run away for long distances as they do in the wild?

    Unfortunately, a pragmatic aspect of this issue seems to be that we get a lot of people who only ask after the fact, and it's sometimes hard to balance advice in such a way that it doesn't make people feel attacked... I really appreciate it when people say "I'm planning to set up a tank to get an octo in 6 months" as opposed to "I just bought an octo at my LFS and put it in my reef tank. Will it get along with my stinging corals and shark?"

    Another thing that makes this difficult is that most reference books say little if anything about the habitat of octos. Nesis and the FAO guide say almost nothing, Norman has a bit more but tends to be terse and vague, and ToLweb and the like tend to focus much more on the taxonomic information like Nesis. It would be immensely helpful if we could collect habitat information from you and other experts who have done a lot of field work, and make some sort of document that describes the typical habitat for the species that show up most often in the trade.

    Thanks for starting discussion on this, I think it's an important consideration that's received less attention than it should.
     
  5. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    This is worth quoting again and again, and applies to all cephs (and all marine ornamentals for that matter).

    A list of cephs and their habitats including photos would be excellent and useful.

    Species specific tanks are my choice and my recommendation for cephs, but sadly most people want to keep them in the reef tanks they already have.


    The 'natural' vs 'non natural' home aquarium discussions always seem odd to me, as there is just nothing at all natural about the glass boxes people have at home (although many corals do grow in close proximity to each other in the wild, even through each other). The list is huge, but some highlights include: the lighting is not natural, the proximity to sand that people keep corals is not natural, and the water motion so very very not natural. People seem to like to think they are making their tank natural, but it doesn't make much sense to me. I don't think the point of home aquaria is to be natural, rather to supply the best environment for the animals in the tank. IMO, this goes both for cephs and for corals.

    The main reason that people say soft corals with cephs seems to be mostly the lighting issue, and ignored is the idea that many soft corals produce noxious/toxic mucus. If they are detrimental to cephs is something that doesn't seem to be well understood. However, understanding how to remove these compounds from the water column is important to understand and implement in any tank with these corals - skimming, carbon, water changes and more.
     
  6. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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    yes, and this isnt a new phenomenon with animal keeping in general... look at dogs in our houses, parrots in cages and in any freshwater aquarium you can find fish from southeast asia, south america, africa and many other areas all living together with plants from who knows how many countries all in one glass box.

    anything that can hurt an animal should be removed from its tank, cage or living space and with cephalopods we have always said that there is no place for stinging anemones and corals.

    I'd rather see an octopus in a tank with rocks in a reef-type tank (without the stinging co-inhabitants) than in a bare tank.
     
  7. shipposhack

    shipposhack Haliphron Atlanticus Registered

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    Many of the people that are putting octopuses in reefs are largely uninformed of the care requirements of such a sensitive animal. They think that because they spent so much money on a great set up they can get any animal they want - as long as they are "reef safe" they put it in their tank. Sadly, reef safe is generally referred to as 'will not eat coral' when there are many other aspects that should be considered when using the term. One of the most important things that should be considered is compatibility. Too often an anthias and triggerfish will be put into the same tank, and then the aquarist is angry that their anthias hides all the time.

    Something that really bugs me is that when someone wants to hear something they will ask different people until they get the answer they want. I see this a lot working at a fish store. Somebody will ask me about compatibility, size, activity level, or feeding behavior and if I do not give them the answer they want they will ask one of my coworkers and see what they say about it. A week later they will come back and talk about how their fish is getting picked on, hides all the time, or won't eat. I'm sure this happens with cephalopods all the time. I feel really bad for Nautiluses - they are probably one of the least reef-compatible animals traded, however I know they are sold to people with reef tanks too often.

    The best possible environment should be given to any animal purchased. People need to start considering the health of their animals instead of their temporary gratification of having a [likely] unhappy one.

    Thank you Roy for bringing this up. I hope we can start to get habitat data from different species and put it into a list so that we can provide the most natural (or comfortable, rather) environment for each individual.
     
  8. Nancy

    Nancy Titanites Staff Member Moderator

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    I don't think we have to recreate entire habitats, but it would be nice if we had the information so someone could aim at this if they wished. We had one person keeping a bimac in a California tank, with tankmates from the area where the bimac was found. This is easier if you live by the ocean and can find these animals yourself.

    It would be useful for all of us to understand what the original environment was for the ceph we're keeping. Then we can make more informed decisions.

    Colin is right about the bare tank: when setting up a home for your ceph, it's best for many reasons to have a sand bed and live rock.

    Nancy
     
  9. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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    bare tanks have their place and I frequently have to use them for my own needs - E.g. quarantine, breeding and sometimes rearing fry. I just think that new cephalopod keepers especially should avoid them and that a reef environment, even if its not the cephalopod's natural environment is normally more stable in the home aquarium due to live rock etc. A flow through tank that is bare would be okay by me as long as there is some form of enrichment.

    A muck tank would be so difficult to recreate at home which is one reason why mimics et al shouldn't be kept unless you can recreate this... it would be a disaster for most people.

    I must emphasise - people should endeavour to discover all they can about any animal before buying it and this includes ALL of its environmental needs... even if it is a goldfish or a gerbil!!! :)

    cheers
     
  10. Domboski

    Domboski O. vulgaris Supporter

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    I've actually been asked to write a paper on this topic for many marine species. One of the species I discuss is my Octopus but the article theme is not Octopus focused but focused on the care of a few of my marine animals. The idea of the paper is to discuss the research involved in keeping an animal and how to use collective knowledge versus relying on a petstore or one source on the internet. It cites examples and personal experiences I've had over the last 17 years. It will be published soon so I will post a link for anyone who is interested.
     
  11. Jean

    Jean Colossal Squid Supporter

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    yes please :grin:
     
  12. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    I just read the draft...Jhale gave me super seckret powers...nice!
     
  13. Domboski

    Domboski O. vulgaris Supporter

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    Cheater! LOL

    I look forward to meeting you in April. Should be fun.

    Dom
     
  14. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    :smile:

    When I realized you were you, I had to look!
     

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