What am I doing wrong?!

Lindsay

Pygmy Octopus
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4 years ago I had researched the care and keeping of Octopuses (specifically the bimac) and prepped a 54 gallon corner tank. After months of waiting for a bimac, I realized I wouldn't be able to get one and settled for the only available non-dwarf species, the exotic wonderpus. I thought it would all be the same, I had 3 chromis which helped cycle the tank, a variety of snails and hermits and a separate tank housing red claw crabs for feeding. I will be brief here because this is just back story but she died within 2 weeks after suffering from autophagy (sp?). This isn't such a surprise as she was a wonderpus and I had no business keeping one.

I have recently obtained a brown Pacific dwarf species (that is literally the only information I have from Sea Dwelling Creatures). She is living in a 24g nanocube that has cycled for at least 3 months. I'll admit that there is very little rock right now, having settled on a supposedly easy but nocturnal species, I at least wanted to see her. It has been 4 weeks and I do sometimes see her at night but once again I'm seeing the limp curl on one arm and the tips of some of the others look bitten off. For food I have been trying to feed frozen baby krill (it's about the size of a very large fish turd), frozen mysis, 2 blue legged hermits and there are several species of snail crawling the tank (margarita, cerith, astrea). So far I've seen margarita snails go missing and some cerith snails and I think a piece of krill was eaten but I can't confirm. She (I have no idea if she is female) pounced on it and changed colors like she was ingesting. She also has a medium size conch shell and huge turbo shell to hide in and she is about the size of my thumb digit.

I have added a Silicone Tea Strainer with small pieces of imitation crab and a plastic cat ball with a plastic bell but she didn't appear interested in either.

I will upload more info (water params + pictures tonight) but last I checked, nitrates were 20 and no presence of ammonia or nitrites and temp 78.
 

pkilian

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Things like missing arm tips or missing arms entirely is a good sign that your animal is stressed (they are probably eating their arms). The first thing that catches my eye is the presence of other animals in the tank. Octopuses are solitary creatures and can easily be bothered by other living animals in the tank (snails I wouldn't worry about, but hermit crabs can be a bother).

A second thing is leaving dead, decaying matter in the tank could lead to poor water quality or even diseases or bacteria being introduced to the system. You say your water chems are good so you probably don't leave the frozen krill in the tank long, but one way to ensure your octopus is eating all the food you offer and not leaving any leftovers floating around is to feed the frozen krill from a stick rather than putting it in a tea strainer. It may take a week or so for your octopus to become comfortable with eating from the stick but it is probably the best method for feeding frozen food.

What happened to your red claw crab tank? You may have more success feeding live food rather than frozen. Depending on the carapace size of the crab you will probably be able to feed them to your octopus. I've had pygmy octos with a mantle length of ~1.5" take down a crab with a carapace that's about an inch wide no problem. The most important thing to do when feeding crabs to your pygmy octo is to take off their claws first so that the crabs can't hurt your animal. This can be accomplished by a quick turn-and-pull motion by holding the crab claw at the base where it meets the crabs body. (It may sound a bit barbaric, but less so than letting the crab pinch your octopus to death).

If you can get your hands on live food, I would remove all other food sources from the tank and put in one crab (with no pinchers) and see how long it lasts.

If you have photos of the animal and tank set up I may have other suggestions as well.
 

Lindsay

Pygmy Octopus
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Things like missing arm tips or missing arms entirely is a good sign that your animal is stressed (they are probably eating their arms). The first thing that catches my eye is the presence of other animals in the tank. Octopuses are solitary creatures and can easily be bothered by other living animals in the tank (snails I wouldn't worry about, but hermit crabs can be a bother).

A second thing is leaving dead, decaying matter in the tank could lead to poor water quality or even diseases or bacteria being introduced to the system. You say your water chems are good so you probably don't leave the frozen krill in the tank long, but one way to ensure your octopus is eating all the food you offer and not leaving any leftovers floating around is to feed the frozen krill from a stick rather than putting it in a tea strainer. It may take a week or so for your octopus to become comfortable with eating from the stick but it is probably the best method for feeding frozen food.

What happened to your red claw crab tank? You may have more success feeding live food rather than frozen. Depending on the carapace size of the crab you will probably be able to feed them to your octopus. I've had pygmy octos with a mantle length of ~1.5" take down a crab with a carapace that's about an inch wide no problem. The most important thing to do when feeding crabs to your pygmy octo is to take off their claws first so that the crabs can't hurt your animal. This can be accomplished by a quick turn-and-pull motion by holding the crab claw at the base where it meets the crabs body. (It may sound a bit barbaric, but less so than letting the crab pinch your octopus to death).

If you can get your hands on live food, I would remove all other food sources from the tank and put in one crab (with no pinchers) and see how long it lasts.

If you have photos of the animal and tank set up I may have other suggestions as well.
Thanks! I will get you more info tonight.
1. What are your thoughts on putting a peppermint shrimp in the tank? I'd prefer to use live food that Oppie (that's what I call her) can take and kill as needed as I can't always time seeing her. I work at our lfs and peppermints are what we have in stock right now but I also know that they can be vicious sometimes as they eat aiptasia and sometimes acans.

2. The hermits are very small and living in cerith snails, I could be wrong and would be open to your more experienced opinion but I myself don't believe they are large enough to really cause a bother.

3. The crab tank was broken down and gotten rid of but I do have access to them at the fish store. I have just been nervous about getting them because they won't last long in saltwater and I don't know if she'll be interested. I'll pick one up tomorrow though if you think she'll likely eat it.

3. As far as stress goes, I would 100% agree with you. I just don't really know what to do to the tank other than add more rock and hope that helps. I noticed that she crawls the tank glass obsessively as if trying to find an escape route though she doesn't ever crawl out of the water (she is in a sealed biocube so she can't actually escape)
 

pkilian

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I would lean away from adding live shrimp to the tank. They will for sure bother your octopus and pick at their mantle and will likely stress out your animal more. You could try spearing the shrimp on the end of a stick (like a zip tie or something) and try to offer the shrimp to the octopus that way, but I wouldn't leave a live shrimp alone in a tank with an octopus, especially one that is already showing signs of stress (arm eating, etc.)

I have removed hermit crabs from my octopus tanks in the past because I was worried they were bothering my animals. Feel free to leave them if you like, but I typically have a policy of no live animals in an octopus tank (aside from the occasional live claw-less crab that was added to feed the animal, and even then if the crab isn't eaten in 24 hrs I take the crab out for 24 hrs before trying again), and I know others on the site do as well.

Pacing the walls of the tank is often another sign of stress. What kind of lighting do you have set up for the tank? Just the lights in the room? Does the animal have a normal day-night cycle? Also, posting the full water chems could help find some outlying problem (pH, alkalinity if you can, and salinity are what I'm most interested in).
 

Lindsay

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I would lean away from adding live shrimp to the tank. They will for sure bother your octopus and pick at their mantle and will likely stress out your animal more. You could try spearing the shrimp on the end of a stick (like a zip tie or something) and try to offer the shrimp to the octopus that way, but I wouldn't leave a live shrimp alone in a tank with an octopus, especially one that is already showing signs of stress (arm eating, etc.)

I have removed hermit crabs from my octopus tanks in the past because I was worried they were bothering my animals. Feel free to leave them if you like, but I typically have a policy of no live animals in an octopus tank (aside from the occasional live claw-less crab that was added to feed the animal, and even then if the crab isn't eaten in 24 hrs I take the crab out for 24 hrs before trying again), and I know others on the site do as well.

Pacing the walls of the tank is often another sign of stress. What kind of lighting do you have set up for the tank? Just the lights in the room? Does the animal have a normal day-night cycle? Also, posting the full water chems could help find some outlying problem (pH, alkalinity if you can, and salinity are what I'm most interested in).
Sorry I didn't get this up yesterday, my water params are
Temp: 78
pH: 8
Nitrates: 20
Salinity: 1.024

She did latch on to the declawed red claw crab last night. How often should I feed the crabs, I feel like she shouldn't be able to eat one every day but I will do as you advise.
 

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pkilian

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Those water parameters look good to me. It's good to hear that she took the crab last night. I would suggest trying to feed every other day. Remember that these animals most likely don't eat every day in the wild. If she goes a week and eats well every other day and is aggressively pouncing on the crab each time, you could try to increase the feeds to two days on/one day off.

The most important part about feeding live crabs to your octopuses is that you have to be diligent in cleaning out the crab carcasses shortly after they are eaten (within 48 hrs is best). Crabs are quite dirty and their shells even more so. The crab carcasses can be quick to form bacterial mats and hurt your water quality. Depending on the size of the carapace, I usually use a turkey baster to suck out the crab bits, or a net to scoop out the shell pieces.

I would try red claw crabs for a week and see how she looks after that. I'm still curious about your light cycle. What kind of lighting do you have set up for the tank? Just the lights in the room? Does the animal have a normal day-night cycle? Depending on what you have set up, this could be another cause of distress/pacing.
 

Lindsay

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Lights: an hour after putting her in the tank I scared her pretty badly shining my phone light in the tank. Concerned that my 10k compact florescents would be overwhelming to her as they simply turn all the way on or are off, I left the light off for about a week and a half. The tank is across from the basement window so she did have a natural cycle. After a week and a half I plugged the lights back in but it through off the timer and I had about 5 hrs of daylight and the rest dark. Last night after reading your comment I took time to correctly set the lights and they are on 11 hrs and off 13
 

pkilian

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From the photo you posted it seems like your lights are quite bright. I've never mounted lights over an octopus tank, I just use the overhead lights in the room. I think doing something to dim the light over the tank might lead to success (think putting a towel over the lid or something, but please don't make a fire hazard). Also, 11hrs of light seems like a bit much to me. Something closer to 8 hrs may be easier for your octopuses. Other members on the site may have more advice about light cycles in a home setup, I don't have much experience outside of a lab setting with well controlled lights, so I'm unsure what other people have done to establish a normal light/dark cycle for their animal.

@DWhatley any suggestions?
 

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