Caribbean Octopus, Octopus briareus
An octopus is both fascinating and rewarding marine species you can keep in the home aquarium. Octopus interest us with their own personalities, their ability to learn, their ability to interact with us, and finally their super fast color-changing abilities. If you're willing to put time and effort into your hobby, and you can afford shrimp and crab for food then an octopus may be for you. Octopus have several tricks for blending in with their undersea surroundings: they can change color, pattern and even the shape of their skin. They need to be housed alone without any other marine species because eventually they will devour their tank mates.
Octopus are highly intelligent, by far the most intelligent known invertebrates, and are able to learn how to distinguish the difference between colors and shapes. More impressive is that they can remember the shapes and colors and their meanings for many years. An octopus can also learn how to unscrew the lid of a jar with its arms, and an octopus called Einstein at the British Blue Reef Aquarium could open a tin within seconds with two arms, opening it even faster if it was filled with food. Octopus have the ability to camouflage their body color depending on their environment and mood. They can orchestrate their pliable body's to fit into any small area.
Why Keep an Octopus?
Keeping an octopus enables you to experience one of the most intelligent animals in the sea, one that is interesting to observe and offers the possibility of interaction. Keeping an octopus tank is much different from keeping a reef tank, which is fascinating in its own right. Many people are intrigued by these animals and want to know more about them. We have found that by introducing others to an octopus tank we are promoting an appreciation of intelligent marine life, which might lead to more care and concern about all sea life.
Octopus can be kept in a 50- to 75-gallon tank (or even larger) with the water at about 78 degrees F. You must have live rock in the tank (a pound per gallon), a one to two inch sand bed, a wet-dry sump filter, a protein skimmer, a small powerhead for extra circulation, and a simple fluorescent light (not to much light). Make sure no copper has ever been used as a treatment in the tank you are using; copper is deadly to octopuses. Also, the tank must be very well cycled, and this will take three months or more if you're just starting. Water quality is important, too. Start with RO/DI water-available at your local LFS-and use a good-quality salt mix. Octopus are especially sensitive to pH and ammonia. Water parameters should be: specific gravity about 1.026, pH around 8.2, ammonia 0. Some nitrates can be toleratedaim for less than 30 ppm.
Regardless of what you might read, octopus will try to escape. Make sure the lid on your tank is well sealed (duct tape is your friend). Also, intakes and outlets within the tank should be protected with a sponge or mesh secured by rubber bands or cable ties. Rocks in the tank must be very stable. With its great strength, even a small octopus can topple your rock structure. Nothing is sacred within your tank. Be prepared for your octopus to romp around the tank, rearrange rocks and shells, dig through the sand down to the glass, and generally change the overall setup. They do this for fun and curiousity. The older they get the more they do. Because of its sensitivity to ammonia and nitrites, your octopus must be put in a well-cycled tank-one that has been running for at least three months. There are no shortcuts; no chemicals can be used to speed up the process.
Diet and Feeding:
The Caribbean Octopus can be fed live Feeder Shrimp, Mussels, Crustacean Flesh, and small Feeder Fish. Any live foods should be fed spirulina based dry foods, plankton, and cyclops to enhance their nutritional value.
Approximate Purchase Size:
Head size about 1"- 1-1/2"
It's important to acclimate your new octopus upon its arrival, and this should be done slowly, using a drip line. Since Octopus are so very sensitive to changes in water chemistry, salinity, and temperature they need a VERY slow three to four hour acclamation.
Level of Care:
Advanced or Expert Aquarist Only Not Guaranteed Beyond Live Arrival