In the three months since we put an Amphiocotpus marginatus we collected in the Philippines on display at the Steinhart Aquarium, the octopus, named Fontenelle, has been engaging visitors to the aquarium. Fontenelle is in plain sight 95% of the time, often in interesting ‘lookout’ poses, playing with toy squid and toy octopus, or moving its den from jars to bottles to clay pots while keeping an eye on the people watching its antics. This species is one of the boldest cephalopods I have worked with, hunting with startling speed and latching onto my arm with that same unnerving speed anytime I have to put  my hand in the tank. The growth rate on this animal is amazing, and since we decided not to be invasive with gathering data with this animal because we don’t want to stress it as we learn its husbandry needs (this may be the first time this species has been on public display) the two pictures below show the growth of the octopus in just a few months.

Even more exciting, Fontenelle has learned how to open jars by unscrewing the jars lid, one of the more captivating behaviors that octopus can learn (another being squirting me in the eye when I bring shrimp). The octopus has been opening jars for a couple of weeks already, and actually learned within a couple of days, but I have been unable to capture the opening on video. Either the jar is open before I get to the front of the tank, or the jar gets opened when I leave to attend to other animals. Today I set up the tripod before putting the jar in the tank and was able to catch the act on video. Its hard to see the actual unscrewing of the lid, and the final opening of the jar looks like the octopus simply pulls the lid up, but trust me, to get to that point the lid had to be unscrewed. Now, its time to start with other jars with more threads on the lid, tightening the lid much more, and finding other objects in which to hide food.

A. marginatus on bottle in display on June 1, 2011

The same octopus in the same bottle on August 10, 2011.

This lookout position is sometimes held for over 10 minutes

From Advanced Aquarist blog and TONMO

Last week Godehard Kopp posted the video above of a Mimic Octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, and an un identifiable fish swimming amongst its arms at the divesite Jahir in the famous muck diving area of Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi Indonesia (the video of the octopus and fish starts at about. :44). Kopp followed the one octopus and fish for 15 minutes filming what appeared to be a previously unknown fish/octopus comensal relationship – a relationship in which one organism derives a benefit while the other is unaffected. Flurries of emails lit up the interwebs as fish and cephalopod and fish enthusiasts tried to determine what was actually going on in the video. Is this a commensal relationship or is something else going on?

The colors of the fish were so matched to the arms of the octopus, that it could easily be thought that this fish must have a previously un-described commensal relationship with the octopus. On the other hand, there are small fishes that swim around foraging octopus arms in search of an easy meal, so it could be that this was simply taking advantage of a possible easy meal as the octopus made its way across the muck. On the third hand, these octopus have been photographed and filmed so much in this area of the world that it might be hard to believe that this behavior had never been seen before. Perhaps the fish happened to be in the wrong place and got scared as the Kopp moved to film in, and was trying to hide in the frist thing it found – the octopus.

Initially, the fish was thought to be some kind of Blenny, but quickly the tide turned and it was thought to be some kind of Jawfish. Soon a more positive ID was soon made: Black Marble Jawfish, Stalix histrio (or another fish in the Stalix genus) shown below from Indonesian Reef Fishes by Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. (2001). Since both the fish and the octopus live in, and are trying to blend in with, the same muck background, it makes some kind of sense that the two should share the same kinds markings and color patterns. Of course, there could still be some relationship between the fish and the octopus, more study is needed, but even if this isn’t commensal, it seems to be a brand new behavior for the fish (and possibly a new fish species!)

It was great to watch science in action in regards to this video. Observation, hypothesis, evidence, discussion, new hypothesis changing minds – science rules!

Indonesian Reef Fishes by Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. (2001).

From TONMO and Reefbuilders

The Sepia latimanus, the broad club cuttlefish, at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences are  six months old and are really starting to show the behaviors of adults. Sometimes known as the Giant Cuttlefish, S. latimanus is reported to reach 50cm in length and weigh up to 10kg (though I have never seen one in the wild that size). With a lifespan of 1-2 years and such large size, it makes sense that a hatchling about 1 cm long in February could be almost 18cm long in July. Like all cephalopods, these guys are eating machines, able to completely eat a silverside in under 2 minutes – with no leftovers at all. They are being fed at least 3 times a day with different feeds including live crabs, live bait shrimp, thawed prawns and thawed silversides. With the fast growth, some issues have started to appear including minor ‘butt burn’, damage to the tip of the mantle caused by the animal jetting into the sides quickly (a big animal is a strong animal!) and inking events due to adolescent competition blackening the tank water. To help alleviate these issues, the population has been split into two groups, 2 animals on display and 4 animals in holding. The other adult behaviors are way more exciting.

In the video above (oh, blue lights and video – why do you hate each other) you can see a lot of color pulsing on the skin of the cuttles as they hunt for food. It is thought that this striking pattern and color show somehow helps in hunting, perhaps confusing prey into motionlessness. However, unlike wild adults, the color patterns have not yet reached down the two wide arms that are often stretched out horizontally during hunting – which incidentally help give this cuttle their ‘broadclub’ common name. The patterns also seem to originate at the back of the mantle, while wild adults seem to pulse more on the head and arms (as shown in the video from NOVA’s ‘Kings of Camouflage’ linked below). The other interesting behavior in the video above is the ‘banding-of-the-eyes-darkening-of-two-arm-tips-while-gesticulating-madly’ behavior (rolls off the tongue eh?), which only seems to occur when the animals are hunting silversides, perhaps this is another distraction technique.

As you can tell, I am over the moon with excitement over these behaviors, and even more excited that they are happening with the animals on display. If you are any kind of ceph-head and are in the SF area, I urge you to get down to the academy and take a look as these amazing animals while they are on display.

Things have been hopping at work with cephs! It is remarkable to work at a place with such diversity. Things are mating, hatching, eating and above all growing. I am amazed that the Sepia latimanus hatched in February this year are now almost 7 inches long. The Amphioctopus marginatus are growing almost visibly day by day. The Metasepia sp hatchlings are almost doing the same. Anyway, a video is worth a thousand words, so here is a bit of a long one featuring the A. marginatus on display moving faster than I thought possible, the Sepia bandensis on display (mating), the Metasepia eating and the S. latimanus eating and being burly!

From TONMO

http://vimeo.com/24524860As far as we can tell, on June 1st the Steinhart Aquarium became the first aquarium to display Amphioctopus marginatus, the Coconut Octopus or Veined Octopus. This small robust octopus has gotten a lot of attention over the past few yeas first as one of the documented octopuses capable of bipedal locomotionhttp://www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5717/1927.full and as an octopus possibly capable of tool usehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/science/pu…/2011/jan/20/1.

The animal on display was collected by Steinhart Biologists in Anilao, Philippines, as part of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition http://www.calacademy.org/blogs/expedition/?p=800, just a week before going on display.

Needless to say, I am very excited to have the opportunity not only to have seen these animals in the wild, but also to be able to work with them in captivity. So much so that I am posting the above video shot on my iphone. In the video you can see the octopus flashing colors, a bit of a limb that is re growing, hunting and catching a ghost shrimp, and returning to its glass jar den.

From TONMO 

1. Home aquarists and scientists agree- cephalopods can be really hard to keep alive in a captive environment. They require a very clean, stable seawater system, escape proof lids (for octopus), and they are picky eaters. Keeping one can be expensive, and feeding one can be expensive.

2. While some countries have strict collecting laws, many tropical animals are collected from the wild using irresponsible and illegal methods such as poaching, habitat destruction (smashing coral to catch the target animal) and/or “cyanide fishing”. Cyanide fishing involves squirting cyanide into the reef and breaking coral to dig out the poisoned, stunned animals. It kills coral, other invertebrates, and fish. Ask your aquarium shop for tank-raised animals.

3. It might be deadly. Blue-ringed octopuses are deadly. There is no anti-venom for their bite. Other octopuses are so poorly known that we don’t even know how dangerous they might be. Relatives ofAbdopus aculeatus have a poison in their bodies that’s similar to TTX, the poison in blue-ring venom (Robertson et al. 2004 Toxicon 44: 765). Striking animals like “Wunderpus” and the “Mimic” might be highly venomous. It appears that the tissue of the “Flamboyant” cuttlefish is toxic. You don’t want to be the one who finds out.

4. It might be rare, so taking a wild animal might put those cephalopod populations at risk.

5. It might try to crawl out. Octopuses are well-known for their abilities to escape aquaria. Intertidal species are notoriously hard to keep in a tank. If it goes walkabout when you’re not looking, then you will find a dead octopus on the floor the next morning, or behind the couch in two years.

6. It might eat your other pets. Crabs, clams and sometimes snails are not safe from the voracious appetite of a cephalopod. Often fish will most likely either eat your cephalopod or be eaten by your cephalopods.

7. They don’t live very long, most species only about a year. By the time you get your tropical cephalopod, it may be an adult near the end of its live span. You’ll be lucky to keep it alive for a few months.

8. Exotics
Even experienced ceph keepers with mature tanks should think long and hard before obtaining these species. Their needs are resource intensive, specific, and not yet fully understood. Perhaps more importantly, the size and health of their wild populations is unknown.Even the sharing of information, photos and video of these animals can be controversial. Some fear that detailed information and attractive photos may encourage inexperienced saltwater aquarists to obtain specimens. Personally, I believe that knowledge should be freely available. I also believe that the admiration of a species can be of benefit to its preservation in the wild rather than its detriment. Furthermore, it is my hope that the information on the site will empower aquarists to make sound, rational decisions regarding the advisability of keeping these very difficult animals.

With permission, this list is based heavily on (in fact, some of it outright copied from) a similar list by Christine L. Huffard, Ph.D.

From TONMO and The California Academy of Sciences

The stargazer, Uranoscopus sulphureus, eyes a potential meal passing over the muck

In stark contrast to the beautiful many-colored coral reefs of the Philippines, muck diving is a lot like being on the moon. You float over seemingly endless plains of desolate grey substrate. The major difference is the life; here in the ‘center of the center of marine biodiversity’ the silty muck is packed with animals. Tube anemones with commensal shrimp using their tentacles for protection dot the landscape. As you swim over the silty substrate, flatfish that were perfectly camouflaged in plain sight become visible only when spurred into motion by your passing. Feather Stars move their arms in slow motion, revealing commensal shrimp and squat lobsters hiding amongst the ‘feathers’. Venomous predators like Lionfish, Stonefish and Seagoblins hide in the muck looking for an easy meal. Ambush predators like the Stargazer lie mostly buried in the silt, just their skeletal face showing as they wait for an unlucky fish to swim by.

One of the animals that we have been looking forward to collecting for display at the Steinhart Aquarium during the Expedition is Amphioctopus marginatus, the Coconut Octopus. This is a little octopus, with a maximum 3 inch mantle and 12 inch arm span. It is plentiful in the Philippines, personable, tenacious, and has a habit of using found objects as temporary homes. Clay pots, bottles, tin cans and clam shells are all used as mobile homes for these octopus, complete with doors to close themselves in tightly and safely. They also will defend their homes, batting away anything that comes too close; even pushing a probing finger away with surprising strength. Sometimes they extend their arms and crawl around in the muck with their temporary home on their back, as if they are transforming into snails. All of this behavior should add up to a fantastic exhibit in the Steinhart Aquarium. Two Coconut Octopus have already arrived safely back at the Academy, and we look forward to putting them, and other animals collected on the trip, on display in the near future.

The eyes of this flatfish look like two different animals as they protrude from the substrate while the rest of the fish remains perfectly hidden

Tiny shrimp and squat lobsters live mostly unseen amongst the arms of a Feather Star


From TONMO

The 212,000 gallon reeftank will soon be getting new additions - photo by Tim Wong


Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences have launched the most comprehensive scientific survey effort ever conducted in the Philippines, documenting both terrestrial and marine life forms from the tops of the highest mountains to the depths of the sea. They will be joined by colleagues from the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, the Philippines National Museum and the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as by a team of Academy educators who will work to share the expedition’s findings with local community and conservation groups. The expedition, which will conclude with a symposium at the University of the Philippines on June 8, is funded by a generous gift from Margaret and Will Hearst.

“The Philippines is one of the hottest of the hotspots for diverse and threatened life on Earth,” says Dr. Terrence Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Sciences and leader of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. “Despite this designation, however, the biodiversity here is still relatively unknown, and we expect to find dozens of new species as we survey the country’s reefs, rainforests, and even the ocean floor. The species lists and distribution maps that we create during this expedition will help to inform future conservation decisions and ensure that this remarkable biodiversity is afforded the best possible chance of survival.”

The expedition’s shallow water team will conduct most of their research off the coast of Batangas Province on Luzon Island, in an area called the Verde Island Passage. Past research by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences and other institutions has suggested that this area is the “center of the center of marine biodiversity,” home to more documented species than any other marine habitat on Earth. However, many new species remain to be discovered—Academy scientists regularly find at least one new species on every dive in this area. During the expedition, the participating scientists will conduct side-by-side surveys of marine protected areas and non-protected areas to help the government determine how successful their current conservation plans are at fostering biodiversity.

“The expedition’s results will help our government better promote integrated coastal resource management,” said Malcom Sarmiento, Director of the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. “The data they collect will also help us decide if and where to establish new sanctuaries.”

Of particular interest to the reefkeeping community will be the Steinhart Aquariums additions to the expedition. From May 10 through May 26 2011 Bart Shepherd, Richard Ross and Matt Wandell will survey and document the dive sites that served as the inspiration for the Steinhart Aquarium’s 212,000 gallon Philippine Coral Reef exhibit. They will also will responsibly collect coral, cephalopods and other invertebrates for captive propagation, research and display at our Golden Gate Park facility. As the the only public aquarium permitted to collect stony corals in the Philippines, the three are excited to obtain these unique species for study, captive culture research, and to display for visitors. California Academy of Sciences staff and our Filipino colleagues are able to support aquarium trade needs with minimal impact. Look for new additions to the Coral Reef and Rainforest exhibits.

For more information, please see http://www.calacademy.org/science/hearst/


Coral fragments collected in PI by Steinhart biologists in 2009 have grown to more than twice what is pictured here. In 2011, more coral will be collected for culture, display and sharing with other institutions.

From TONMO

The Sepia latimanus at the California Academy of Sciences are now three months old, and they are growing fast. I was on a two week vacation and the doubled in size. They are also starting to show interactivity that the species is known for in the wild, and they very much know when they are about to be fed. I still haven’t seen the colors pulsing along the arms when hunting that I mentioned in a previous blog post, but we are seeing much more adult coloration along with amazing ‘light shows’ along their skin. I had time to sit and watch them for about 30 minutes after a feed and noticed that when they are done eating they all tend to stretch out their feeding tentacles – I was able to catch it and its the last clip on the video.
I am fortunate enough to be heading to the Philippines this month as part of the Hearst Expedition (http://www.calacademy.org/science/hearst/ ) to collect coral and cephalopods for display at work and very much hope to get some footage of S. latimanus in the wild.

From TONMO and Reefs.com

When you receive a new saltwater animal you don’t want to just dump it into its new home. You want to give it time to get used to any water parameters that may be different from the water in the bag and the water in the tank.The basic idea of acclimation is that you slowly adjust the water in the shipping bag of the animal until it matches the water chemistry of your tank giving the new animal time to adapt to the new water chemistry before release into its new home. Makes complete sense, however, some ‘old aquarists tales’ have entrenched themselves in the e literature and subconscious of aquarists and I think that these ideas are at best a waste of time and at worse detrimental to the health of the animal. Below, I hope to outline reasonable acclimation procedures and present reasons why some of the ‘acclimation myths’ should be abandoned.There are many ways to go about acclimating new animals to your aquarium. Here is my rundown on the basics for a new animal that looks healthy in a bag of relatively clear water.

  • Float the shipping bag in the new aquarium or sump to get the water in the bag to match the temperature of the tank (if the new animal is a fish or coral please use a quaranteen system to avoid introducing parasites to the show tank, but for cephs and other inverts this seems not to be an issue). . This should take no more than 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Remove the bag from the tank and either decant the animal into a bucket (making sure to put something under one side of the bucket to tilt the bucket so the water is deep enough to keep the animal comfortable) or open the bag and clip it to the side of the inside of the bucket. If decanting you will be doing the acclimation in the bucket, if clipping you will be doing the acclimation in the bag. Either way, the goal is to make sure none of the bag water makes it into your tank because it could be ‘infected’ with parasites, but more probably its nasty from having an animal sit in it for 24+ hours.
  • Begin adding tank water to the bag or bucket. This can be accomplished with a cup, or you can siphon water from the tank with an airline hose equipped with a valve or tied in a couple of knots to control the speed at which water is added. General rates of tank water addition are 1/2 cup every 3-5 minutes, or if dripping, 1-3 drops per second. If using a clipped bag you are looking to have extra water overflow into the bucket over time. This process should take 30 minutes to an hour, then move the animal to its new tank.

It should be glaringly obvious that there was no water testing mentioned in the above procedure. This is because, really, once you receive the animal you’ll have to do something with it regardless of the availability of water testing and the above procedure is pretty comprehensive. That doesn’t mean they can’t be useful. Mostly, we are concerned with salinity, pH and temperature so testing those parameters to determine when the tank water and the water the animal is in match can reduce the acclimation time. You don’t want to adjust any of these paramaters too quickly, but you also don’t want to dawdle. It seems that there isn’t much to be done about most other parameters, so testing doesn’t seem necessary except for the ones mentioned above if possible.The other parameter we care a lot about is ammonia, and it is important to note that it is linked with pH. Ammonia can be lethal to the animals, but its toxicity can be depressed by low pH. Over time in a closed shipping bag the pH of the water lowers which is great because the ammonia generated by the biological processes going on in the bag is rendered less toxic than it otherwise might be. However, once you open the bag and let fresh air in, the pH begins to rise and the ammonia becomes more toxic. This is why I suggest temperature acclimating while the bag is still sealed.If the water is nasty when the shipment arrives, if you test and find that ammonia is high, I would ignore most if not all of the acclimation procedure and get the animal out of the toxic soup immediately. Sure the other parameters may be off, but you have to get the animal out of the toxic water. Its a risk, but I feel its one worth talking because you know the bad water in the bag is killing the animal.All of the above can, of course, be modified based on your saltwater common sense and experience. You have to trust you, and no recipe can replace your developed saltwater thumb.The mythsThe biggest persistent myth I see is ‘the longer the acclimation the better’ which has resulted in people going through the procedure for 2-8 hours (in at least once case – over night!). The idea that the animals we are dealing with are fragile is true to some extent, but they are also pretty robust within reason and can deal with reasonable changes in environment. A super long acclimation just isn’t necessary and can be detrimental – ammonia levels can rise, temperature in the acclimating vessel can drop, and the animal can be stressed. Longer is not necessarily better, so either test to make decisions or be reasonable.The other myth I see happening with some frequency is bubbling air into the shipping bag. Sure it seems to make sense – the animal has been in a bag for a long time and the oxygen must be depleted so give it some. However, as we have seen above, this is the exact opposite of what you want to do because the fresh air will increase the pH of the water and will raise the toxicity of any ammonia that surely is in the water.I hope this is helpful, and as always, please let me know if anything is missing or if there are any questions.Finally, here is a link to one of my favorite online vendors acclimation instructions.http://www.liveaquaria.com/PIC/article.cfm?aid=157

From TONMO

Several people have recently asked how I ship cephs, so I thought I would write up what I do and stick it on the blog for posterity. I am hoping to ship some cephs in the next few weeks and if I do, I will try to update this post with photos.

Mostly I ship eggs and hatchling Sepia bandensis, but have used the procedure for juveniles, adults as well as octopus of various sizes – everything is just scaled up. Basically, you stick the ceph in a plastic bag with water and oxygen and seal it with a rubber band. Then you stick the plastic bag in an insulated shipping box and over night it to the person you are shipping the animals to. Details below. Remember describing simple things seems to make them seem more complicated than the really are, so don’t get overwhelmed by the detail!

Supplies

You are also going to need heat packs if the weather is cold or ice packs if the weather is really hot (jump online and check the weather at the departure city and the arrival city before you ship). Use 40 hour heat packs because of the insurance they give you in case the shipment is delayed a day. I like the uni heat available here http://www.amazon.com/40-Hour-Dispos…/dp/B0043XHZGC or maybe from your LFS. Any kind of ice pack will do.

Figure out how many plastic bags you are going to be shipping and of what size. This will determine what size shipping container you are going to need. I have put up to 4 hatchlings in a single 6 inch bag but this often is dependent on the size of the shipping container – if you have a larger container, you need to fill space with more bags, but if you have a smaller container you need to maximize the space you have.

Plastic bags and rubberbands to seal the bags are most easily obtained from a friendly LFS. Get enough to triple layer each bag of water to better ensure the any small leak from a ceph bite or other abrasion is not catastrophic. For hatchlings and eggs I use either small ‘frag’ bags or smal 6 inch fish bags, and if you can get the thicker bags over the thinner, the probability of leaks goes even further down.

You’ll needs some kind of insulated shipping container the size you are going to need. These usually consist of a styrofoam ‘inner’ box and a cardboard ‘outer’ box. You can usually get one from your LFS, though getting the size you want may be difficult, especially if you are shipping only one or two small hatchlings. Some people have used small ice chests with fine results, or made their own by cutting down styrofoam to fit in a smaller cardboard box.

I also put a small piece of macro algae in with the animals so they have something to hold onto during shipping.

Packing tape.

The address and phone number of who the animals are being shipped to (its never fun to fill out shipping paperwork only to find you don’t have all the information you need.

Determine when is the latest you can drop off the package at the shipping company, and try to pack and drop off the animals as close to that time as possible. The less time the animals spend in shipping the better. Also make sure you spring for morning deliver if possible, again, the less time in shipping the better.

Oxygen – I think its important, but some have shipped without it. I always use it. Your friendly LFS comes in handy here, and they will often let you use their oxygen if you have a good relationship with them. I always offer to pay them for any supplies they help me with, but have never actually been charged.

Packing

Fill the first bag with about 40% of tank water. Then add the macro algae if available, and then the ceph(s). Add oxygen to the bag, but don’t overfill because you want the bag to have a little bit of play to expand during time on the airplane with lower atmospheric pressure (most commercial planes are pressurized to 8000 feet). Twist the bag closed making a ‘stem’ that can be folded over itself for an even better seal. Seal the bag with a rubberband or two, making sure that the rubber band has been wrapped many times around the bag making a really tight seal. There is an art to rubber banding these bags, as well as several methods, so if you haven’t ever done it before practice and/or get someone experienced to help. Some LFS may even have a banding machine which crimps a small piece of metal around the ‘stem’ of the bag for an excellant seal.

Place the rubber banded side of the bag in the bottom of the next bag and then rubber band the second bag. This will eliminate any corners a small ceph may get trapped in. While flipping the bag, cuttlefish may ‘hang on’ to the plastic of the bag being exposed to air. No worries, be patient and wait for the animal to let go before proceeding. Seal the second bag with a rubber band. Repeat this step one last time for triple bagged goodness.

Place the animal packed bags into the shipping container and fill any extra space with packing peanuts, more rubber banded bags or any other soft material. The goal is to keep the bag from moving around during transport. Leave space above the bags for heat packs or ice packs.

If using an ice pack place it in a plastic bag and put some newspaper between it and the bags containing animals – direct contact can cause localized temperature changes. If using a heat pack, open the package it came in and shake the heat pack to activate it. Wrap it in newspaper and tap it to the top of the inside of the lid of the styrofoam ‘inner’ box. Heat packs stop working if they get wet, but they need oxygen to work, so don’t put them inside plastic bags.

Put the lid on the styrofoam ‘inner’ and seal lightly with tape. Then put the styrofoam box into the cardboard outer and seal that with packing tape.

Take the packed box to the shipping company, fill out the paperwork, give them money for shipping and have a nice dinner. Keep the tracking number handy so you can obsess over where the package is all night long.

Odds and ends

  • Ship to arrive the next business morning.
  • Never ship on a Thursday or Friday. Saturday deliveries are notorious for going wrong and if they do, the animals will sit until monday, which is too long. If you ship on a Thursday for Friday delivery and something goes wrong, you can end up with the aforementioned Saturday problems.
  • May shippers will deliver to one of their strip mall stores and hold the package for pickup. The advantage here is that no one needs to be home to sign for the package. FedEx uses Kinko’s and UPS has their own stores.

Let me know if there are any questions or if something is unclear and I’ll update the post as needed. I hope this is helpful.

From TONMO

Is been 10 days since the O. vulgaris eggs have hatched. The paralarvae were divided into three tanks, 2 pseudo kreisels (one with a light barrier, one without) and into the octopus display tank with just air bubbles for water motion. The female is still alive and tending several stalks of eggs that failed to hatch. Interestingly, the best paralarve surrival has been in the display tank – the complete opposite of what I expected. It could be that since this tank was long established that the paralarvae had better food choices, or it could be that the flow in the pseudo kreisel made the paralarvae work very hard, or it could be something else entirely. The hatchlings in the pseudo kriesel that were exposed to 24 hours of light are doing much better over all than the ones kept in the dark.

Hatchling S. latimanus - check out it unhatched sibling in the egg

On the cuttle front, Sepia latimanus are keeping most of my attention. These are a large cuttlefish (reported to get to 50cm and 10kg!) and working with them is a huge perk that comes with working at a public aquarium. I have seen these cuttles in Indo, Oz and PNG and they are amazing, generally interactive and interested in your hand if you point your fingers down making your hand resemble the head of a cuttlefish. Whey they are small, it appears they mimic mangrove leaves to avoid predation. They are often referred to as the ‘broadclub cuttlefish’ because of an interesting behavior. I have my own video of it buried somewhere, but here is a great clip from NOVA’s ‘Kings of Camouflage’

What I didn’t know was that they did the same behavior, minus the lightshow, right out of the egg. Here is the video from a previous blog showing what I mean.

The 20 eggs we have have almost all hatched and I have started to see the color changing abilities start to ramp up. I hope to have more video next week as the little cuttles get bigger and I am less scared of losing them.

From TONMO and Advanced Aquarist Online blog and a bunch of other outlets

About a month ago, we got a Caribbean Octopus ‘vulgaris’ in at work, and put it right on show on the public floor. It quickly took up residence inside a glass bottle, which is exactly what I wanted it to do so it would always be visible to the public. Just as quickly, it moved back under some rock and started denning, and my heart sank because I knew it was a she, and the she had laid eggs. While eggs being laid in captivity is generally an exciting event, this particular species, like many but not all octopus, stops eating after it lays eggs and dies soon after they hatch which tends to put a damper on joyous hooplah. Even worse, this species is ‘small egged’ meaning it produces large numbers of very small planktonic ‘paralarvae’ which are notoriously difficult to feed and raise. So, I tilted the rock where the eggs were laid to make them visible to the public (but in a high flow area so they would continue to develop), and the adult octopus moved back into the bottle making for an all round cool and educational display of something most people don’t get to see. The unexpected icing on the cake was catching the hatching of the eggs from start to finish, and also being able to get much of it on video. Sure these tiny hatchlings probably won’t survive long, but we are trying, and the image of a waterfall of tiny octopus paralarve flowing up from the egg mass to the surface of the water is something I don’t think I will ever forget.http://vimeo.com/20288962Nuts and bolts

  • Caribbean Octopus ‘vulgaris’ (there are several Octopus that use the species name vulgaris which is why its in quotes)
  • Roughly 3 weeks between eggs being laid and eggs hatching.
  • Hatching occurred at 9 am.
  • When I turned off the flow to better witness the hatching, the female octopus quickly left her bottle den, agitated the eggs presumably to help the hatch, and is now sadly protecting the space where the eggs were.
  • The female many hatchlings will be on display at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences until they can no longer be displayed.
  • The hatchlings are 1-2 mm in length.
  • There are 1000’s of them.
  • The hatchings are in a Kreisel tank and being offered 24 hour Artemia, which the literature suggests is the correct size to be eaten by the little octos, along with rotifers which are smaller to cover all the bases we can reasonably cover.
  • A previous batch of hatchlings from my home had individual paralarvae survive until day 9
  • The Caribbean Octopus ‘vulgaris’ seems to be a smaller species than its larger Mediterranean Octopus vulgaris cousins

Some pics –

A very posed photo in a drop of water

The lines in the upper corner are millimeters.

The female in her bottle. Note she has plugged the opening with rubble. After I disturbed her den and eggs, she moved into the bottle and laid 4 or 5 additional strands of eggs in the bottle.


From TONMO and Advanced Aquarist

Originally published in AdavancedAquarist.com, http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2005/9/aafeature, republished here with permission from the author.

Why Cuttlesfish?
I may be biased. Ok, I am completely biased. I think cuttlefish may very well be the coolest animals on the planet. They maneuver around their tank like hummingbirds, vertically, horizontally, their fin appearing blurred like bird wings. (Image 1) As they fly about they flash amazing color changes, creating patterns that pulse and shift and shimmer on the canvas of their skin. They are master predators, stalking their prey with cunning and attacking with accuracy, speed and skill. Over time, they learn to recognize and respond to you, and will often greet you when you walk into the room (or maybe they just know you bring the food). They are smart, beautiful and unusual, and unlike certain other eight-armed Cephalopods, they don’t try to escape from your aquarium.

My History
My infatuation with cuttlefish started when I was a kid. To me, they just looked like extraterrestrials, and they seemed so smart that I wanted to know more about them. I read about them, made expeditions to public aquariums to see them, and watched any program on cephalopods, hoping to catch a glimpse of these fascinating creatures. Through it all, I hoped for a cuttlefish of my own, but none ever seemed to reach the market. I kept seeing shows on research being done on cuttlefish, but no research station breeding them is able sell them to individuals (please don’t bother them by asking!).

Twenty years later, after I had become proficient at reefkeeping, I started noticing cuttlefish appearing at local fish stores about once a year. However, they always seemed unhealthy and I was reluctant to try my hand with less-than-robust animals. Finally, in 2003 (I waited a long time!) two cuttles came into a LFS that I am friendly with. When both cuttles eagerly ate, I decided to take a chance. Two years later, I converted an entire room in my house to cuttle fish breeding and husbandry. For more information on my set up, and cuttlefish video (I am quite proud of the videos) please check outwww.DaisyHillCuttleFarm.com.

Keeping cephalopods, and especially cuttlefish, in home aquariums is still in its infancy, so I thought I would write an article with all the information I would have wanted when I started keeping them. This is not to say that there isn’t info out there – The Octopus News Magazine Online (www.TONMO.com), which recently held its first cephalopod convention in Monterey Ca, and The Cephalopod Page, currently celebrating its 10 year anniversary (www.thecephalopodpage.org), both have much good information and I use them often; this article is intended to supplement those resources. My hope is that one day, cultured cuttlefish will be commonplace in the aquarium hobby, and I hope that this article will entice people to not only keep them as pets, but will inspire people to breed them as well.

Most of the information available on cuttlefish concerns itself with Sepia officinalis, mainly because they have been raised and used widely for research in the scientific research community. Another reason there is hobby-side information on S. officinalis is because they have been relatively easy for European hobbyists to obtain.

I believe that S. bandensis, provided captive bred/raised animals are available, are well suited to life in the home aquarium. It is important to note that I am not a cuttlefish ‘guru’ and that I expect that some of my ideas regarding cuttlefish husbandry will change as more people start keeping these animals successfully. There is much we don’t know, and it is my hope that my experience and ideas will inspire more people to work with these amazing animals, that our knowledge of their husbandry needs grows rapidly, and that captive raised S. bandensis become commonplace in the near future.There is sporadic importation of other species of cuttlefish into the USA, the most common of these imports is Sepia bandensis. There isn’t much information on keeping S. bandensis because they have not been studied very much in the scientific arena, and they have rarely survived for very long in the home aquarium.

Nuts and bolts
Definitions: Just what the origin of the word ‘cuttlefish’ is has not been pinned down, but according to cephalopod researcher John W Forsythe, “The name Cuttlefish originally came about as the best guess of how to spell or pronounce the Dutch or perhaps Norwegian name for these beasts. It is derived from something like ‘codele-fische’ or ‘kodle-fische’. In German today, cuttlefish and squids are called tintenfische, meaning ‘ink-fish’. I’ve been told that the term fische actually refers to any creature that lives in the sea or are caught in nets when fishing, not just fishes. Anyway, that’s what I understand the derivation of name to be.”1

The cuttlefish isn’t a fish at all – it is a cephalopod. Cephalopod researcher Dr. James Wood sums it up well; “Octopuses, squids, cuttlefish and the chambered nautilus belong to class Cephalopoda, which means ‘head foot’. Cephalopods are a class in the phylum Mollusca which also contains bivalves (scallops, oysters, clams), gastropods (snails, slugs, nudibranchs), scaphopods (tusk shells) and polyplacophorans (chitons)”2, however unlike their relatives, cephalopod move much faster, actively hunt their food, and seem to be quite intelligent.

 

Image 2: Video frame of an adult S. bandensis catching prey with its tentacles. Photo, Richard Ross

Physiology: A cuttlefish has 8 arms, with two rows of suckers along each arm, and two feeding tentacles with at least two rows of suckers along each. The tentacles are tipped with a tentecular club, each covered with suckers while the ‘shaft’ of the tentacle is smooth. The tentacles and tentecular club act much the same as a chameleon’s tongue; they shoot out to snare prey and bring it back to be eaten by a beak-like mouth and a wire brush like tongue called a radula.(Image 2) Cephalopods have three hearts, a ring shaped brain, blue, copper based blood, and have a lifespan between 6 months and 3 years.

Cuttlefish have amazing eyesight having ‘w’ shaped pupils which, according to cephalopod specialist Mark Norman “when closed, forms two separate pupil openings.”3

Image 3: 2 week oldS. bandensis, about ¼ inch long. Note the detail of the skin structure. Photo, Richard Ross

Image 4: Adult S. bandensis mimicking the cyano covered tubing which it is hiding under. Photo, Richard Ross


 

Image 5: Juvenile S. bandensis imitating macro algae. Photo, Richard Ross

They are also known for the amazing chromatophores, leucophores and iridophores that change the color of their skin. (Image 3 and 4) At any time, half of their body may be one pattern, while the other is completely different pattern. The patterns aren’t necessarily static either, they move, like animation on a TV screen; one pattern is referred to as ‘passing clouds’ because it seems to mimic the shadows of clouds passing overhead – although the pattern is also thought to mesmerize prey (see videos at www.DaisyHillCuttleFarm). These animations are thought to aid in communication, hunting and camouflage. To evade predators or hide from prey, they not only rely on their color-changing abilities but will also shape skin on their bodies into textured protrusions (Image 5), expel ink from their bodies, and ‘jet’ rapidly away from danger.

For locomotion cuttlefish generally use a two-tiered approach: a fin that girds their mantle, as well as the jet propulsion of water pumped over the gills and through their funnel. This ‘jetting’ is often used when the animal is seriously threatened, and can move the cuttlefish surprisingly quickly. Some cuttlefish, like S. bandensis and Metasepia pfefferi (flamboyant cuttlefish), actually walk across the sand using their bottom two arms and two lobes on the back part of the bottom of the mantle.

One of the most well known features of the cuttle fish is the cuttle bone, which is used by pet owners to provide calcium for caged birds. This lighter-than-balsa-wood, gas filled, multi-chambered internal calcified ‘shell’ gives the cuttlefish its buoyancy control.

Cuttlefish can also produce copious amounts of ink if startled. It is thought that the ink acts as a smokescreen to allow the cuttlefish to escape predation. Some cuttlefish ink forms ‘pseudomorphs’, or blobs of ink that are thought to further aid in escape from predation by presenting the predator with multiple targets. The question of the toxicity of cuttlefish ink is still up in the air, although it is clear that some cephalopod ink is indeed toxic, but again, the major reason the ink is thought to be toxic is because it coats their gills, causing them to suffocate. This ink has been used by humans as, well, ink; the genus shares its name with ink – Sepia. The cuttlefish ink is also used as an ingredient in many ‘snake oil’ medicines that claim to cure everything from insomnia to menopause. Cuttlefish are also quite tasty, and prepared in every way possible, from raw to deep fried snack foods.

Hard to Keep?
Cuttlefish have traditionally been thought of as a difficult animal to keep. I don’t think that is necessarily true – IF you can keep a reef tank (and understand the basics of cuttlefish care). If you have never kept a reef tank, I would strongly suggest keeping one before you start on cuttlefish – even if not all husbandry methods are transferable. Since the basics of keeping both coral and cuttlefish are similar, and since cultured corals are becoming so readily available, coral seems like a better creature to “learn on” than cuttlefish.

In my opinion, much of the reputation of being difficult to keep comes from cuttles being mistreated during collection and shipping: often housed together, the resultant fighting can cause injuries and infections, while stressed animals can ink in shipping bags causing them to suffocate.

If you can get your hands on a cuttle in good shape, I have found them to be pretty resilient and adaptable. Two cuttles I recently got from a local wholesaler were in good shape and were eating thawed frozen krill the second day I had them, and exhibiting ‘begging’ behavior on the third!

However, please remember that cuttlefish are short-lived animals (which has also bolstered the thought that they are difficult animals to keep), so get prepared for your little alien friend that greets you every time you walk into the room to be with you for l3 months or less. According to James Wood, “lifespan in cephalopods seems to be a function of two things, the water temperature that they live at and the size they mature at. Species that mature at a small size and live in warm water have the shortest lifespan.”4

There are many ways for a cuttlefish to die. An injury from fighting can become infected or the injury itself can be terminal. Sometimes, a cuttlefish will be eating well and active one day, only to be floating lifeless the next morning. If you are able to keep a cuttlefish to the end of its natural lifespan, you may get to experience the animal going through senescence, which really means the process of getting old, but in cephalopods the process is downright gut wrenching. The onset of senescence is often marked by a clouding of the eyes. Since eyesight it central to a cuttlefish’s hunting ability, such clouding can be disastrous. The ability to track and catch prey is impeded, with the animal’s tentacles seeming to not function properly and an inability of the tentecular club to hold onto prey. Eventually, the animal can become lethargic, showing no interest at all in eating or even moving. To make it even more painful, senescence can last for days or months.

The death of your cuttlefish is awful and it is going to happen; be prepared.

Available species
There are essentially two species of cuttlefish that are ‘available’ to the aquarium trade – Sepia officinalis and Sepia bandensis.

Much has been written about S. officinalis because they are bred all over the world for different kinds of research – from neuron research to behavioral research. While S. officinalis are pretty simple to get a hold of if you are a researcher, or live in Europe, they are quite difficult to get in the US. What’s even worse from a practical point of view, is they get big – 18 inches. It is recommended that the smallest aquarium for a single animal be at least 200 gallons. They are from ‘cool’ waters and like a water temp between 59 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

I believe that Sepia bandensis, on the other hand, are the perfect animal for the home aquarium because they are small: about 4 inches. Since S. bandensis is the species with which I have the most experience, they are the focus of this article. However, if you are interested in Sepia officinalis, please read this article by Colin Dunlop (http://www.tonmo.com/cephcare/cuttlefishcare.php), or this article by Dr. James Wood (http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/cuttle1.html).

There are many Sepia species that are similar to each other, and many may not have been identified yet, so proper identification can be very difficult. For instance, it is possible that the first cuttles I got were not S. bandensis, but I only came to this conclusion after raising bunches of cuttles that I am more sure are S. bandensis through observations.

Other species sometimes seen in the hobby are pharaoh cuttlefish, Sepia pharaonis, which are even less available than S. officinalis. I once had the honor of keeping a flamboyant cuttlefish, Metasepia pfefferi – but not enough is known about them to make me feel comfortable recommending them as pets, and there seem to be indications that their populations in the wild are in decline.

Getting a cuttlefish
Getting a cuttlefish, especially in the US, is currently difficult. There are no cuttles native to North America, so unlike our friends in the rest of the world, you can’t just go and collect your own; you have to hope that your LFS will get one in stock. Still, there is hope.

There are other people, just as into cuttlefish as I am, working on breeding Sepia bandensis in the US and the UK. Last year Octopets.com offered captive raised Sepia officinalis for sale – and plan to again this year. Octopets.com is the only facility culturing octopus for the hobby in the US, and they also sell a variety of other marine animals. Recently, I have been working with Octopets.com to help them establish S. bandensis brood stock on a larger scale than what I am working with.

I am a huge fan of captive propagation in general, and think the benefits of captive-bred or captive-raised cuttlefish are massive – the animals are already acclimated to captive conditions, already eating available foods, and don’t go through the stress of being collected or shipped from another continent; not to mention reducing the demands on wild populations.

Another option is to raise your animals from eggs; cuttlefish eggs, usually S. bandensis, show up in the hobby from time to time. They are usually added to orders as ‘filler’ and one wholesaler told me they feed them to fish at his facility! Raising baby cuttles from eggs has its own host of problems and benefits that will be addressed later in this article.

Setting Up for S. bandensis 
S. bandensis don’t get very big, 4 inches or less, and a single animal can easily be kept in smallish aquaria. They seem to be very reluctant to ink, they tend to become very personable very quickly and, unlike octopus, they don’t try to escape from their aquarium. Whenever I walk into my cuttle room, they all swim to the front of their tanks to see if I will feed them. They really seem to be the perfect cephalopod for the home aquarium.

Below is a breakdown of what is needed to keep a single S. bandensis in a sumpless system. I am not going to go into very much detail because I am hoping that anyone who wants to keep a cuttlefish already has some basic experience in keeping saltwater tanks and understands the nitrogen cycle. If you don’t, but are still interested in keeping a cuttlefish, I suggest you check out Reef.org’s New Reefers Forum (http://reefs.org/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=64).

    • S. bandensis can be kept in tanks as small as a 20 gallon high, although a 30 gallon high is better for a single animal. They prefer to have a tall tank, and seem to like the feel of the height of the water above them. They can, of course, be kept in bigger tanks, but the bigger the tank the harder it might be to make sure a small cuttlefish sees its food.
    • Any water pump, powerhead or filter intake should be covered with a filter sponge, or something similar, to keep the cuttlefish from being sucked into the filter or sucked against the intake.
    • A protein skimmer is a must, not only for oxygenation and water cleanliness issues, but also to deal with ink events. A hang on back skimmer will work just fine – I like the Bak Pak with a wooden air stone added to the reaction chamber to produce more foam. I have also used the Remora Pro, but never really got much skimmate out of it, but some people swear by them. Any decent skimmer will do.
    • A hang-on back – Preferably with a surface skimmer attachment to suck ‘scum’ off the top of the water. The mechanical filtration provided is helpful because cuttlefish are messy eaters and messy excreters. A HOB filter is also a good place to run carbon to help deal with inking events or other water quality issues. Make sure you change or rinse the filter media often. The HOB filter will also give you plenty of circulation for S. bandensis – provided you get the right sized filter for the right sized tank. I use Aquaclear 500’s on 20 gallon high tanks. A canister filter will also work just as well.
    • Extra water flow – If you need extra water flow, a power head will work just fine (but cover the intake with a filter sponge!). Air pumps are also very efficient at moving water, and make especially good water movement for baby cuttlefish.
    • Heater – S. bandensis come from at least the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and seem to do just fine between 78 and 80 degrees.
    • Chiller (if you need it). In the SF Bay area I have never needed one, but if I did need one I would use an IceProbe Micro Chiller DIY’d onto a hang on back filter. I doubt you would need one for this species. For S. officinalis you very well might want one.
    • Water quality – Specific gravity should be around 1.025, pH 8.1-8.4, Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate as close to 0 as possible.
    • Make sure that the tank has completely finished its nitrogen cycle and is ready for a high biological load before adding a cuttlefish.
    • Lighting is not much of an issue as cuttles don’t really need it. I use Lights of America fixturesfrom Home Depot or Costco to keep the macro algae growing. Some people have reported cuttles going blind from high intensity lighting, but I am not sure if I believe it. Cuttlefish eyesight tends to go as they reach senescence – the eyes cloud over and they find it hard to see their prey, and these are the symptoms that people have reported keeping cuttles under high intensity lighting. It is hard to tell if the timing of the eye problems is coincidence or caused by the lighting. Your lighting will also determine what corals, if any, you keep with the cuttle.
    • Aquascaping – I like to create big arches so the cuttles have places to hide, but are still easy to find. I suggest going light on the live rock to make it easier to find the cuttlefish – remember they are masters of camouflage.
    • A sand bed of 1/2 inch depth is fine. The cuttles will dig around in the sand, so a deep sand bed might be problematic.
    • S. bandensis are often found among sea fans, but seem to do very well with hanging macro algae. You can hang your macros with a lettuce clip used to feed tangs and angels vegetable matter.
    • Top off – over time the water in your tank will evaporate, and will need to be replaced. Note that the salt does NOT evaporate, so your top off water should be reverse osmosis water or reverse osmosis/deionized water heated to the temperature of the tank. How often you will need to top off your tank will depend on the rate of evaporation you experience.
    • No copper! Copper will kill cuttlefish.
  • Water changes – I recommend a 25 -50 percent water change once a month. The water should be reverse osmosis water or reverse osmosis/deionized water mixed with a good quality salt mix, heated and aerated to tank temperature for 24 hours before adding it to the tank.

Of course, a system with a sump would be fine as well. A sump is essentially another tank below the show tank, often kept inside the tank stand. Water drains from the show tank into the sump, and is then pumped back up into the show tank. Sumps do basically two things – they give your system a larger water volume which makes the system more stable and they give you a place to put equipment that may be unsightly, like your skimmer, heater or chiller. A 50 or 100 micron sock can also be added to the end of the tank drain for extra water filtration, but make sure to clean it at least once a week, if not more, so the detritus collecting in the sock don’t break down and cause water quality issues.

Keeping groups of S. bandensis: I have not experimented much with keeping groups of S. bandensis together. I have had so few animals, and I didn’t want to risk losing them to possible injuries from fighting. It may very well be the case that keeping groups, especially groups raised together, of S. bandensis in the same aquarium turns out to be a great way to keep them. It may also turn out that the fear of fighting is overrated. I think that as long as they are given a large enough tank that they should be fine, but I have no ideas as to what constitutes ‘large enough’. When the current babies I have are old enough, I plan on keeping a group of them in an undivided 100 gallon tank, so I should have more information in the near future.

Tank Mates for S. bandensis: Most fish, shrimp and crabs that are smaller than the cuttle will eventually become food…they will even eat mantis shrimp. Larger animals may distress the cuttle. In short, I would NOT recommend having fish and cuttles in the same tank. Snails, however, are completely safe in my experience.

Any kind of non-aggressive coral should be fine with cuttlefish. Anything that tends to sting should be avoided. Mushrooms, colt corals, ‘tree’ corals, clove polyps and green star polyps are all good choices for a cuttle tank. SPS corals may not be good choices for lighting reasons and water quality issues.

Feeding S. bandensis
Cuttlefish are predators eating mostly crustaceans and fish. It seems that motion triggers their amazing hunting response, so lots of people want to feed them live foods. This can be problematic because live food can be expensive, and even though cuttles will eat fish, they really are crustacean eaters. The most widely available live crustation for food is the ghost shrimp, which is good for a snack, but may not be the best everyday food.

There are several options to feeding your cuttlefish. Variety is always a good idea, as it covers more nutritional bases and keep the cuttle mind more active.

Image 6: Adult S. bandensis eating a locally caught crab. Photo, Richard Ross

  • Live saltwater crabs/shrimp collected locally. This is a great, inexpensive food source if collected from a clean area. I live near the SF Bay, and crabs are easy to collect, but I am now worried about the pollution levels being problematic for the cuttlefish, so I don’t use them as my primary food source. Also, remember not to feed crabs or shrimp that are bigger than the cuttle just because it is cool to watch the fight – prey has defensives and will often injure the predator. (Image 6)
  • Live saltwater fish collected locally: See above – but remember that Crustaceans make up the bulk of cuttle diets in the wild, so a fish-only diet is not best. If you are interested in seeing what different species of cuttlefish eat in the wild, please see Cephalopod Prey in the Wild (http://www.cephbase.dal.ca/preydb/preydb.cfm). Even though there is not a lot on S. bandensis, the information may be informative.
  • Live saltwater crabs/shrimp or fish for a live bait shop: Great if you can find ’em, as long as they are collected from a clean area.

    Image 7: Adult S. bandensis eating a sickly Cardinal fish. Photo, Richard Ross

     

     

     

  • Live saltwater fish from an LFS: Not the best option because this usually means damsels, which can be pretty aggressive and can even injure the cuttlefish – not to mention expensive. (Image 7)
  • Live saltwater shrimp/crabs from the LFS: Great if you can afford them. They will almost always be expensive, but can be a good option in an emergency. Hermit crabs, like clean up crew hermits, aren’t the best idea because they are so small and can disappear into their shells – and the cuttlefish may ignore them completely.
  • Live freshwater crabs/shrimp: It is questionable if freshwater animals make good food source for saltwater animals – there may be missing nutrients or may have incompatible amino acids. Otherwise, ghost shrimp are eaten with gusto by cuttlefish, as are small fiddler crabs or very small crawfish. The big drawback is if the cuttle doesn’t eat the animal, you now have a freshwater animal in a saltwater tank . . . which may die and pollute the water.
  • Live freshwater fish: Guppies seem to be ok, but goldfish seem to cause indefinable problems. The big worry is that these animals are treated with copper or other chemicals that can be detrimental/disastrous to the health of the cuttlefish.
  • Frozen Krill, fish, or other (but not cooked!): As a general staple, frozen krill from the LFS or fresh frozen, rinsed shrimp/non oily fish from your local grocery store are great. Make sure you thaw the food completely, and it is a good idea to supplement once in a while with live food. Please note that weaning your cuttles onto frozen food can be a challenge. The trick is to make the dead food look alive via a clear feeding stick or by having it ‘blow’ around in the current. Two wild-caught cuttles I currently have took to frozen food almost immediately with almost no work on my part, while other cuttles I have had would never even look at it.
  • Ordering live food from the internet: Great but expensive due to overnight shipping costs, and you will need to set up a separate tank to keep them alive. Check out TONMO.com and ShrimpStuff.com.I suggest feeding cuttlefish at least once a day, and promptly remove any uneaten food from the aquarium. They will eat a lot more than once a day, but it does seem like it is possible to over feed them. Their metabolism is very fast, so I wouldn’t suggest not feeding them for more than a couple of days in a row. Cuttlefish floating near the surface may be a sign of starvation, so be on the lookout for this behavior.

Rearing S. Bandensis eggs

 

Image 8: Baby S. bandensis inside the egg. Photo, Mike Irving

 

Image 9: Baby S. bandensis inside the egg. Photo, Richard Ross

S. Bandensis eggs look like a cluster of 8-40 grapes, are dark purple to black in color (the outside of the egg is partially made of ink) and generally stay attached to each other even after they are removed from whatever they were attached to by the female cuttlefish. The eggs are pointy when laid, but as they mature, they swell, become round and eventually grow so transparent that you can watch the baby swim around inside. After 2-3 weeks, the baby cuttlefish emerge from the eggs ready to meet the world. Sometimes a yolk sack is still attached, however this is generally considered to be an effect of a premature hatching. Though tiny, they are perfect replicas of their parents and begin color changing almost immediately (and even while still in the egg!) (Image 8 and 9)

 

Image 10: Baby S. bandensis. Marks at the bottom of the frame are 1/8 inch apart. Photo, Richard Ross

 

Image 11: Video frame of 2 male S. bandensis intimidating each other with visual displays. Photo, Richard Ross

The cuttlefish are born as small as 4 mm (Image 10), but grow quickly, up to 1 cm in one month! I keep newly hatched S. Bandensis in net breeders so I can keep track of them and make sure they are all eating (I turn the net of the net breeder inside out so the extra material is on the outside of the net breeder so the babies don’t get caught in it). If the babies are kept in the main tank, they can easily get lost or sucked into a filter. I am also experimenting with keeping baby cuttlefish in display ‘cubes’ like you see in aquarium stores. I often keep up to 5 individuals in the same net breeder for several months, or until I begin to see fighting displays (Image 11). Then, I move them into sectioned off areas of the 100 gallon tank. I have tried keeping groups together for mating and tried keeping individual animals apart except for mating, and have had equal results in both cases, but will use a larger space for groups in the future.

Image 12: A ‘net breeder’ used to house and protect baby S. bandensis. Photo, Richard Ross

 

Image 13: Baby S. bandensis inside a ‘net breeder’. Photo, Richard Ross

If you have a cuttlefish that lays eggs, leave them where they are until they start to inflate. Then you can carefully remove them from whatever they have been laid on by removing the ‘stalk’ of the bunch of grapes from its point of attachment and move the eggs to a net breeder or other hatching container (avoid moving them close to hatching, because it can be stressful) (Image 12 and 13). It would be even safer for the eggs if you were able to move them by moving whatever it is that they are attached to, or you could suspend the eggs in the middle of the water column via monofilament or bent rigid airline tubing. Keep a gentle water flow over the eggs and remove any eggs that fail to mature. Make sure to cover any filter/pump intake with a filter sponge, or simply use an airpump for water motion.

Eggs come with their own set of pros and cons. The pros are big – the eggs ship well and take up little space, and allow you to know the exact age of your cuttles. However, the major con is massive – feeding the babies. Baby S. bandensis may not eat for 2 or 3 days after hatching, but once they get started, they eat an amazing amount of food, and the food has to be the right size. Live mysid shrimp make the perfect food, but you need lots of them, and to make matters worse, mysids are cannibalistic so you have to keep them in a large enough container and feed them enough so they won’t eat each other.

If you are lucky enough to be able to collect your own, or live near some place that cultures them and will sell them to you, or decide to (shudder) culture your own, you win. Otherwise you will need to have them shipped to you overnight and incur those expenses. When I shipped in live food, I was very happy with www.mysidshrimp.com, a division of Reed Mariculture.

Image 14: Three week old baby S. bandensis and Gammarus spp amphipod. Marks at the bottom of the frame are 1/8 inch apart. Photo, Richard Ross

 

Image 15: Baby S. bandensis eating an amphipod. Photo, Richard Ross

If you live near the coast, you can also collect amphipods (Gammarus spp) for baby cuttlefish food, which is actually pretty easy. I prefer to go to a gravelly area that gets exposed at low tide, find a rock about the size of a dinner plate, flip it over and scoop the revealed gravel into a bucket with some tank water. When I get home, I drop a net in the bucket. The pods tend to cling to it and voila… easy baby feeding. (Image 14 and 15)

UK S. bandensis keeper Mike Irving collects mysid shrimp for his baby cuttlefish: “In coastal areas you may find that you have mysids living. Usually they are more abundant in tidal areas, or where fresh water run-off meets salt water. Mysids live at the sand surface, so in order to collect them, you should take a fine net (sized so that is will let silt through but not the mysids) and run it along the surface of the sand/sediment. As you net disturbs the mysids and sweeps through the water, you will catch the mysids.

A word of warning – when you collect mysids yourself, first make sure that the water is unpolluted (however the presence of them can sometimes indicate so, and that you do not collect too many. When transporting them from coast to home, if you over collect for your transportation receptacle (bucket!) they mysids use up oxygen fast, and you can end up with a bunch of dead shrimp. Collect light and aerate with a tube if you can – even better buy a battery operated air pump.”

Baby fish can also be an option (octopets.com sells baby saltwater guppies). Some people will use enriched small brine shrimp but only in a pinch – it is thought that long term, brine are not an adequate cuttlefish food.

Another thing to try is to wean them onto frozen mysids. Put cuttlefish in a small tank, cube or net breeder with enough circulation to keep the thawed mysids moving and after a few days the babies should start eating them.

Warning: It is not known how well S. bandensis can do with a diet of only saltwater guppies, enriched brine shrimp, or frozen mysids. A varied diet of other live foods seems to give the best chance of survival.

Breeding S. bandensis
I have had limited success breeding S. bandensis – mainly through trying to keep breeding groups or pairs in hobby sized tanks. I get lots of mating, but have lost the parents before egg laying for reasons I believe may include fighting due to limited space, separated cuttles injuring themselves trying to get to each other through dividers, or slow poisoning via live foods collected from the SF bay.

 

Image 16: Two young adult S. bandensis mating. Photo, Richard Ross

Cuttlefish breed by coupling head to head, and the male packet of sperm called a spermatophore, is deposited into a pouch in the female’s mantle (Image 16) The mating can last from 10 seconds to many minutes, and in some species, males will use their funnel to flush other male’s sperm out the females pouch.6 Females can lay several clutches of eggs, and can live for months after egg laying.

Even though cuttlefish can tell each others sex on sight, it is very difficult for humans to accurately sex them if you don’t actually see them breeding. In general, S. bandensis males tend to adopt high contrast black and white patterns when faced with another male while females tend to keep the more relaxed mottled colors that a resting cuttlefish adopts. However, males sometimes display like females and females sometimes display like males, so introducing S. bandensis that don’t know each other should be done with care.

Image 17: Divided 100 gallon tank used for breeding and sexing S. bandensis. Photo, Richard Ross

The method of introduction and sexing that I am using developed with much help from Chris Maupin. So far, while not perfect, it seems to be effective. I built movable partitions in a 100 gallon tank, each with a removable door that can be either be transparent or opaque.(Image 17) To try to sex the cuttles, I put in the transparent door to see how they react to each other. Hopefully, those reactions will allow me to determine the sex of the animals. James Wood suggests holding a mirror up to the tank, but I haven’t tried this method of sexing yet.

 

Image 18: Close up of the face of an adult S. bandensis eating a crab. Photo, Richard Ross

When I think I have a male and a female, I remove the door and watch as the two cuttles face off. Males and females will mate pretty much immediately, while two males will display and fight (Image 11). After breeding, I separate the two to prevent fighting. If the pair ends up being two males, I separate them as quickly as possible.

The first pair I successfully bred produced one clutch of eggs using this method. The next cuttles I raised were all male. The third attempt seemed successful, and the pair mated like crazy, when disaster struck. The two lovesick cuttles were so eager to get some “unsupervised” time together, that they attempted to mate through the mesh of the tank dividers. Both animals were injured, and died shortly thereafter.

I have also kept groups of cuttles together to see if they would pair off or mate without intervention, but have had little success, mostly due to apparent fighting. It is probable that the space I gave these groups was simply too small.

When the babies I currently have are old enough, I will modify my procedure. The modifications I’m considering are: using different dividers, leaving an empty space between divided cuttles to prevent them trying to reach each other, and using a much larger tank/tub as an environment for small group to live in. I suspect that S. bandensis would be easy to breed with a group of 10 or so as long as they were in a 300 gallon tub with plenty of macro algae for hiding.

Image 19: Rear view of 3 week old S. bandensis eating an amphipod. Marks at the bottom of the frame are 1/8 inch apart. Photo, Richard Ross

Conclusion
Cuttlefish are fantastic animals, and I am still amazed that I have them in my home. I hope that as more people begin to keep and breed them that they will become a captive bred staple in the aquarium hobby. I also hope that you have found this article helpful, and that your interest in keeping and breeding cuttlefish has grown. If you have any information on keeping or breedingSepia bandensis, or if you have found any errors in this article, please contact me because to make captive bred bandensis readily available we need to pool our information.

Acknowledgments
My efforts with Sepia bandensis would not have been possible without the generous help of Bob Mendelsohn, Chris Maupin, Colin Dunlop, Mike Irving, Dr, James Wood, both the RDO and TONMO.com online communities and the information compiled by Dr. James Wood on The Cephalapod Page and Cephbase. I also need to thank my wife Libby for allowing the absurdity of attempting to breed cuttlefish in a house and for her immeasurable help in writing this article.

Links/resources/references

www.DaisyHillCuttleFarm.com

The Cephalopod Page – http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/cuttle1.html

The Octopus News Magazine Online – www.TONMO.com

CephBase – http://www.cephbase.utmb.edu/

Mike Irvings www.CephsUK.co.uk

www.octopets.com

Citations/Notes:

General) Norman, Mark (2000), ‘Cephalopods a world guide’, ConchBooks PP 1-92

1) http://www.cephbase.utmb.edu/TCP/faq/TCPfaq2b.cfm?ID=4

2) http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/cuttle1.html

3) Norman, Mark (2000), ‘Cephalopods a world guide’. ConchBooks : pp.82

4) Private correspondence referring to the following paper: Wood J.B. and R.K. O’Dor (2000). Do larger cephalopods live longer? Effects of temperature and phylogeny on interspecific comparisons of age and size at maturity. Marine Biology. 136 (1) : pp.91

5)Lights of America Fixtures – http://www.lightsofamerica.com/Product%20Categories/Security%20Fixtures.aspx

6)Norman, Mark (2000), ‘Cephalopods a world guide’. ConchBooks : pp.42

 

Image 20: 3 week old baby S. bandensis. Marks at the bottom of the frame are 1/8 inch apart. Photo, Richard Ross