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Issue: June 2007

Octopuses I Have Known

Author: Carol Sauer

SAUR 0607
Photographer: Carol Sauer
The author recalls the many pet octopuses she has had over the years, each with their own distinct and interesting personalities.

I am a 48-year-old single mother of three who has had a passion for both salt- and freshwater creatures for over 25 years. My freshwater tanks have housed everything from goldfish and assorted tropicals to oscars—and even a large black ghost knife we maintained for over six years. My saltwater tanks have been homes to clownfish with anemones, groupers, angels, jawfish, and seahorses.

Even after keeping all of these different fishes, however, my favorite creature is not fishlike at all—it’s an animal that’s actually rather alien in appearance: the octopus. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of sharing my home with 20 or more octopuses from about eight different species. Because of their short lifespan and the inability of most shops to correctly identify what they have in stock, one never knows whether they are buying a full-grown dwarf nearing the end of its life, or a creature that will outgrow its tank in a matter of months. I have been lucky in that I have become very adept at identifying what I am purchasing.

Spike

The octopus I currently have in my home is an Octopus bimaculoides (commonly called a Pacific two-spot octopus or a bimac) named Spike. He arrived two months ago at my work by way of overnight courier. On arrival he was the size of a quarter when curled up; today he is bigger than a tennis ball. He lives in a 44-gallon pentagon, run by a canister filter with a protein skimmer and a filter full of carbon. Spike is so intrigued by the world outside of his home that since day one he has lived in a conch shell in the front of the tank so he can monitor us.

The color and texture changes are simply amazing. I have learned to tell how he is feeling by his coloration. After a good meal he is white. If he feels threatened he can turn black, with his mantle taking on a cone-head effect. He eats daily, and if I forget to feed him he paces, swims, and stalks until he grabs my attention. To date, he has eaten about 30 crabs, 50 snails, and an 8-ounce package of frozen prawn. One day I got brave and allowed him to grab my hand. After 10 minutes of trying to pull me into his tank he nipped my hand and released me.

Ink

Ink, an O. bimaculoides, shared our home for over a year. She was very inquisitive and liked to play. Her favorite toy was a large green mega block that floated at the water’s edge. She would grab on to the block, float down to the bottom of the tank, and then drag it all over with her. You always knew where she was by the location of the block.

Inklet

After Ink there was Inklet, who also arrived from California by overnight courier. A young, tank-raised O. bimaculoides, she lived with us for almost a year. She was very friendly and loved to watch us. My daughter was trying to feed her a snail one day when Inklet grabbed a hold of her fingers. She was not injured, and the results can be seen on Tonmo.com in a short but very funny video.

Lil’ Pumpkin

Lil’ Pumpkin arrived on Halloween. She was also a tank-raised bimac. On arrival she was the size of a dime—the tiniest baby octopus that I have ever received. She stayed tiny and only grew to the size of a nickel. If she had been born in the wild she likely would have been one of the many that fail to survive. We were lucky to have her for six months.

G2

G2 was one of my favorites. We were never able to positively identify her, but I think she was from the Gulf of Mexico. Her texture and color changes were the most exotic and pronounced of all the octopuses I have experienced. One moment she could be half black and white with a smooth texture, and the next she would be mottled with hundreds of little spikes all over her body. She lived in a tank in my living room and more than a few times I would find G2 plastered to the highest corner of the tank, observing my daughter as she sat and watched cartoons.

Gimpy

Gimpy was purchased at a pet shop. On arrival she was missing a leg, hence her name. Octopuses have the ability to regenerate limbs, and within a month I could not tell which leg had been missing. Gimpy learned a behavior that none of the others ever figured out. I had a 3-inch cleaner magnet on the tank and one day I heard a crash. I came running into the bedroom and realized Gimpy had separated the magnets without getting herself pinched, letting the outside magnet crash to the floor. She did this on more than 10 occasions and learned that we would come running over every time.

Rummler 

Rummler was a dwarf species, and we only had the pleasure to have her for two months. She was full grown and had an attitude. I have found the smaller species to be very arrogant, not caring if we interact with them or not.

Truly Unique Creatures

There are many more octopuses that have graced my life, and I never get tired of seeing the different characteristics of each one. All have had totally different personalities. My favorite has to be the bimacs, which I consider to be the Labrador of the octopus world, as every one I have ever had the pleasure to experience delights in interacting with us.

If you put the time into getting to know these unique creatures and thoroughly research what you need to keep them happy and healthy, you will be as taken with them as I have been for most of my life.

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