6 Octopus Species You Can Keep as Pets
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If you’ve never had an octopus before, you may be completely oblivious to the animal’s care requirements.
So, let’s go through the basics to figure out the core facts about this awesome creature:
- All octopi are carnivorous – They will consume a variety of fish and crustaceans even larger than their bodies. This means you can’t really pair them with any tank mate. These are solitary creatures that need to live alone and undisturbed in their environment.
- Temperature requirements vary dramatically – The octopus demands varying temperature ranges, depending on the species. In this sense, we have 59 to 72 F for the California two-spot octopus, 74 to 76 for the Caribbean dwarf octopus, and 60 to 65 F for the East Pacific red octopus.
- Escape artists – The octopus is highly intelligent and will escape even from seemingly secured habitats. No matter how large their bodies are, they can always squeeze it through crevices and holes as big as the octopus’s eye.
- Very aggressive – You cannot keep more than 1 octopus in the same tank. They have no patience for any tank mate and have no social instincts. These animals are particularly aggressive towards their own and will resort to murder and cannibalism if you force them to live together.
Now, let’s look at some good octopi species that you can keep as pets.
Pet Octopus You Can Keep in Aquarium
While it may sound intimidating, keeping and caring for a pet octopus isn’t too difficult.
You only need to consider the animal’s basic requirements and make sure it has all the necessary conditions to remain comfortable and healthy in its habitat.
All octopi are ambush predators that display amazing camouflaging capabilities.
Some core things to keep in mind about their tank setup include:
- Have plenty of rocks – You can have a reef structure without the corals or simply a rocky system with caves here and there. The octopus loves to move around the rocks and find cover from sunlight in shadier areas.
- Avoid light – The octopus doesn’t live with UV lighting. Keep the tank in a darker room with some moderate environmental lighting and plenty of shade.
- Secure the tank – The octopus’s tentacles are very sensitive and powerful at the same time. They can climb the tank’s walls with ease and even push the tank’s lid to get out. A 10-15-inch-wide octopus is also capable of squeezing its body through a 1-inch opening. Always secure your tank properly to prevent this aquatic Houdini from making its grand escape.
With that said, you have 6 popular octopi that you can keep as tank pets:
1. Common Octopus
Bulbous eyes, large head, 8 tentacles, and a soft and flexible body. The common octopus is as…common as they come, yet not without its charm.
Strictly speaking, this is a must, as you can’t place it in any specific category.
The common octopus can grow up to 36 inches in the wild and weigh up to 22 pounds. Fortunately, you won’t have to deal with such a monstrous specimen since octopi rarely, if ever, reach these sizes in captivity.
You should expect your octopus to grow up to 12-14 inches and live around 8-12 months, although its lifespan will vary.
Aside from that, everything about the common octopus falls in line with all species. This creature is powerful, aggressive, uses camouflage to hunt, and can lose limbs when threatened.
The ideal tank conditions include water temperature between 74 to 78 F, a rocky layout, and low lighting.
You should feed the octopus once per day, preferably live food that would activate the creature’s hunting instincts.
This will keep the octopus busy and entertained, which is great considering that octopi can get bored fast.
2. Atlantic Pygmy Octopus
Now we’re getting somewhere. The Atlantic Pygmy octopus showcases a unique appearance and a matching personality. This little creature can only grow up to 2 inches wide, with tentacles only measuring up to 4 inches.
These are tiny measurements compared to other species of octopi you may be used to.
Given its small size, this cephalopod has difficulties with natural predation since it can’t use its size to impress anyone.
Much less predators specialized in eating octopi. Because of that, the Pygmy octopus has developed a unique hiding behavior.
You will see this small creature cuddling in the smallest spaces, including empty clamshells, whenever it feels threatened.
So, this creature’s tank layout should comprise numerous hiding areas. I suggest a rocky system with caves and crevices that the octopus can use to rest and prepare its ambushing tactics.
Otherwise, the Pygmy octopus requires similar care to any other member of its species. Provide the octopus with a carnivorous diet and a stable feeding pattern, and the animal won’t ask for much.
Ah, and don’t be tempted to add some fish to the tank just because the Pygmy octopus seems too small to hurt them.
The octopus is set to attack anything swimming near its habitat and will immediately enter hunting mode when in the presence of other fish.
If the fish are small enough, the Pygmy octopus will eat them. If they’re too big, they might stress your octopus in return. Both scenarios are less than ideal.
3. East Pacific Red Octopus
This one holds a special place on this list. The East Pacific Red Octopus is probably the most exhilarating tank pet you can get. This octopus can grow up to 20 inches when fully mature but will most likely remain smaller in captivity.
The cephalopod’s base color is a bright red, but the nuances can vary drastically. Some display brownish hues, while others are paler with various rusty and brown-tainted patterns.
It doesn’t matter, though, since you will rarely get to see its true coloring. In true octopi fashion, this species will alternate its colors constantly, trying to blend in with its environment.
This may cause the octopus to suddenly become white, light yellow, or dark brown, with various patterns that mimic their environment.
One thing that separates the East Pacific Red Octopus from other cephalopods is its astounding intelligence. This animal can display problem-solving behavior and showcase amazing short and long-term memories.
They will remember their keepers and can distinguish between different human beings.
When it comes to tank setup, you should provide this animal with larger caves than what other octopi might need.
This is primarily because of its feeding behavior. Instead of eating its food on the spot, like many octopi do, the Red octopus likes to retreat to its safe space before eating it.
4. California Two-Spot Octopus
This is another carnivorous cephalopod that will make for a fine addition to any reef tank.
The Two-Spot octopus is among the most popular species in the aquarium world, primarily thanks to its amazing lifespan.
Most species of octopi live between 6 to 12 months in captivity. You can even get to 18 months if you’re lucky, and you get a better specimen.
Octopi tend to live longer in the wild, as is the case with most aquatic creatures.
The Two-Spot octopus is different. This creature can live up to 2 years in captivity, in optimal conditions, and only up to 18 months in the wild.
You can recognize the Two-Spot octopus by its trademark spots located right below the eyes. This octopus is generally brown with grey and yellow hues and will grow up to 16 inches. Likely less in captivity.
The octopus’s mantle is also pear-shaped rather than round, as is the case with other species.
While this species is friendlier than other octopi, it’s more difficult to keep in captivity than most. This is due to its high intelligence, forcing the octopus to always look for ways to entertain itself.
So, you might want to provide it with toys occasionally or decorate its tank with various elements that would intrigue the animal.
5. Algae Octopus
This is another interesting contender to consider for the title of the most intriguing octopus pet you can have.
This small cephalopod will only grow up to 2.5-3 inches and display extremely bulbous eyes, almost covering its entire face. Its base color is a combination between grey, brown, and yellow, with earthy hues.
But it’s the creature’s camouflaging abilities that set it out from other octopuses. The Algae octopus can change both its color and its skin texture.
A fully camouflaged octopus will resemble a gastropod shell covered by algae, plant matter, and dirt. Hence, the name Algae octopus.
Diet-wise, this cephalopod remains carnivorous, but it prefers consuming small crustaceans instead of fish. This is what brings us to the octopus’s natural hunting behavior, earning it the name of Land Octopus. This small cephalopod can traverse land areas from one tidal pool to the next when hunting small crabs.
All octopuses can crawl on land if they have to, but this is the only species that actively choose to do so.
Its habitat should comprise rocks and caves, as well as large open areas. The Algae octopus will rely on its camouflage to surprise its prey, but not always.
It will sometimes use jetting as a hunting technique to catch more elusive prey. The technique refers to the octopus eliminating water through the siphon to propel its body head-forward toward the prey.
So, make sure your Algae octopus has a lot of open space to practise its hunting capabilities. And feed it primarily live food (actually alive, not live but frozen) for the same reasons.
6. Caribbean Reef Octopus
The Caribbean Reef Octopus is another larger species that thrives in shady and hidden areas.
This species can have a 25-inch-long mantle and is capable of growing up to 3.5 pounds.
It’s quite a chunky cephalopod that will make for an interesting addition to any aquatic setting. Naturally, the octopus won’t grow as much in a close environment like a tank. Expect it to reach 13-15 inches if you’re lucky.
This one is particularly intelligent and aggressive and will attempt to eat or kill anything swimming in their vicinity while alive.
This includes members of its own species, or, should we say, especially members of its own species. The Caribbean Reef Octopus is known to display cannibalistic tendencies and will only tolerate another octopus’s company during the mating phase.
When it comes to its lair, consider a well-designed reef system with a variety of hiding areas. This one prefers to spend more time in hiding compared to other octopus species.
It’s also worth noting that the Reef octopus is highly intelligent and powerful, so place a heavy lid on top of the tank.
If there’s an escape route, no matter how small or hidden, your octopus will find it, and it will use it.
As you can see, there are a few decent alternatives to consider if you’re interested in an octopus.
These species all vary in size, temperament, overall behavior, and presence, but they are quite similar in other areas too.
Octopuses don’t make for popular tank pets, not because they’re difficult to keep but mostly due to their lifespans.
Most octopuses will only live several months, typically 6 to 10, even when providing them with optimal care.
Plus, they can’t have any tankmates since they will either eat them or try to eat them.
But if you absolutely love them, there’s no reason why you couldn’t keep one as a pet.
If you’re still undecided, here are some interesting octopus facts to consider:
- A pet octopus can cost between $20 and $1,000 or more, depending on the species and size
- Octopuses have 3 hearts, blue blood, and very large brains with a lot of neurons, many of which are in charge of the creature’s chromatophores
- Octopuses can remember the location of a predator or a dangerous area to avoid it in the future
- These animals may require toys to keep themselves entertained in an aquarium since they are highly intelligent and mentally active
- The largest octopus species is the Giant Pacific octopus, which can reach 600 pounds and measure 30 feet
- Not all octopuses can be kept as pets since some live at depths between 1,000 to 6,000 feet or more
- Octopuses have high metabolisms, so they will produce a lot of waste, requiring regular cleaning and maintenance