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The (mini) Kraken! An Octopus Tale.

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  • The (mini) Kraken! An Octopus Tale.

    About 15 years ago, I lived 100m from the beach in a house with 2 other guys. I had no idea about fishkeeping, and had a 3' standard tank with under gravel filter and 3' single T8 lighting. We combed the rock pools and brought back specimens that all seemed to do fine in the tank, mostly capture & release. There were 3-5 small darts in there from memory, urchins, cucumbers etc, and we would bucket up fresh water from the ocean for a water change.

    We found a small occy and brought it home, probably had a head the size of the last knuckle on your thumb & thumbnail. It turned out to be the most amazing creature I have ever kept. It kept in its 'garden' mostly and would venture out on occasion for exercise. We fed it fresh crabs. It got used to us & we got used to it, its behaviours, its looks, its moods. It had such a varied range of 'self-expression' to use an all encompassing term.

    If it were happy it would cruise around the tank like moving liquid, graceful, dancelike. If it were angry, it would stare you out with evil eyes, and slowly build up a charge in its body till it reached a critical peak at which point it would discharge like a lightening bolt- completely fearsome, even for the size difference between us. But mostly it was a very peaceful creature, and seemingly self contained.

    A few weeks in and we noticed the darts were edgy, getting nervous tics and stuff like they weren't getting any sleep or something, and one night we went for a bit of sublime lighting and turned the main lights off and lit a candle in the room. The occy had been quiet all day, but someone notice it moving in the tank. Without the aid of light, the occy crawled across the glass, each of his arms extended at least four times their original length, and was 'angling' across the tank hoping to catch one of those poor sleep-starved fish! Its movements were graceful and poetic. I cant understate the grace this creature had.

    Then there was the case of the missing crabs. A 9L bucket on the other side of the carpeted room with half a dozen crabs disappeared overnight. Not a trace of them found. Normally there is shell to clear out after his dinner, but he may well have eaten the crabs, and covered his tracks. I don't doubt how intelligent these creatures are

    I forgot to mention, probably because it is gruesome and not to be encouraged, but I will assume you are all more responsible and sensible and compassionate to all living creatures than I was at this point of time in my life.

    We wanted to explore its habits and abilities to feel it out for appetite etc. Didn't want to starve the poor creature. When we dropped the crabs in to feed the occy, they would just sink to the bottom of the tank happy to be out of our hands, and then the occy would stalk and capture the crab. If the crab saw the occy, it would freak out and go absolutely berserk and swim like a madman to get up & out of the tank. Poor creatures were terrified. I'm not too proud of terrifying those crabs, but such is life in the food chain. Sometimes the crab would then freeze and not move while the octopus advanced to take it, and we speculated about the occy actually hypnotising its prey, as had been rumoured, but it was inconclusive until we had a bucket of crabs to feed the occy and dropped them in one at a time.

    The occy was hungry after not being fed for a few days and the first one dropped to the bottom and was gone instantly. The next one dropped in & freaked. The next one dropped in swam, and then dropped and froze. The occy had his both eyes on it definitely. But we still weren't convince he could hypnotise his prey until the next crab went in. The occy kept one eye on the frozen crab, and as soon as the next crab hit the surface, the occy shifted ONE of his eyes to that crab, it froze and dropped right next to the occy cave and didn't move a millimetre while frozen next to the other crab getting eaten progressively. Bloody gruesome, but was thoroughly convinced after watching his eyes move independently to freeze these two crabs.

    I guess that is the appeal of predator tanks, sure, but it needs to be said that an animal of this level of intelligence should have a full tank designed for them, and every chance to display all of its possible behaviours. One of the joys of keeping him(/her) was watching it explore the tank and the rocks, blending in, changing colour, camouflaging, stealthing. The wider range of things it has to explore, the more you will see it capabilities, and the more stimulated it will be by its surroundings. It used to dance across the front of the glass when it was hungry too. Knew where its food was coming from, would call us over through this display. Awesome.

    A few years older and more mature now, and the wondrous internet at hand, I think a more educated and responsible manner of keeping these creatures is possible. Here is a website dedicated to their care: http://www.tonmo.com/content.php
    Bardus's Scape History Photo Album

  • #2
    That's awesome! I've always wondered what it would be like to keep an octopus, they're just such an intelligent creature. There's been studies where they are able to memorize a difficult sequence of steps and reenact them to get a reward.
    Thank you very much for sharing another of your amazing stories!
    Chris -my tank

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