Friday Cephalopod: Where am I going to put a 300 gallon salt water aquarium?

This is a new one: an octopus farm. Kanaloa Octopus Farm is open for business — for $200, you can get your very own pet octopus.


Unfortunately, they’re caught in a chicken-and-egg problem. You should not encourage the capture of cephalopods in the wild, so it’s a great idea to have a breeding program to provide animals for aquarists. But they’re still in the process of building up their stocks, so they’re selling their smaller wild-caught octopuses, which isn’t so good.

Need I point out that you also should not buy an octopus unless you have the facilities and experience to care for them properly? I have a bit of experience with fresh-water aquarium management, which counts for diddly for raising marine species; keeping cephalopods happy also requires a lot of space and a large volume of clean salt water.

This is not like that time you won a goldfish at the arcade at the county fair when you were a kid, and you plunked it into a bowl of tap water and found it dead the next day. Well, actually, it’s a lot like that last phrase.


  1. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    But they’re still in the process of building up their stocks, so they’re selling their smaller wild-caught octopuses, which isn’t so good.

    And then, when they have their stock, they’ll keep selling WC specimens because of convenience, demand, or to offer other species they don’t produce. It’s always the same…and the excuse of doing it for the grand and noble cause of producing CB has lost any semblance of validity. There was a time when i fell for it…not any more…
    If you can’t produce captive bred animals without causing harm to wild populations, then don’t, it’s that simple. And at the very least, if you are so greedy that you are willing to cause that harm because of your capriciousness, have the fucking decency to not dress up your greed and pretend that you are really doing it for some grand and noble cause…you are doing it because you want to keep a certain animal and that matters more to you than the fact that it has an impact on its wild population. Granted in some cases the impact is negligible or small, depending on collection strategies, demand, etc, but frequently the impact is pretty fucking big. The pet-trade is responsible for some terrible abominations against widlife.

  2. briquet says

    What’s the issue with wild cephalopod capture?

    Honest question. I know some aquarium capture practices are truly horrible (like those using cyanide) and some areas are over exploited or unsustainable. But is there a specific reason hobby capture for cephalopods is worse than catching for food?

    Octopuses don’t seem popular in the aquarium world–they are super difficult to keep but also they’d disrupt almost everything else an the typical aquarist wants to keep. If there’s no specific collection issues I’d almost worry about the farming making them popular and getting killed by people who think they are cool but can’t afford a system. Like that goldfish.

    (Incidentally, don’t put goldfishes in bowls. They need way more water than that.)

  3. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    @2 briquet

    Other than the fact that they move far larger sums of money as “pets”, and that this promotes the exploitation of the rarest species, no, not really…but then again i’m against catching octopuses for food as well.
    My issue is not cephalopod specific…it’s a pet-peeve of mine about how the whole aquarium/terrarium hobby largely works. I really dispise it when people in the hobby use captive-breeding as an excuse to acquire WC animals, specially of vulnerable, protected or highly threatened species (whose illegal and unethical collection is justified on the excuse that they must be introduced to captivity before they disappear). The fact that they pretend like they are doing the world a favour makes me see red.

  4. marcoli says

    I am a bit worried about this. I do not think these animals play nice in an aquarium community, for one thing, as has been pointed out above. Also, if this addition to the hobby becomes popular then having an octopus will be ho-hum, but having a rare one will become ‘cool’ and that can create pressure on wild capture that we do not have now. Also, these amazing animals are amazing escape artists, and so there will be more mortality.

  5. Artor says

    Maybe we should recommend the Blue-Ringed octopus for people who want a wild-caught cephalopod “pet.” That should thin the ranks quickly.

  6. taco_emoji says

    I’m not any sort of expert, but having read The Soul Of An Octopus(*) I get the impression that even professional aquarists have trouble keeping octopuses alive.

    (*) Would rate the book a 3 out of 5… I liked the parts where she recounted the friendships that the author and others formed with octopuses. But the book was a little too light on scientific detail (found myself googling a lot to really understand e.g. octopus anatomy), and the philosophical musings comparing our minds to those of octopuses were pretty shallow & boring.

  7. seanellis says

    I’ve heard wildly varying estimates about the intelligence of octopuses, up to cat-equivalent level. Keeping a cat in a box would clearly be a big problem, so apart from the purely physical issues, are there ethical issues about keeping octopuses? Do they need a stimulating environment?

  8. Callinectes says

    A friend of mine told me of the pet octopus she used to keep. One day while the house was empty it managed to prise its way out of its tank and make its way over to the live food. Unfortunately the carpet took its toll and the octopus degenerated into a dead ball off fluff on the floor.

  9. jesse says

    Speaking as someone who has kept aquariums (not marine) and had both fish and reptiles…

    Keeping an octopus (or any cephalopod) is a tough business. Cephalopods are pretty picky about water chemistry, more than a lot of fish. And keeping a saltwater tank that is less than 90 gallons is really hard, because the smaller the tank the more difficult it is to keep it stable (chemically speaking).

    Then there’s the fact that cephalopods will just eat everything else. And that they often live at depths where the light and even pressure become significant factors. Some species of cuttlefish, for instance, would actually require a vertical tank, because they like to On top of all that, many species don’t live long to begin with.

    Since you need tanks ~150+ gallons, that means you need a pretty big living room. I have a ~400 sq foot living room — maybe less — and a 90 gallon tank was a very visible chunk of it.

    They are pets for experts only. Experts with a lot of space, and a deep knowledge of the species. If you aren’t already a very good keeper of marine species…

    With that, I just don’t see how one could set up a sustainable business of selling octopus species without some subsidies from say, selling other marine reef fish or other pets.

  10. F.O. says

    Prisons for fish.
    Most household acquaria(-ums?) make me terribly sad.
    Especially for cephalopods.

  11. evodevo says

    I kept salt-water aquaria in my lab for years – they require a LOT of daily testing and maintenance and time, and even then s%^t happens and everything dies anyway. l couldn’t in good conscience keep a wild-caught cephalopod in one – they are too intelligent and would require a LOT of room, a stimulating environment and some sort of intellectual stimulation – games, activities, whatev… that is, if you were really concerned about their well-being. I’ve seen too much mistreatment of domestic pets in your average home to think this would end well for marine specimens

  12. jack16 says

    A biologist citing a chicken and egg “problem” (“Unfortunately, they’re caught in a chicken-and-egg problem.”)!! I thought that eggs were established long before chickens came along. Is ambiguity too big a word? ;-)

  13. Rumtopf says

    Honestly, goldfish are probably one of the most abused pets there are.
    They’re way more specialised than the average pet owner thinks, when it comes to waste management, size of tank, proper diet etc, so it surprises me when I meet people who think goldfish are the easiest fish to keep, or easier than keeping small tropicals(they’re really really not). It doesn’t help that the majority of aquarium stores will sell goldfish to anyone who wants to try and keep them in any fashion, including bowls(hissss) and tanks that wouldn’t even fit an adult, un-stunted goldy. And how many people leave stores with new pet fish who don’t even understand cycling their filters, if they even have one? It’s gotten to the point where people think having their goldfish desperately hang on to life for a year or two in a filthy 5 gallon tank is a success, when these dudes can grow to 12″ long and live 20 years(depending on variety), given proper care. It’s fucked up is all

  14. microraptor says

    F @ 14:

    Yeah, it’s like Finding Nemo- the central theme of the movie is about how fish do better in the wild than in the captive care of people who don’t understand them. And after the movie came out, there was a huge surge in popularity of clownfish in the pet industry…