Do Octopuses Make Good Pets? – Things You Need to Know

Octopus being sold as pet

The trend of keeping an octopus as a pet is on the rise. Straight from the ocean, these creatures are gradually finding their way into more home aquariums. But do they make good pets?

This article will guide you through what you need to know about having an octopus. We’ll also discuss important things like laws, choosing the right species, and how to keep octopuses healthy.

Whether you’re already an aquarium expert or just curious about these sea creatures, this guide will give you the info you need to successfully keep an octopus as a pet. Let’s dive in!

Do Octopuses Make Good Pets?

Pet octopus against glass

Octopuses can be good pets for experienced aquarium owners, but they’re not great for beginners. Caring for an octopus is costly, and they don’t live very long. They also need big, specialized tanks. Moreover, there are ethical considerations when keeping an octopus as a pet. 

Keeping an octopus as a pet is not a new thing. In fact, there are some notable instances of pet octopuses doing incredible stuff. 

For instance, Rambo, an octopus in New Zealand, learned to take pictures with a camera, showing off her learning skills in a project called “The Octographer.”

Similarly, a pet octopus named Heidi demonstrated intelligence and emotional capacity.

Marine biologist Dr. David Scheel and his daughter shared a captivating bond with Heidi, who exhibited strong recognition and interactive behaviors with them. Heidi was kept in a tank in their living room.

Watch this video to learn more about Heidi and to get a sense of how an octopus is kept in a home aquarium:

Octopus Playtime | Octopus In My House | BBC Earth

Fun Fact: Did you know that a captive octopus can allegedly predict soccer matches? Paul, also known as the “octopus oracle,” correctly guessed the results of 87% of games during Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

Paul became so famous that a zoo once offered $32,000 for him. He passed away three months after the World Cup at the age of two and a half.

Despite Paul’s success, no scientific basis supports the claim that octopuses can predict soccer matches. Paul’s guesses were likely just coincidental.

Is It Legal to Keep an Octopus as a Pet?

In the United States, there’s no national law against having an octopus as a pet. But it’s not always allowed. Each state has its own rules, and some may not let you have certain types of octopus, especially if they’re harmful or not naturally found in the area.

Your city might have its own rules, too, like how big your octopus tank can be or what kind of octopus you can have.

In other countries, the rules can be very different. Some countries are very strict about keeping ocean animals like octopuses, especially if they’re rare or need protection.

Highly venomous or rare octopuses, like Blue-ringed Octopuses, are often not allowed because they can be a safety risk. 

While there’s no big rule against octopuses as pets in the United States, you need to check your local laws and think about the kind of octopus you want to keep. 

Keeping an octopus as a pet is unique and has legal considerations. Here’s how you can find out if owning an octopus is allowed in your area;

  • Contact local animal authorities: Reach out to your local animal control or wildlife office. They can provide information on whether keeping an octopus in your area is legal. You can usually find their contact information on your city or town’s official website.
  • Check state regulations: Each state in the United States has its own laws regarding exotic pets. Contact your state’s Department of Wildlife or Department of Natural Resources for specific regulations about octopuses. 
  • Make use of online resources: Websites like the Animal Legal & Historical Center or the Born Free USA offer useful lists of laws for pet ownership by state and city, including regulations on marine animals.
  • Seek expert advice: Consult with a local aquarium or a university’s marine biology department. These institutions often have experts knowledgeable about local laws and can provide valuable guidance.
  • Consult with your landlord or property manager: If you live in a rental property, apartment, or condo, ask your landlord or property manager about their policies on pet octopuses. Some places have strict rules about the types of pets you can keep.

Remember, laws can change, so getting the most current information is important. By taking these steps, you’ll ensure you’re making a responsible and legal decision about keeping an octopus as a pet.

Challenges and Considerations

Pet octopus clinging to aquarium glass

Octopuses are special and need a lot of care that’s different from other pets. Here’s a simple breakdown of what you need to think about when keeping an octopus as a pet:

  • Octopuses need special care: Octopuses aren’t like typical pets. They need someone who understands how to take care of sea animals. This includes keeping the water in their tank right — the right temperature, cleanliness, and balance. 
  • It can be expensive: Setting up a home for an octopus costs a lot. You need a big tank, special filters, and a lot of live food for them. Also, if they get sick, the vet bills for sea animals can be very high.
  • They do not live too long: Octopuses usually live short lives, about 1 to 2 years. This means you will only have a little time with your octopus pet, which can be hard to handle.
  • Feeding is tricky: Octopuses eat live food, like crabs and shrimp. This makes feeding them both costly and complicated. You need to make sure they always have the right food available.
  • They’re escape experts: Octopuses are really good at getting out of their tanks, even through tiny spaces. So, you need to make sure their tank is very secure.
  • They’re not cuddly: Some octopuses might be curious about people, but they’re not like dogs or cats. They don’t play or cuddle with humans.

All things considered, keeping an octopus as a pet is a big responsibility. It needs a lot of knowledge, money, and care. Before you decide, think carefully about these considerations first.

Understanding Octopuses

Octopuses are extraordinary and smart sea creatures. They are known for their eight arms and often grab attention with their alien-like features. 

These animals are also really clever. They can solve problems, use tools, and sometimes they even play like we do. 

One of their cool skills is changing color and texture to blend in with their surroundings. How they use their vision and see the world is also pretty interesting.

If you’re thinking of keeping an octopus as a pet, it’s important to understand them first. Here are some things you need to know about Octopuses before getting one as a pet:

  • Octopuses generally have a short lifespan, often only 1 to 2 years.
  • Octopuses are highly intelligent and can get bored easily, so they need an environment with plenty of stimulation and hiding places.
  • Known for their ability to escape, octopuses need a securely sealed aquarium to prevent them from getting out.
  • They are extremely sensitive to changes in water quality and require a consistently clean and well-filtered environment.
  • Many octopus species are nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night, which can affect how you interact with them.
  • Octopuses are typically solitary and do not do well with other tank mates, so they usually need to be housed alone.

As someone who has been passionate about octopuses for a long time and has experience keeping aquariums, my knowledge about these creatures’ behavior and survival still puts me on the fence about keeping one as a pet. 

However, I have helped set up and maintain three octopus tanks — two for my close cousin and one for my work colleague. They indeed require a lot of care and commitment.

But for those ready to take it on, having an octopus as a pet can be an extraordinary experience.

Best Octopus Species to Keep as Pets

Pet octopus floating with tentacles outstretched

When choosing an octopus for a home aquarium, it’s important to select a species that aligns with your capacity for care and the space available. 

Here are some of the best octopus species for pet owners, each with its unique traits and requirements:

  • California Two-Spot Octopus (Octopus bimaculoides): This kind, with two blue spots under each eye, can grow up to 12 inches. They’re from the Eastern Pacific and are known for being friendly and easy to look after, which makes them a favorite among octopus fans.
  • Atlantic Pygmy Octopus (Octopus joubini): This little octopus only grows to about 4 to 5 inches. You’ll find them in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. They are great for smaller tanks and are playful and good at hiding.
  • East Pacific Red Octopus (Octopus rubescens): This one can get up to 20 inches long and thrives along the coasts of California and Oregon. They’re smart and have a reddish color, but may require a bigger tank.
  • Caribbean Reef Octopus (Octopus briareus): This species can grow up to 24 inches and is found in the Caribbean Sea area. They’re known for changing colors and are more active during the day. However, they also require a bigger tank.

Each type of octopus offers a different experience for potential owners. But along with that, each kind also has varying care needs.

Pet Octopus Care Requirements

Caring for a pet octopus is exciting and demanding, as these creatures have special needs. But how exactly should one go about caring for an octopus? In this section, we’ll help you get started.

Tank Size and Setup

An octopus requires a spacious tank to thrive. A minimum size of 50 to 80 gallons is recommended, but larger is always better. 

The tank must have a secure lid, as octopuses are notorious for their escape skills. They can squeeze through incredibly small openings, ensuring there are no gaps.

Aside from a spacious tank, here are other stuff you’ll need:

  • Sump: A sump, essentially a secondary tank, is needed under the main tank to hold equipment.
  • Protein Skimmer: A protein skimmer is a piece of equipment crucial for removing uneaten food and ink, which is vital for the octopus’s safety.
  • Pump: A pump is necessary to move water from the sump back to the tank.
  • Fresh Water Container: A container to hold fresh water is required to replace evaporated salt water.
  • Salt Water: It’s usually necessary to make your own saltwater using reverse osmosis water, though tap water conditioned with a product like Prime can also be used.
  • Media Reactor (Optional): Although not mandatory, a media reactor is recommended for efficiently filtering water.
  • Lighting: Lighting is required, but the strength depends on whether you’re keeping coral in the tank. The octopus itself doesn’t require strong lighting.
  • Sand and Rock: The tank should have sand (about 1 to 2 pounds per gallon) and rocks. Rocks are essential for creating caves and dens for the octopus and hosting beneficial bacteria.
  • Live Rock (Optional): Live rock, either from the ocean or manufactured, is beneficial for adding bacterial biodiversity and creating a balanced ecosystem in your tank.
  • Algae Cleaning Tools: Algae is unavoidable in aquariums, so tools like magnetic scrapers are necessary for cleaning. Just be cautious when using these tools so as not to scratch your tank’s glass.

Watch this video to get a sense of what it’s like to set up an octopus tank:

What YOU NEED to start your OCTOPUS TANK!!!

Water Quality and Conditions

Keeping your octopus’ water in the best condition is critical. Generally, a salinity level ranging from 1.022 to 1.023 specific gravity is recommended. This is usually measured using either a hydrometer or a refractometer.

Meanwhile, when it comes to pH level, it should be around 8.2. As for temperature, keep it between 76°F and 78°F, similar to their natural habitat in the ocean. 

Finally, watch out for copper in the water or tank equipment, as it harms the octopuses. This part is often overlooked by novice octopus keepers. 

In fact, it is also one of the mistakes we made when setting up my cousin’s octopus tank. We lost two octopuses because we didn’t realize that some of our tank equipment had copper in it.

To ensure your aquarium is copper-free, regularly test the water using a copper test kit. 

These kits are readily available at pet stores and aquarium supply shops. If you detect any copper, take immediate steps to remove it, such as using copper-absorbing media or changing the water.

Environment Enrichment

Octopuses are clever and need an engaging space. Set up hiding spots using rocks and caves for them to explore. You can also add live rocks and a sand layer to make the tank more similar to the ocean floor. 

However, keep the design simple and safe to avoid any harm or escape attempts by the octopus. This balance ensures they are stimulated but safe in their environment.

Diet and Feeding

When it comes to feeding a pet octopus, it’s important to match their natural diet. Octopuses are meat-eaters and prefer live food like shrimp, crabs, and small fish. This means you will need to find a source of live food.

Feed your octopus once a day and try to give it a variety of foods to ensure it gets all the nutrients it needs. Some octopuses are okay with eating frozen food, but they usually like live food better. 

Remember, if you’re feeding them live prey, you’ll need extra space and must take care of the prey’s health before feeding it to your octopus.

Health and Wellness

Caring for your pet octopus involves close attention to their health. Look out for any unusual behavior like loss of appetite, being less active, or changing colors in unexpected ways, as these can be signs of sickness. 

Most pet octopuses have short lifespans, only about 1 to 2 years. As they get older, they might not move around as much or eat as they used to. During this time, it’s important to make sure they’re comfortable and not stressed.

It is also important to find a nearby vet who knows about octopuses. It’s a good idea to find one ahead of time so you’re prepared for any health issues that might come up.

Where to Find Pet Octopuses for Sale

Pet octopus spreading tentacles

If you’re considering getting an octopus for your aquarium, buying from a trusted place is important.

In terms of cost, be prepared to spend $30 to $100 for an octopus. This is exclusive of the cost of the tank and other essentials.

Here’s where you can potentially find a pet octopus for sale:

  • Local aquatic specialty stores: Your first stop could be nearby stores focusing on aquariums and marine life. The staff there usually know a lot and can provide healthy octopuses along with advice on how to take care of them.
  • Online marine life retailers: There are a few well-known online stores that sell marine animals, including octopuses. Sites like LiveAquaria, That Pet Place, and NYAquatic are popular for their variety and quality.
  • Aquarium societies and clubs: Try getting in touch with local aquarium clubs or groups. People in these groups often share tips on where to find octopuses, and some might even have them for sale.
  • Online forums and social media groups: Online communities like Reef2Reef and Nano-Reef, as well as marine aquarium groups on Facebook, are good places to get advice. People who’ve had aquariums for a long time often talk about where to buy octopuses.
  • Aquarium expos and trade shows: Going to an aquarium expo or trade show is a great way to meet people who sell marine animals and learn from them. You can see different kinds of octopuses and get tips from the experts.

When you buy from a reliable source, you’re not just looking after the health of your octopus; you’re also supporting responsible and sustainable ways of keeping marine animals as pets.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pet octopus in a captive environment

What Is the Lifespan of a Pet Octopus?

The lifespan of a pet octopus is typically short, ranging from 1 to 2 years, depending on the species.

Is a Pet Octopus Hard to Take Care Of?

Yes, octopuses are challenging to care for. They require specific water conditions, a diet of live food, and an escape-proof tank.

Are Octopuses Expensive to Keep?

Keeping an octopus can be expensive due to the costs of a large, secure tank, specialized equipment, and regular feeding of live prey.

Can Octopuses Be Friendly to Humans?

Octopuses are known to be curious and can interact with humans, but they don’t form friendly relationships in the way a pet dog or cat might.

Do Octopuses Recognize Owners?

Some evidence suggests that octopuses can recognize and react differently to individual humans, likely due to their intelligence and observational skills.

So, what do you think about keeping octopuses as pets? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below! You may also ask any questions you have about the topic.

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