How Long Do Octopuses Live? (In the Wild & In Captivity)

Octopus extending its reddish brown tentacles

Have you ever wondered how long octopuses live? Whether in the wild or in aquariums, the lifespan of octopuses is a topic that sparks curiosity.

Most octopus species live for about 1 to 3 years in the wild. This can be slightly longer in captivity, where they’re safe from predators and live in stable conditions. Their short lifespan is closely tied to their unique way of reproducing, known as semelparity. 

In this article, we’ll explore the different lifespans of common octopus species, understand why they live for such a short time, and answer some frequently asked questions about these fascinating creatures. Let’s begin!

How Long Do Octopuses Live in the Ocean?

Grey octopus with white spots

The lifespan of an octopus in the wild varies, with most living for about 1 to 3 years. However, this can range from six months to five years, depending on the species and other factors like water temperature and mating habits.

There are about 300 different types of octopuses, most of which have short lives. For example, the giant Pacific octopus, one of the biggest octopus species, lives only 4 to 5 years. Other species have even shorter lives.

This is particularly intriguing given octopuses are recognized for their intelligence and large brains. 

From my studies, I’ve learned that there is a general trend that larger-brained animals, like humans, whales, and elephants, tend to have longer lives. 

However, I realized that this does not specifically apply to octopuses. Even though octopuses are known for their smarts and big brains, they’re unusual because they don’t live very long. 

This just strengthens the fact that longevity is affected by multiple factors. The short lifespan of octopuses is what makes them interesting and a popular topic of discussion.

Fun Fact: An octopus species known as the Graneledone boreopacifica is noted for brooding its eggs for a record 4.5 years — the longest known in the animal kingdom.

This long brooding period extends its overall lifespan, making it potentially the longest-living octopus species in the wild.

Watch this video to learn more about this long-living octopus species:

Mother octopus defends her eggs for four years off B.C. coast

How Long Do Octopuses Live in Captivity?

In captivity, octopuses usually live between 1 and 3 years, much like they do in the wild. However, since they are away from predators when captive, they have a better chance of living a few years longer. Their lifespan can also extend a bit more when their breeding is carefully managed.

Did you know that in recent years, there’s been a lot of debate about keeping octopuses as pets? 

According to a 2019 article on National Geographic’s Wildlife Watch, some types of octopuses can do well in tanks, but others struggle. 

For instance, the California Two-spot Octopus adapts well to captivity, while the Mimic Octopus does not.

In general, their health and how long they live in captivity depend on how well they are cared for.

So, even though some octopuses might live longer in a safe, well-cared-for environment, there are still a lot of factors to consider, and they still have relatively short lives in general.

Why Do Octopuses Have Such Short Lives?

Octopus sprawled on a sandy ocean floor

Several reasons linked to octopuses and their biology explain why octopuses don’t live very long. Let’s take a look at why this is the case.

Here are some reasons why octopuses have short lives:

  • Octopuses age quickly after reproducing. Female octopuses often die soon after their eggs hatch, as they stop eating and focus entirely on caring for their eggs. This intense parenting significantly cuts their lifespan short and makes them age quickly. The scientific term for this process is senescence
  • They have a high metabolic rate. Octopuses use up energy very fast because of their high metabolic rate. This quick use of energy is linked to faster aging and a shorter overall life. They have evolved to have a high metabolic rate due to several factors, such as the need for quick growth, environmental factors, and predation pressure.
  • They serve as prey for other animals. Octopuses are soft-bodied and face many dangers from predators in the wild. To survive, they have evolved to have shorter lifespans, which allows them to reproduce many generations in a shorter period. 
  • They use a lot of energy for reproduction. In the animal kingdom, there is a balance between growing, reproducing, and living longer. For female octopuses, laying at least 100,000 eggs is an incredibly energy-intensive process. This is often at the expense of their own health and longevity. 

Did you know that animals, including octopuses, must optimize trade-offs between growth, survival, and reproduction?

This affects how many babies they have, how much care they give them, and what age they start reproducing. Some animals, such as octopuses, only have babies once (semelparity), while others do it many times. 

A 2018 study delves deeper into this, revealing how animals balance energy use for growth, staying alive, and reproducing. 

Factors Influencing Octopus Lifespan

Octopuses’ lifespans are shaped by a mix of biological, environmental, and behavioral factors. Understanding these can help us protect these creatures and keep the ocean’s ecosystems balanced.

Here are some common factors that affect the lifespan of an octopus:

  • Reproductive Strategy: After mating, octopuses go through big changes. Female octopuses often give up eating to focus completely on guarding their eggs. This intense dedication to reproduction significantly cuts down their lifespan.
  • Metabolic Rate: Octopuses have a high metabolic rate, meaning they use up energy quickly. This high energy consumption is linked to faster aging and a shorter lifespan.
  • Environmental Conditions: The condition of their living space, including water temperature, pollution, and oxygen levels, greatly affects an octopus’s health and lifespan. Warmer waters, for instance, require octopuses more energy to survive.
  • Diet and Nutrition: The type and amount of food an octopus eats can influence its growth, health, and how long it lives. A healthy diet can support better growth and possibly a longer life.
  • Predation Risks: Octopuses have many predators in the sea. The constant threat from these predators affects how long they live.
  • Genetics and Species: An octopus’s genes, as well as its species, play a role in determining its lifespan. Different types of octopuses can live for different lengths of time because of their genetic differences.

These factors give us an insight into the complicated life of octopuses and why their lifespans are short.

Fun Fact: In some octopus species, the female sometimes eats the male after they mate. This unusual behavior helps the female get the nutrition it needs to lay and look after her eggs.

Typical Lifespan of Common Octopus Species 

Common octopus against a coral reef

Different types of octopuses have varying lifespans because they live in different environments, have unique genetics, and experience varying levels of predation and stressors in their habitats. 

The following table provides a snapshot of the average lifespans for some common octopus species:

Octopus SpeciesAverage Lifespan
Giant Pacific Octopus3–5 years
Common Octopus1–2 years
California Two-Spot Octopus1–1.5 years
Caribbean Reef Octopus1–1.5 years
Atlantic Pygmy Octopus6–12 months
Mimic OctopusAround 9 months
Star-Sucking Pygmy OctopusAround 6 months
Blue-ringed Sea Octopus1–2 years
Dumbo Octopus3–5 years

This table makes it clear that various octopus types have different lifespans. However, keep in mind that we only really know the lifespans of a few octopus species.

These are just the ones that are easier to study or live in places scientists can easily reach. There’s still a lot to figure out with lesser-known octopuses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Blue ringed octopus on the ocean floor

What Is the Longest-Lived Octopus?

The Deep Sea Octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica) is known for having the longest lifespan. This species can potentially live 16 to 18 years due to its extended brooding period of 4.5 years. 

However, it’s worth noting that its actual lifespan hasn’t been studied formally. This information is solely from the fact that most octopus species spend a quarter of their life brooding.

How Long Do Octopuses Live If They Don’t Mate?

The lifespan of an octopus mostly depends on its species, and not mating doesn’t really change how long they live. 

Octopuses generally live a short time, between six months and a few years. They usually mate towards the end of their life. 

Can a Female Octopus Survive After Giving Birth?

Female octopuses usually die shortly after giving birth. They tend to their eggs until hatching and often do not eat during this period, leading to their death soon after.

How Long Can an Octopus Live Out of Water?

An octopus can survive out of water for a few minutes, typically around 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the species and environmental conditions. They need water to breathe, so prolonged exposure to air is deadly.

So, what are your thoughts about octopuses and their lifespan? Leave a comment below and share with us your ideas and takeaways from this guide! Feel free to ask any questions you may have about the topic.

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