What Do Octopuses Eat? (9 Favorite Foods of Octopuses)

Octopus hunting for food on a coral reef

It is common knowledge that octopuses are highly intelligent and fierce predators of the deep seas. However, what is included in their menu still remains a mystery for most. So, what do octopuses eat?

In the wild, octopuses are versatile and opportunistic predators, feeding on a wide range of marine life. Their diet mainly consists of crustaceans, mollusks, and various fish. They maintain a similar diet in captivity, often fed live or frozen seafood like shrimp, small fish, and mollusks.

The diet of octopuses also varies depending on their preferred habitat and species. If you want to learn more about what octopuses eat, stick around, as we’ve covered everything about the diet of these eight-legged creatures!

What Do Octopuses Typically Eat?

Octopus eating a crab

Octopuses are renowned for their diverse and intriguing dietary habits, selecting various foods based on availability and nutritional value. Their diet mainly consists of crustaceans, mollusks, and different fish species.

Let’s delve deeper into the foods octopuses love to eat:

  1. Crabs: A primary choice for many octopuses, crabs offer nutrient-rich meat. Octopuses often use a combination of their strong beak and strong arms to access the crab meat.
  2. Shrimp: These crustaceans are softer and more accessible, making them a favorite choice. Octopuses apply their keen senses to hunt shrimp.
  3. Clams: Octopuses are adept at eating different types of clams, using their sharp beaks to poke holes in the hard shells.
  4. Snails: Similar to clams, snails are another type of mollusk that octopuses consume. They also prey on other gastropods, such as sea slugs.
  5. Fish: Fish are also a significant part of an octopus’s diet. The specific types of fish they eat can vary based on their habitat and the availability of prey in their environment.
  6. Squid: When usual food sources are scarce, octopuses might eat other cephalopods like squid. This behavior underlines their opportunistic nature and adaptability in various environmental conditions.
  7. Small sharks: Some larger octopus species, such as the Giant Pacific Octopus, can prey on small sharks. This octopus species uses its powerful arms to immobilize the shark, essentially suffocating it by preventing it from moving and effectively using its gills.
  8. Jellyfish: Some octopuses have also been observed consuming jellyfish, mainly when other food sources are scarce or when encountering a jellyfish species they prefer as food.
  9. Other octopuses: Cannibalism among octopuses, though rare, is a survival strategy in environments where food is scarce.

Their varied diet, adaptability, and intelligence make octopuses one of the most fascinating creatures in the marine ecosystem.

Their ability to adjust their feeding habits based on the available food sources highlights their survival skills in diverse marine habitats​.

Fun Fact: A fun and somewhat unsettling fact about octopuses is that they sometimes exhibit a behavior known as autophagy, where they eat their arms. This can occur under extreme stress or if the octopus is infected.

How Do Octopuses Get Their Food?

Big octopus hunting on a coral reef in the Red Sea

Octopuses are known for their unique and effective hunting and feeding methods. They utilize a combination of physical adaptations and intelligent strategies to capture and consume their prey.

One of the most notable features of an octopus in hunting is its arms. Their eight limbs are highly flexible and equipped with numerous suction cups.

These suction cups are incredibly versatile, allowing the octopus to grasp and hold onto prey firmly. They also serve a sensory function, helping the octopus to detect and explore potential food sources.

I was astounded when I first saw how octopuses hunt in the wild during a diving expedition. Seeing them ambush and grab their prey with their long arms reminded me of the feeling when I first watched the Kraken movie.

The octopus used its beak as a critical part to feed. This sharp, bird-like feature enabled the octopus to crack open the hard shell of the crab it was preying on.

For more agile prey like fish, some octopuses use venom delivered through their beak. This venom is typically not lethal but immobilizes the prey, making it easier for the octopus to consume.

Camouflage is another significant aspect of an octopus’s hunting strategy. Octopuses can change the color and texture of their skin to blend in with their surroundings.

This ability is not only useful for ambushing prey but also for avoiding predators. Their skin contains special cells called chromatophores, which enable them to change their appearance rapidly.

Octopuses also display a high level of intelligence in their hunting behavior. They have been observed using tools and manipulating objects to access food.

Additionally, some species, such as the Mimic Octopus, can mimic other sea creatures as a form of deception for hunting and defense.

The hunting methods of octopuses can vary widely among different species and habitats.

Some may use jet propulsion for rapid movement in open waters, while others might adopt a more stealthy approach, hiding in crevices or under rocks to ambush passing prey.

Here is a documentary on how octopuses typically hunt for food:

Octopus Catches Prey | Deep Sea Killers | National Geographic Wild UK

Different Octopus Species and Their Diet

Reef octopus hunting and eating

With over 300 species inhabiting various oceanic environments, different octopuses exhibit a remarkable variety in their diets.

This diversity in diet is not arbitrary but is closely linked to their ecological niches, physical adaptations, and the specific demands of their habitats.

For instance, an octopus residing in nutrient-rich shallow waters will have a different diet than one living in the nutrient-scarce deep sea.

Deep-sea octopuses, such as the Dumbo Octopus, thrive in deep oceanic environments where food sources are limited and less diverse. Their diet primarily includes crustaceans, worms, and other invertebrates.

On the other hand, reef octopuses like the Blue-ringed Octopus, residing in shallow coral reefs, can access a wider variety of food sources.

Their diet consists of hermit shrimp, small crabs, and small fish, reflecting the diverse marine life available in coral reef ecosystems.

Here are some octopus species with their specific preferred diet:

  • Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini): The largest known octopus species, Giant Pacific Octopuses, have a diet befitting their size. These octopuses feed on various seafood, including crustaceans, mollusks, small sharks, and fish. Their large size allows them to tackle a variety of prey, including those with hard shells.
  • Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena): These small but venomous octopuses are known for their small crustaceans and fish diet. Found in shallow coral reefs, the Blue-ringed Octopus uses its venom to immobilize prey, which is essential due to its small size.
  • Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris): Common Octopuses, inhabiting diverse environments like temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters, have a diet consisting mainly of gastropods and bivalves.
  • Veined Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus): Veined Octopuses have high energy demands despite their small size. They feed on small marine organisms, including crustaceans and fish.
  • Flapjack Octopus (Opisthoteuthis californiana): Adapted to a deep-sea environment, Flapjack Octopuses feed primarily on gelatinous organisms like jellyfish. This diet aligns with the availability of such prey in deep-sea conditions.
  • Dumbo Octopus (Grimpoteuthis): In the deep ocean, Dumbo Octopuses consume benthic organisms or animals that live on the sea floor, such as bristle worms and copepods. Their diet and feeding methods are specialized for the unique deep-sea conditions.

Each species’ diet is shaped by factors such as prey availability, physical characteristics, and habitat conditions.

Here is a video of a Giant Pacific Octopus preying on a shark:

Octopus Kills Shark | National Geographic

What Do Baby Octopuses Eat?

Baby octopuses have a diet that evolves as they grow, beginning with the smallest forms of marine life and gradually progressing to larger prey.

Initially, they feed on plankton, which includes various tiny marine organisms like copepods, larvae, and other small particles available in the ocean.

This diet is crucial for their survival when they are most vulnerable in the early stages of life.

As they grow, baby octopuses start consuming larger food. Their diet expands to include small mollusks such as clams, oysters, and mussels.

They are equipped with a beak-like mouth to break open the shells of these mollusks, allowing them to consume the soft insides.

In addition to mollusks, young octopuses feed on small fish, crabs, and shrimp, using their tentacles to capture these prey and their beaks to inject venom, which helps subdue and consume the prey.

The opportunistic nature of baby octopuses makes them adept at utilizing various food sources in their habitat. They are born with the instinct and ability to hunt.

What Do Octopuses Eat in the Wild vs. Captivity?

Octopus hunting a fish on sandy seabed

In their natural habitat, octopuses are versatile predators, hunting various prey. Their diet predominantly includes crustaceans like crabs and shrimp and mollusks like clams and snails. Small fish are also part of their diet.

In captivity, the diet provided to octopuses mimics their natural feeding as closely as possible to ensure their health.

Typical meals include crustaceans, small fish, and mollusks, with caretakers often providing frozen or live seafood. The goal is to stimulate their natural hunting instincts and cater to their nutritional needs.

Proper feeding in captivity is crucial, as stress can impact the eating habits of an octopus pet. Ensuring a diverse diet and minimizing stress are key to maintaining their health in an aquarium setting.

The octopuses’ diet is as intriguing as their lifestyle and behavior. Knowing what they eat offers a deeper understanding of their lives. Let us know in the comments if there are other things you want to learn about octopuses!

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