Keeping an Octopus as an Aquarium Pet

Keeping an Octopus as an Aquarium Pet

There are some very exotic pets around these days, and none more so than an octopus. These intriguing marine creatures exhibit quite extraordinary intelligence and are great fun to watch. They can shape change and the colours they display are pretty amazing – which is why they are such wonderful pets to keep in an aquarium. However, the downside is these lovely creatures have incredibly short lifespans.

Fascinating Marine Creatures

The octopus has to be one of the most fascinating marine creatures around and it is possible to keep them in home aquariums. However, they are not the easiest to look after and live tragically short lives – only 12 months or so. But with this said, they show an incredible level of intelligence and can work things out for themselves, especially if it involves catching any food or escaping!

Their shape changing abilities has owners mesmerised, as does their colour changing behaviour. An octopus quickly learns to interact with humans and each one of them has it's own particular personality and characteristics. They are not the cheapest aquarium pets to keep, but if you can afford their rather expensive food, which is shrimp and crab – they do make superb pets and are well worth the time and the effort it takes to keep them – as a treat, they also like cockles!

There are a few downsides to keeping an octopus which are listed below:

  • They have very short lifespans – most octopus live for less than 12 months
  • They are quite expensive to feed
  • Some octopus spend their time hiding away which means you rarely see them
  • You cannot have any other fish or tank mates in with an octopus – because they will eat them

However, on the plus side you don't need a lot of the fancy and sophisticated equipment that you need for tropical fish which includes UV filters, halide lights etc. All these things are totally unnecessary in a tank you hope to keep an octopus. These marine creatures only need a simple wet-dry type of filtration, and they don't need that much light either. Octopus don't require a lot of the other rather precise water conditions that other reef invertebrates need to survive either, although the water parameters need to be kept as stable as possible.

The Challenges of Keeping an Octopus

Keeping an octopus in an aquarium can be challenging and this includes being able to provide the right type of food for them to eat. Octopus like all sorts of crustaceans which includes shrimp and crab, all of which can be pretty expensive to buy. The problem is they like and need to eat live food too, but will accept frozen shrimp and a couple of other types of food with many owners feeding their pets thawed frozen shrimp supplemented with small live crabs.

Highly Intelligent & Fun Pets

You can find several species of octopus for sale these days, but usually only at specialist pet shops and you would need to contact a reputable supplier so you don't end up buying a blue ringed octopus which are deadly! You need to do as much research as possible when thinking about getting an octopus – you need to know how to identify them correctly as well as how to look after one in the right sort of aquarium environment.

The other thing you need to be careful of is the size your pet might be when it's an adult – you might find it outgrows your aquarium. This is why you would be better off buying a pygmy or dwarf octopus to keep as a pet.

How to Set Up the Aquarium

Setting up an aquarium for an octopus takes particular care and they prefer to live on their own. If you put small fish in with them, your pet octopus will eat them, and if you put larger fish in the tank, the chances are you will never see the octopus because they will be intimidated by the larger fish no matter how friendly they might be. The other thing to bear in mind is you should really invest in the largest aquarium you can afford so your pet octopus has loads of room and places to explore. The larger the tank the easier it is to keep the water parameters stable too!

The best sand to use is the soft, smooth grained type which makes the ideal substrate for an octopus tank. You also need to create lots of places where your pet can hide. You need to create these areas with care because an octopus is a strong marine creature and they will move things around for themselves – you have to be sure nothing will fall on them and injure your pet in the process.

By nature, an octopus is an extremely inquisitive creature and they are tremendous escape artists. Because of this clever trait, you need to make sure the cover of your aquarium is strong and preferably one that locks. The other thing you have to do is block off any pipes with wire netting or sponges because your pet may well slip up through them and out of the aquarium. This includes any really narrow pipes too – an octopus can get through the smallest of spaces and holes!

The Right Water Parameters

Depending on the species will dictate the level of salinity, pH and temperature needed in the aquarium. However, the one thing all species of octopus have in common is their sensitivity to change which is why the conditions of the aquarium must be kept stable. You have to make sure no nitrates or ammonia get into the water either because these will kill an octopus.

The other thing you need to bear in mind is that an octopus has to eat a lot in order to support its rather complex body as well as feed its large brain. As such, they produce three times the amount of waste as compared to a fish. This naturally means that you'll need a very good quality filtration system in the aquarium and be prepared to change the water regularly to keep the conditions and water parameters as perfect as possible.

You should never have any metal accessories in the aquarium either because an octopus is very sensitive to any sort of metal. It is well worth investing in a reverse osmosis water treatment unit if you are thinking about keeping an octopus as a pet. The aquarium water needs to be well oxygenated too because an octopus needs high levels of oxygen to thrive and stay healthy.

The best way to set up an aquarium for an octopus is to do so well in advance of actually investing in your pet. Most people “in the know” recommend you do this at least three months before you put an octopus in the tank – the wait is well worth it even if it is hard to stay patient.

The Fun of Keeping an Octopus!

Although an octopus is well known for being a rather shy marine creature, they do make great pets once they have settled into their new environments. They tend to stress out when they travel – so don't worry if they hide for a while when you first put your pet in their tanks. As long as the octopus carries on eating, they will be fine and should eventually come around.

You need to play with your pet as often as you can and they will start to interact with you, they will look forward to seeing you and the treats you might have for them. You should also invest in loads of safe plastic toys for your pet octopus to play with, this includes things like tubes and balls which pretty soon become favourite toys. Just remember, when the aquarium cover is open, your pet octopus will be able to escape in a blink of an eye so you need to stay alert when playing with them!


Having an octopus as a pet may be hard work, but there is no other aquarium pet that can offer the same sort of brilliant experience and interaction. These lovely marine creatures are highly intelligent and although they have very short life spans, they are wonderful pets to have around which means you will never want to be without one!



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