One of the great things about keeping fish as pets is that there are so many wild varieties to choose from. Whether you want the near-invisible ghost shrimp or even an exotic eel, you have more choices than just the basic goldfish.
But what about an octopus? Do they make good pets? You hardly ever see them in home aquariums, but the fact of the matter is yes, certain types of octopuses make wonderful pets. However, we wouldn’t encourage you to keep one in your home — they’re better left in the waters that they’re already accustomed to.
To find out which ones are best for your tank and what not to do when thinking about getting an octopus, read on.
Why Would Anyone Want a Pet Octopus?
Octopuses are strange creatures. They are one of the more bizarre species of the animal kingdom, yet despite their odd appearance, they’re also one of the smartest animals on the planet. It can be truly fascinating to watch them go about their day.
It’s also nice to just have variety in your tank, and people admiring your unique pet is always fun.
None of this is a suitable reason for owning an octopus, of course, so let’s dive into the questions that you should ask yourself before you go octopus shopping.
Is It Ethical to Own an Octopus?
There are many different species of octopus, and some are better suited for life under human care than others.
For example, the Pacific octopus is a true giant — they can weigh as much as 600 pounds and measure 30 feet long! Unless you have a massive mansion or you’re a Bond villain with a fortress under the sea, you have no business owning a Pacific octopus.
Even smaller octopuses still need large tanks: 30 gallons seems to be the absolute minimum. Given how smart these animals are, being kept in a tiny tank with little to do is especially cruel. Some octopuses kept in tanks have shown signs of self-mutilation, even when provided with plenty of entertainment.
On the other hand, octopuses are solitary creatures by nature, so it’s not like you’ll be depriving them of companionship if you keep them in a tank. Also, none of the 300-plus species of octopus are currently listed as endangered or threatened, so it’s unlikely that you’d be contributing to the destruction of the species by bringing one home.
At the end of the day, you’re probably better off not owning an octopus, but if you absolutely must have one, just make sure you give them plenty of space and entertainment.
Challenges of Owning an Octopus
If you do decide to bring home an octopus, there are a few challenges that you should be aware of ahead of time.
One is their intelligence. Unlike dogs, who use their massive brainpower to please and accommodate humans, octopuses tend to use their big noggins to get into trouble. They’re incredible escape artists, as they can squeeze their boneless bodies through the tiniest cracks in their habitats. They’ve even been known to traverse brief stretches of land in a bid to explore.
That means in addition to giving them a massive tank, you have to be certain that the tank is completely secure. Unfortunately, the only way to find out if your tank is completely secure is to find it empty.
They’re nocturnal as well, so you may not get much of a show from your prized pet during normal hours. That also means you’ll need to feed them at night, which gives you another inconvenient chore to deal with.
Worst of all, though, these animals have short lifespans. Most are lucky to live to see their 3rd birthday, and some species only live about 6 months on average. If you get attached to your sea critters, be prepared to deal with heartbreak.
The 7 Species of Octopus That Are Best to Own
If you’re still committed to the idea of owning an octopus, you should at least try to get a species that seems to do well under human care.
These species will do better if left alone in the wild, but they can all thrive under human care if properly cared for.
1. Caribbean Dwarf Octopus
This small little creature needs at least a 30-gallon tank, and they prefer to spend most of their time in a cave of some sort, so you’ll have to provide them with something suitable. They only live about 8 to 10 months on average, though.
2. Caribbean Reef Octopus
This is a larger species, and as such, they need a tank of at least 75 gallons. They’re quite friendly and amiable as octopuses go, but if they feel threatened, they can change colors to match their surroundings.
3. California Two-Spot Octopus
This is the species that’s most commonly kept as a pet and for good reason. They’re friendly and outgoing, so it’s unlikely yours will spend all day hidden from view. They do need a 50-gallon tank at minimum, and the water needs to be kept around 59°F.
4. Algae Octopus
Another relatively small species, the algae octopus is fun to keep as a pet because they’re active, so you should always have a show to watch. They need at least a 50-gallon tank, and you must be absolutely certain that the tank is sealed. These octopuses have earned the name “the land octopus” because of their willingness to walk across beaches in order to hunt in small tide pools.
5. East Pacific Red Octopus
These octopuses are usually red or brown, and they were the first species to demonstrate individual personalities. They can be kept in 30-gallon tanks in cold water.
6. Atlantic Pygmy Octopus
A small species, these octopuses can make do in a simple 30-gallon aquarium. This octopus can change colors, which when combined with their small size, can make them hard to spot. That’s troublesome because it can be hard to tell if your octopus is camouflaged or has escaped.
7. Common Octopus
This is the most common species of octopus and the most widely studied, so you’ll be able to find plenty of information about how to care for them. They need at least a 50-gallon tank, and they’re constantly on the lookout for ways to escape. They’ll snatch up any fish that you put in the tank in a flash — and they’ve been known to mistake fingers for fish.
Do You Really Need an Octopus?
While octopuses can be fun to keep and are undeniably fascinating to watch, that still doesn’t mean you should keep one as a pet. They’re challenging to own, and there’s always the chance that you’ll be forcing them into a deep depression by making them languish outside of the wild.
Featured Image Credit: edmondlafoto, PixabayPixabay