Mimic Octopus

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Species group:

Other common names: Zebra Octopus

Scientific name: Thaumoctopus mimicus

The Basics:
Although unknown to science until 1998, the Mimic Octopus has skyrocketed to fame among the general public and aquarists alike. Amazingly, it can mimic up to 15 predatory or venomous creatures (in color, behavior and posture)…and it chooses which to “become” based on the threat that it faces!

The Mimic Octopus ranges along the coastlines of Indonesia and Malaysia.

Unlike many Octopuses, it is active by day, and constructs burrows in the sand and mud bottoms of river mouths, estuaries, and bays.

Appearance / health:
The mantle (head and body) may be up to 60 cm (24 in) in length, and the very slender arms span up to 62 cm (25 in). The skin color is usually striped with brown and white. Stressed individuals can mimic lionfish, jellyfish, sea snakes and other creatures, while those at rest take on the look of coral, rocks, or sea squirt colonies.

The Mimic Octopus’s natural life span appears to be only 8-10 months in length, and it is considered to be an extremely delicate captive. Until we learn more about its husbandry needs, this unique Cephalopod should be left to the care of well-experienced aquarists.

Behavior / temperament:
This diurnal Octopus is quite intelligent, as evidenced by the fact that it accesses threats and then chooses which venomous or predatory animal to mimic in order to scare off its enemy.

No Octopus, however calm, should be handled or hand-fed, as all produce venom and can deliver a painful bite with their hard, curved beaks. While fatalities from the commonly-sold species are unknown, the possibility of a serious allergic reaction to their venom must be considered.

The Mimic Octopus requires a well-filtered 75 gallon or larger aquarium that has been cycled for 2-3 months and is provisioned with a thin layer of sand. They are skilled and determined escape artists, so the filter canopy must be weighted or secured with clips, and all hose/wire openings must be sealed. Wet/dry and other out-of-tank filters are the best options, and a protein skimmer is advisable.

Lighting should be subdued. Wild Mimic Octopuses excavate burrows in sand or mud, but captives will utilize rocky caves, empty shells and other shelters. All rockwork must be secured, using silicone if necessary, as Octopuses seem to delight in re-arranging their aquariums’ “furniture”!

The Mimic Octopus should be maintained at a specific gravity (salinity) of 1.025-1.026 and a pH of 8-8.4. They fare best at 24-28 C (75-82 F).

Youngsters and newly-acquired adults often refuse all but live shrimp, marine worms, and small crabs; green, fiddler, Asian shore, and other crabs may be collected or purchased at bait shops. In time, most pets can be weaned to non-living foods. The diet should be varied, and include crabs, marine worms, clams, mussels, scallops, snails, abalone, and spearing and other fishes.

Captive breeding is rare. Female Mimic Octopuses guard their eggs, up to 200,000 in number, throughout the 4-6 week incubation period, and usually expire shortly after they hatch.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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