Sources of Live Cephalopods
The purpose of this list:
UPDATE: TONMO.com keeps the most recent information on current suppliers of cephalopods.
This list is designed for use by scientists, educators and hobbyists wishing to purchase live cephalopods. Please note: There are two tables: one for hobbyists and one for scientists. The sources listed in the scientist table only supply to educational or research institutions. Really. Please don't bother them with your requests.
Keeping a Pet Cephalopod:
I entertain several gazilion emails a week asking for information about keeping cephalopods in a home aquarium, yet this topic has been well covered within the hallowed halls of The Cephalopod Page. While I LOVE questions about hobby-level ceph husbandry, I am not so keen on being asked to rewrite what's already published here. Please do your own research first - then !
- Wood, J. B. 1994. Don't Fear the Raptor; an Octopus in the Home Aquarium. First published in: Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine. vol. 17, no 4. 128, 130, 134, 136, 143, 144 The Cephalopod Page (http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/) Wood, J.B. Webmaster.
- Wood, J.B. 1999. The Importance of Stability in Aquariums. Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine. vol 22, no 4.
- Wood, J. B. 1995. Raising and Rearing Octopus briareus First published in: The Breeder's Registry; The Journal of Maquaculture. vol 3, no 2. The Cephalopod Page (http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/) Wood, J.B. Webmaster.
- Wood, J. B. 1998. Cuttlefish Husbandry. Originally published in Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine. vol 21, no 7-10. The Cephalopod Page (http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/) Wood, J.B. Webmaster.
Part I: What is a cuttlefish anyway? (July 1998)
Part II: Where can I get a cuttlefish? (August 1998)
Part III: How Do I keep a cuttlefish? (September 1998)
Part IV: How do I breed cuttlefish? (November 1998)
The Cephalopod Page's Advice:
Usually, hobbyists interested in keeping a pet cephalopod (you should stick with Octopus or Cuttlefish - Squid don't survive well in aquaria) should first consider buying one at their local aquarium store. Even if they don't regularly stock cephalopods, most good saltwater shops can special order an octopus (and in rare cases, a cuttlefish) if it is requested. The main advantage one gains by going through a pet store is in cost—and it's a big difference. Because pet stores buy through distributors and in bulk quantities, a cephalopod at the local shop will cost nearly half of what it would to get through the mail: overnight shipping is expensive and saltwater is heavy; not to mention if the shipment has to cross a national border and become mired in red-tape permits and government bureaucrats that think cuttlefish are fish and octopuses are not because the word fish is not part of their name. Although some retailers will require a deposit to cover their risk, another advantage to the consumer lies in the fact that you normally get to examine the animal and ask the shop owners and caretakers questions about it before you make it your pet.
Here's The Caveat:
Most shop owners lack specific knowledge about cephalopods, their care requirements, and species information. The online shops and mail-order houses are usually no better about it. In fact, most of what the industry knows about cephs is from trial-and-error and long-standing rumors—rumors that don't favor our soft friends. Many will slap the omnipresent O. vulgaris or O. joubini tag on their animal and sell it as such, regardless of where it came from or what it actually is. The animal you receive could be a baby with the potential to grow very large, or it could be a full grown adult of a small species that may have only weeks left in it's natural lifespan. It has been my experience that most octopuses in the aquarium trade are in the small to medium size range as adults—rarely larger than a grapefruit. Both scientists and hobbyists alike find frustration in finding transportation for their cephalopods, and international orders will need to address permits to cross national borders. In addition to costing more than many marine fish and invertebrates, none of the cephalopod family tolerate shipping stresses well, and there's always the chance of inking during shipment. I'm told that almost any other type of cargo has higher priority than live fish and invertebrates, and some of the species listed below are only available in certain seasons. Also, the prices below do not include shipping costs—which can be over $50 for the smallest specimens and thousands for the largest. The Cephalopod Page is not affiliated with any of the suppliers on these tables. If you have any specific questions, please contact the supplier. Prices and availability are always subject to change.
The Cephalopod Page encourages you to seek out captive-raised animals whenever possible. Supporting the effort for farm-raised cephalopods not only negates the impact on the environment, but it almost ensures that you will get a young, healthy cephalopod without any question of species.
The Blue Ringed Octopus Issue
Members of the family Hapalochlaena display stunning arrays of coloration, which have earned them a nearly universally known moniker: Blue Ringed Octopuses. Like many beautiful fish in the sea, the spectacular patterning of this small octopus means the Blue Ring is prized and popular among hobbyists and aquarists alike. Unfortunately, it is not well known that these tiny cephalopods pack a very potent venomous bite that earns them a spot among the most dangerous creatures on Earth. Their venom, a potent neurotoxin called tetradotoxin, (abbreviated: TTX) is one of the few known cephalopod venoms that can affect humans, but the effect is drastic. Even in the minuscule doses delivered by a Blue Ring's nearly unnoticeable bite, TTX can completely shut down the nervous system of a large person in just minutes—the risk of death is very high. If the danger level is not a deterrent enough, members of Hapalochlaena are notoriously difficult to keep—they require very picky water quality issues, they are very shy and short-lived animals: often the animal you get from a pet shop or mail-order company is already 4-5 months old—not a good investment for a mollusk with a 6 month life span. Finally, Blue Ringed Octopuses don't wear their spectacular coloration all the time—only when they are extremely agitated. I can guarantee that teasing and annoying a Blue Ring on a regular basis will kill one of you prematurely—either the octopus from stress, or you after receiving a defensive bite.
The risk associated with keeping Blue Ring Octopuses, plus their short life span and challenging water requirements earns them a spot high on the list of the worst cephalopodpets one can choose. For more information, please refer to our article about Blue Ring Octopuses.
The Cephalopod Page does NOT recommend keeping Blue Ringed Octopuses for anyone but researchers and those who are experienced with venomous animals.
On Exotic Species, especially the Mimic Octopus
Through television specials and documentaries The Discovery Channel it's ilk have brought some absolutely incredible cephalopods into the living rooms of the everyday family. These wonderous creatures feature vibrant coloration and behaviors so astounding that even the top scientists of the world are continually amazed. All of this is packaged into unquestionably the coolest class in the animal kingdom: the cephalopods. The Mimic Octopus has gained fame from clips of video showing it performing convincing imitations of sea snakes, flounders, lionfish and other odd sea creatures. Metasepia cuttlefish are known as flamboyant cuttlefish due to their spectacular coloration. Naturally, excited aquarists eager to keep one of these creatures in their own tanks have begun putting pressure on suppliers to find them, and many are willing to pay dearly for one. Mimic Octopus and Metasepia are extremely cool. Trying to get one of your very own is not cool.
Folks, simply put, these species are quite rare. Scientists spend weeks trying to find a single specimen to photograph and study. Five minutes of video footage shown on the TV specials can easily represent months in the ocean trying to locate a single animal. The trouble is, the collection divers native to these exotic oceans are better at finding them—especially if collectors are paying top dollar for them. With the species in question already being scarce and the bounty-driven locals catching every one they can find to be boxed up and shipped to America, the road to extinction will be a very very short drive for these incredible cephalopods. Here's the other side of the coin. Gang, they're still cephalopods—the most delicate of hobbyist-keepable sea life. Imagine how you'd ache after a 20 hour flight home from Indonesia. Now imagine making the trip in a gallon of water in a sealed bag. Truth is, most cephalopods—Mimics, Flamboyants, or anything from the opposite side of the world, die in transit. By most, I mean almost 100%. They lack the constitution to make the trip. This is the reason you don't see many Indonesian and Australian cephalopods gracing pet stores or online catalogs. Every once in a while however, one makes it.
I know a couple people who obtained a mimic octopus or a close relative including TCP's Dad, Dr. Wood. Therein lies the flipside to these marvelous animals: in the home aquarium Mimic Octopuses are VERY difficult to care for, and they don't display any of their famous mimic behaviors. In capitivity, they lead a life of stress and fear, never acclimating to their owners like bimacs or vulgaris' do. They feed only reluctantly and one must wait until the wee hours of the night to ever see their pet. Cuttlefish are the kings of skittish sea life, and many species are just NOT right for an aquarium. Contained in glass, they are doomed to slam into aquarium sides at cuttlefish warp speed every time a light comes on, a person looks into the tank, the cat walks by, etc. Their death will be slow and agonizing, as the wounds from slamming the glass (we call it Butt Burn) eventually infect and takes the life of the cuttlefish. It isn't fair to the animal when there are so many better cephalopod pets.
In response to this trend, The Cephalopod Page urges hobbyists to be responsible to the environment: please resist the temptation to seek out Mimic Octopuses and their exotic brethren and leave these incredible animals to nature, and nature specials.
Now, without further ado...
Sources of Cephalopods
Sources for Hobbyists and Aquarists
Tip: Many mail-order houses price octopuses based on size—larger octopus cost more. Readers of The Cephalopod Page should know better: a smaller octopus not only costs less as an item, it costs less to ship, and it could easily be a baby—with most of it's lifespan ahead of it!! The small octopuses are sometimes the best bargains!!
Hint: the graphic is a link to their website!!
|Species they offer||Species you're PROBABLY getting||Price without shipping||Notes|
|O. bimaculoides||Varies, but it's usually Bimaculoides. One friend of TCP received the rare and beautiful O. macropus. |
TCP's Dad Dr. Wood received a GORGEOUS O. wunderpus from them.
|$29-32 depending on size||Fishsupply.com has an INCREDIBLE Service ethic, and has gained a very favorable reputation from TCP. They care about species ID and will even email photos of animals in stock to you on request. They also provide a mini-care sheet on octopus keeping on the website.|
|O. vulgaris||O. bimaculoides||$43||The "Bali Octopus" has been kept but not confidently identified by friends of The Cephalopod Page yet. The Bali is a small headed, long-legged animal with little webbing. With a head size like a large walnut and about 8" of arm length, it has great color changing and skin texture capabilities. It is shy in the home aquarium.|
|Nautilus pompilius||Nautilus pompilius||$109||**Special Care Needed - advanced aquarists only|
|O. briareus||O. briareus||$20-35 depending on size (smaller ones are younger!)||It's usually good advice to call or write Tom about octopus availability, he doesn't always have them in stock but is resourceful and can often get them within 24 hours. He has a great reputation with friends of The Cephalopod Page for giving good and friendly service, and O. briareus makes a good pet.|
|O. rubescens||O. rubescens||$80||**Special Care Needed. Advanced Aquarists Only.|
These octopuses require cold water environments and O. dofleini grows HUGE
|O. dofleini||O. dofleini||$125-$500|
|O. joubini||O. mercatoris||$24||* Please see note below about Octopus joubini|
|O. vulgaris||O. vulgaris||$24|
|O. briareus||O. briareus||$24|
|"Octopus"||O. vulgaris||$19.95||Usually not in stock, but TBS is willing to custom catch an octopus for you, and their divers know the difference between O. vulgaris and O. joubini.|
|Nautilus pompilius||Nautilus pompilius||$125||**Special Care Needed - advanced aquarists only|
|Hapalochlaena lunulata ||Hapalochlaena lunulata||$29||DEADLY! NOT RECOMMENDED.|
|O. vulgaris||O. vulgaris||$22|
England BH23 8JX
|Sepia officinalis eggs||Sepia officinalis eggs||Per quote||Europeans take note! Dealing exclusively with the Common Mediterranean Cuttlefish eggs, Richard has upgraded his The Cephalopod Page Source status to include hobbyists!!! Folks on the far side of the puddle don't fret - Richard is willing to ship through international airlines - just prepare yourself for spools of red tape.|
|"Atlantic Octopus"||Who knows?||$29.99||Everything about the website makes one think they sell O. vulgaris: The animal is advertised as an Atlantic octopus and shipped as a "large item." The pic certainly looks like O. vulgaris. But when I ordered this animal hoping for vulgaris, I received bimaculoides - which doesn't exist in the atlantic ocean! A magnificent animal nonetheless.|
|MTC Distributors and The petstop.com
||Blue Ring octopus||Hapalochlaena sp.||$16||I don't know what to think of this site. I got this link that advertises several cephalopods for sale, but it tries real hard to dump you into Thepetstop.com, where it's impossible to find a live link back. Thepetstop.com gets octopus occasionally, so they get a spot on the source page.|
|Chambered Nautilus||Nautilus pompilius||?|
|Zebra Octopus||O. horridus?||$40|
|Blue ring Octos|
Hard to say where they get their animals from. If you order from them, I'd love to hear about it or see a digital pic..
|$38-50 Nautilus $99||I haven't done any business with these folks, nor have I heard any news about them (have you? email me!)|
For sheer humor's sake, I left the typos intact - you can order the world's only 'cattlefish'
Also, check out their "scientific names" Is it a blue ring or a hawai'ian day octopus?
Either way - Blue rings are deadly - we don't recommend them.
|* There are several species of small Atlantic octopuses collectively known as "pygmy octopuses" that are not yet clearly described by science yet. One of the most common octopods in the pet trade, the pygmy octopus most often collected near the shorelines and in reefs is most likely the large-egged species Octopus mercatoris. O. joubini, a small-egged species, actually frequents the deeper-water mudflats that collection divers typically don't.|
|** Nautilus, Red Octopus and Giant Pacific Octopus require cold water environments (10°C) in addition to the tight water quality constraints that cephalopods are famous for, and these factors put them out of the practical reach of most hobbyists who are not in the habit of employing $700-$1000 water chillers in their systems.|
Also to be considered: While Red Octos, Octopus rubescens, are a manageable size, Enteroctopus dofleini, the Giant Pacific Octopus is true to it's name: Mature giant octopuses are commonly found in the 10-15 kg range although one specimen in on record weighing in at 272 kg and measuring 9.6 meters arm to arm. A 15 kg (6 lb.) octopus could sport a tip to tip arm span of about 3 meters (12') and would find a 300 gallon aquarium rather cramped. This octopus is also capable of miraculous feats of strength, and is capable of pulling a child into its tank, not that it happens. Keep that strength in mind when you design the lid of your aquarium to keep that beast inside it.
Scientific and Educational Suppliers
HOBBYISTS, PLEASE READ THIS:
I have taken great effort to find every retailer who is willing to provide cephalopods to hobbyists, and have listed every one of them above.
PLEASE do not contact the following suppliers unless you are legitimately affiliated with an educational or scientific research
facility and have documentation to prove it.
It's not that people or institutions on this list have to adhere to strict government-controlled spending practices or that they could lose their grant money if they sold you a cephalopod, it's just that they don't like you, and they'd rather you not have the opportunity to have one for a pet.
|Loligo opalescens||Yes||per quote||Chuck Winkler|
|Octopus bimaculatus||Yes||per quote||Chuck Winkler|
|Octopus bimaculoides||Yes||per quote||Chuck Winkler|
|O. bimaculoides with eggs||Yes||per quote||Chuck Winkler|
|Octopus dofleini||Yes||per quote||Chuck Winkler|
|Octopus dofleini||Yes||250-500||K.Y.K. Wong Co.|
|Octopus dofleini||Yes||500||Pacific Coldwater Marine|
|Octopus dofleini||Yes||400||Philip Bruecker|
|Octopus 'joubini' (large egged O. mercatoris?)||Yes||25ish||GulfSpecimen|
|Octopus rubescens (April-May)||Yes||100||Philip Bruecker|
|Rossia pacifica (in winter)||Yes||100||Philip Bruecker|
Aquatic Research Consultants
2131 Vallecito Drive
San Pedro, Cal 90732
Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories
P.O. Box 237
300 Clark Drive
Panacea, Fl 32346
K.Y.K. Wong Co.
Fax: (604) 251-5031
Philip Bruecker (CAZA accredited)
343 East 11th Str.
North Vancouver, B.C. V7L 2H1
tel. (604) 987-6991
fax (604) 987-6671
England BH23 8JX
The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL)
attn. Aquaculture Engineering Division, Marine Resources Center
7 MBL Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543
Phone - (508) 289-7514
fax - (508) 289-7683
National Resource Center for Cephalopods (NRCC)
Marine Biomedical Institute
University of Texas Medical Branch
301 University Boulevard
Galveston, TX 77555-1163, USA
phone: (409) 772-2133
fax: (409) 772-6993
Pacific Coldwater Marine
(503) 925-1019 or (503) 940-4856
While I hope that the above information is accurate, I do not guarantee that it is. Stock, prices and companies are always changing. Please to me. This site assumes no responsibility should anyone be burned through purchasing from one of the listed vendors.