Wunderpus, Wunderpus photogenicus

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Jason Scott explains how to keep one of the most amazing octopus around - a species only for the highly experienced aquarist.

Common name: Wunderpus.

Scientific name: Wunderpus photogenicus Hochberg, (Normal and Finn, 2006)

Origin: Philippines, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Size: Up to 30-45cm/12-18 from arm tip to arm tip, mantle (body) around 2-5cm/1-2, occasionally larger.

Diet: Prefers live shrimp, but once settled will take a wide variety of larger frozen food. Fish, shrimp, shellfish, etc.

Water: All octopus require well-oxygenated water, that is optimum in every respect.

Aquarium: Naturally occurs in open shallow waters with muddy substrates. Best kept in its own in a minimum 100-litre aquarium, with ample filtration. It should be dimly lit with a fine sandy bottom with plenty of hiding places. Octopuses are escape artists, so the aquarium must be escape proof, even a large Wunderpus could squeeze through a 1cm gap. Octopus are among the most challenging of species to keep and Practical Fishkeeping does not recommend that they are kept by anyone other than the highly experienced. This is not a species we recommend.

Identification: The Wunderpus is red/brown in colour with white markings over the entire body. It has a small mantle with exceptionally long arms and horns above the eyes. Unusually for Octopus, this species has a fixed colour pattern. Only likely to be confused with a Mimic Octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus. Similar markings can also be seen in the deadly Blue-ringed octopus.

It is not yet known whether the Wunderpus is venomous or poisonous itself, or whether its colour is simply used to mimic venomous species.

Notes: Like the Mimic octopus, the Wunderpus displays itself in certain postures which are believed to mimic other animals. In one pose it spreads out its tentacles and appears to imitate the toxic Lionfish of the Pterois genus. It may also sit on the substrate with six arms concealed and two arms undulating on either side which make it look like the venomous Banded sea snake, Laticauda sp.

Availability: The Wunderpus is a newly discovered species and was only described in scientific literature last year. Only a handful have been imported into the UK in the last couple

of years. Not recommended.

Price: On sale for £149 - usually up to £200.

This article was first published in the December 2007 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.