The largest, longest living species of octopus — the giant Pacific octopus — is coming to Deep Bay for display.
It’s exciting news for Claire Vial, VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station’s public education assistant, as the aquarium will be set up in the classroom, becoming a focal point of marine education.
“Every week someone asks if we have an octopus,” she said. “People seem really intrigued by them, I mean, I am — they have eight arms!”
According to National Geographic, the giant Pacific octopus grows bigger and lives longer than any other octopus species. The largest ever recorded was nine meters long and weighed more than 600 pounds.
While they are a giant animal, Vial said the station will be looking for a young, small octopus for the aquarium. She said they will keep it for three to five months and re-release it into the ocean and get another one periodically as they will quickly outgrow the tank.
Giant Pacific octopuses have large, bulbous heads and are usually a reddish-brown colour, though they often use special pigment cells in their skin to blend in with their surroundings.
Vial said octopuses are very intelligent animals and it’s important to keep their brain activity high.
“Rather than putting food right in the tank like we do with other animals we’ll put their food inside a dog toy, or child’s toy, so it has to figure out how to get it out,” she said.
The giant Pacific octopus feeds on crustaceans, crabs, clams, oysters and fish.
“Some institutions believe direct contact (with the octopus) is an important part of enrichment for them but others really stress that you don’t want to encourage them to reach outside the tank,” said Vial.
“One of the most important things in designing an octopus tank is the lid…In other aquariums they have got out and crawled across the floor and eaten other fish — they’re really sneaky.”
Vial said as long as its beak can fit through a hole, the entire octopus can get through.
“And their beaks aren’t big,” she added.
The station’s new addition of an octopus is made possible by Pacific Shores’ donation of the iconic aquarium last month, which at 22,700 litres is thought to be the largest privately owned aquarium in the province.
Vial said the station is hoping to have the octopus tank set up in time for the Brant Festival in March.
The VIU Deep Bay Marine Field Station is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information contact 250-740-6611.