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First Breeding of the Dwarf Cuttlefish in North America Announced

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  California’s Steinhart Aquarium (a “must see, by the way”) has become the first American aquarium to breed the dwarf cuttlefish (Sepia bandensis), and the first anywhere to do so on a large scale.  Marine hobbyists have reason to celebrate, as this smallest of the world’s cuttlefishes, the only one that can reasonably be expected to do well in home aquariums, has until now been in short supply (large cuttlefish species require a great deal of room, and are not practical inhabitants for most home or even public aquariums).  Lessons learned at Steinhart may someday help to establish breeding populations of this most fascinating Cephalopod among private aquarists.

Brilliant Invertebrates

Cuttlefishes are not fish at all, but rather invertebrates that are closely related to squids, octopuses and the chambered nautilus.  Like their larger relatives, dwarf cuttlefishes are extremely intelligent, exhibiting learning abilities that consistently surprise even well-seasoned researchers. 

A larger species that has long been bred as a laboratory animal, Sepia officinalis, quickly learns to beg for food and will even squirt water at its keepers to draw their attention!  Those few people who have kept dwarf cuttlefishes report the same behavior. 

Cuttlefishes in the Lab

In addition to serving as fascinating introductions to an amazing group of marine invertebrates, captive cuttlefishes have proven invaluable in a wide range of research efforts that have had important implications for human health (i.e. nervous system, brain, vision).  The dwarf cuttlefish, due to its small size, should be easier and less expensive to maintain than its larger relatives.

Food for Young Cuttlefishes

Aquarists working with dwarf cuttlefishes report that identifying a nutritious food source for the young was one of the keys to their success.  Mysid or opossum shrimps (which are not true shrimps) have proven to be a good base diet for newly-hatched cuttlefishes.  Although the cannibalistic Mysids are by no means easy to raise, they are well worth the effort – to date the Steinhart aquarium has produced over 350 healthy dwarf cuttlefishes.  

Interestingly, Mysids also figure importantly in the rearing of other problematical live food specialists, including seahorses and their spectacular relatives, the leafy and weedy seadragons.

Further Reading

A very comprehensive, well-illustrated article on dwarf cuttlefish husbandry is posted here.

 Please write in with your questions and comments. 


Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio


About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.