in the tank, not only can hatchling Sepia
bandensis stop seeing them as prey items, but
such abundance can make the hatchlings
harder to wean onto non-living food.
One-month-old S. bandensis; until it grows to a size where you can see it in the main tank
and ensure it is feeding, the juvenile cuttlefish should be kept separate, as in this small
refugium within the main display tank.
don’t get caught up in the extra netting at
the seams. Hang-on tank refugiums can also
be used, as well as small nursery aquariums
plumbed into the system—although you must
take precautions to ensure the hatchlings
won’t be washed out of the container by water
returning to the tank, such as using a foam
filter sponge over the outflow.
I like net breeders because they are simple,
inexpensive, and incredibly easy to set up.
The net breeders hang on the inside of the
aquarium and allow water to flow freely
through the net, so no extra filtration or
plumbing is needed. You can easily look
through the top to keep track of the health
and growth of the cuttles. I have successfully
kept four hatchling Sepia bandensis in net
breeders for the first two to three months of
their lives, and once they grow to about an
inch in length, they can be let loose in the
Feeding Young Cuttles
Net breeders are also great because they
keep hatchling cuttlefish in close proximity to
their food. For at least the first two weeks after
hatching, Sepia bandensis will need some sort
of live food, and keeping the food closer to the
hatchlings makes it more likely they will be
able to find and eat it. The more they eat, the
faster they will grow, and the sooner you can
release them into their permanent home.
By far, the most successful food for hatchling
Sepia bandensis is live mysis shrimp. Mysis are
highly nutritious and relatively easy for the
hatchlings to catch. I prefer cultured mysis to
wild mysis because, in my experience, they
have better survival rates, but plenty of other
cephalopod keepers have had great success
with wild mysis.
It is important to note that live brine
shrimp, though readily available and
inexpensive, are widely considered terrible
food for cephalopods. Cephalopods raised on
live brine, even enriched live brine, have low
survival rates and short lives.
Keeping any live food alive can be
challenging, and the challenge is compounded
with mysis because they can be cannibalistic.
To reduce this potential issue, avoid
overcrowding and be sure to feed rotifers or
other suitable foods regularly. Net breeders
can be utilized, or another small tank can be
set up to keep the mysis until they are ready
to be fed to the cuttlefish. It’s also important
to get a feel for how many mysis you need per
week and order them before you run out, so
your cuttlefish don’t starve or eat each other!
If you are lucky enough to live near the
ocean, you may be able to collect your own
hatchling cuttle food in the form of small
amphipods. Make sure to collect from waters
that are as unpolluted as possible, and make
sure to check with local regulations regarding
collection before beginning. Amphipods
can be much more robust than mysis and
escape from hatchling cuttlefish more easily. I
recommend you start with mysis for the first
week or so, allowing your baby cuttlefish to
learn hunting skills with the easier prey.
Hatchlings should be fed several times a
day and only as much as they catch in a few
minutes. I recommend avoiding flood-feeding
of live food; with so many food organisms
Since live food can be expensive, it’s great
to wean your cuttlefish onto thawed frozen
food as soon as possible—frozen mysis are
a good choice for size and nutrition. Since
cuttlefish rely on their eyesight to hunt,
often the non-living food items may need
to be moving to get the cuttlefish to strike.
Start by introducing thawed mysis with your
live food. The hatchlings, conditioned to
strike when live food is dropped into their
breeder net, will usually snap up the dead
mysis as well. Sometimes you will have to
make the non-living prey look alive by gently
blowing it around, just barely moving it, with
a small pipette or turkey baster. Weaning
onto non-living foods may not work until
the hatchlings have moved off small prey and
onto larger prey, and determining when your
hatchlings are able to move off smaller food is
a judgment call.
When your cuttlefish are a month old and
have had time to hone their hunting skill on
weaker, smaller food, you can try feeding
them larger food—even up to foods the same
size as the cuttlefish. Shore shrimp or marine
janitors can be ordered online in various
different sizes, and they make a great food for
cuttlefish. Just like mysis, they need to be kept
alive until fed to the cuttlefish, so be prepared.
Once the cuttlefish are taking larger prey,
the weaning process described above works
quickly and effectively, but instead of using
non-living mysis, you need to use non-living,
freshly killed, or thawed frozen shrimp.
Another weaning method that cephalopod
enthusiasts have been experimenting with
is some kind of shrimp hanger or feeding
station. Glue or tie a small rock to a piece of
fishing line as a sinker. Tie the other end, or
secure the other end, above the tank so the
sinker will be a couple of inches above the
bottom of the tank. In the middle of the line,
tie or glue a plastic toothpick and skewer a
dead shrimp onto it. When you place this
device into the tank, the current should make
the shrimp on the toothpick move around,
which will help attract the cuttlefish to feed.
If you have multiple cuttlefish, add more
toothpicks to the line for more shrimp.
Weaned or not, as the cuttlefish get bigger
you will need to get them larger food items.
Again, if you live near the ocean, you can
collect local crabs or shrimp as needed. You
Tropical Fish Hobbyist www.tfhmagazine.com