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New and Improved Octopus Habitat

The giant Pacific octopus at the National Aquarium has a new habitat to call home.

Published July 03, 2018

Take a look inside the new Feeding gallery in our Surviving Through Adaptation exhibit and you’ll find yourself in a giant Pacific octopus’s cave, from the inside looking out.

A project that’s been in the works since 2016, the new habitat is almost twice the volume of the former habitat and is modeled after a deep-sea cave off the coast of the Pacific northwest. When creating the new habitat, National Aquarium exhibit fabrication staff balanced the challenges of realistically recreating a cave environment, while also creating a functional place for the octopus to live.

In addition to creating the habitat itself, staff fabricated simulations of cold-water Stylaster corals, barnacles, strawberry anemones, tunicates, bryozoans and encrusting sponges—all elements that can be found in an octopus’s deep-sea lair. Since octopuses are mostly solitary animals, you won’t find any other eight-armed inhabitants in the new habitat, but you will find star-shaped residents, including short-spined sea stars, bat stars and ochre sea stars.

It’s fitting that the giant Pacific octopus can be found in the Feeding gallery—these cephalopods are active, expert hunters. In their natural habitats, they roam the ocean floor on their eight powerful arms, quickly pouncing on unsuspecting prey. At the Aquarium, the octopus’s diet consists of squid, herring, shrimp, mackerel and clams, and thanks to the Aquarium’s exhibit fabrication team, the octopus can interact with a replication of a Dungeness crab that it can hunt and open to access the food stashed inside.

Learn more about otherworldly octopuses!

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