Of the hundreds of animals we have on display, the giant Pacific octopus seems to be a visitor favorite. Many who come back to the Visitor Center after a year or two are surprised to find a different animal on display.
Our octopuses come straight from the Pacific waters off Newport, where they are quite common. Sometimes our aquarium staff catch them (they know where to look); occasionally local fishermen bring us an octopus they've brought up with their catch. The animals go through a period of adjustment in our animal husbandry labs to make sure they're healthy before we put them on public display.
Typically, an octopus stays on display for six to nine months, depending on how well it is eating, how well it handles captivity, and how big it gets (they grow quickly!). When we replace a healthy octopus, we release it back into the bay.
Near the end of its three- to five-year life, the giant Pacific octopus goes through a senescent stage before dying -- the males after mating, the females while brooding eggs and after the eggs hatch. Sometimes we notice signs of senescence in the octopus on display; it stops eating, its movements become uncoordinated, etc. When that occurs, we replace the animal as soon as possible.