Needle Cuttlefish: From eggs to hatchlings

Baby Needle Cuttlefish
Baby Needle Cuttlefish

Needle Cuttlefish
Scientific name: Sepia aculeata
Class: Cephalopoda

The Needle cuttlefish, Sepia aculeata, comes from the class of Cephalopods, which includes squid, octopuses, and nautilus. It can grow up to a maximum length of 230 mm, weighing 1.3 kg.

Needle cuttlefish egg hanging on sea grapes
Needle cuttlefish egg hanging on sea grapes

Cuttlefish can lay around 200 eggs in clutches. At S.E.A. Aquarium, the cuttlefishes seem to feel comfortable hanging their eggs on the sea grapes Red Grape Macro Algae. I found these eggs hanging around our sea grape early January this year.

After two weeks, we were able to see some life in the eggs. The cuttlefish babies were visible and attached to yolk sacs.

As the weeks went by, the egg slowly expanded and became more transparent compared to to the day I first picked them up when it was opaque white.

After close to a month of incubation, the eggs started to hatch.

After hatching

Baby Needle cuttlefish feeding on mysid shrimps
Baby Needle cuttlefish feeding on mysid shrimps

The big challenge comes after the cuttlefishes were hatched. These natural predators are born highly developed and independent so they should immediately begin trying to track down small crustaceans and instinctively display their natural predatory skills.

It took a while before the hatchlings showed interest in mysid shrimp. However, as soon as they learnt how to eat, they pretty much empty the tank of food pretty fast.

We gave them 3 feeds a day with a mixture of brine shrimps and mysid shrimps.

Needle cuttlefish preying
Needle cuttlefish preying

Growth and development

Their development was really interesting as I observed their feedings.

One day, when I introduced larger fresh water shrimps. There was an astonishing epic battle between the cuttlefishes and fresh water prawns. It was amazing to watch these natural predators.

You could see the cuttlefish swirl behind the targets quickly to ambush them. Despite the shrimps being 1.5 times their size, the cuttlefishes were able to pull their prey into their mouths.

What’s interesting to note here is, upon devouring the large prey, the cuttlefish “grew” in size. They expanded and didn’t shrink back down after eating.

Measuring the baby Needle cuttlefishes
Measuring the baby Needle cuttlefishes

In 2 months, the cuttlefish have grown up to a length of 30 mm from 3 mm.

After eating live food for about 2 months, we transitioned the cuttlefish to frozen food. Initially, we tried using Pacifica Krill type of shrimp. They weren’t very receptive so we still used some live food in 2 out of the 3 feeding per day.

Eventually we tried to freeze their favourite fresh water shrimps. The cuttlefish still loved fresh water shrimp in this form.

From this experience, I realized that we need to modify their food to make them think that they are capturing live prey. With this method, you will see the cuttlefishes trying to sneak and ambush their prey.

Habits and Behavior

Baby Needle cuttlefish with white exterior
Baby Needle cuttlefish with white exterior

Similar to other cuttlefishes, the needle cuttlefish can change their colour to blend with their environment.

At first, the needle cuttlefishes constantly displayed white skin and only changed colours when stressed.

After adding sand into the tank, the cuttlefish’s skin started to have texture and they were starting blend in with the sand as camouflage.

Baby Needle cuttlefish in camouflage
Baby Needle cuttlefish in camouflage

There is one characteristic the S. aculeata exhibit unlike all other common cuttlefish. They like to crawl a lot and prefer to stay on the bottom instead of floating slightly above the seabed.

Instead of swimming point to point, you will see them extending their tentacle like legs and start crawling slowly.

The needle cuttlefish can be found at S.E.A. Aquarium with baby bamboo sharks.

Would you like to be able to eat something that is 1.5 times your size like baby needle cuttlefish does?

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