Within the first week, the other three eggs hatched. According to others who have kept bandensis cuttlefish, if they are born with a yolk sac still attached, as Lazarus was, the survival rate is pretty dismal. However, since I helped him to struggle free of his with a pipette, it’s possible this helped. Or he’s just lucky.
Here’s Lazarus on that first day, with yolk sac still attached:
Each cuttle was approximately the size of a corn kernel. I kept them in nylon mesh “breeder nets,” the kind usually used for keeping betas or livebearers in fresh water tanks. (Also, I turned the mesh inside out so there weren’t any edges they could get caught in). Keeping them in nets allowed me to keep tabs on these tiny guys, and make sure they were eating. They didn’t appear to eat anything for the first week though, which was good because it gave me time to start mail ordering the right foods.
What Do You Feed a Baby Mini-Kraken?
Enough people out there have tried brine shrimp without success I knew that wasn’t going to work. Even “enriched” brine shrimp don’t seem to have the nutrients these guys need to survive. Unfortunately, brine shrimp is the aquarium trade’s go to food for rearing small aquatic creatures, so the options I had were harder to get and therefore more expensive. I had luck with three foods.
Far and away, the best food for hatchling cuttlefish are mysid shrimp. These are small, but significantly bigger than brine shrimp are. They’re carnivorous, so they tend to eat each other if not fed, which is really frustrating when you spent $60 for a bag of them. Ultimately I found the best way to store them was in a round bowl with gentle aeration from a pump/airstone, and a lower salinity (1.010) and feed them baby brine shrimp. I used a turkey baster to suck them up into a cup and fed them to the cuttles twice a day. When cuttles are first born, they only eat live foods, and mysids are exactly the right size and speed for them to catch.
The other two foods I had mixed luck with at first. I mentioned in the previous article that I had a number of hitchhiker organisms that came in on my live rock. Well, one of those was some kind of shrimp. Some people I’ve showed them to think they are a slightly smaller species of mysid, although these seemed to be herbivorous. Others refer to them as “fairy shrimp.” In any case, I have a population of them breeding in my tank, and when I was able to catch them (one at a time with a turkey baster), the cuttles ate them.
The last food I had luck with (more luck once they had grown a little bit and were better able to catch them) were amphipods. Amphipods are a small crustacean, and common in salt and freshwater habitats all over the world. They are very common in saltwater aquaria, and since my tank had been sitting predatorless for 4 months, I had thousands of them. My method for catching them was to take out my filter sock (a nylon “sock” that goes over the output hose in the sump), and pick them out one at a time by hand. I could usually get about 20 to 30 in a sitting at first. Eventually, though, the cuttles devoured all of them and I ended up having to order those too.
Feeding baby cuttles is the absolute hardest part of keeping them. Once you get over the first month and a half of that, they aren’t much worse than other commonly aquaculture animals, but getting over that initial hump is just brutal. I spend several hundred dollars on shipping tiny shrimp to my house. If you aren’t prepared to do that, cuttlefish might not be a good choice for you. They are voracious little monsters.