It’s the latest aquatic fashion statement among Chinese lovers of aquatic life: get a ping pong ball-sized blue-ringed octopus. This creature, while docile, also holds a venom potent enough to defeat any known antidote and kill as many as 26 grown men.
The blue-ringed octopus, so named because of the rings that turn dark blue when the mollusk is agitated, is found in the waters of the Indian and southwestern Pacific oceans. In China, it can be bought online for between dozens and hundreds of dollars, and the specimens are usually supplied from the southern, coastal province of Guangdong.
Air transportation is not problem, as one seller told the Beijing Youth Daily.
The blue-ringed octopus requires bravery and skill to raise, making it a special challenge for aquarium enthusiasts. As described by one owner interviewed by the Beijing Youth Daily:
“The blue-ringed octopus a is gorgeous but fatal creature, and many enthusiasts do not dare to raise it due to its venom. Those who have experience in raising such an octopus enjoy higher status in the community of aquatic enthusiasts.”
The unnamed octopus keeper noted that blue-ringed octopuses do not live long, only about three years. Aside from the venom threat, they are also high-maintenance pets.
“You must change the water frequently and keep the tank sealed. If the octopus is unsatisfied with the quality of the water, it will try to escape.”
Octopuses of all kinds, being invertebrate animals, can change shape to pass through openings far smaller than their apparent size. They have been demonstrated to use tools and in one case, a specimen trapped in a small jar was able to make its exit by latching its tentacles onto the inside surface of the cap and unscrewing it.