They gave their son a pet octopus. A few weeks later, there were 50 more.

They gave their son a pet octopus.  A few weeks later, there were 50 more.

Cameron Clifford had finally given in to his son’s pleas and bought him a pet octopus. After several weeks, he began caring for their sprawling new pet – then he discovered what looked like dozens of “clear, puffy Tic Tacs” inside his den.

Terrance was not a male octopus, as they had first thought. Her new tank in Cal Clifford’s room was filled with dozens of eggs.

But that was just the first twist in a saga unfolding in Edmond, Oklahoma, that has captivated thousands of people on social media. The biggest surprise, Clifford said, came one night in February, when he picked up one of the eggs — which he had long thought was unfertilized — and accidentally popped it . What he thought was a “drop of strange liquid” came out and fell back into the tank.

A few seconds later, this drop started to swim. He was a tiny version of Terrance.

“I just screamed my wife’s name,” Clifford, 36, told the Washington Post. “That triggered all the stress because now we felt this immense responsibility to take care of these babies. »

Over the next week, the Cliffords attempted to catch the hatchlings. Suddenly the family was caring for 50 baby California two-spotted octopuses, also known as bimacs.

An Oklahoma family purchased a pet octopus. They now hope to find public institutions to accommodate her babies. (Video: HyoJung Kim/The Washington Post)

The mission to keep them alive was complex, long and costly. Clifford estimates that the special tanks and other equipment they purchased cost his family about as much as a used car.

But it’s also been joyful, said Clifford, a dentist whose TikTok videos chronicling the ups and downs of caring for octopuses have amassed millions of viewers, garnered nationwide support and been called “simply remarkable » by an expert.

“I think it’s something that a lot of people need because there’s so much bad news in the world,” Clifford said. But he is quick to add a warning: “Having an octopus is difficult. It is laborious and expensive. It’s humid. It’s all of the above. So you shouldn’t do it if you’re not ready to go all the way. »

How The Cliffords ended up owning about 90 percent of all the octopuses in Oklahoma. It’s a journey that begins with his son’s love of marine biology, particularly octopuses. Cal, despite living far from the ocean, had been begging for a pet octopus for years. Since the age of 2, Cal has been throwing octopus-themed parties and dressing up as the animal for Halloween.

By the time Cal was 8, Clifford said it was clear it wasn’t just a phase. One day, Clifford stopped at a local aquarium store and asked if it was possible to purchase an octopus.

It was, technicallyClifford remembers an employee telling him, but it wouldn’t be a good first pet.

Clifford mentioned the conversation over dinner and Cal’s face lit up, he said. When Clifford shared a video of Cal’s reactions with their loved ones, they told him he “would be the worst dad” if he didn’t follow through.

Clifford understood and purchased a used 60-gallon tank in August. On Cal’s birthday in October, an octopus arrived in the mail, swimming in a bag of water.

Without hesitation, Cal said the octopus’ name would be Terrance, after the mischievous character from Wayside School. series of children’s books.

Terrance quickly became a beloved member of the Clifford household, so seeing eggs in the aquarium in December was devastating: octopuses usually die shortly after laying eggs.

After consulting experts, Clifford determined that the eggs had not been fertilized because Terrance – who they sometimes called Terry – had not been around a male for several weeks. But in February, when Clifford saw an egg that had broken loose from Terrance’s den and decided to take a closer look, baby No. 1 was born: Pearl.

Over the next few days, 49 more babies followed, including Seaoncé, Jay Sea, Swim Shady, Squid Cudi, Bill Nye the Octopi and Champ, named by a friend of Clifford’s who is undergoing treatment for cancer.

Turns out it wasn’t a case of “bimaculate conception,” as Clifford put it, using a riff on Terrance’s race. Terrance, who was found off the coast of California, mated before being captured by a diver. The delay in delivery was due to the octopuses’ ability to refuse to lay their eggs until they felt safe.

The prospect of caring for 51 octopuses was daunting, Clifford said. But fortunately, he adds, he is not alone. Tim Tytle, 80, a retired radiologist who also has two octopuses — in addition to thousands of geckos, dozens of seahorses and dozens of venomous lizards — was a big help. The two men first met around January, when Tytle discovered the Cliffords were the only other private octopus owners in Oklahoma and have supported each other ever since, Tytle said.

Clifford said Tytle was his first call the night he found baby Pearl. Soon the two were looking through books and thinking about how to get the right food and containers for newborns.

Many baby octopuses died early on, especially while being transported to Tytle’s house after a leak upset Clifford’s house. But Tytle said they learned a lot, “and now it’s so much easier.”

Tytle has a duplex where he keeps most of his pets, and the remaining 23 octopuses now live there. The babies are fed a live mysis shrimp daily from the East Coast. Each octopus is kept in its own plastic container to avoid cannibalization. Soon they will upgrade to a new 180-gallon tank worth more than $10,000 purchased by Tytle.

Raising sea creatures is expensive and time-consuming, but Tytle said the “incredible” animals are worth it.

“They are very intelligent,” he said. “Octopuses know one person for another and can change color just by snapping their fingers.”

Clifford and Tytle are now on a mission to find good homes for the octopuses. Clifford even hired an intern to help him contact research institutes, aquariums and sanctuaries. Although many people have volunteered to take a miniature Terrance, Clifford said they will not give the babies to private owners. So far, some researchers and professors have expressed interest, he said.

Paul Clarkson, director of breeding operations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, said finding aquariums to accommodate the babies could prove difficult. Bimacs don’t necessarily have the wow factor associated with other breeds, like the giant Pacific octopus. He nevertheless applauded Clifford’s efforts to find places that could properly care for the octopuses.

Clarkson admits he’s skeptical of families trying to raise octopuses, but said seeing what the Cliffords have accomplished is “pretty remarkable” — especially since octopuses have a very high mortality rate when ‘they are young.

While cautioning that octopuses probably don’t belong in most homes, Clarkson said he was delighted that the Cliffords’ trip had helped introduce more people to this mysterious species.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if, 10 to 20 years from now, a young marine biologist says, ‘Oh, yeah, it was Terrance, the octopus, who got me excited about this,'” Clarkson said. “It’s like when I watched Jacques Cousteau videos when I was a kid.”



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