Octopuses live for six months to five years both in the wild and in captivity. Their lifespan is determined by whether they mate, the temperature of the water they live in, species, and gender. They go through four life stages: egg, larva, juvenile, and adult.
There is great mystery surrounding the life of octopuses, and as such, they are often depicted as hundred years old beasts roaming the seas.
But are these stories based on real life or are they just works of fiction? And if it’s the latter, how long do octopuses live?
In this article, we answer every question about the lifespan of octopuses, including their life expectancy, determining factors, and details about their life cycle.
How Long Do Octopuses Live?
Octopuses live for six months to five years. There is no difference between the lifespan of wild and captive octopuses. To maximize a captive octopus’ lifespan, it needs proper lighting, a copper-free environment, and the right water temperature.
They may look squishy, but octopuses are persistent animals. These sea creatures live for the same amount of time in the wild as they do in human care.
Their generally short life expectancy is due to semelparity. This means that each individual mates once in their life and die shortly after.
If they do not mate, they reach their maximum life expectancy of six months to five years (depending on species).
How Long Do Octopuses Live in The Wild?
Wild octopuses live up to five years. They commonly die of natural causes or semelparity, but there are some predators that can shorten their lives.
Here are some predators that eat octopuses:
- Conger eels
- Sperm whales
- Sea otters
- Birds of prey
Although they are preyed upon, octopuses have many ways to defend themselves:
- High-speed swimming
- Ink squirting
- Ability to squeeze through small spaces
How Long Do Octopuses Live in Captivity?
Captive octopuses live as long as their wild counterparts. Since they evolved to survive in open saltwater, they certain conditions to reach their maximum life expectancy:
- Dim lighting or darkness
- Copper-free water tank
- 60-80 °F water temperature
- Around 8.2 pH
- Ammonia level at zero
- Water salinity between 1.022-1.023
- Cycle tank for three months before introducing the octopus
Average Lifespan of Octopuses
Life expectancy varies from species to species, with the longest-living being the giant Pacific octopus and the shortest-living the star-sucker pygmy octopus.
There are around 300 species of octopus, each with a different life expectancy.
There is a general correlation between the octopus’ size and its life expectancy: the bigger it is, the longer it lives.
|Giant Pacific Octopus||3–5 years|
|Common Octopus||1–2 years|
|California Two-Spot Octopus||1–1.5 years|
|Caribbean Reef Octopus||1–1.5 years|
|Atlantic Pygmy Octopus||6–12 months|
|Mimic Octopus||Around 9 months|
|Star-Sucking Pygmy Octopus||Around 6 months|
Longest Living Octopus
The Giant Pacific octopus is the longest living species, with a lifespan of up to five years. As size is a correlating factor, it is also the biggest species. The biggest Giant Pacific octopus weighed 200 pounds and measured 20 feet across.
Shortest Living Octopus
The shortest living octopus is the star-sucking pygmy octopus with an expected lifespan of six months. They are also the smallest species. They are less than one inch long and weigh less than 0.04 ounces.
Factors That Determine Octopuses’ Lifespan
Octopuses’ lifespan depends on gender, temperature, species, and whether they mates or not.
Octopuses often die of natural causes, but there are several factors affecting when they die:
- Water temperature
Octopuses are semelparous animals, meaning they mate once and then die. After mating, both the male and female enter a state called senescence: a life stage characterized by self-destructing behavior shortly followed by death.
Females practically die after laying eggs. They stop feeding and start biting chunks out of their own body. Males tend to live a few months more after mating.
The cause of senescence is debated, but it is likely due to their optic glands producing too many hormones. The most common cause of death during this stage is starvation.
Different species mature at different ages. Some octopus mate for the first time at the age of a few months, while others wait until they are three years old.
2. Water Temperature
Studies show that octopuses in cooler waters tend to live longer than in warm water. This is because cooler temperatures slow down the body’s metabolism.
The longest-living species generally live in waters of around 60 °F, while shorter-living octopuses can live in waters of around 80 °F.
The around 300 species of octopuses have different average lifespans. The longest-living species is the giant Pacific octopus while the shortest-living is the star-sucking pygmy octopus.
Each species’ average size seems to correlate with life expectancy. Both the longest-living and shortest-living octopuses are also the biggest and smallest species respectively.
Male octopuses tend to live longer than females. This is because males do not die instantly after reproduction, while females do.
Octopus Life Cycle
Octopuses have four life stages: egg, larva, juvenile, and adult. Adulthood is usually reached between one to two years. Adults that have mated enter a stage called senescence before they die.
Each species have vastly different lifespans, so there is no exact age when they exit one life stage and enter the other.
To give an idea about the length of different life stages, we analyze the longest-living giant Pacific octopus.
Here are the four octopus life stages and their characteristics:
|Life Stage||Giant Pacific Octopus||Characteristics|
|Egg||150–230 days to hatch||About 0.1 in eggs, 120,000–140,000 eggs|
|Larva||7–10 months||Larvae are called octopods, extremely low survival rate, staying on the surface of the ocean, feeding on other larvae and plankton|
|Juvenile||10 months–3 years||Rapid development, constant feeding|
|Adult||Around 3 years old||Full size reached, sexually mature, first and last mating, solitary|
After mating, females hatch tens of thousands of eggs on a sturdy surface, usually under rocks and in small holes. The eggs are elongated, white, and transparent. they are about the size of a rice grain (0.1 in).
The females then enter a vegetative state where they stop eating and only care for their eggs until they die. During this stage, the female regularly cleans the eggs with her suckers.
The eggs hatch after a maximum of ten months, by which point both the mother and father are long dead.
After hatching, octopus larvae (called octopods) swim to the surface of the ocean. They are paralarvae, meaning they are in a planktonic state. Octopus larvae are about the size of a pea and weigh 0.3 grains, but they look like adult octopuses already.
On the ocean’s surface, they drift among the plankton. They feed on plankton, each other, and other animals’ larvae, such as lobsters, starfish, and crabs.
The survival rate of octopus larvae is extremely small. They defenselessly float for seven to ten months (giant Pacific octopus). They are eaten or killed by small animals or accidentally by bigger ones, like whales or dolphins.
The survival rate of hatchlings is about one percent.
After floating on the ocean’s surface for seven to ten months, the octopods swim down to the bottom and enter their juvenile stage. During this period, octopuses go through the greatest changes in their life.
Their body weight is increased by five percent each day. This is because they feed on large amounts of food. They transition to eating their normal diet consisting of crustaceans, mollusks, worms, isopods, fish, and snails.
As this stage is a transitional period, there is no exact size or body weight. Depending on the species, they grow from a few ounces up to 88 pounds and below an inch to 14 feet.
Each octopus species reaches adulthood at different ages. The short-living star-sucking pygmy may become an adult after only three months, while the giant Pacific octopus needs about three years.
Regardless of the species, the purpose of adult octopuses is to mate. They live solitary in their dens and only leave for food or to find a mate.
After they find a partner, both the male and female exhaust their use and die shortly after.
Octopuses that reproduce enter into senescence. It is not a different life stage, but the precursor of their deaths. They lose appetite and behave erratically, endangering and damaging themselves.
Octopuses live six months to five years. They live for the same amount of time in the wild and in captivity. Their lifespan is determined by their gender, their habitat’s temperature, their species, and whether they mated or not. The longest-living is the giant Pacific octopus and the shortest-living is the star-sucking pygmy octopus.
Octopuses have four life stages: egg, larva, juvenile, and adult. Adult octopuses that have mated enter a stage called senescence. The females lay their eggs, stop eating, and essentially self-destruct. They care for their eggs until they die. Males live for a few months longer after mating.
Where Do Octopuses Live?
Octopuses live in the oceans and seas. Adult octopuses find dens under a rock or in a crevice and rarely leave. They are found in both cold and warm water. The more shallow the water, the warmer it is. Smaller octopuses are found in shallow waters, while larger ones prefer the bottom of the ocean.
Can Octopuses Live for 100 Years?
No, octopuses cannot live for 100 years. Even the longest-living octopuses only live to a maximum of five years. The misconception about octopuses living for several decades is derived from mythological tales.
How Long Can Octopuses Live Out of Water?
Octopuses can survive out of water for 20–30 minutes. They rarely go on land voluntarily, but when they do, they shut down their gills and breathe through their skins. The reason octopuses go ashore is to hunt in the waters left behind the low tide.