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Bigfin reef squid

Bigfin reef squid

On Exhibit: Tentacles

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Sepioteuthis lessoniana

  • Animal Type

    Octopuses & Kin

  • Diet

    Plankton, molluscs, small fishes

  • Size

    to 13 inches (33 cm)

  • Relatives

    other squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, and the chambered nautilus; Order: Teuthida; Family: Loliginidae

At the Aquarium

Is this a visitor from another planet? Very few aquariums in the world are displaying this bizarre species, which we first exhibited in 2012. We hatch bigfin reef squid from eggs sent from Indonesia and Japan, using a unique technique pioneered by our aquarists. Hundreds of "pods," each containing two to six embryos, are suspended so we can monitor their growth. "You can actually see the embryo developing inside," says Senior Aquarist Chris Payne. The eggs grow in the three-inch pods for two to three weeks, and swell in size before hatching. The squid are barely a quarter-inch long when they hatch, but can grow to more than a foot. 

Natural History

In many ways bigfin reef squid look like cuttlefish due to their large fins and habit of sculling near reef structures. Their "big fins" extend the length of their bodies, hence the name. Unlike our local market and Humboldt squid, bigfin reef squid spend most of their time near coastal rocks and reefs, They're found primarily in shallow coastal waters in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Hawaiian Islands, but have also been seen as deep as a few hundred feet

Like their squid and cuttlefish relatives, bigfin reef squid feed on fish and crustaceans. They have eight arms and two tentacles; the latter are used for capturing prey and guiding it to their sharp beaks. They move quickly too, propelled by generating a water jet. Extremely fast growing, these squid can eat up to 30 percent of their body weight per day.

Like many cephalopods, bigfin reef squid use pigmented skin cells, called chromatophores, to change color and pattern. Specific patterns and colors are used by males and females during mating, to attract one another. Each female lays 1,000-6,000 eggs, which take approximately three weeks to incubate. After mating, the adults die. They can live as long as 11 months.


Bigfin reef squid are an abundant food and bait source. However, as with other sea life, pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction pose serious threats to cephalopods. Squid may be indicators of a warming ocean—some scientists believe that their growth rates are directly impacted by water temperatures—in warmer waters, they grow faster.

Cool Facts

Sometimes our aquarists are a little like mad scientists, inventing cool things behind the scenes out of everyday items. Our technique for growing these squid uses fishing line, plastic ties and Super Glue!

This species has the fastest recorded growth rate of any large marine invertebrate.

Like many cephalopods, bigfin reef squid may produce a jet of ink when threatened.

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