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What is the friendliest octopus species?

What is the friendliest octopus species?

Octopuses are fascinating creatures that capture the imagination. With eight arms, complex brains, and amazing skills like camouflage and problem-solving, they seem almost alien in nature. While the octopus is often depicted as a scary, solitary creature in pop culture, some species are actually quite friendly! When considering personality, there are a few octopus species that stand out as more social and amenable to human interaction than others.

Octopus Intelligence and Behavior

All octopus species demonstrate complex behaviors and high intelligence compared to other invertebrates. Their large brains, complex nervous systems, and ability to learn through observation put them on par with some vertebrates in terms of smarts.

Octopuses are capable of both short-term and long-term memory. They can solve problems, navigate through mazes, and learn through observation. Some have even demonstrated the ability to recognize and interact with individual humans over time.

When it comes to personality and sociability, not all octopuses are the same. Some species are more solitary, while others demonstrate more complex social behaviors like cooperation and play. Octopuses also exhibit different temperaments, with some responding better to human interaction than others.

Solitary vs Social Species

Most octopus species are largely solitary and territorial. They live alone in dens and only interact with other octopuses to mate. More antisocial species like the common octopus tend to be more aggressive and prone to attacking humans that get too close.

However, some octopus species demonstrate more social tendencies. They may live in closer proximity to other octopuses, show greater tolerance of their own kind, and even hunt cooperatively. Some of these more social species appear more amenable to interaction with humans as well.

Octopus Species Known for Being Friendly

Let’s take a look at a few of the octopus species that tend to have more laidback, friendly reputations:

Giant Pacific Octopus

The giant Pacific octopus is one of the larger octopus species, growing up to 16 feet across and weighing up to 110 pounds. They live in dens on the ocean floor off the Pacific coast of North America and Asia.

While antisocial toward other octopuses, giant Pacific octopuses demonstrate curiosity and friendliness toward humans in aquariums. Their intelligence allows them to recognize familiar humans who feed and interact with them regularly. They will often approach familiar caretakers and accept food from their hands.

The giant Pacific octopus has a relatively docile temperament compared to other large octopus species. Their lifespan lasts only 3-5 years, which may contribute to them having a laidback personality without the territoriality that comes with age.

Caribbean Reef Octopus

The Caribbean reef octopus is a smaller species that lives in tropical coral reefs and shallow lagoons. They grow to about 20 inches and live 2-3 years on average.

This species develops very complex and intimate relationships with humans. In laboratory studies and aquariums, they recognize individual humans and squirt water at ones they dislike. They may accept food from the hands of caretakers they trust.

Caribbean reef octopuses are non-aggressive and respond well to gentle touch from familiar humans. They demonstrate an inquisitive personality and enjoy exploring their environment and interacting with objects. Their high intelligence and personality have cemented their reputation as one of the friendliest and most personable octopus species.

East Pacific Red Octopus

This small species grows to only about 6 inches in length and lives 1-2 years. It inhabits shallow coastal waters off the western coast of North and South America.

Red octopuses have a typically timid and non-aggressive personality, making them less likely to bite if handled. The prominent blue-ringed octopus is actually a venomous relative of this species.

In laboratory studies, East Pacific red octopuses can be handled and touched without eliciting much reaction beyond squirming or squirting some water. Their tolerant personality lends itself to being handled by humans, although it still stresses the octopus and should be avoided.

Day Octopus

This very small octopus species has an arm span of only 1-3 inches on average. It lives on coral reefs and in tide pools of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Day octopuses have frequently been observed showing an unprompted friendly response toward humans. They will emerge from hiding and approach divers while appearing relaxed and showing no fear.

Researchers who study day octopuses in labs report that they readily acclimate to captivity. They appear curious about humans and will crawl onto hands and arms without hesitation. Their boldness and trust of humans can appear reminiscent of friendliness.

Why Are Some Octopus Species Friendlier?

What makes some octopus species more inclined toward friendly behavior and tolerance of humans while others are solitary and reactive? There are a few possible explanations.

Less Territoriality

Octopuses that are less territorial by nature appear less prone to aggression. Species like the giant Pacific octopus have a short lifespan during which they do not establish long-term dens. Their wanting to avoid conflict may contribute to congenial behavior toward humans.

Reward Association

Octopuses that receive positive reinforcement like food rewards when interacting with humans learn to associate those people with good outcomes. Their intelligence allows them to recognize familiar caretakers who provide rewards.


Octopuses are very curious by nature, so species with more exploratory and bold personalities are more likely to initiate friendly contact. Their desire to interact with novel objects and environments supercedes fear in these cases.

Captive vs Wild Differences

Octopuses in laboratories and aquariums generally show more tolerance of humans and handling compared to wild octopuses. Their behavior is likely influenced by the captive setting versus natural wariness of predators.


While octopuses are often depicted as alien and ominous, some species exhibit an affable side toward humans. Giant Pacific, Caribbean reef, East Pacific red, and day octopuses are most known for their friendly and inquisitive personalities. Traits like lower territoriality, reward associations, and curiosity appear to underlie their congenial behavior. Of course, octopuses should still be treated with care and respect as wild animals. But understanding their diverse personalities provides a glimpse into the behavioral complexities of these captivating creatures of the deep.