Common Cuttlefish

(Sepia officinalis)


Common Cuttlefish IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The Common Cuttlefish is up to 65 cm long and can weight 4 kg, animals in warmer seas are generally smaller. It has eight arms with four rows of suckers each and two additional long tentacles for catching its prey which, however, are retracted in bags below the eyes if not used. There is an internal, dorsal, flat shell, called cuttlebone, for buoyancy and stabilization. The body is dorso-ventrally flattened with a peripheral fin seam. The latter together with the siphon are the main organs of locomotion. The dorsum is patterned with stripes but, since the skin is full of chromatophores, can immediately and vividly change its coloring and pattern. The two lens eyes are highly developed and have a w-shaped pupil. They even have more photoreceptor cells than mammals and can see all colors but red, which is absorbed first in water.

By day the Common Cuttlefish hides in the sandy ground but leaves it in the evening to feed on a variety of sea food like crustaceans (crabs and shrimps), fishes and others. Larger prey is paralyzed with a poison injected after the bite of the beak-like jaws and then digested extra-intestinally (in front of the mouth) with enzymes to suck it.

The Common Cuttlefish performs courtship display. In spring the male tries to impress the selected female with a vivid play of colors. Transfer of the spermatophores (packets of sperm) to the mouth membrane of the female is made quickly by means of the modified left ventral arm called the hectocotylus. Spawning occurs in shallow waters, in doing so the black lemon-shaped eggs are attached in groups to plants. The eggs take approximately 50 days to develop depending on temperature. The hatchlings are small copies of the adult and do not live in plankton as the ones of some other cephalopods. Life is rather short and will not exceed two years.

Did you know?
that if embryos of the Common Cuttlefish are exposed to a certain prey they will hunt preferably on this prey later in their life? that the shell of the Common Cuttlefish which is called cuttlebone is used as calcium supplier and rubbing stone for caged birds and reptiles? that presently 786 extant species of cephalopods are known to science and some more await discovery? that the ink of the Common Cuttlefish is the basis for the brown painter’s color called sepia?


Name (Scientific) Sepia officinalis
Name (English) Common Cuttlefish
Name (French) Seiche commune
Name (German) Gewöhnlicher Tintenfisch
Name (Spanish) Sepia común
Local names Danish: Sepiablæksprutte
Dutch: Gewone zeekat
Finnish: Yleinen mustekala, sepia
Italian: Seppia mediterranea, Seppia
Portuguese: Choco vulgar
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range North, Baltic and Mediterranean Sea, eastern coast of Atlantic Ocean. The nominate subspecies lives in the north while others are present to as far as South Africa
Habitat The Common Cuttlefish dwells the sandy and muddy seabed from the shallow coastal waters down to about 200 m depth. They swim between seaweed and seagrass or hide buried in the ground. Young individuals do not go deeper than 50 to 80 m because their air-filled shell would implode at higher hydrostatic pressure.
Wild population Although fished commercially, it's still a common species.
Zoo population 12 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Common Cuttlefish


How this animal should be transported

The Common Cuttlefish should not be shipped since they may ink if handled carelessly. The ink will coat their gills and make it hard for them to breath.


Cephalopods need a lot of oxygen and this also puts a limit on how long they can stay alive in transit. Eggs are remarkably tough and ship very well. Cuttlefish eggs don't need to be artificially brooded. However, if you have eggs shipped to you, make sure that they are not due to hatch soon as the stress will likely make them hatch prematurely in transit.


Try to get lab reared specimens instead of animals taken from the wild. For yet unknown reasons fertility of laboratory reared eggs is only 10 % instead of 100 % as in nature.


If you have to keep your cephalopod in a sealed container for more than 6 hours use oxygen. Running a portable air pump will help keep the oxygen levels up. Keep the animal cool.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Mannaerts Gérald

Why do zoos keep this animal

The Common Cuttlefish may be kept for educational reasons to illustrate the lightning color change in cephalopods. The species does not show to have problems with captivity or visitors.