Apr 17, 2014
Hey guys, I'm sorry if I am asking a really stupid question but I'm new here so...yeah.

I am new to the forum and I have no idea how to seed a freshwater oyster at all. I was wondering if anyone here could show me whereabouts (if at all) on the forum I could find this information or even another website, video etc. I am very sorry if this is really stupid. All replies will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you, P34RL
This is an extremely complicated operation. First of all, freshwater pearls are grown in mussels. Oysters are saltwater mollusks. You should get the type of mussels that are used for pearl culturing. Epithelial tissue (tissue lining the shell that secretes nacre) is cut from a specific area of a donor mussel. This tissue is cut in small squares and implanted into the body of the mussel via incisions. To do this, you have to pry them open slightly and hold open with a wedge, while operating in a tiny space. Even if you are very careful, they may die as a result of the operation. There are so many things that stand in your way - the mussels could die from stress just from living in a tank before you even attempt implantation.

I don't think it's stupid, but I do think it is nearly impossible, given what you are going to use. For instance, how will you feed them?

I admire your desire! :)
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I think you may first need to learn how to grow mussels. There may be some aquaponics systems that use freshwater mussels. That would probably be hard enough. To even have a slight chance at culturing pearls, you would have to work in a sterile or semi-sterile environment and keep your culturing system meticulously clean. Why not start there? At least it'll give you some veggies and moules to eat.
Ok thank you guys so much!

Thanks for all the info and help. I am getting Velesunio Ambiguus which is native to east Australia, my tank (more or less) is the same temperature as the bodies of water they are found. They do not need running water (perfect). Feed on algae and plankton (my aquarium goes completely green every summer and in winter not quite as much, but for several young mussels it shouldn't be too bad). Before I start operating on them (if they survive) they will have maybe a year to acclimatize to the tank with at least 1 inch and 1/4 of gravel (I'm Australian don't know how to write inches) to burrow in. If I haven't already said so it is 6 foot with suitable alkalinity, hardness and ph. Regardless of my most likely failure, I am going to hope for the best and see what happens!

Once again, thank you everyone who replied and

Thanks, P34RL
So no beads in freshwater mussels? Also is it worth trying to get into the gonad? great vid. I will keep you posted :)
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But if the the nucleus for a freshwater mussel is only some mantle tissue wouldn't it create a mab? pearl? Also how do you round the donor tissue?
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That species has been used by somebody in Australia for aquaponics. They seem to be tasty.
I have heard that some people roll the tissue into a ball between their fingers.
A mabe is grown with an implant attached to the shell - maybe you are thinking of "baroque".
You are aiming to implant into the flesh so that the cells will grow into a pearl sac.
In freshwater culturing you can also insert a bead, but I would try it without a bead first. With a six-foot tank, your chances of getting round pearls is low simply because of percentages.

I certainly wish you success. Let us know your progress as you get to each stage. :)
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Ok thanks guys for all the help. My plan is this:

Get the mussels
Let them acclimatize to the tank and monitor behaviour and health for 1 year (im buying them at 1 year old)
Sacrifice one mussel for mantle
Cut wholes in the mantle of the recipients
Insert donor mantle
Return them to tank and monitor closely for signs of bad health for a week or 2
Keep them alive for as long as possible hopefully at least 3-4 years
Harvest the pearls and see how I went
Maybe make a Mother's Day present (bracelet) made of (most likely) baroque pearls.

I am going to order the mussels asap and will keep you posted on how they handle living in a tank

As someone who's been in fledgling mode for decades, allow me to offer a few bits of advice.

P-G is a friendly and helpful place, full of experts in many fields, but posting under an alias likely won't draw much response. Personally, I'd rather give advice to a genuine person so that I may gain some understanding of the ecology of your region, objectives and methodology.

Pearl farmers tend to fiercely guard their technology, especially with the nuances of their individual sites, though much is common knowledge. I saw a video a short while ago, where Mr. J.C. Branellac of Jewelmer made an important point. His advice was to "aim high, or you'll never get there". That means three things... 1- Competition. 2- Viability and 3- Quality. As a FW farmer, you will need to compete with China, who have developed hybrids to maximize all three of my points. Likewise you'll need to stock, rear and produce in the face land use issues, taxation and environmental controls etc. And lastly, gem quality from your target species.

Prior to putting the cart before the horse, you will need to assess your mussels. You have identified the Flood Plain Mussel (Velesunio ambiguous) in the Hyriidae family as your target. Do you find natural pearls in this species? Do you observe shell anomalies and parasites? I gather you have some savvy about the physiology of mollusks, but do you intimately understand their anatomy and metabolic functions? If the answer is no, then it's virtually impossible to help you.

I say this, because even the most advanced technician can be a fish out of water when they are away from their own farms. I am aware of 100% failures by skilled grafters working with foreign species. Farmers don't wish to send anyone on wild goose chases by providing misleading or non-applicable advice mainly because they know the cost of failure. Don't become downhearted if only a few speak up, after all, at the end of the day it's entirely up to you to find your own ways that work. Failures are lessons learned. Rising above failures can but not always mean success. Many technicians can produce beautiful pearls that are in no way viable. Even among the most successful farmers, the profit margins are miniscule.

In the meanwhile, I cannot emphasize strongly enough to observe and document the nacreous processes of your shell stock. Collect loose pearls and juvenile shells. By whatever means, get those samples to a reputable lab that knows their stuff. Obtain a report about the structures of your samples. This would include stratigraphic electron microscopy, radiography, chemical analysis and growth rates. Calcite is your enemy. If your species generates high concentrations calcite at an early age, you are dead in the water. You know the old saying, you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You only want to hear one result from your lab... terraced aragonite... nothing more.

You mentioned gonads. The gonads in mytilids are nothing like the gonads of a pterioid. Pterioids have gonads as singular organs with supporting tissues. To the best of my knowledge, pearls are grafted adjacent to these organs, not themselves. Mussels on the other hand, have tens of thousands gonoducts which share the same space as the mantle tissues. Pre-graft conditioning is necessary. Acquiescence will not occur in the presence of gammets (reproductive cells) or during quiescence (hibernation of a kind) or reversed mineralization (low salinity or food).

You must find a way to non-fatally penetrate the micro thin layer of the inner epithelium without damaging the outer whilst avoiding the ducts. For your sake, I hope you have a sharp eye, a steady hand and precision tools.

Not even the most erudite can tell what those windows of opportunity are in the absence of research data. Although he passed on years before I was born, Ed Ricketts said it best. Observation, speculation then replication. Don't sweat the latter yet unless you've established the formers.
Well, obviously, I now know more about gonads in mussels. :) Dave has lots of great advice here, much of it way beyond your six-foot tank, but he is right about the mussel you use. If it isn't known for producing nacreous natural pearls now, it won't change with culturing. Too much calcite means dull pearls - duds.

I kept thinking about Dave while reading your posts because Dave came up against a wall of indifference when he tried to buy tools or get expert advice. He had to make his own tools and figure things out for himself. Of course, he has a research background that helps him understand the biology of mussels and he is working with mussels in their natural environment.

You have a tank and some curiosity and desire. Dave has fiery passion and perseverance. You don't have to measure up to Dave, but you should take some time to learn more about the subject so you have a better chance of success. Good luck. :)
Hey guys,
Velesunio Ambiguous is in the same order as the freshwater pearl mussel and it has a nacreous shell. Also, my aim of this experiment is to-if at all-produce as many pearls as possible for 2 reasons. 1, most pearls are grown in the sea or a river etc and I want to see if it is possible to grow pearls in a tank. 2, as far as I have read nobody hast tried growing pearls in them, despite the fact that it is possible and the result might be interesting. Yet the main reason is, I want to try and grow a pearl because I want to see how pearl culturing works and try it for myself and see what happens.

Thanks, P34RL
I read somewhere this mussel species produces pearls naturally. You are probably still more likely to enjoy them as a meal rather than with mussels inside, but it should be an interesting experiment.
Hatcheries are little more than tank farms. Tank reared shell stock require feeding and producing your own algae is no small task. There are hundreds, even thousands of different food cells in water, but only a few are digestible and only at certain times. How will you know which cells and when? Undigested cells are gathered in mucous and feces. Because of that, they generate twenty to a hundred times more poop than actual food eaten. How will you control that? In closed systems, once all of the calcium ions are removed from water by ingestion, it becomes acidic. That would effectively reverse shell growth and mollusks would reabsorb their own shells. If by some miracle they survived the two years, a bead nuclei would not form a pearl, but instead be a fraction of it's original size. Tissue grafted pearls would be tiny and porous.

Tanks also get unruly without upwelling and other water quality controls, really fast. Even then, most viruses, bacteria and parasites recruit and grow faster than mollusks and will invariably infect and kill juvenile mussels, especially ones in post-op convalescence.

In the ocean, crowding shell stock = disaster. Most (if not all) farmers use a minimum distance spacing formula to ensure adequate accessibility to food.

I've done dozens, if not hundreds of experiments in tanks and gleaned valuable information on other aspects of mollusk growth. Pearls in tanks though? Unless you have an adequate growth space, separate food rearing hatchery, laboratory and thousands of dollars worth of filtration, pumps, diffusers, screens, flasks and non-leaching tanks, it is a recipe for failure.
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