Tridacna nuclei


Well-known member
Sep 19, 2013
In my research I have seen a lot of people's talking about Tridacna sp. being used as nuclei, particularly in China. I've also read that using them as nuclei is endangering giant clam populations. I know that Trodacna species are aquacultured in large amounts to be used as food and also to a small degree, marine aquariums. I'm just wondering if they would be using aquacultured clam shells to produce the nuclei, I would have thought it would be cheaper to use a byproduct of another industry to manufacture these nuclei rather than removing wild clams from the wild? Would using aquacultured clams make any difference on bringing the nuclei into china either in regards to CITES permits? Sorry if this is a bit of a silly question, I haven't been able to find the answer to this in my research. I have found that they are an inferior nucleus as they aren't made of nacre so I am just wondering from a legal/ethical view point I guess.
It is not a silly question. Tridacna gigas shell is only being used because they are huge, and therefore cheap, versus the good stuff - Mississippi River shell. If they had to grow it, they wouldn't bother because it would be expensive. It's simply a question of economics. This is sad for all the beautiful Tridacnas that are killed. And it's a massive pain for the pearl buyers who have to drill them. I can't speak for the Chinese government, but I haven't heard of any efforts to stop the harvesting or import of Tridacna gigas shell.
There are efforts, however indirect, as The Philippines and Vietnam try valiantly to keep China out of their territorial waters. It's a political issue and an environmental one, with Chinese fishing boats poaching Tridacna giga, sea turtles, and other endangered marine life with impunity.

If you've read about China's own ecological disasters, then you know that that its government doesn't care so long as there are natural resources (even if it's not theirs) to consume.
That's very disappointing to hear, I really would have thought it would be cheaper to use aqua cultured or maricultured she'll since they are cultured in large amounts for food already, It wouldn't be placing pressure on wild populations. Is it only T. gigas that is used or are some of the other giant clams used like T. deresa and T. squamosa? I would assume T. maxima would be too small, they don't get much bigger than about 20cm.

I like in the natural range of a lot of Tridacna clams and they really are beautiful animals. I've seen a few huge gigas as well. They are stunning creatures.
We've done a lot of research, test production and pearl growing with clam nuclei, in conjunction with other pearl farmers and research organisations. The shells are generally larger which makes yields attractive and as the shell is hard, makes them far easier to work with on machinery. But due to the nature of the structure, they are tougher to drill than freshwater species. We tend to notice that the organic matter in the mussel shells acts as somewhat of a lubricant to the drilling process and so gives the easier drilling experienced. If you knew that clam nuclei were being used and you chose the correct drill accordingly, then drilling clam is quite effective due to its structural consistency.

Due to the reduced global pearl production, pressure on wild stocks is not so heavy at the moment and as well, most Chinese nuclei manufacturers use the local Chinese shells to produce nuclei, although maximum size is limited. Quality can also be quite poor.

Nuclei from Maxima/Margaritifera shells are workable (just ask Josh) but yield and maximum sizes are somewhat low. Also, the availability of good quality and size MOP is tough when considering the global market price for MOP is increasing due to limited supply.