Shellfish Farming

Shellfish encompasses these aquatic organisms that make interesting cuisines for restaurants and homes: clams, oysters, mussels, shrimp, crabs, prawn, lobster and sea urchin roe. Aside from being exotic, they have a characteristic that endears them to environmentalist.

Interested in starting a shellfish farm? Learn from our guide the basics of growing shellfish.

Shellfish includes various species of molluscs (clams, oysters, and mussels), crustaceans (shrimp, crabs, prawn, and lobster) and echinoderms (sea urchin roe). They are primarily used as food as in the famous Japanese cuisine sushi and sashimi. A most important characteristic of shellfish is their ability to filter plankton, clearing seawater of whatever excess of these microscopic green plants and effectively improving water quality. However, dredging to harvest some shellfish and maintenance of shellfish beds can also be destructive to aquatic plants.

Most coastal areas in the U.S. are involved in shellfish farming. But shellfish farming still represents a small part of aquaculture in the country and many operations are small in scale and run only by a few employees. The most commonly grown species of shellfish are oysters, clams, mussels, and shrimp.

Mussels Farming Method

Mussels are grown along coastlines in poles, in ropes suspended on water, or on plots in seabeds. The method use will depend on the condition of the farmed area. For example, the bouchot technique that depends on tidal ranges to supply food to the growing mussel could not be used in coasts where tidal range is not enough.

Oyster Farming Method

Oysters are valued as food in raw and cooked form. They thrive in brackish water. Oyster cultivation involves growing the oyster until they deposit themselves in a substrate. The loose oyster and those that have attached themselves to the substrate are left to mature on their own or distributed in existing beds. They may also be put in bags or cages and suspended in water or in artificial maturation tank. Oysters in oyster bed are harvested by dredging while those contained in nets are harvested simply by lifting the container.

Claim Farming Method

There are different methods of different species of clams. But typically, clams are raised in two steps. First, thousands of small clams are stocked in mesh bags until they reach a certain size. This step lasts for about six months. After this, the grown clams are transferred to seadbeds where they stay for about 18 months where they grow into sizes ready for harvest. Harvestable size differs among states.

Shrimp Farming Method

The whole process of rearing shrimp involves the hatching of shrimp eggs, transferring the eggs in nurseries or acclimation tanks and raising them to maturity in grownout ponds. Harvest is done about three to six months after the eggs are hatched. Shrimp, typically cultured in brackish water in Asia, are grown under highly controlled conditions in the U.S. It means using big tanks instead of natural saltwater, augmenting shrimp diet with commercial feed, and using pumps, aerator and water exchange systems. For resources, visit the Web site of the US Marine Shrimp Farming Program.

For resources on shellfish farming, visit the web site of The National Shellfisheries Association.


  • Tito Torres said on February 11, 2011
    Interested in oyster, mussels and tilapia farming business. Information on how to get in the business, costs and management to profitability.
  • Duane Parton said on January 5, 2012
    Neah Bay, Washington 98357 their are a lot of fresh water rivers here also. where the tide goes in and out.
  • Mark raymond said on August 6, 2012
    looking to oyster farm in kingston, ma there is the jones river (brackish), and kingston bay is quite shallow. could you give me info on startup costs?
  • Diala said on November 13, 2012
    interested in starting up a shellfish farm but confused cos i reside far away from both river and ocean. is it feasible? could u give me more info on starup materials as well as management?


    (All the above fields are required.)