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Saltwater Aquarium/Raising Eastern Oysters in an Aquarium


I am performing a research project on Eastern Oysters' (Crassostrea virginica) ability to filter water, and I want to set up an aquarium to keep oysters so I can track their effects on the water. First of all, what is the best way to get 10-20 oysters for the experiment? Also, do you have any tips on raising the oysters in the tank?

Good morning Peter:

The eastern oyster — also called Atlantic oyster or Virginia oyster — is a species of true oyster native to the eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico coast of North America. I believe you should be able to acquire some live specimens very easily at your local area seafood market; especially if you reside around the eastern seaboard or Gulf of Mexico.

The range of the oyster native to the Chesapeake Bay—the American or eastern oyster—extends well beyond the Chesapeake Bay, encompassing the east coast of North America from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada to Key Biscayne, Florida, and south through the Caribbean to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and to Venezuela.

Food Preference: (a suitable phyto plankton when raised or farmed in captivity)

-- Oysters feed on algae.
-- As they eat they act like a filter on a fish tank.
-- Oysters filter out algae and tiny particles that cloud the water.

Aquarium Preference: (basic saltwater aquarium set up)

A well suitable temperature matched saltwater aquarium system, with proper water parameters.

-- Oysters prefer to set on the shells of other oysters but other hard, clean substrates are also used.
-- Oysters will grow to about three inches in three years, unless the water is of low salinity. Then it may take 4 to 5 years to reach three inches.
-- Oysters under a year old are about 90% male. As they grow many will change sex, and older oysters are about 80% female.
-- Oysters prefer salty water with an optimum salinity range of 10ppt (parts per thousand) to 28 ppt.
-- Extended periods under 5ppt salinity can cause significant mortality.

Fun Facts:

-- Oysters have been around for 15 million years and in some places their shell deposits are 50 feet thick.
-- Many people like to eat oysters. For that reason, they are a very important seafood resource for the Chesapeake Bay.
-- Oyster beds or reefs form a suitable habitat for other living creatures.
-- Oysters at one time were very plentiful. However, over the years oyster diseases, MSX and Dermo have killed many of them.
-- In the mid to late 1800’s conflicts between oystermen who used different gear types and between those in Maryland and Virginia, escalated to deadly levels in a time known as the Oyster Wars.
-- In 1868, Maryland formed the Oyster Navy to police the waters of the State to try and enforce oystering regulations and help deter the violence.
-- The city of Crisfield is built on a foundation of oyster shells.

*I hope the above information helps some. Keep searching, the internet as a plethora of information on Oysters.

*Keep in touch with your experiment, I'm curious to see how it goes.

*Also let me know if you need any help with finding aquarium equipment.

I wish you luck with all your future saltwater endeavors.

David - All Experts  

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David Ocreef


Technical saltwater coral reef related aquarium questions are welcome. Coral, invertebrate, and peaceful species of saltwater fish questions are welcome. Questions asked on Saturday and Sunday will be answered the following Monday. REMINDER: Please check the answers pool to see if your question has already been asked and answered. Questions typically are answered within a 48 hour period, however sometimes it may take longer.


I possess over twenty-five years of hands-on experience and knowledge in the ecology of aquariums. Beyond the traditional, I have successfully tested and sustained environments that have been uncharted territories for hobbyists, for decades. I am the first to admit I don't know it all because there will always be something new, amazing, and exciting to learn about, as discoveries are made. It's a hobby one can never outgrow, or grow tired of.

MASNA - Marine Aquarium Society of North America. Director of Orange County Reef Aquatics -

Publications,, and many others.

After High School, my experience and love of marine animals influenced me to take up studies in Marine Biology. Throughout college, I studied Microbiology with an emphasis on Marine Life, as well as numerous other sciences. I continued to advance in this hobby, by building a dozen or more saltwater ecosystems all utilizing Microbes as the major source of my filtration method.

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