Cultured Pearls and Fish

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If you have not yet read my last post on Mollusks Go Mobile, I explained the life cycle of freshwater mussels and how important it is to have fish for the development and mobility of freshwater mollusks. Now, for a bit more info on cultured pearls and fish.

As you well know, you can take wild animals out of nature but it is more difficult to take the nature out of wild animals. So, in the field of cultured pearls, we are dealing with these same wild mussels but we are using their natural defenses to produce cultured pearls. You know how it goes, an irritant is inserted into a mollusk causing it to release their same shell-making nacre to coat the irritant. Give it lots of time and a pearl is formed!

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Freshwater mussels are an amazing species who live their infant weeks as a parasite on fish, eating nutrients from fish gills until they get large enough to fend for themselves and they fall all the fish and settle to the bottom of freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds.

Well, freshwater pearl farmers need these mussels to grow cultured pearls so typically they start at the beginning growing and nurturing the young mussels until they are large enough to nucleate. You can read more on how old do mussels need to be to create pearls?

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Let’s talk about China. As you know, China is the largest producers of freshwater pearls. They need the mussels to produce these pearls. Most pearl farms either run their own hatcheries for the the reproduction and growth of these Chinese freshwater mussels or they purchase mussels from independent hatcheries. They also are in the business of fish. Because the fish are necessary for the growth of the mussels, these hatcheries must also farm fish to act as hosts to the parasitic glochidia. One such species is the grass carp.

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The mussels reproduce, the glochidia attach to the grass carp and live off of them for weeks until they drop off. The juvenile mussels are then placed in nets where they grow to maturity to be cultured.

Read more on how old mussels need to be to create pearls…

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