How to Grow Oysters in an Aquarium

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An oyster that does not close when touched or disturbed is dead or dying.

Image Credit: Dick Luria/Photodisc/Getty Images

Oysters, and all bivalves, are notoriously difficult to keep in a home aquarium. They require pristine water conditions and copious feedings to thrive. These are best limited to one or two in a fish or reef aquarium. An oyster-only tank is a better option, as most aquarium fish cannot tolerate the high flow and amount of food necessary in oyster keeping. Spiny oysters are the most commonly kept in home aquariums.


Step 1

Set up a 20 gallon or larger tank with saltwater with an undergravel filter bed and a mechanical filter (hang-on-back or canister) Provide an aerator and a pump designed for high water flow. A 20-gallon tank can house approximately 15 oysters.

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Step 2

Add a substrate of crushed coral, crushed oyster shells or dolomite.


Step 3

Cycle the tank by running it with no lifeforms for up to three weeks to build up nitrifying bacteria.

Step 4

Add oysters slowly, a few at a time. Wait a week before adding more.


Step 5

Feed your oysters daily. Turn off your filtration during feeding. Feed an invertebrate diet for filter feedings, occasionally combined with a fatty-rich, microalgae-filled liquid food offered on the market as a larval food. Feed each oyster individually with a pipette or syringe (needle removed) upstream of the oyster.

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