University of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceHorn Point Oyster Hatchery

Role of Algae in Oyster Development

Most species of algae are microscopic unicellular organisms and are found in water. Similar to plants, algae use photosynthesis to produce energy. Many species of algae can be found in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Algae cultured in the hatchery are very small (2-30 microns). One milliliter of water can hold millions of algae cells.

Certain species of algae are known to be more beneficial due to size and nutrition for oyster larvae and newly settled oyster spat. Several of these species are grown at the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery to feed oyster larvae and young spat. In general, adult oysters and older spat are not fed due to the large quantities of algae needed, however, broodstock oysters are sometimes given supplemental algal feedings to enhance gonad production.