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Molting of Mud crab (Scylla serrata) Cultured in Cage

(prepared by Edmundo Enderez – Sept 21, 2009)

1. A trial on the culture of syclla serrata (without chelipeds) with carapace width ranging
from 4.0-4.9 cm to 9.0-9.9 cm with peak of 6.0-6.9cm was undertaken to determine period of
molting and growth. Culture period covered Aug 25 – Sept 12, 2009.

2. It was expected that the results will be similar to what had been observed and
experienced by observers or researchers as presented in the literature.

a. It has been observed that majority of mud crabs undergo molting during the period of
quarter moon phases; during high tides; and mostly at night time as shown in the following

a. The research paper titled “A preliminary study on the response of mangrove mud
crab (Scylla serrata) to different feed types under drive-in cage culture system” published by the
Journal of Ecology and Natural Environment Vol. 1(1), pp. 007-014, April, 2009 showed data on
extent of molting. It has been observed that majority of mud crabs undergo molting during the
period of quarter moon phases; during high tides; and mostly at night time as shown in the
following Table.

b. In Myanmar, the practice is that fisherfolk harvest mud crabs from the wild over 4-5
days during the full moon period. After capture, the mud crabs are put in individual containers
then after 4-5 days the stock will molt. The stocks have size range of 65-100 grammers or 7.0-
7.5 to 8.5cm carapace width. This particular cases goes to show that the period of molting of
mud crab coincide with the occurrence of 3rd quarter moon phase which occurs after full moon.

c. In Thailand, mud crabs are abundant in mangrove swamps. Based on studies, mud crab
catching is related to tidal cycle: fishing season or highest catch occurred during spring tides that
coincide with the new moon and full moon. Since newly-molted mud crabs will take cover in
their shelters or burrow in the mud to allow their shells to harden in 3-4 days, hence only hard-
shell mud crabs are expected to be caught.
d. In the paper of Alice Fe D. Lavina (Courtship and Mating Behaviour of Scylla serrata in
Captivity), she cited Arriola’s paper (1940) stating that an autotomized appendage would resume
its normal form and shape after 4 succesive molts. But her finding in her experiment was that a
regenerate would assume the normal form and shape upon one molting activity; in cases where a
body part was just regenerating and another injury occurs on its pair molting is delayed; and it
was observed that the other regenerate's growth was delayed and the newly injured part would
start regenerating.

3. Based on what has been presented in the reference literature, a trial on the culture of mud
crab was conducted in a fishing community of Barangay Tamulaya, Polillo, Quezon. This was
conducted as preparatory to the engagement of a fisherfolk association in the small-scale
production of mud crab in pen (a form of aquasilviculture project). The activities conducted are
presented in the following pictures.

4. The picture below shows the stocks without chelipeds before culture period. Stocking
rate was 29 individuals per sq.m. Feeding rate was 10% of the total biomass and feeds consisted
of fish and shells. After the culture period of 18 days or on Sept 12 almost all of the stocks (27
out of 29 pcs) had molted but most of the pincers were relatively small and 2 with full pincers;
about 3 pcs of mud crab had soft-shells a condition of newly-molted mud crab.
5. The Graph below shows the change in carapace width frequency distribution of the
stocks on August 25 (time of stocking) and September 12 (time of harvest) or after 18 days of
culture. Survival was 100%.

6. During the culture period, the phases of the moon were as follows: August 20 (new
moon); August 28 (1st quarter moon); Sept 5 (full moon); Sept 12 (3rd quarter).

7. Based on the results of the trial and the reference literature, the following can be

a. The fishing season of mud crab or when there is plenty of catch occures during the
period of spring tides (few days before and after new and full moon phases). This means that
molting around the new and full moon is absent or negligible and that molting has its peak period
around the 1st quarter and 3rd quarter moon phases.
b. Molting could had occurred 4-5 days after stocking or August 28-29 which coincided
with the 1st quarter moon phase or after the new moon phase. Then on Sept 2-3 (closed to Sept 5
with full moon phase) which was 3-4 days after molting the shell underwent hardening and the
mud crabs started to look for food in the open wild.

c. Molting had also occurred on or a few days before Sept 12 (3rd quarter moon phase)
which was the time of harvest. On Sept 12 harvest, 3 out of the 29 individuals had soft-shells.

8. Molting occurs when there is the formation of a brown membrane sticking to the
underneath side of the carapace which is a precursor to the new shell and that the remains of the
mud crab that molted contains all the parts except for the organs like heart and the digestive
system as shown in the pictures below.

9. Molting occurs when the mud crab is fat or robust or meaty and when there is supply of
calcium from the feeds like shells (golden kohol, bagongon, and balukaret) as shown below.
10. Since the cage is installed in natural body of water along the edge of natural canal
(wherein water depth is 1 foot during the lowest tide) within the mangrove area which is
subjected to semi-diurnal tidal fluctuation (2 high tides and 2 low tides), water exchange occurs
every 6 hours. This situation prevents the accumulation of organic sediments and wastes coming
from the stocks. This condition makes water inside the cage of high water quality (dissolved
oxygen, pH, and temperature). The Illustration below shows the source of dissolved oxygen in
the water and different reactions on dissolved oxygen with ammonia and hydrogen sulfide
formed from organic wastes and removal of acidic water and soil through water flow or
exchange. High water pH of about 8 in the project site facilitates the molting process.

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