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*Vaibhaw Kumar1, Amrita Pritam Shivani1, Minal S. Wagde1, Dr. S. K. Sharma2

1Research Scholar, College of Fisheries, Guru Govind Singh Marg, MPUAT, Udaipur- 313001(India).

2Professor, College of Fisheries, Guru Govind Singh Marg, MPUAT, Udaipur- 313001(India).

*Corresponding author


Holothurians, commonly called sea cucumbers or sea slugs constitute a group of economically important echinoderms. Consumed either fresh or boiled by Japanese, Koreans and Chinese. The important species include Holothuria scabra (sand fish) and Stichopus japonicus (Predominant in Japan and Korea). H. scabra is widely distributed in India, Japan etc. some species live on hard substrates like rock, coral reef etc. and vary in their habitats from foreshore to deep water zones.

Taxonomic classification:

Kingdom : Animalia Phylum : Echinodermata Class : Holothuroidea Order : Aspidochirotida Family : Holothuriidae Genus : Holothuria Species : scabra

Species diversity:

On a worldwide basis, 1200 spices are recorded as belonging to the class Holothuroidea. Along the Indian coast Holothuria scabra is thepredominant species.


It is mainly distributed in the West Pacific Ocean. The Northern limits of its geographic distribution are the coasts of Sakhalin Island, U.S.S.R. and Alaska, U.S.A.; the Southern limit is Tanega-shima in Japan. In China, it is commonly distributed on the coast of Liaoning, Hubei and Shandong Province, Yenta and Qingdao of Shandong Province. In India it is found mostly in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gulf of Manner, Lakshadweep, Palk bay.

Main Producer country:

  • Japan - (7200 tones)

  • Indonesia - (3250 tones)

  • USA - (1800 tones)

  • Papua New Guinea - (1450 tones)

  • India - (51.5 tones)

Why culture Sea cucumber?

  • Breakthrough achieved by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in 1988 in induced breeding of Sea cucumber

  • Much of the area in India is suitable for sea cucumber culture Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep

  • No artificial feed required so economically viable

  • Wide abundance of economically important species

Some commercially important Sea cucumber species found in and around India:

Scientific Name Common Name

Holothuria nobilis Black teat fish

Stichopus japonicas Sandfish

H. atra Lolly fish

H. fuscopuncata Elephant trunk fish

milaris Black fish

Thelenota ananas Prickly red fish

H. fuscogilia White teat fish

Reproductive Biology:

H scabra attains a length of 400 mm and weight of 500g and becomes sexually mature at 18 months. Size at first maturity is 210 mm. Sexes are separate, no sexual dimorphism. Ovary and testes are in form of a tuft of tubules attached to the dorsal mesentery through which the gonoduct passes terminating into gonopore on dorsal side near oral region (Fig.1).Ripe testes are milky whereas the ovaries are translucent with slight red color. Breeds twice in a year with first spawning season from March to May and second from October to December.


Fig.1: Reproductive organ of sea cucumber

Gonadal development:

The gonadal development is distinguishable into five stages such as immature, resting, growing, mature, and post spawning phase. In female during immature and resting phase, ovarian tubules are transparent, short and thin. In growing phase ovarian tubules have opaque spherical, having oocytes 20-120 micron dia. During mature phase tubules are swollen with ripe oocytes 150-200 micron dia. During Post spawning phase, signs of resorption are seen. In males during Stage 1 and 2 testis are hardly distinguishable from ovary, but during Stage 3, the testis branched, whitish with spermatids. During stage 4, tubules grow larger in size. During stage 5 tubules appear evacuated in appearance.

Life Cycle of sea cucumber:

Holothurians usually spawn in the late afternoon or evening or during night. During spawning male releases the spermatozoa first followed by release of eggs by female. Male lifts the anterior end and performs swaying movements, start releasing sperm (1-2 hrs.), Females if nearby start releasing the eggs. 1 adult female releases 1 million eggs (spherical, yellow in color 180-200 micron size). Eggs are spherical, about 180 to 200 microns in size. About 20-30 minutes after fertilization first polar body appears. The first cleavage takes place after 15 minutes and in 3 hours the blastula is fully formed. The gastrula is fully formed after 24 hours. The auricularia larva hatches out after 48 hours. The doliolaria larva grows within 10 days. After 2-3 days it develops into pentactula stage, they transform into juveniles within one month (Fig.2).


Fig. 2: Life Cycle of sea cucumber

1: Hatchery Operation:

  1. Broodstock maintenance unit

  2. Spawning unit

  3. Larval rearing unit

  4. Algal culture unit

1.1: Brood stock Maintenance Unit:

Brood stock is usually collected from commercial catches. FRP tanks of 1 ton capacity with 6'' thick sand at the bottom are used for keeping the breeders. Brooders are stocked @20-30 in one tank. Tank is filled with filtered, clear sea water of 32-35 ppt salinity. Water changed every day and sand changed every fifteen days.Feeding is done with fresh algae (ground into a fine paste) once a week. As the paste settles to the bottom they ingest the same along with the sand. If the feeding is not proper the animals get shrunken and the gonads are reabsorbed. Tanks kept in an air conditioned room (18-25 degree Celsius).

1.2: Spawning unit:

Spawning is carried out in rectangular FRP tanks of about 100 liter capacity. The Provision of an immersion heater, thermometer and aerator in the tanks for thermal stimulation of spawners. Thermal stimulation is done by increasing the temperature of the water from 3-5 degree Celsius. This induces the sea cucumbers to spawning.

1.11: Natural spawning:

The Male and female may release the gametes into the surrounding water naturally without any artificial stimulation.

1.12: Stripping:

The Animals are cut open from dorsal side. Ovary is punctured and eggs are released. Testis is taken out and cut into pieces. Sperm and eggs mixed along with sea water.

1.13: Stimulation through drying and powerful jet of water:

Breeders conditioned earlier are used. Water in bloodstock's tank removed and animals dried in shade followed by a powerful jet of water. Then after 1-2 hrs the animal exhibit swaying movements in the tank and release gametes.

1.3: Larval rearing unit:

After the spawn and eggs are released, the breeders are removed from the tank carefully. The fertilized eggs are removed to the rearing tanks. The Auricularia larva hatch after 48 hours. Healthy ones occupy the surface while the dead ones settle at the bottom and are siphoned out. Healthy larva are collected in a sieve and released into larval rearing tanks containing clean, filtered sea water @300-700 nos. /l.

Larva is fed on micro algae like: Isochrysis galbana Dicrateria, Dunaliella, two times a day about 20000 to 30000 cells per ml of rearing tank water is sufficient initially. After 4 to 5 days, the larvae may be fed with mixed culture of phytoplankton mainly having Chaetoceros.

1.3.1: Environmental factors affecting rearing:


Ideal range


27-29 degree Celsius

Dissolved oxygen

More than 5 ppm







Under the above conditions of rearing, the auriclaria develops to Doliolaria larva on 10th day. The doliolaria larva transforms into Pentactula larvae within 2-3 days. The Pentactula is the creeping stage. Late Doliolaria larvae settle on hard surface in the tank. Hence artificial settling bases are provided: (Polythene sheets with algae and diatoms settled on them. Polythene sheets suspended in sea water holding tanks filled with filtered algal extract) for them to settle. After 1 month, large size juveniles of 15-20mm size are separated and put in tanks with very fine sand @200-500 nos. /m2.

1.4: Algal culture unit:

The hatchery should have an algal culture unit to provide sufficient quantity of algae such as Isochrysis galbana, Dicrateria, Dunaliella, Chaetoceros.

Advantage of sea cucumber:

  1. Many species harvested and dried for export for use in Chinese cuisine as Hoi Sam and in China, Korea and Japan as beche-de-mer (trepang), Namake, Kenok, Minowata.

  2. Some varieties of sea cucumber (known as gamat in Malaysia or trepang in Indonesia) are said to have excellent healing properties. There are pharmaceutical companies being built based on gamat. Extracts are prepared and made into oil, cream, or cosmetics. Some products are intended to be taken internally.

  3. Single study conducted on an unreported number of mice found intraperitoneal injection of sea cucumber extract to be somewhat effective in high doses (100 mg/kg) against internal pain.

  4. It also contains all the fatty acids necessary to play a potential active role in tissue repair.

  5. On December 21, 2007, a study published in PLoS Pathogens found that pectin from Cucumaria echinata impaired the development of the malaria parasite when produced by transgenic mosquitoes.

H. scabra alone is produced in a limited manner. The hatchery production for seed should be scaled up to meet the growing demands. Other commercially important species like Holothuria nobilis in the Lakshadweep should be tried for seed production. Culture practices have to be taken up in sea cucumbers in large scale in India for earning foreign exchange.


  1. Ayyappan, S. (2006). "Handbook of fisheries and Aquaculture" DIPH, New Delhi, pp. 4287.

  2. James, D. B., Sea Cucumber Culture. In: Handbook on Aquafarming. Marine Product Exports Development Authority, Cochin.

  3. James, D. B. Hatchery Techniques and Culture of the Sea-Cucumber Holothuria scabra. In: CMFRI Transfer of Technology Series, CMFRI Special Publication No. 57.

  4. James, D.B. and James P. S. B. R. 1994. A hand book on Indian sea-cucumbers. CMFRI Special Publication 59:1-46.

  5. James, D. B. 2004. Sea cucumber farming: An eco-friendly practice. Fishing Chimes. 24(8):10-21.

  6. Thomas, P. C., Rath, S. C., Mohapatra (2003). "Breeding and seed production of fin fish and shell fish". pp. 367-368.


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