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What Is a Flame Scallop?

By L. Whitaker
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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A flame scallop, also known as a rough fileclam, is a red-colored bivalve mollusc that is native to the Caribbean Sea. This creature belongs to the Limidae family, with the scientific name Lima scabra. Despite the name, it is not related to scallops except in appearance; distant relatives of this marine animal include cephalopods, such as octopuses, and gastropods, such as snails. This creature breathes and filters phytoplankton through its gills. Flame scallops are notoriously difficult to maintain in captivity.

The outer shell of the flame scallop is rough and red-colored, and it features white and red tentacles around the mouth. The red color of these molluscs is caused by their high number of carotenoids. A subspecies of Lima scabra is known as the electric flame scallop or flashing flame scallop. This is a bioluminescent variety that features an electric-looking blue flash around the lips that is believed to attract plankton.

Flame scallops can grow up to 3 inches (7.62 cm) when fully mature. These creatures are naturally hermaphroditic, tending to be male at lesser maturity and female later in life. Specimens that are larger than 2 inches (5.08 cm) are most likely female and over two years old. For the best outcome when purchasing a flame scallop for home enjoyment, it is recommended to buy one that is not much larger than 1 inch (2.5 cm) and therefore likely to live longer in captivity. Their natural lifespans tend to be three to four years, but many people experience the decline of purchased flame scallops within six to 12 months due to their complicated care needs.

When purchased as an exotic pet, the flame scallop requires an aquarium habitat that is established and thriving, with stable pH and saline levels. The water cannot contain nitrates or copper, both of which are poisonous to this marine animal, and should have a high level of calcium. Water temperature should be maintained at a range of 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit (22.2-25.56 degrees Celsius). The habitat should not contain any aggressive fish or sea stars that are likely to prey on the flame scallop. Owners of a flame scallop should avoid moving the creature by hand to enhance visibility in the tank, due to this creature's preference for hiding in crevices to avoid capture by prey.

Plankton provided as food for captive flame scallops must be an appropriate particle size for the creatures to digest. A phytoplankton or zooplankton mix of under 1.57 inches (200 mm) can be fed at least daily. To feed flame scallops appropriately, load a pipette with plankton and then allow the food to gently drift into the water close to the individual creature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a flame scallop and where can it be found?

A flame scallop, also known as Lima scabra, is a bivalve mollusk notable for its bright red mantle edges that resemble flames. It inhabits the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Western Atlantic, often found nestled in crevices or attached to coral reefs. These scallops are a popular sight among divers due to their vibrant appearance.

How does the flame scallop move and feed?

The flame scallop has a unique method of locomotion; it claps its shells together to jet water, propelling itself backward. For feeding, it filters plankton from the water using its gills. The scallop's mantle is lined with tiny tentacles that help trap food particles, which are then transported to its mouth.

What makes the flame scallop's appearance so distinctive?

The flame scallop's most striking feature is its bright red or orange mantle with tentacle-like projections that can appear to flicker like flames, hence its name. This vibrant display is often accentuated by small, luminescent blue eyes along the edge of its shell, creating a captivating visual effect underwater.

Is the flame scallop reef-safe for aquarium enthusiasts?

While the flame scallop is a beautiful addition to an aquarium, it is considered challenging to keep in captivity. They require a steady diet of fine particulate food and excellent water quality to thrive. Without these conditions, flame scallops often do not survive long in home aquariums, making them a choice for experienced aquarists.

Can you eat flame scallops?

Flame scallops are not typically harvested for food due to their small size and the difficulty in collecting them. They are more valued for their ornamental appeal in the aquarium trade than as a culinary delicacy. Their role in the ecosystem as filter feeders also makes them more beneficial alive in their natural habitat.

What conservation status does the flame scallop have?

As of my knowledge cutoff in 2023, the flame scallop does not have a specific conservation status. However, like many marine species, it could be affected by threats such as habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. Conservation efforts for coral reefs indirectly benefit species like the flame scallop by preserving their natural habitats.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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