Artisanal half-pearl culture has been shown to provide livelihood and economic opportunities for coastal communities in Tanzania that depend directly on exploitation of marine resources. However, these pilot research studies have been supported by donor organisations and the economic feasibility of such development has not yet been assessed. Furthermore, there is little understanding of the costs required to establish pearl farms and the relative impacts of farm size on production, running costs, profitability and risks involved in production. The aim of this study was to develop economic models for subsistence level half-pearl culture in Tanzania. Models were generated for various scenarios relating to farm size and products (i.e. half-pearls and juvenile oyster or ‘spat’ collection) and they give detail on infrastructure costs, operational costs and income generated for various levels of operation. We concluded that the most profitable model for community-based pearl farming is to culture at least 600 oysters for half-pearl production. However, for communities to be able to run a sustainable and profitable enterprise, development of a sustainable source of oysters is crucial. Farmers can also generate income from collection of juvenile oysters and their subsequent sale to pearl farmers, but this is less profitable than half-pearl farming and requires a longer operational period before profits are made. Like pearl farming, there were major benefits or economies of scale with the largest farms tested providing greatest profit and/or a shorter time required to reach profitability. Our results provide a valuable source of information for prospective pearl farmers, donors, funding bodies and other stakeholders, and valuable extension information supporting further development of pearl culture in Tanzania.