How to Keep and Care for Freshwater Clams in Aquariums
Clams (bivalves) are wonderful additions to the aquarium. Undue to popular belief, they are not difficult to keep successfully in a properly maintained and aged home aquarium.
What Do Clams Eat?
Clams are filter feeders meaning they acquire life-sustaining nutrients by filtering the water around them. In most home aquariums, there are not enough proper suspended particles throughout the water in order to sustain the bivalve’s life. In cases such as these, the clams require supplemental feeding or they will starve.
Clams can survive for quite a while without food—it is an unfortunate fact that this aspect of their anatomy leads to their ultimate demise in the hands of inexperienced keepers. Their clams live for at times several months until the day they are ultimately found dead. A dead clam is no laughing matter.
Keep Your Clams Alive
When a clam perishes in an aquarium it will lead to a deadly ammonia spike that can quickly kill the other inhabitants of the tank. That is one downside of keeping clams and mussels in the home aquarium; they bury themselves in the substrate and are difficult to locate when dead. In a heavily planted tank, this can mean days of hard work tearing out and replanting uprooted plants. However, there is a way around this.
To keep clams contained in the aquarium place them in a single serve applesauce container. Poke holes throughout the container to aid in water flow through the sand. Fill the containers with a fine substrate such as sand. Three or four small clams can be housed per container. Larger clams may need a container to themselves; it depends entirely on their size.
When doing tank maintenance it is advisable to remove the containers and dig the clams out. Dispose of any that are dead. Dead clams smell like rotting, fishy flesh. Clams that refuse to close their shells are dead, dying or injured. They should be watched carefully preferably in a quarantine tank until observed acting normally.
How Do You Know if a Clam is Healthy?
Normal clams are quick to action. When the water is disturbed around and over them, they will close their shells. This is a natural defense mechanism and a good indication of health.
A well-fed clam will show visible growth over time. Measure each clam before adding to the aquarium. Once or twice a month remove them from their enclosures and measure again. If growth is happening and continues, the clams are feeding properly. No visible growth may mean they are starving. In the case of clams that are at their full size, time will tell if they are feeding. It is a good idea to have differing ages as the growth of the juveniles can be used to judge the whether or not the adults are feeding.
A Clam Is Not a True Filter
Freshwater clams do not clean their environment as many people claim. Though they are filter feeders these creatures act more like animals rather than plants. They do not remove nitrate and ammonia. They add these chemicals to their enclosures. They are animals—not plants.
Clams are sensitive to their environment and ammonia can be particularly deadly.
What clams do remove quite efficiently are various forms of suspended algae. A grouping of a few small heavily feeding clams can clear the water in a 5-gallon aquarium within hours. They also filter out tiny creatures from the water. In a sense, they are filterers, just not the kind many pet stores market them as; clams are filter feeders, not filters. You do have to keep up with tank maintenance when housing clams.
Questions & Answers
Do clams open by themselves?
Do dead clams smell rotten?
My turtle got his toe stuck in my freshwater clam, how do I get it unstuck without hurting the clam?!
It should let the turtle go on its own.Helpful 14
Can a freshwater clam live with a goldfish?
Yes, as long as your aquarium has fantastic filtration.Helpful 12
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