Of the several species of freshwater Mussel native to the British
Isles the Swan Mussel is the most commonly sold in aquatic retail
These molluscs are not easy to keep, since they are filter
feeders. Personally I would not recommend that they be kept
in indoor aquaria, as they have a better chance of survival
in large outdoor ponds that have plenty of natural wildlife
and organisms such as frog spawn, daphnia and plant remnants
harbouring various bugs etc.
In nature these molluscs live in and around mud on the pond
floor were they feed on very small particles of decaying vegetation
and small live foods. Their method of feeding is by passing
food to the mouth on a belt of cilia (tiny flailing whip like
processes) driven mucus. An instant siphoning system.
To recreate a muddy pond bottom soil is often used and this
does not appear to cause the Mussel any ill effects.
Please note that all such Mussels are sensitive to aquatic
medications, in particular those which contain copper.
In aquaria many aquarists', myself included, feed these creatures
on commercial liquid foods. This food is best positioned towards
the inhalant siphon and the food tube given a good squirt. Liquid
food can pollute aquaria so read on for the safe use of this
particular food. I make use of infusoria produced by Apple Snails
as a supplementary food source for Swan Mussels. The method
works as follows:-
1. Acquire several Apple Snails and feed these Snails regularly
until their tank is full of infusoria.
2. Remove the Mussel from its aquaria and place into a feeding
3. Squirt a lot of liquid food into this feeding tank. Scoop
out a couple of pints of water from the Snail aquaria and add
this as well. Leave the Mussel, for several hours, in this tank
to feed. Please note that ample aeration is required.
4. This procedure should take place 3 to 4 times a week, in
order to keep the Mussel well fed thus in good health.
A friend of mine checks that this method is working, and if
the Mussels are gaining weight, by weighing the Mussels once
Did you know? - The Swan Mussel is known to science as Anodonta
As part of their life cycle Swan Mussels produce, in spring,
a parasitic larvae known as Glochidia, which attach themselves
to fish. Glochidia are, in fact, baby Mussels. After an attachment
is made a cyst is formed that feeds off the body mucus of the
host fish. To be honest they do very little harm (do you know
different?) and, usually, drop off within a few weeks going
on to develop into adult Mussels.
Did you know? - These molluscs can grow to a size of 15cm and
live for 12 years (usually much less in aquaria/ponds).
What is the main purpose of keepng Swan Mussels in aquaria?
To act as a breeding station for both the European and Chinese
species of Bitterling (please note that a licence, available
fom MAFF, may be needed for keeping certain Bitterling species)
found in our hobby. As this breeding process is well documented
we will just mention that, while acting as a temporary home
for these eggs, the Mussel keeps the fish eggs well oxygenated
by passing a constant flow of water, through use of its gills,
We conclude our article with a WARNING. Swan Mussels can die
very quickly and without warning. They very quickly (as happens
with L number Loricarins and Borneo Suckers) pollute the aquarium/pond
water so keep watching, and weighing, these particular creatures.
By Majid Ali