Success with Your Mini-Clams
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Origin. Whereas some 300 species of freshwater mollusks (or clams, or naiads, or unionoids) exist in North America; and whereas mini-clams cost about the same as a snail (another U.S. mollusk); and whereas I do not actually know beyond a reasonable doubt where these little dudes and dudettes hail from; I will therefore go way out on a limb and declare mini-clams residents of North America and entitled to all the rights and privileges that entail thereto subject to any subsequent information forthcoming from the Aqualand International Board of Correctors.
AIBC Note 04.23.05: Shev Vander reports these guys originally came from Asia and are called Asian golden clams. His info comes from the Florida Caribbean Science Center (and you thought they spent all that money on sun blockers). Seems these little dudes (the mini-clams, not the scientists) were introduced into California and have spread faster than Chinese restaurants. They are considered a nasty, invasive pest -- biofoulers, they call them. They (the mini-clams) are particularly destructive in power plants and industrial water systems. Which could explain why none of our wholesalers list them this year.
Water. Since mini-clams build their shells from lime in the water, they probably prefer hard water with a neutral pH or higher. The brown outer layer usually comes with patches missing. Theyíre likely shipped in bags where they rub together. Since you wonít see them at all unless you keep them in bare tanks, donít worry about them. Okay, youíre still worried ... So dry them off and color the white patches with a brown permanent marker and put them back in the water.
Open Shells. Dead clams cannot hold their shells closed. The fish and snails enjoy a change in their daily menu. One dead clam: Not a problem. Several dead clams: Usually a big problem -- ammonia and nitrites of course. However dead clams are a bellwether water test. Something is really wrong in a tank of dead clams. Find out and fix the problem or watch everything else die.
Foods. Mini-clams eat unicellular algae (green water), protozoans, bacteria, and organic particles (very nutritious). They like a bit of silt but not a lot of silt. In labs, they feed them baby food spinach. We can feed them much better on any of the micro-foods intended for baby egglayers or for brine shrimp food. At the very least, crush flake food into tiny bits and add it to their tank. They will eat the minute particles or the bacteria that eat the minute particles. Most mini-clams probably die from starvation. Pristine tanks do not a happy clam make.
LA Freshwater clams always put their best foot forward.
Foot. In the B.C. comic strip, they say ďClams got legsĒ all the time. You canít believe everything you read in the newspapers. Clams got no legs. Clams got feet -- one per clam. Mini-clams extend their translucent foot to pull them along the surface. If youíve ever walked a river bottom, youíve seen the trails of freshwater mussels in the sand in the shallow backwaters. They leave these trails during the day and burrow below when the sun comes up. Ditto mini-clams. If youíve never walked a river bottom, wait till June and get out there.
Add Silt to Taste. As you cooks know, a little silt is good. Too much silt harms mini-clams. It probably blocks their siphon and interferes with breathing.
Other Threats. In the wild, gravel mining (gravel pits) crushes them and buries them. Raccoons love them. In your tank (keep raccoons out of your tank) ammonia, low pH, and low calcium pose problems. Heavy metals (especially copper) will kill them. Anything that kills snails (the Speedy Gonzalez of the mollusk world) will kill mini-clams. And, as we mentioned earlier, most mini-clams die from starvation.
Filter Feeders. Mini-clams suck water in thru one end of their siphon, digest any goodies in there, and excrete the other stuff out their outflow -- just like your canister filter on a much smaller scale. Their inflow siphon has tiny tentacles that strain out too large particles like your canister filter. Bacteria contain lots of nutrition -- especially amino acids. If you have green water or cloudy water, put some mini-clams on the team.
Reproduction. You probably donít want your mini-clams to reproduce. Males release sperm into the water. Females siphon in sperm and fertilize their eggs. They keep the eggs in their gills for a bit and then release multifarious parasitic offspring called glochidia. These baby clams get breathed into fish gills and clamp on. They suck fish juice until they grow into smaller versions of their parents and fall to the bottom. Clamp on. Clamp off. Glochidia that clamp onto the outside of your fish get walled off into cysts and may explain some of those incurable diseases that last forever.
When we couldnít get mini-clams, we ordered 140 of these slightly larger
filter feeders. Seems their multiferous and multifarious offspring
are parasitic on fish and can kill them when they get in their
gills. Rather than getting steamed, we steamed these and ate them
with shrimp sauce. Not bad. Donít bother getting either
Frank M. Greco, Rock Forest, Quebec, Canada, April 17, 2007
Hi folks! Love your site. I'd like to pass along to you some info on the
Asian clam. You mention that the young are parasitic on fish. In fact, they
are not. Asian clam larvae are brooded in the parent's gills, and then
released through the excurrent siphon into the water column as active
post-larval juveniles. Once released, the juveniles are weak-swimming and
are usually found near the bottom of the water column. They never, ever
touch a fish. Makes them perfect inhabitants for a tank (especially a river
tank). The mini-mussels you mentioned (called Pilsbryoconcha exilis) may
well cause problems, as you mentioned. I have not had this happen in the 2+ years I have maintained them in both my tanks and ponds, but it does pay to be careful with them. OTOH, the empty shells make great habitat for loaches.
A: Thanks for your input, Frank. I'll add it to my mini-clam page. I've kept them for myself and haven't noticed any tendecy for the clamettes to grab onto fish. I did get the parasitism info from a government report (mine, not yours). LA
Last Words. You canít beat mini-clams as trouble-free tank residents -- if you keep them in fish free aquariums. Their main disadvantage: They disappear below the gravel. This may be part of the reason that most mini-clams die of starvation. LA.
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