clams to replace filter systems - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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  • 1 Post By Flear
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post #1 of 8 Old 11-17-2013, 09:22 AM Thread Starter
clams to replace filter systems

it seems there's a lot of misunderstandings about clams
that and once you have them there's a lack of information about how to keep them

what seems to be known is that clams will slowly starve over the course of many months in tanks
-and that summarizes what is commonly known about clams

other things i've found
-clam will eat phytoplankton
-clams are water filter feeders
(clams do not eat nitrates or ammonium or similar)
-clams do better in a poorly maintained tank than they do in a tank that has pristine crystal clear water

if anyone has experience, it would be greatly appreciated.
could clams be used to replace a water filter system (either HOB, or canister, or sponge, ... whatever)

in my head the theory makes sense, ... but so many things that make sense in my head will fail in reality
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post #2 of 8 Old 11-17-2013, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Flear View Post
clams will slowly starve over the course of many months in tanks
Nope, as long as they receive sufficient food and environmental conditions are correct, there shouldn't be any issues. The catch is FW folks are not use to maintaining inverts in tanks and don't think about meeting specialized feeding requirements. Many FW filtration systems really pull/filter out the food the clams require.

Originally Posted by Flear View Post
-clam will eat phytoplankton
-clams are water filter feeders
Correct - see my previous!
Originally Posted by Flear View Post
(clams do not eat nitrates or ammonium or similar)
Here is the potential issue. Technically, there is no requirement to have any filter in an aquarium, the "natural" aquarium". If there is a balance between the fish, nutrient inputs, plants, etc. BUT as aquarists, we like to add enough fish to make tanks interesting (read that as more fish/volume of water than typically found in nature). This is where filters come in handy - they provide water circulation and provide additional high-oxygen substrate area (media) that enhances bacterial growth and the ability of these aerobic (oxygen-requiring) bacteria to feed and break down the nitrogenous waste products (ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites) that are produced by fish. So, by losing the filter, you lose the excess capacity that we like to have that allows us to stock more heavily and still keep breaking down waste products effectively.

Clams actually produce these nitrogenous waste products as do fish, since they are animals, so they will add to the bioload, not reduce it by any filtering out the chemical wastes. Clams will only remove algae and small critters from the water via feeding.

Originally Posted by Flear View Post
-clams do better in a poorly maintained tank than they do in a tank that has pristine crystal clear water
Perhaps, but it's most likely due to an increase in algae and microscopic animals not being cleared out by excessive filtration. Remember a "poorly maintained" tank in terms of visual appeal (algae and aesthetically "eh") doesn't necessarily mean a tank with poor water quality. Inverts typically are sensitive to ammonia, nitrates and nitrites.

Originally Posted by Flear View Post
could clams be used to replace a water filter system (either HOB, or canister, or sponge, ... whatever)
Nope, for the reasons, see above! They can help maintain clear water, but won't help the biological breakdown of the waste products.

18 species/varieties of fish, 15 species/varieties of plants - The fish are finally ahead of the plants!
*560 gallons (2120 liters) in 5 tanks -> you do the math.

Last edited by DKRST; 11-17-2013 at 10:31 AM.
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post #3 of 8 Old 11-17-2013, 10:37 AM
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Great post DKRST

125 - BGK, chanchito cichlid, pictus cats, silver dollars, palmas bichir
125 - cichlids (severums, bolivian rams, chocolate), rainbows ( turquoise, red), loaches (angelicus, zebra, kuhli and horseface), plecos (BN, RL and clown), denison barbs, tiretrack eel, pearl gouramis, betta
90 - Congo tetras, african knife, upside down cats, spotted ctenopoma, kribensis, delhezzi bichir
2.5 - betta
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post #4 of 8 Old 11-17-2013, 11:08 AM Thread Starter
maybe i'm missing the point, i'm sorry if i am...

healthy bacterial process can reduce to nitrates
plants can process nitrates
(i dono if this is excuses to say "go for it", but it's where my mind said "these are solved already")

i've got a bubble wand on one end of the tank (width of side of tank)
without the filter this would keep things suspended for ... much longer than i'd like as it causes a slow flow in the entire tank.


-i re-red what you wrote, it's the extra surface area provided by the filter system your concerned about, ...
i can't argue that

i do agree clams offer no chemical filtration that many try to claim

the only nitrogen related issue i've had was an ammonia spike that killed half my fish when the PH rose (never know how much ammonium you have till your PH shifts :(
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post #5 of 8 Old 11-19-2013, 12:15 AM
There are a few products you can purchase for filter feeders.Most will make your tank look a merky mess. If you really want clams, here is how we did it years ago. First, you have to use a sponge filter and only a sponge filter. You must also use plants, I used duckweed and java moss, both likely not the best choices as grass type plants would produce more micro organisims. You must place the clams as close to the sponge as possible. Now you must make a batch of very green water, I'm talking pea soup green. Place the green water and a few pieces of gravel into cheap plastic ice cube trays and freeze. The trick is getting enough gravel to wieght down the ice cube. When you're ready to feed, sink the cube about two inches from the clam and let it melt. If you do this twice weekly it will work for a while.

You can get a product called Golden Pearls from that is designed to feed filter feeders. It works great for fish fry that are micro feeders like gouramis or tetras.

Last, if you do the above and the water gets murky, use a temporary HOB and put the clams either in with the media or directly in the current.
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post #6 of 8 Old 11-19-2013, 12:52 AM
rsskylight04's Avatar
brilliant post

Thanks guysfor the excellent thread and detailed responses. This makes me want to add fw clams to my tanks. I know nothing about clams, can you reccommend an on line source ? Will they survive with cichlids, orwill they become dinner? Don't mean to hijack your thread with my questions, but this topic is too interesting to ignore. Thanks

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
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post #7 of 8 Old 11-19-2013, 07:18 AM Thread Starter
for a time i intentionally had greenwater in my tank, this worked till the greenwater crashed, ... and no matter how much greenwater i add it dies off and the water gets clear again within a few days, ... i've given up on that idea.

i have a bucket of greenwater sitting now, (collected from a local stream) this stuff lasts for months it seems without crashing on it's own ... great.

i'm giving the tank some time (a couple months or so) to just sit, adding fresh water till ... i think it's a toxin the dead green water released ... has broken down to allow me to get greenwater in the tank started again.

in it i've got a couple questions.
can you smother clams ?
if clams are present in thick greenwater (k, mine never got pea soup dark) would clams be happy and well fed or would their gills be smothered ?
... i don't remember the other question at the moment :(

also want to add moina to the tank as well (but that's another post/thread)

remembered question ...

fish fry, i'm a little (or a lot) fuzzy about feeding them, ... would greenwater be fine for them ?, or would it be too small/fine and the fry wouldn't do so well, would zoo plankton be better to ensure i have on hand ?

(nothing breeding yet, dono if other tank conditions are right)

this is bad, ... hijacking my own thread... :/
riskylight, by all means have questions, good questions inspire more good questions and learning begins.

a sponge filter though, ... i've gotta look into that.

for what i'm doing with my tank (well ideas & plans) a sponge filter would be great actually, ... going to look into that :)

also looking into algae scrubbers, ... but that's for a whole different thread if i can't find answers on my own first
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post #8 of 8 Old 11-19-2013, 08:32 AM Thread Starter
clams are ...
there are clams & mussels.

searching for info is ... frustrating
everything goes back to mussels due to the pearl industry
great we can turn our tanks into money makers

mussels are also known for having what's considered a parasite form during their youth where they attach to the gills of fish. ... i guess this is an evolutionary stage that provides the baby mussel with phytoplankton till it's old enough to have it's muscle systems developed properly ... as they grow they then leave the fish, ... that initial parasitic stage i think is little more than an irritation. if the fish is large enough i guess, it might prove dangerous to small fish. ... either way the warning was enough for me to say "not going there"

information on clams & mussels after that is sketchy
as henningc mentioned use greenwater to feed the clams (which i think that method is brilliant)
on the net feeding clams is "well they eat nitrates and/or ammonia" ... that's the majority of the answers found in the hobby, ... followed by your clams are doomed to starve over many months to a year, more searching can find the way to tell if your clams are doing well is measuring their size, if they are growing your doing good, if they are not growing, you may be in trouble.

and more searching, ... well in the hobby there are very very few sources, ... you could count them on one hand that said 'greenwater"

outside of the hobby, you can find phytoplankton easily.

feeding your bivalves is then easy 'greenwater'

in the hobby as i mentioned above is "dirty tanks weem to suport them easier and prstine clean tanks" (one of the search results i've found), ... found a couple that people are creating their own feed to spot feed them, syringe or turkey baster i think, ... the only one that comes to mind one person was feeding cooked cows blood or something (easy enough to get from your steak). ... i think that's due to a large unknown about how to take care of clams. ... easier to look at marine forums on taking care of clams...

that reminds me, i want to see if there are any photosynthetic freshwater clams :) if there are they've gotta have nice colors :) in coral tanks high nutrients are considered the death of coral though as it unbalances the symbiotic algae in the coral and one dies, then the other if nutrients are high, ... high nutrients are something of a given in freshwater :(


otherwise, this thread, like many of my threads are full of curiosities of "what about this random seemingly crazy idea ? i want some input by more experience people"

usually when i run out of ideas to search for on my own and something spontaneously comes to mind

like DKRST's concern about removing the filter system (relating to my original curiosity)
henningc suggesting a sponge filter
-maybe one solves the concern for the other

but if henningc stayed on topic i wouldn't have had that insightful idea as an alternative
i'll be honest, i'm on the fence, but i've got more ideas :)

riskylight, ... what i've summarized above about taking care of clams is everything i have found from every source i have come across, ... clams in aquariums (especially freshwater) there is an extreme limit in information

and concerns of "can i smother clams if they are sitting in greenwater?" comes to mind, because there is so little information out there :( their gills and feeding is all in the same organ area.

also due to the lack of knowledge about clams
talking with the supplier of my LFS about "how do you feed your clams?" "they eat nitrates", ... really, ... well so much for expecting healthy clams from them as they don't know how to take care of clams :(

the one clam i got died, ... i don't know if it arrived on the end of it's life, or if it was something going on in the tank, it was far too soon compared to what is said about clams starving to death is all i know, but even that doesn't mean squat
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