Dead clam - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 4 Old 03-21-2008, 04:19 PM Thread Starter
Dead clam

I had two freshwater clams in my community tank until today. I know they can be hard to keep fed, so I planned to feed them the Kent Invert food as if they were saltwater, which other have used to great success. The same time I got the clams however, my tank had a huge green water algae bloom (thanks to some new lights). I'm getting it under control, but the water is still significantly green, and I haven't bothered to feed the clams since they supposedly eat green water, and I figured they might as well help me out!

At some point either overnight or this morning one of the clams kicked the bucket. The other one is still alive- it closes up when I lightly tap its shell. They're both about 1" in diameter, so I know they aren't old. Water params- 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 8 nitrate, 78.6 F, pH 7.4

Any ideas why it died? I just want to prevent other one from going the same way.
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post #2 of 4 Old 03-22-2008, 12:04 AM
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For starters, I'm wondering where the clams came from?

Most species of freshwater clams are colder water animals, and temps in the upper 78's are just too much for them to handle. The saltwater food isn't going to do a thing for them, other than pollute the tank. These clams thrive strictly on algae. I've kept them already, I had one that lived 3 yrs in a 10 gallon tank. They have very specific requirements, and not something to add to a community tank.

Clams need sand, deep enough for them to bury in. They need enough space to move around when they want/need to. They need very good water quality with massive amounts of food. The green water is the best food for them, though it will make your tank look "dirty".

What fish are in the tank? There is no bottom feeding fish or algae eating fish that is going to be compatible with them, and some other types will bother them too. Even if the fish don't actually get to eat them, they will bother them enough to cause stress, and the stress is lethal.

If you want to try to keep the other clam alive, my suggestion is this:

Get yourself a 10 - 15 gallon tank, 3 inches of silica sand (not play sand or saltwater sand), and a good supply of algae. Set the heater at its lowest temp to keep it from fluctuating too much, and toss in a few floating plants. Simulate their natural habitat as much as possible... then you might have a chance of keeping the other one alive for a while. Eventually it will get too big to keep it properly fed in an aquarium, so please don't expect it to live long term. There is a reason these are found in lakes and not pet stores. Any pet store stocking them and not warning people about their care needs is very irresponsible. A dead clam can pollute a tank bad enough within 24 hrs to wipe out everything else in the tank.

Good Luck. If you need more help, please ask.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #3 of 4 Old 03-23-2008, 08:58 AM Thread Starter
Thanks for responding! I was keeping it in my community tank- lots of bottom dwellers, that, while not aggressive, probably bothered it a lot. I'm disappointed to hear this information from you- I did a LOT of research beforehand on these little guys and thought I was prepared to take care of them. I've moved the surviving clam to an empty, cycled 10G tank with a sandy bottom and turned the temp way down. I bought it at my LFS, which is usually extremely trustworthy. I've heard them telling off customers for thinking goldfish could go in a 10G and they regularly refuse to sell me certain items, usually fish that are newly in or plants that are not truly aquatic. They probably didn't warn me about the clam because they assumed I knew, they know me well and know that whenever I come in to purchase a fish I've done a lot of research. The clam appears to be the same as the one on liveaquaria:
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post #4 of 4 Old 03-23-2008, 02:28 PM
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While I don't entirely disagree with what that link provided with information, I do disagree with how they worded it and put the information together. It is a bit misleading.

Freshwater clams can be quite tricky to keep, and that information makes it sound pretty easy. There is also a wide range of distribution, and each of those places offers a different biotope situation. Part of keeping these animals successfully is in knowing for sure where they came from in the first place. The other issue is that the waters, even in Aisa, Burma, etc, will still be at temperate levels. Water current, circulation, weather, etc will all play into the temperature of the water. Rain doesn't fall "warm". In the wild these animals go through seasons, which means weather changes, temps change, water quality changes. The food supply in a wild environment is also much more accomidating for something like a clam. A standard aquarium that is well kept and not overstocked is going to offer a very limited supply of food for any clam.

What that website failed to mention is that freshwater clams feed almost constantly, and typical causes of death in an aquarium are lack of food and water temp & params. Filter feeding doesn't mean they will survive strictly on detritous. Their primary diet is still suspended algae and phytoplankton found in the water... and in a natural habitat, the current will allow for enough of the food supply to be constantly rushing past and around the clam, so it is able to feed properly and almost constantly. In an aquarium, the water tends to be much more stagnant. When we reduce the amount of water and put it into a box, while we can keep our fish healthy, if we at the same time provide proper water circulation for a primarily immobile animal, it would be too much for the fish.

Another thing I noticed on that website was that they don't clarify about substrate, the need for the clams to dig themselves in, and how difficult and/or impossible that can be with a gravel substrate. The foot of a clam is muscle tissue... which means it is vulnerable to being cut and scraped by rough substrates. This would open the animal to infection and also prevent it from normal mobility.

Do me a favor?? When you research the animals you're interested in keeping, or just animals in general... don't rely on the things written on "sales sites". The only interest in most of those places is to sell animals. They offer no guarantee on them once they are acclimated to your tank. This means if you screw up, its your loss and the animal's loss, not theirs. Some of these places will offer vague information which keeps people coming back for more when they screw up, not understanding what they're doing wrong.
It is also possible that your LFS isn't familiar with the in depth and long term care of these animals. That wouldn't surprise me at all. Most pet stores out there now don't know squat about 1/2 of what they keep, others don't know squat about most of it. Clams are not your "basics" when it comes to aquarium animals, and this is one reason they are not more popular.

The only way I know the things I do about them is because I've kept them, and I've done a lot of scientific research into them. I learned by trial and error when proper info wasn't available. If you want to research them, first find out where exactly they're coming from... then look at the conditions in that place. If they're coming from Asia... where in Asia? What is the environment like? What are the weather cycles, substrate, food supplies, etc. If they're coming from Burma... same thing. Asia is an awful general location. Count how many biotopes exist in Asia alone...
The Amazon River is a good example for me to use. If you stop in one place, record all the environmental data I listed... then move down the river about 1 mile... everything is different, including water quality. An animal coming from a fast moving river is going to be differently adapted than that of an animal coming from a calm lake... because the environment is different... but it can still be the same species of animal. Think about the many animals that were released into the wild from someone's aquarium... not their natural habitat, but over time and through generations, they are able to adapt. Some more capable of this than others, but the concept is still the same. Freshwater clams are no different, the rules that apply for them are no different.

I hope this helps... sorry it was so long winded.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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