Of the several species of freshwater Mussel native to the British Isles the Swan Mussel is the most commonly sold in aquatic retail outlets.

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 tank.

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 a month.

Did you know? - The Swan Mussel is known to science as Anodonta cygnea.

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, over them.

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