How to: Golden Clam Care!

Discussion in 'Freshwater Invertebrates' started by LWormy, Jul 4, 2016.

  1. LWormyValued MemberMember

    Hello guys! I have been keeping Golden Clams (aka Asian clams) for a few years now. I often see a lot of articles on the internet about how hard they are to keep and how they are time bombs that would eventually destroy your carefully monitered tank, but that is simply not true. If you take some time to prepare the tank before you add them and keep your water pristine, they can be extremely tolerant to varying conditions. Here's some simple facts about them:

    Size: 1-2"

    Color: Anywhere from brown to golden yellow

    pH: Some claim they can live in around 6, but I personally keep them in 8.2. Higher pH is more beneficial for their shell. You can mix pieces of grind up cuttlefish bone/snail shell into your substrate to raise your pH and supplement them with calcium. If their shell turns white after you get them (sometimes they come with worn shells so don't worry about that) something is wrong.

    Temperature: 60-80, extremely tolerant and as long as oxygen are plenty and slowly acclimated, they can do well in almost any reasonable temperature. They especially like cooler water (60-low 70s)

    Water Movement: I have them in a 10 gallon tank with no filter and pump whatsoever and in my 32 gallon with a SunSun 304B Canister and a diy 200 gph refugium. They are very tolerant and despite what people say they don't need fast moving water. However, you want to make sure that you don't filter out all their food in the water. IT IS POSSIBLE to have them in heavily filtered tank but it is very hard so I suggest against that unless you have very messy fish (goldfish) to "dirty up" the tank for you.

    Tank Size: I successfully kept them in 5 gallon, 10 gallon, and 32 gallon tanks. They don't really move around after they get settled so tank size doesn't matter as much to them. However, I would advise against keeping them in anything under a 5 gallon. What really matters is the availability of food and stability in water chemistry, and we'll get into that later. If you have plenty of food in the tank and fairly cloudy but nitrogenous waste-free water, you can keep one clam per gallon.

    Tank Mates: Any non-aggresive tankmate is fine. They are tough little creatures and as long as you don't have puffers or large crayfish/cichlids that can get through their shell they will be ok.

    Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate: 0ppm, 0ppm, and <5ppm! This is very important! They naturally lives in VERY clean water free of excessive nitrogenous waste so the water has to be very clean.

    Special Equipments: A dirt substrate is ideal, and when I say dirt, I mean just dirt. Don't cap it with anything otherwise your tank won't be as "full of life" as you want it to be. This means that it would be best to not have any filter or pump either. The clams do best in a heavily planted Walstad style tank.

    What you REALLY need to keep them successfully:

    Substrate: An uncapped dirt substrate is the best you can use. They provide a source of food for your clams because tiny particle of dirt will be suspended in the water and that will make up a significant portion of your clam's diet. They are also easy to burrow in. If that doesn't work for you, you can cap it with sand or gravel but you won't be able to support as many clams. I suggest miracle grow soil or regular topsoil you can get in your local garden store. They also help your plants grow better.

    Plants, plants, and more plants! They thrive in heavily planted tanks because the plants support microfaunas that the clam feeds on. They also get rid of nitrate in the water in order to simulate you clam's natural clean habitat. It is a good idea to have lots of emerged plants or grow terrestrial houseplants like lucky bamboo or pothos from your tank (emerged, not submerged! Google "houseplants in aquarium for more info) because they suck up considerably more nitrogen than aquatic plants. Remember, you want close to no nitrogenous waste at all.

    Microfaunas: But the microfaunas don't come out of thin air. You have to get them. For best result, go to a local, unpolluted pond/lake and collect a giant wad of algae or hornwort/anacharis. Also get some scoopfuls of mud from the water. After you cycle your tank and plant it, dump the stuff in you tank. Do not add fish in the tank yet. It will look terrible at first, but let the junk settle and wait for a few hours in order to let the gammarus, daphnia, etc. find hiding places. It is helpful to have fine plants like mosses or hairgrass. You can remove the sticks or rocks the algae come with and take the wad of algae out after a few hours. Squeeze it in the water a few times and shake it to dislodge any microfaunas that mighs still be on there.

    After a few days the free-floating microfaunas would most likely be dead because of the change in their environment. However, the cream of the crop - gammarus and cyclops - will live. Keep the tank fishless for 2 weeks and feed the tank sinking pellets once every 2-3 days to build up the "gunk" those little creatures need to survive. It is also helpful to have hornwort in the tank at that time because the needle they shed can build up a nice layer of food and shelter for the little bugs. When you can see hundreds or even thousands tiny, moving white dots swimming in the water, you've succeeded in making a suitable habitat for clams.

    Adding Clams: After acclimating them to your water, carefully place them (not drop!) on your substrate where they would be able to burrow (preferably without heavy plant growth and such). They should start burrowing after 1-2 hours. Once they cover themselves up with your dirt substrate, they will stick their siphons up to feed. The first 5 month is the most critical because they can live a very long time without food. If you don't have enough food in the tank, they will starve to death. A healthy clam is always sticking out its siphon and if your clam never opens up something's wrong. Check your water level or see if you have enough food in the water.

    Help! My Clams Are Starving to Death: You can save them by always having a large jug of green water handy. First, make sure that your clams are actually starving, not poisoned by excessive nitrogen or copper in the tank. Check your water parameter for any abnormalties. If your water's fine, take out some water so your tank don't overflow, and dump green water in your tank (I put in about 2 gallon of green water per 8 gallons of normal water). Do this once a week for a month and carefully moniter your clams. If you see them actively siphoning and feeding, they will be fine. If they don't, they will likely be goners and don't be too surprised if they die. It happens because some clamse are naturally less resilient than others.

    What to expect from them: Really, not much. They will grow slowly if they get enough food and they will sometimes move around to get a better feeding spot. They will ignore most of your tank inhabitant and same is true the other way around. They are facinating to watch though and bragging to your friends about owning clams is always something special.

    Some photos:
    Here's one with it burrowing in the dirt:

    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
  2. CoradeeModeratorModerator Member

    Nice write up :)
  3. AichmalotizoWell Known MemberMember

    Awesome! It still kinda sounds like their tims bombs for most tanks... But now I want to set one up like this, just for clams and shrimp. You think a sponge filter or corner filter would be alright?
  4. LWormyValued MemberMember

    If you want some water movement, I would just use a pump with either no sponge or coarse sponge so microorganisms won't get trapped there. I found that African dwarf frogs do especially well in the kind of tank clams like because there's plenty of food for them, so maybe you can try that out too. Or you can add a couple vampire/bamboo shrimps and get a filterfeeding community. :D The possibilities are infinite.
  5. cheeseValued MemberMember

    what a neat write up :) I've always been interested in these little clams...a filter feeding community sounds really cool! I may have to look into this. curse you, MTS! hahaha

    Sent from my SGH-I337M using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum mobile app
  6. LWormyValued MemberMember

    Haha thanks! Here some more pictures of the tank I kept the clams in most successfully:
    And the other inhabitants in the tank:
  7. CallieforniaValued MemberMember

    Very very helpful!! I decided against getting them because I don't do live plants in my aquariums. Thank you so much though for the info!!
  8. IcedColdMineWell Known MemberMember

    What do you feed them?? If I put it in my sorta planted tank will it be ok?
  9. AlexolotlValued MemberMember

    How much do you generally spend on Asian clams? I have never kept them, but for me, they’re totally free. A park I frequent has streams overrun by the little buggers, they’re actually pests that are outcompeting native bivalves (they’re almost as bad as zebra mussels are in some places!) Maybe I could collect a few jars of them, keep them in an unfiltered, heavily planted tank, and sell them for really cheap somewhere (maybe ask if my LFS is interested?)

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