What do mussels eat?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What do mussels eat?” and provide information on what baby mussels eat, how mussels hunt, some types of mussels as well as how to take care of mussels in a pond.

What do mussels eat?

Mussels eat bacteria, detritus, algae, and other aquatic creatures. Some primarily consumed foods include diatoms, small crustaceans, algae, cyanobacteria, coccolithophores, symbiotic algae, and dinoflagellates. Certain organic matter can be eaten by mussels too.

Mussels eat small plankton when they are hungry too. Waste matter excreted by aquatic creatures is fed on by mussels. As mussels have a wide diet, they do not starve and obtain food throughout all seasons.

What do baby mussels eat?

Baby mussels act as parasites and reside in the gills of fish. Younger mussels eat algae and other small organisms. Some younger mussels also feed on bacteria.

How do mussels hunt?

Mussels filter water to consume food. Filtering of water is done through an inhalant aperture. Once the food enters mussels, filtered water taken in through an inhalant aperture is then excreted. 

Along with the filtered water, waste matter is also expelled using the inhalant aperture. However, juvenile mussels do not use this mechanism to feed. 

What are some types of mussels?

There are many types of mussels present. However, some species found in North America include Fingernail mussels, Zebra mussels, Pearly mussels, and Corbicula.

  • Fingernail mussels are found in both freshwaters and kept as pets in ponds too. They feed on algae and plankton. They also consume plant or animal matter.
  • Pearly mussels are also commonly found in freshwater. Some of these mussels can grow very large, even up to 12 inches. Freshwater mussels have become endangered because of excess human activity.

Larvae of pearly mussels are parasites. They attach to the gills of fish. Some of them attach themselves to frogs or salamanders’ skin. 

The larvae would remain attached to a frog, salamander, or fish’s body till it transforms and becomes independent enough to feed itself.

Many pearly mussels cannot survive in a pond. Only some species of them survive in a pond while most of the pearly mussels thrive in freshwater. 

Some species of pearly mussels can multiply in ponds and affect the survival of fish. This is because mussels can prevent algae from growing and there can be competition between mussels and fish to eat algae.

If you want to remove mussels from a pond, drain water from the pond and keep it dry for many weeks. Avoid catching wild fish from streams and adding them to ponds to prevent mussels from multiplying further.

  • Zebra mussels have stripes like zebras though they are dark and light-colored stripes. There are two kinds of zebra mussels namely zebra mussel proper and quagga mussel. 

Zebra mussels are considered to be invasive and should not be transferred from one water body to another.

  • Corbicula is another invasive species of mussels. If they are properly taken care of, these mussels can multiply rapidly in a pond. Corbicula filters water and takes in bacteria or algae.

If there is a huge population of Corbicula in a pond, the pond water might be filtered 2-3 times a week.

Similar to zebra mussels, Corbicula can compete with fish in ponds for food and end up depleting algae. You can get rid of corbicula by draining water and keeping them dry for 2 weeks.

How to take care of mussels in a pond?

Keep 3 to 5 inches of sand in your pond or aquarium before introducing mussels. The temperature of the water should be between 73-76 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put mussels on its side and they will position themselves. If mussels remain still without any movement, it means they are comfortable in the pond. However, if you observe them constantly moving, it likely means that they are not comfortable.

Powdered fish food can be occasionally fed to mussels. If there are other fishes present in ponds or tanks, mussels are likely to obtain food. Feed them less than twice a week.

Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the water. Also, check nitrate and ammonia levels. Use native mussels instead of invasive ones. Invasive ones can compete with fish for food.

Avoid introducing mussels that go through a parasitic larval stage. This is because they can attach to your fish and derive nutrition from them. Even though it does not harm the fish, it is better to avoid bringing them to your pond.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What do mussels eat?” and provided information on what baby mussels eat, how mussels hunt, some types of mussels as well as how to take care of mussels in a pond.


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