Freshwater Mussels

By Robert McCormack

The Freshwater Mussel – Velesunio ambiguus is a native of the Murray Darling System as well as many eastern flowing rivers.  There are a huge number of different species of freshwater mussels in the rivers and lakes of NSW. To help identify what mussels you have in your local stream the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage offers a guide, see 


Its not straight forward as a river can have 2, 3, 4 or more species of mussels in it. Some species in the still water, some species in the faster flowing and some species altogether in amongst each other. For an article on freshwater mussels in eastern NSW, see,  Freshwater Mussels eastern NSW 2017-2018

Two of the more common mussels in NSW are the river and the flood plain mussel.  River Mussels require flowing water to live and breed.  Flood Plain Mussels are the ones aquacultured in NSW as they require still static water and thrive in farm dams or ponds and are perfect for aquaculture, aquaponics and aquariums. For information on mussels in aquariums, see MUSSEL MATES

Mussels are excellent for dams, ponds or fish tanks.  These Mussels grow well in farm dams and breed readily, a minimum of 100 mussels are required to establish a population in a normal farm dam or ornamental pond.

Freshwater Mussels are biological filters, they suck water in, filter algae, plankton and pollutants from the water and eject pure, clean, clear water.  They are the ideal remedy for dirty water, mussels will keep it clean without the need for power filters or chemicals.  People with ornamental ponds full of Koi or Goldfish want clean clear water but without chemicals and filters the water tends to go green with algae.  By adding mussels they filter the water, keeping it clear and clean so perfect for those people looking for environmentally friendly remedy.

People with earthen farm dams growing fish or yabbies grow mussels with them for much the same reason, they are biological filters filtering the algae and bacteria from the dam water cleaning it.  They are especially important if you are swimming in the dam.

The males release sperm into the water column, the females then suck the sperm in with the normal water they take in.  The eggs are then fertilized and incubated inside the female mussel.  Baby mussels ejected by the female and require a host stage to develop into miniature adults.  Fish are the best hosts and any of the native fish such as Silver Perch, Golden Perch and Bass will do as well as the ornamentals like Goldfish and Koi.

Mussels have a large strong foot that looks like a tongue. They use this to push themselves around the dam and will move up and down the dam as the water levels fluctuate. The mussel uses the foot to burrows into the sediments with only the top tip of the mussel shell protruding from the mud.  From this position, the inlet and outlet tubes filter the water.  To capture mussels you need to run your hands along the bottom of the dam and when you feel this round top of the shell you can pull them from the mud.

Freshwater mussels are traditional aboriginal tribal food.  However, we consider them pretty rough tucker, you need to be hungry to eat them. Occasionally you will get pearls in these mussels and they are well suited to a freshwater pearl industry.


Freshwater Mussels (Velesunio ambiguus) are commercially cultured in NSW. If you want a couple for a fish tank, check with your local pet shop. If you want quantities to stock ponds or dams, try:

AustSilvers, Silver Perch and Freshwater Mussel Hatchery:



For further information, see:
Freshwater mussel information:
Freshwater Mussels, Eastern NSW (2017-2018):