Have you noticed mussel shells along the shoreline? Wondered how they entered your pond and what role they play in the ecosystem? They’re very adaptable and actually serve as an environmental barometer.

Freshwater mussels are found in most ponds and streams. They have a unique method of migrating to new homes, hitchhiking. Juveniles attach themselves to fish for days or months. When this stage is complete, they drop off the host fish and begin life on the bottom.

In shallow water, they leave a trail while pushing themselves with a strong foot. If a pond goes dry, they may survive for two months if dug in the ground. Depending on the species and region, mussels may live from 10 to 150 years.

Good mussels can strengthen the health and stability of a pond or stream. As they breathe, mussels feed by filtering plankton from the water. They may filter 40 liters of water daily. Since they are considered an integral part of the aquatic food web, mussels support survival and vitality of other critters including muskrats, wading birds, and game fish.

There are many good guys in the mussel world, but beware of the devastating “zebra” species. Zebras cause severe damage by attaching themselves to any and everything in your pond. If someone suggests stocking mussels to clear a murky pond, contact a pond management professional. There are other options.