Like all species of freshwater mussel, the kidneyshell filters its food from the water column with its gills (2) (4) and bacteria and algae are its primary food sources (2).
Similarly to many other mussel species, spawning involves the male releasing sperm into the watercourse, where a female can collect it by filtering it through its gills, allowing fertilisation to take place (2). The kidneyshell, as a member of the Order Unionidae has a somewhat unusual life cycle. The juvenile form of this mussel is an obligate parasite so it must spend this life stage attached to the gills of a host fish (2) (4). The juvenile form is called a ‘glochidum’, and the female kidneyshell mussel releases many glochidia together in packets. This increases the chances of ingestion by a host fish, due to their similarity to usual prey items. Once the packet is inside of the mouth of the fish the glochidia are released and flow through the gills (2) (5), where each glochidium may attach and become encysted. After a period of time the larval glochidium transforms into a juvenile mussel and becomes detached from the gills, before dropping onto the substrate where it can begin life as a free-living mussel (2) (5). Five host fishes have been identified for the kidneyshell, the blackside darter (Percina maculata), fantail darter (Etheostoma flabellare), johnny darter (Etheostoma nigrum), Iowa darter (Etheostoma exile), and brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) (5).
The kidneyshell, along with other North American freshwater mussels, is prey for muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus), racoons (Procyon lotor), American mink (Neovison vison), North American river otters (Lontra canadensis), and some birds (5).