The Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD), along with wildlife agencies across the U.S., is urging both pet and aquarium stores and aquarium owners to remove and safely dispose of any moss ball plant designed for aquariums after invasive zebra mussels were discovered inside the product.
What is a zebra mussel?
A small mollusk native to freshwaters in Eurasia, the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) was introduced in the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, likely via ballast water. Distinguished by the striped pattern on its shell, zebra mussels are small in size (<2”) but potentially very large in impact.
Where were they found?
In pet supply stores across Georgia. Officials were alerted about this situation after reports from Washington State indicated zebra mussels were discovered attached to and inside these moss ball plants, like the “Betta Buddy Marimo Ball,” found at a local PetCo store. Visits to multiple pet chain stores in Georgia confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in this and other products. PetCo stores across the nation, including Georgia, have since removed the product from their shelves. However, other pet store owners and operators are encouraged to check for this product, and if found, to immediately remove it and safely dispose of it. Consumers are urged to not purchase this product from stores or online. If you have purchased this item in the last month, dispose of it properly and sanitize your tank(s).
Currently, there is not a known established population of zebra mussels in Georgia state waters, and we are hopeful that with the public’s help that we can keep that streak going.
Why are zebra mussels a concern?
Zebra mussels cause millions of dollars in damage to boats and water intake pipes while creating ecological harm to native mussels and other aquatic wildlife. As such, WRD officials are actively seeking the help of the public to maximize efforts to prevent the introduction and establishment of these destructive mussels in our state.
What to do if you have these products in your aquarium:
- Destroy the moss ball by freezing for 24 hours or boiling for at least 10 seconds before putting it in a sealed ziploc-style bag and disposing of it in the trash.
- Clean infected aquariums by first removing the fish from the aquarium and applying household bleach (one cup of bleach per gallon of water). Let it set for 10 minutes before disposing of the water down a sink or toilet.
- Aquarium owners should then disinfect filters, gravel and structures with a solution of bleach before disposing of the water down the toilet. Here is more info from the US Fish and Wildlife Service about how to safely clean your aquariums.
- Consumers may also contact their local WRD office for additional information on proper discarding techniques.
- Most importantly, DO NOT flush this product, or the mussels, down the toilet and DO NOT discard them outside.