Invasive zebra mussels found in moss balls sold in aquarium supply stores


AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – Those who have aquariums with moss ball plants may have an unwanted guest in their tank.

Invasive zebra mussels have been found hitchhiking on these products, warns the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Moss balls are algae sold under the names Beta Buddy Marimo Balls, Mini Marimo Moss Balls, and Marimo Moss Ball Plant. They are sold separately and sometimes provided with the sale of Betta fish, according to TPWD.

Zebra mussels are tiny shellfish with triangular, brownish shells, often with zebra-like stripes, that may be attached to or inside the moss balls. They are highly invasive and pose a risk of being introduced into new water bodies in Texas and causing harm.

“Petco stores have been working diligently to remove these products from their shelves and I have informed PetSmart of the presence of zebra mussels within this product,” said Jarret Barker, TPWD Assistant Law Enforcement Commander. “We urge any other pet and aquarium or retail store selling these ‘moss balls’ to remove this product from shelves and discontinue future sale.”

Aquarium owners are urged to stop buying the product and to dispose of any that have been bought by drying, freezing, or placing the moss balls into a plastic zipper bag and then disposing of it in a garbage bag.

Aquarium water should be replaced, and filters/cartridges replaced or disinfected. Aquarium water can be disinfected prior to disposal by adding one cup of bleach per gallon and allowing it to sit for 10 minutes before disposing the water down the drain. This method can also be used to disinfect gravel, filter, and other structures, and is highly recommended if zebra mussels are found attached to the moss or in the aquarium.

“Zebra mussels have already been introduced into many Texas lakes and are causing changes to the ecosystem along with damage to boats, water supply and control infrastructure,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director. “It is important that we take all possible precautions to prevent them from being introduced elsewhere.”

Aquarium owners are urged to never dump their tanks and to learn about alternatives to aquarium dumping by visiting the TexasInvasives website.

“Invasive species such as these zebra mussels and snails can hitchhike in aquatic plants sold for aquarium use,” said Monica McGarrity, senior scientist for Aquatic Invasive Species. “It is important for staff at stores as well as customers to always check aquarium plants for hitchhiking organisms and to alert store management and not sell or buy plants with mussels, snails, or other organisms attached.”

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