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Aquarium ‘moss balls’ found to contain invasive zebra mussels

Monday, March 8, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

In dispiriting news, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is urging places that sell aquarium products to remove items known as “moss balls” from their stock after highly invasive zebra mussels were found to be traveling the country on them. According to a press release from TPWD: “These ‘moss balls’ are a species of algae that form green balls up to a few inches in diameter and are sold as an aquarium plant under names such as ‘Betta Buddy Marimo Balls,’ ‘Mini Marimo Moss Balls’ and ‘Marimo Moss Ball Plant.’ They may be sold separately or provided with the sale of betta fish. These moss balls are believed to have been imported from the Ukraine and distributed across the continental U.S.” The agency confirms that Petco stores have been working to remove the product from their shelves, and urges all other stores and aquarium owners in possession of the product to dispose of them. At home, this can be done by “completely 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 been wreaking havoc on Texas waterways as the invasive mollusk continues to work its way through the state. “It is important that we take all possible precautions to prevent them from being introduced elsewhere,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD inland fisheries regional director. More about the mussels and other invasive species in Texas can be found at the TPWD Stop Invasives website.

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