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.
“Zebra mussels pose a significant risk to our state, so we urge anyone that may have purchased this type of product in the last month or has them on store shelves to remove it immediately, if they have not already done so,” said Jim Page, WRD Aquatic Nuisance Species Coordinator. “But, don’t just throw it away anywhere! The concern with this specific mussel is that its’ release into the wild via septic systems or from being discarded in nearby ditches, creeks, or other waterbodies could result in establishment of the species in our state and lead to major ecological and economic damage.”
Found in Georgia Pet Stores
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).
Disposal and Sanitation Guidelines
This product can be safely disposed by freezing (for 24 hours) or boiling (for at least 10 seconds) before disposing of it in the trash. Consumers may also contact their local WRD office (georgiawildlife.com/about/contact) 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.
Aquarium owners who may have infected aquariums are urged to remove the fish from their aquarium and thoroughly clean their tanks, applying household bleach (one cup of bleach per gallon of water) and letting it set for 10 minutes before disposing of the water down a sink or toilet. Additionally, owners should disinfect filters, gravel and structures with a solution of bleach before disposing of the water down the toilet.
Devastating Damage is Preventable
Zebra mussels cause millions of dollars in damage to boats and water intake pipes while creating ecological harm to native mussels and other aquatic biota. 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.
“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,” said Page.
For more information on zebra mussels and other invasive species, visit https://georgiawildlife.com/ans.