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Pictured is a moss ball with a zebra mussel, courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.
Pictured is a moss ball with a zebra mussel, courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey.

DEC warns aquarium owners about invasive zebra mussels found in 'moss balls'


Wed, Mar 10th 2021 09:40 am

Consumers encouraged to follow US Fish and Wildlife Service disposal directions to prevent spread of harmful invasive species

Pet stores urged to remove moss balls immediately

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is urging pet and aquarium stores and consumers to immediately remove and properly dispose of commercially purchased “moss balls” for aquariums after invasive zebra mussels were discovered inside and on some of these products, as reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Consumers should be advised that moss ball products purchased from PetSmart and Petco may be subject to a voluntary product recall.

Zebra mussels are an aquatic invasive species (AIS) that can cause environmental and economic harm. Several species of algae comprise moss balls, which are 2 to 5 inches in diameter. Zebra mussel larvae are so small that people cannot see them. If released, these larvae can cause great harm to waterbodies. Consumers are advised to remove and properly dispose of any moss balls purchased within the last year by following these steps: 

√ Dispose of moss balls removed from tanks in a sealed garbage bag. Other aquarium plants should also be disposed of as they may harbor zebra mussels;

√ To disinfect a tank after safely removing any animals, apply household bleach – one cup of bleach per gallon of water – and let it sit for 10 minutes before disposing of water down the sink or toilet;

√ Disinfect filters, gravel and structures with a solution of bleach. Water from filters must also be treated with household bleach before disposing of water down the sink or drain;

√ For larger tanks that cannot be easily drained, email [email protected] for instructions;

√ If zebra mussels are in a tank or on a moss ball, take a photo if possible and report the observation via email [email protected], or by phone, 518-402-9405; and

√ Be advised, just because zebra mussels might not be seen does not mean their larvae are not present. 

Zebra mussels can quickly take over once established in a waterbody. These invasive pests will disrupt the food chain, change water chemistry, and clog water intake and delivery systems for drinking water, irrigation and hydro power. Live mussels released into a storm drain or flushed could be introduced into a waterway, starting a new population and causing significant damage. 

AIS are non-native aquatic plants and animals that can cause environmental and economic harm, as well as harm to human health. New Yorkers can help protect the state’s waters by preventing AIS from entering lakes, rivers and ponds from aquarium releases. To find more information about DEC’s guidelines for aquarium and pet owners, go to https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/115034.html.

Invasive species are plants, animals, insects and pathogens that are not native to an area and cause harm to the environment, agriculture, the economy, or human health. All New Yorkers can support the fight against invasive species by helping to locate and map infestations, using only local firewood, using clean drain dry techniques to properly clean watercraft before and after boating, making informed choices for aquariums and aquatic gardens, and removing invasive species from the yard. To learn more about AIS, go to the DEC website.

For more information regarding moss ball product recalls, visit Petco and PetSmart.

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