Check your aquariums! Zebra mussels have been found in aquarium plant products

Zebra mussel inside moss ball

Zebra mussel inside the aquarium plant product called “moss balls.” (Courtesy: Texas Parks & Wildlife Department)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A plant meant for aquariums in the United States and imported from the Ukraine could contaminate your aquarium with invasive zebra mussels, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The plants are called “moss balls” but technically they aren’t moss. Instead, they’re a type of algae used for decoration and to help improve aquarium health. They’re often used in betta fish aquariums and are sometimes sold as “Beta Buddy Marimo Balls,” “Mini Marimo Moss Balls” and “Marimo Moss Ball Plants.” TPWD says stores should remove these items from shelves, and customers should dispose of them.

People can safely dispose of moss balls by drying or freezing them or by putting them into a plastic zipper bag and then tossing them in the trash.

“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.”

Zebra mussels are small shellfish that have triangular, brownish shells often with zebra stripes, hence the name. They could be attached to or growing inside the moss balls.

TPWD said in a release, “they are very small, growing to no more than an inch in size, and the individuals found on the moss balls in Texas were less than a quarter of an inch long.”

Which stores might be selling these moss balls?

Petco and PetSmart are two of the stores TPWD named in its release:

“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.”

Don’t dump your aquarium water!

Did you know you shouldn’t simply dump your aquarium water? That’s one of the ways that invasive species often end up in our lakes and waterways. TPWD urges aquarium owners to never dump their tank water. They have an online resource to show people how to dispose of their aquarium water safely.

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