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Zebra mussel in a moss ball. Photo credit to USGS.

Late last week wildlife agencies throughout the country issued notifications to aquarium owners about zebra mussels attached to live Marimo moss balls that have been sold at pet or aquarium stores nationwide. As of March 9, infested moss balls have been confirmed in 32 states, including Arizona.

Zebra mussels are considered one of the most destructive aquatic invasive species (AIS) in North America. They are small, fingernail-sized mollusks native to the fresh waters in Eurasia. Zebra mussels can stay alive for several days outside of water and commonly attach to boats and aquarium plants. Once established, zebra mussels negatively impact ecosystems by filtering out algae native species need for food and they can attach to and incapacitate native mussels. They also clog water intakes and attach to boats, causing millions of dollars in damage annually.

Zebra mussel cluster. Photo taken by D. Jude, Univ. of Michigan.

What to do if you purchased the moss balls? Don’t dispose of the moss in drains, waterways, or gardens! Moss balls must be destroyed by freezing, boiling, or bleach and disposed of in a sealed container in the trash and the aquarium cleaned following this guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Want to know more about zebra mussels? Additional information can be found here. Check out the AZGFD website for additional AIS information.

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