NDOW: Some aquarium products sold online, at pet stores, contaminated with invasive mussels

Staff Report

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — A harmful, aquatic invasive species has been discovered in some aquarium products sold online and at Nevada pet stores, officials announced Friday.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife said it is investigating reports that invasive zebra mussels have been found in aquarium products sold through online retailers and local and national pet stores in various states throughout the country, including Nevada.

The products contaminated with the invasive species may be labeled as Imagitarium Betta Buddy Marimo Balls, Marimo Moss Ball Plants, or similar names, and are decorative moss plants for home aquariums.

The alert comes after a Seattle pet store employee reported finding the zebra mussels in the Imagitarium Betta Buddy product. The reports were verified by both state and federal wildlife authorities. Nevada pet stores have been instructed to remove the product from shelves and contact their regional NDOW office for disposal information.

“This is a serious state and national issue,” said NDOW Fisheries Division Administrator Jon Sjöberg in a press release. “This situation poses a great risk to our waterways and our wildlife populations. Please adhere to our recommendations and do your part to keep Nevada’s water safe and clean from invasive species.”

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged to destroy them. This can be accomplished by either freezing or boiling the moss plant and disposing of it in the trash, followed by a thorough disinfection of the aquarium.

Officials said the products should not be disposed of by any other method.

Zebra mussels can remain alive for long periods out of water and can find their way into waterways via sewer systems and have devastating, irreversible effects on wildlife and aquatic habitats.

Zebra mussels are filter feeders that consume large portions of the microscopic plants and animals that form the base of the food web. The removal of significant amounts of phytoplankton from the water can cause a shift in native species and a disruption of the ecological balance. Zebra mussels often settle in massive colonies that can block water intakes and affect municipal water supplies, agricultural irrigation, and power plant operation. There is no known safe method of eradication once the mussels have become established in a large water body, officials said in the release.

NDOW said it is working closely with other state and federal wildlife authorities to address and monitor the situation.

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are regarded as one of the most troublesome invasive species in North America. They are small, fingernail-sized mollusks native to the Caspian Sea region of Asia. Zebra mussels have three life stages – larval, juvenile, and adult. In the larval stage, the mussels live freely in the water column, allowing them to be easily transported. Adult zebra mussels can stay alive for several days outside of water and are common hitchhikers on boats, fishing equipment – and aquarium plants.

If you have recently purchased a moss ball aquatic plant product, NDOW recommends taking the following steps: Decontaminate the moss ball using one of the following methods, ensuring that the disposal method you choose is in compliance with state laws and animal welfare regulations: Place the moss ball into a sealable plastic bag and freeze for at least 24 hours, or place the moss ball in boiling water for at least one minute, or submerge the moss ball in chlorine bleach, diluted to one cup of bleach per gallon of water, or submerge the moss ball in undiluted white vinegar for 20 minutes.

Once that is complete, place the moss ball and any of its packaging in a sealed plastic bag and dispose in the trash.

If vinegar, boiling water, or bleach was used, the liquid can be disposed of down a household drain — never down a storm drain where it could enter and damage local waterways.

If the moss ball was placed in an aquarium, please take these additional steps: Collect any fish or other living organisms and place them in another container, with water from a separate, uncontaminated water source; Sterilize the contaminated aquarium water by adding ¼ teaspoon bleach for each gallon of water. Let the water site for 15 minutes and then dispose of the sterilized water down a household drain.

Clean the aquarium and accessories using one of the following methods, ensuring that the disposal method you choose is in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations.

Boiling Method — Use water that is 140 degrees to flush and coat the tank and all accessory surfaces

Disinfection Method — Make a disinfection solution using 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water; Soak the aquarium, substrate, rocks, décor, and filter media in the bleach water solution for 15 minutes; Rinse off all items prior to setting up the aquarium; Dispose of the previously used filter media and replace with new media; Use a dechlorinating product to neutralize any residual chlorine prior to reintroducing aquatic life.

It is recommended that you do another water change within a week and continue to monitor the tank for any unusual or unexpected aquatic life.

Source: NDOW

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.