Officials are warning an aquarium product infested with an invasive species has been found in two different pet supply store chains in South Carolina.
Zebra mussels have been found hiding in Marimo Balls, or “moss balls” in several other states already, with the first report in Oregon. The moss balls are a kind of live, decorative plant for use in aquariums.
The striped mussels are tiny and razor sharp and have been causing problems in lakes and waterways in recent years, from the Great Lakes to California.
“A nationwide effort to halt the sale of these products and remove them from stores nationwide is now underway,” South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said in a release Friday.
Officials urge anyone who has recently purchased one of the moss balls to be very cautious. Don’t throw a moss ball down the drain, the toilet, or any place that might lead to a water source. That includes aquarium water that the moss ball was in contact with, the release said.
“These mussels are highly invasive, reproduce quickly and can cause huge problems if they are introduced into our waterways or lakes,” Ross Self, Chief of Freshwater Fisheries for SCDNR, said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife said zebra mussels “wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems, outdoor recreation, hydroelectric power equipment and the economy.”
No zebra mussels have been found in South Carolina’s waterways, the SCDNR release said. They want to keep it that way.
There are several ways to properly dispose of potentially infested moss balls, according to SC officials.
Seal the ball in a plastic bag and freeze for 48 hours before throwing it into the trash, or drop the ball in boiling water for at least a full minute. Other options include dunking the ball in chlorine bleach diluted with water (1 cup of bleach to a gallon of water) for 20 minutes, or give it a 20 minute bath in white vinegar.
Aquariums should also be cleaned, filters changed, gravel and decorations disinfected.
While some states have warned against certain specific moss ball brands, officials say its probably best to avoid all of them for the time being.
“It is widely believed that the packaging may be branded in several different ways,” the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said Friday. “In an abundance of caution, anyone who has purchased any moss balls in the past month are urged to ... properly destroy them and clean their aquariums.”