(WFXR) — The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) is warning people of an invasive species being found on a popular aquarium accessory.
Anyone who has recently purchased live marimo moss balls should check to see if they are contaminated with invasive zebra mussels. These moss balls are commonly sold for aquarium use under trade names such as “Betta Buddy” and “Mini Marimo Moss Balls.”
A number of contaminated moss balls have been reported at several pet stores in Virginia, according to DWR.
Zebra mussels are small, D-shaped, thumbnail-sized or smaller and have a white and black striped pattern.
Zebra mussel invasions have caused harmful economic and ecological damage. Once introduced, this invasive species will propagate quickly and can smother and outcompete native mussels. Their populations are extremely difficult to eradicate.
If you have recently purchased marimo moss balls, you should dispose of them immediately by placing them in a plastic bag and freezing them overnight, boiling them, or soaking them overnight in a bleach solution.
Under no circumstance should moss balls, or any aquarium species, be released into the environment. Penalties for the unlawful act of releasing zebra mussels, which are known to be associated with these moss balls, may reach $25,000 and may include additional fines for investigation and eradication.
Currently, there are no zebra mussel populations in Virginia.