LINCOLN, Neb. – After a recent discovery of invasive zebra mussels within Marimo or “moss” balls used in aquarium tanks, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is urging the public to take precautions to prevent the spread of this highly destructive species.
A container of Marimo balls sold as “Betta Buddy” was first found to be contaminated with an adult zebra mussel at a Petco store in Washington state on March 3. Game and Parks subsequently inspected two Petco locations in Lincoln and found zebra mussels present in several Marimo ball containers.
Since then, contaminated Marimo balls have been found in pet/aquarium stores in several states. All Petco and Petsmart locations in Nebraska were cooperative when asked by Game and Parks to remove the product from their shelves.
A zebra mussel is a highly invasive aquatic species that looks like a D-shaped clam, with alternating light and dark bands. Most zebra mussels are less than an inch long. They form dense colonies and filter large quantities of plankton from water, decreasing the food supply for native species. Adult zebra mussels can live up to two weeks outside of water. Additionally, young zebra mussels – or veligers – are invisible to the naked eye and can be spread through even the smallest drops of water.
To prevent the spread of zebra mussels from aquariums, Marimo balls should be removed, placed in a plastic bag, frozen solid, then disposed of in the trash. All aquarium owners should dispose of tank water away from water sources, like a stream, and instead dump water in grass or gravel. It is important to not dump aquarium water down the drain as this can spread zebra mussels to water bodies.
“We need the public’s help to prevent the spread of zebra mussels from aquariums and fish tanks into our water bodies,” said Kristopher Stahr, Game and Parks aquatic invasive species program manager. “Please make sure you dispose of any Marimo balls and aquarium water properly so the waters we all enjoy remain invasive-free.”
Game and Parks regulations require anglers, hunters, and boaters conduct clean, drain and dry procedures before leaving a water body. Those persons also are not allowed to arrive at a water body with water from another body.
The Missouri River has a zebra mussel population along its entire length downstream of Gavins Point Dam. Lewis and Clark Lake, Lake Yankton and the Offutt Base Lake are the only other confirmed Nebraska waters with zebra mussel populations.