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Invasive zebra mussels found in aquarium product sold at aquarium and pet supply stores

UPDATE March 9, 2021: Pet store chains remove product infested with invasive zebra mussels, new how-to video on cleaning your aquarium

Pet store chains including PetCo and PetSmart have removed “Betta Buddy Marimo Ball,” a moss plant for aquariums, from their shelves after invasive zebra mussels were discovered inside.

ODFW district staff are contacting other local businesses carrying pets and pet products to determine if they sold or are selling these products. 

“We want to thank all pet and aquarium supply stores who have stepped up and quickly taken this product off their shelves,” said Rick Boatner, ODFW Invasive Species Program Supervisor and current chairman of the Oregon Invasive Species Council, a statewide effort among many natural resource agencies to keep invasive species out of Oregon.

ODFW also today released a how-to video on safely cleaning your aquarium and disposing of the moss balls, https://youtu.be/DeLXmPDW23s

ODFW first announced that zebra mussels were found at pet stores in Washington and Oregon last week. Contaminated products have also been found in Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota.

The California-based distributor of the moss balls has been identified However, this distributor is just one of many that receive the same product from the same source, so the Oregon Invasive Species Council advises that all moss balls imported from Ukraine from any distributor should be considered potentially contaminated.

On the national level, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have also reached out to the distributor of these products to gather more information about where they have been delivered and launched a website with more information https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/ANS/zebra-mussel-disposal.html

March 3, 2021

Pet stores urged to remove product from shelves; consumers should follow disposal directions

SALEM, Ore.—Wildlife agencies are urging pet and aquarium stores to remove “Betta Buddy Marimo Ball,” a moss plant for aquariums, after invasive zebra mussels were discovered inside the product.

ODFW was recently alerted about this situation after hearing about a Seattle PetCo employee finding the zebra mussels attached and inside “Betta Buddy Marimo Ball” moss plants. ODFW’s Invasive Species Program supervisor also visited a store in the Salem area today and found  viable zebra mussels in the product (see photos below).  These stores have since removed the product from their shelves.

Consumers are also urged to stop buying this product and to safely dispose of it by either freezing or boiling the moss ball before disposing of it in the trash (do not flush down toilet or throw outside as mulch). For your aquarium, after removing the fish,  apply household bleach (one cup of bleach per gallon of water) and let it set for 10 minutes before disposing of water down sink or toilet. Also disinfect filters, gravel and structures with a solution of bleach before disposing of the water down the toilet.

The concern is that live mussels released into a storm drain or flushed could be introduced into a waterway. 

“We urge all pet stores to immediately remove this product from their shelves,” said Rick Boatner, ODFW Invasive Species Program supervisor. “Our concern is that invasive mussels from this product could get into the wild, start a population and do serious damage.

Another concern is that we might pick up tissue from the invasive mussel in the water when we sample, which could give us a false positive eDNA (environmental DNA) test,” he added.

Zebra and Quagga mussels can quickly take over once they get established in a waterbody. They will cause disruption of the food chain, change the chemistry of the water (which can cause more blue green algae outbreaks or offensive taste) and clog water intake and delivery systems for drinking water, irrigation and hydro power. 

Currently, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest are free of zebra or Quagga mussels, thanks to a monitoring program that requires watercraft to be inspected when entering Oregon, https://myodfw.com/articles/waterway-access-and-aquatic-invasive-species-permits  

ODFW and other state and federal fish and wildlife agencies are working together to address this development.

Photos:

Caption: Invasive zebra mussels in a Betta Buddy product recently found at a Salem area pet store.

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Contact:

Rick Boatner, (503) 947-6308, Rick.j.boatner@state.or.us
Michelle Dennehy, (503) 931-2748, michelle.n.dennehy@state.or.us

 
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