BUTTE – Wildlife officials in Montana have recently detected zebra mussels in aquarium moss balls for sale in pet stores across the state, despite spending about $3 million a year to protect against the invasive species.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said moss ball, up to 5 inches (12 centimeters) in diameter, are purchased for home aquariums to help absorb harmful nutrients in the water and limit the growth of undesirable algae.
“This happens to be in the pet store, on a product that looks like it comes from the Ukraine,” agency spokesperson Greg Lemon said. “Shipped to the states and then distributed to pet stores around the county.”
The facility that imports the moss balls has been quarantined and all shipments have been stopped, officials said. It is unclear how many affected moss balls were sold in Montana, NBC Montana reported.
“Lots of communities in Montana pull their water from natural water bodies,” said Lemon, explaining how mussels can cause major damage. “They can clog up those systems and clog up agricultural systems. They cause havoc in dams, hydro-power systems. Anywhere they’re pulling water in through a pipe, those mussels can establish and clog that pipe up.”
All of the mussels detected in Montana have so far been dead shells, the Daily Inter Lake reported. However, live mussels have been detected in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and several other states.
Anyone who has recently purchased moss balls has been asked to remove them from the water, place them in a plastic bag and then put them in the freezer overnight. Residents should then pour out their aquarium tank water into a household drain and not into any outside water resource.
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