Zebra Mussels Found in Moss Balls

VERMONT - The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is asking that anyone who has recently purchased an aquatic moss ball dispose of it immediately. Zebra mussels, an invasive species to the northeast waters, have been found in numerous moss ball products. Only one specimen has been found on Vermont store shelves since the discovery earlier last week.


Moss balls are dark green spheres of algae normally used to remove pneumonia, nitrites, and phosphates from aquariums. DJ Nelson, owner of AquaRealm Aquarium and Pet Store in St. Johnsbury, said that the moss balls "actually help keep the aquarium water chemistry better." They are common freshwater plants, mainly used in shrimp tanks, betta tanks, and community fish tanks.

The zebra mussels that have been discovered in these products are invasive to Vermont. They were first discovered in Lake Champlain in 1993, and later in Lake Bomoseen and Lake Dunmore. This time around, the state is trying to prevent the mussels from reaching main water bodies by warning the public of their discovery. "They're a very small mussel, so they can easily be missed," Nelson said.

Any recently purchased moss ball should be checked for a mussel infestation. If one is found, the moss ball should be frozen in a plastic bag, boiled, or treated with bleach, and thrown away in a sealed bag. If the contaminated moss ball was in an aquarium, the tank must be disinfected and the water changed. The infected water is advised to be dumped away from any main water bodies.

Nelson recommends that aquarium owners look for other types of water plants to filter the tank water, and that they use fake moss balls for shrimp tanks. Like many other stores in the state, AquaRealm has destroyed all live moss ball products on the shelves and those recently shipped to the store. Nelson told NewsLINC that he has sold moss balls for years without any problem before. It is still being investigated how the zebra mussels infected the latest batch of moss balls, and it is currently unclear when the live plants will once again be safe for retail.