If you bought moss balls this year, here's why you must destroy them

·2 min read
The Alberta government says it needs people who bought moss balls since Jan. 1 to destroy them since they may contain live zebra mussels, an invasive species. (Government of Alberta - image credit)
The Alberta government says it needs people who bought moss balls since Jan. 1 to destroy them since they may contain live zebra mussels, an invasive species. (Government of Alberta - image credit)

If you bought any moss balls as of Jan. 1, the provincial government wants you to safely get rid of it.

That's because some of the balls imported to Alberta, which are popular in household aquariums, have been found to contain live zebra mussels — which could pose a real threat to the ecosystem.

Moss balls are used in aquariums and can help with water quality and can sometimes be a food source, says Nicole Kimmel, an aquatic invasive species specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks.

They're often a decorative piece, Kimmel said, and have grown to be quite popular.

She said zebra mussels, which are an invasive species, usually find their ways into the water system through the watercraft transportation pathway.

"But this is an unexpected route, so we're quickly learning all about moss balls," she said.

Zebra mussels can be quite small, ranging from a few millimetres in size to about three centimetres.
Zebra mussels can be quite small, ranging from a few millimetres in size to about three centimetres.(Alberta government)

Though they are quite small — zebra mussels only grow to be a few millimetres to about three centimetres — Kimmel said they can do a fair share of damage.

That includes possibly clogging water infrastructure and disrupting the food chain.

"We're concerned that those mussels might be reproducing, producing microscopic larvae forms that you can't see and people could be dumping their water down the drain and it might be surviving through that process," Kimmel said.

The mussels are challenging to address because they survive out of water for 30 days.

If you did buy moss balls this year, don't flush, dump or compost them, the government says.

Instead, Kimmel said people who bought moss balls since Jan. 1 should freeze them for at least 24 hours or boil them for about one minute then put them in the trash.

"We take it very seriously," she said, adding the government is approaching the situation with an emergency response.

Kimmel said these moss balls are coming largely from Ukraine, through U.S. imports. They're currently working to get moss balls off retail shelves.

Nicole Kimmel with Alberta Environment and Parks says people who bought moss balls since Jan. 1 should freeze them for at least 24 hours or boil them for about one minute before putting them in the trash.
Nicole Kimmel with Alberta Environment and Parks says people who bought moss balls since Jan. 1 should freeze them for at least 24 hours or boil them for about one minute before putting them in the trash.(Alberta Government)