Keep your moss balls out of Yukon, N.W.T. waterways

·3 min read
A B.C. Conservation Officer Service tweeted a picture of one of the invasive species recently found on popular aquarium plants known as moss balls, originally shipped from pet suppliers in Europe. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service - image credit)
A B.C. Conservation Officer Service tweeted a picture of one of the invasive species recently found on popular aquarium plants known as moss balls, originally shipped from pet suppliers in Europe. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service - image credit)

Buyer beware, those aquarium supplies you order online could actually contain invasive species.

The arrival of invasive species is causing headaches for fisheries and wildlife officials, who say they would like to keep zebra and quagga mussels, which have caused problems in Eastern Canada, out of the West.

Cameron Sinclair, senior fisheries biologist with the Yukon government said contaminated moss balls were found in the northeastern U.S., then B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

"We're wanting to tell people how to remove these properly so we don't have the spread of zebra mussels across the west," he said.

"The fear is they can get into lakes if they aren't destroyed properly," he said.

In the N.W.T., officials are "raising the alarm" after after a report of a dangerous invasive species were found in moss balls sold in the territory, a news release from the environment department states.

"Zebra and quagga mussels are small freshwater mussels. While they can only grow as large as a thumbnail, they have the potential to cause big damage to the N.W.T.'s biodiversity, aquatic ecosystems, fish populations, hydro power stations and other infrastructure," the release states.

Moss balls are green algae commonly used to increase water quality in an aquarium. They also go by the name Marimo moss.

So where do these invasive species hide?

Zebra mussels don't grow to be that big but they can cause huge damage.
Zebra mussels don't grow to be that big but they can cause huge damage.(Alberta government)

If you have a moss ball in your aquarium, it could be contaminated with invasive zebra, or quagga mussels.

Contaminated moss balls, sold at pet and plant stores, have been found in the western U.S. and Canada, reads a post to the Yukon Conservation Officer Services Facebook page.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is monitoring the situation, and while the moss balls are not available in stores in Yukon, they can still be purchased online, the post reads.

To dispose of them safely, you should put the moss ball in a sealed plastic bag and freeze it for 24 hours or boil it for one full minute. After that, discard the moss ball and its packaging into the trash.

If the moss balls have already been put in an aquarium, all accessories and decorations in your tank should be bleached or boiled.

Don't toss your moss balls down the toilet or compost them, and never dump aquarium pets, plants or water into any residential system waterway, the post states.

You can also find a full decontamination guide issued by the B.C. government here.

Zebra and quagga mussels represent a "serious threat" to aquatic ecosystems, to salmon and infrastructure because they multiply quickly and are hard to eradicate.

More information on how to adequately clean an aquarium will be made available through the Yukon Conservation Officer Services Facebook page.

If you spot a contaminated moss ball in Yukon, call the fisheries branch at 867-667-5721. In the N.W.T., anyone who finds zebra mussels can call their local or regional ENR office or send an email to wildlifeobs@gov.nt.ca.