Zebra mussels detected in products sold in Saskatchewan

Zebra mussels have been detected in moss/algal ball products in Saskatchewan, which are often sold as Marimo Moss Balls. Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment / Supplied

Zebra mussels have been detected in a popular ornamental plant sold in Saskatchewan.

The moss/algal ball products, often sold as Marimo Moss Balls, are used in aquariums and water gardens typically kept with betta fish.

Read more: Maritime aquarium owners warned to watch for invasive mussels in decorative plant

Zebra mussels found on these products are extremely small — the size of a grain of sand — and are often found inside the moss ball itself. Ministry of Environment officials said that makes them nearly impossible to detect with just a visual inspection.

The Ministry of Environment said a well co-ordinated effort by authorities in Western Canada ensured the moss balls were quickly removed from the supply chain.

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Ministry officials said while the potentially contaminated products are no longer available for distribution or sale, they said anyone who has bought any moss/algal balls since Jan. 1 needs to remove and dispose of them.

However, they caution the products and any aquarium or water contents should not be disposed of by flushing it down a toilet, putting it down a drain or in a compost due to the significant risk to the province’s aquatic ecosystems.

Disposal steps

Moss/algal balls should be placed in a plastic bag, sealed and then frozen, preferably in a deep freezer, for at least 24 hours.

Alternatively, the products can be placed in boiling water for at least one minute and then cooled.

The product should then be disposed of by placing it, and any packaging, in a sealed plastic bag and disposed of in household garbage.

Aquariums and their contents must also be treated, but officials said not to dispose of untreated water down any drain, into any residential water system or waterway.

Here are the steps from the Ministry of Environment for treating aquariums.

Read more: Invasive mussel species enters Alberta through moss balls

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Treating bowls and small tanks

Remove fish and other living organisms from the aquarium and place them in another container with water from an uncontaminated source.

Sterilize the contaminated water in the bowl or small tank by adding 25 mL of bleach per litre of water and let sit for 15 minutes before disposing of the water down a household drain.

The aquarium and accessories then need to be cleaned in one of two ways.

Boiling method: use water that is at least 60 C to flush and coat the tank and all accessory surfaces for at least one minute.

Disinfection method: make a disinfection solution of 25 mL of bleach per litre of water and then soak the aquarium, substrate, d-cro and filter media in the solution for at least 15 minutes.

All items should be rinsed off before setting up the aquarium and a dechlorinating product used to neutralize any residual chlorine before reintroducing aquatic life.

Disinfected filter media can be disposed of by placing it in a plastic bag and disposing of it in household trash.

Read more: Invasive mussels found in B.C. woman’s aquarium

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Larger aquariums

Where complete disinfection is not possible, tanks should be monitored for the next several months for signs of any unusual or unexpected aquatic life.

Treat water from all water changes during this period by adding 25 mL of bleach per litre of water that has been removed from the aquarium, and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes before disposing of the treated water down the drain.

Disinfect filter media being changed by soaking it in a solution of 25 mL of bleach per litre of water for at least 15 minutes. It can then be sealed in a plastic bag and disposed of in household trash.

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