The BC Conservation Officers’ Service is warning aquarium users that supplies for their fish tanks may be harbouring some invasive hitchhikers.
A March 6 social media post from Conservation confirmed that zebra mussels, a potentially destructive species which Western Canadian provinces have gone to great lengths to keep out of their waterways, were located in a home aquarium in Terrace.
The mussels were discovered by a sharp-eyed aquarium owner in a moss ball, which are used to naturally filter and oxygenate water in fish tanks. After spotting the small mussel nestled in the moss, the aquarium owner called the RAPP line to alert conservation officers. The contaminated moss balls were purchased in a pet store; the conservation officers’ aquatic invasive species team is notifying and inspecting plant and pet stores across the province to determine whether any other moss balls containing mussels made it to B.C.
The public is being asked to inspect their aquarium moss balls for any potential zebra mussels. Those who think they have found a Zebra mussel should also contact the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.
According to the conservation officers, contaminated moss balls have also been found in the United States and they are working with colleagues on both sides of the border to help prevent any additional spread of the mussels.
The mussels are a concern in B.C. because of the damage they can do to ecosystems and underwater infrastructure like dams and water intakes. The mussels are not native to North America, but where they have been introduced, notably in Eastern Canada and the United States they have proved destructive.
The province has had a campaign in recent years to inspect boats at B.C.’s borders with Alberta and the United States and ensure no mussels are clinging to their hulls. Boaters are also asked to clean, drain and dry off their boats when moving between bodies of water. No live zebra mussels have been found yet in any B.C. waterway.
Those who do locate contaminated moss balls are being advised to place the moss balls in sealable plastic bags and then into the freezer for 24 hours or place the moss balls into boiling water for a minute. The moss balls and any of its packaging should be placed in sealed plastic bags and disposed of in the trash. The moss balls should not be flushed down the toilet or composted. The contents of aquarium tanks should never be dumped into any residential water system or waterway.