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Alberta, Saskatchewan issue warning about invasive mussels in aquarium moss balls

The provincial Ministries of Environment are asking people to dispose of or destroy a brand of aquarium plant that may be contaminated with a species of invasive mussels.

Both Saskatchewan and Alberta say the prohibited aquatic invasive zebra mussels have been found in moss or algal balls created for aquariums or water gardens sold in western Canada, often under the name Marimo’s Moss Balls.

These mussels have been found to be ranging in size from only a grain of sand to three centimetres long in size, but can very destructive if they get into a waterway by clogging pipes, disrupting natural food chains and causing hazards at recreation areas when dead shells wash up on shores.

They also reproduce very quickly, making it extremely difficult to get them out once they’re introduced to a waterway.

In an effort to eradicate these mussels before that, these moss balls have already been taken off the market.  Residents of both provinces who bought any of these moss or algal balls after January 1st, 2021 should destroy them properly.

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They can do this by removing the moss balls, placing them in a plastic bag and then putting them in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Or, they can boil them for up to one minute, then letting them cool before also sealing them in a bag and throwing it in household trash, along with the packaging.

It is very important that any water or other items contaminated with invasive mussels not be dumped down the drain or toilet, or any other water system.

When it comes to decontaminating a small bowl or fish tank, remove all fish or other living organisms putting them in other water from a separate, uncontaminated water source.

Sterilize the remaining contaminated water from the bowl or small tank by adding 25 ml of bleach per litre of water. Let the water sit for at least 15 minutes. After that, they can dump it down a household drain.

People can then use boiling water to flush and clean the tank and all other items in it, leaving it to rest for at least one minute. They can also soak the items in a 25 ml of bleach and water mixture, after which they rinse them all off before putting them back in the tank or bowl.

When changing the filter, they should also clean it with the same bleach mixture, again for at least 15 minutes before sealing it in a plastic bag and disposing of it in the garbage.

In the case of larger tanks, where full decontamination might be impossible, add this same bleach mixture into every litre of water removed.

Then, keep an eye on the tank for the next few months to make sure any invasive species aren’t growing, continuing the bleaching with every water change.

In both cases, aquarium owners should also use a dechlorinating product to neutralize any residual chlorine before reintroducing the aquatic life they’ve taken out.

If someone thinks they’ve found an invasive species either in their tank or the wild, they can call the Saskatchewan Turn In Poachers and Polluters line at 1-800-667-7561 or the Alberta Aquatic Invasive Species hotline at 1-855-336-BOAT.

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