Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation calls on the public to help prevent the spread of invasive zebra mussels

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considered one of the most troublesome invasive species in North America

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking the public for help in stopping the spread of the invasive zebra mussel. (FWC image)

(FWC) – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking the public for help in stopping the spread of the invasive zebra mussel.

This species could have devastating effects on Florida’s ecology and economy, and was recently discovered in a Florida pet store and stores in other parts of the country. The FWC is working with state and federal partners to address this national problem.

The zebra mussel is considered one of the most troublesome invasive species in North America. They clog the pipes used for water filtration, make beaches unusable and damage boats.

They can also have harmful effects on native aquatic organisms. These filter feeders outperform other native species in infested rivers and lakes.

The waste they produce accumulates and degrades the environment, consuming oxygen, making the water acidic and producing toxic by-products.

Zebra mussels and their microscopic larvae have been found in a species of aquarium plants known as “moss balls” which are sold in certain pet stores under various names in parts of the United States, including Florida.

The moss balls are up to a few inches in diameter and are sold separately as an aquarium plant or can be supplied with a sold fish. Since larvae may not be visible in aquarium material, any moss balls purchased may contain zebra mussels or their larvae.

The FWC urges pet stores to remove “moss ball” aquarium herbal products from their shelves and dispose of them properly.

If an aquarium owner has already purchased one of these moss balls, they should safely dispose of it. The safest way to do this is to dry completely, freeze, or place the foam balls in a zippered plastic bag.

Then throw this bag in a garbage bag. Aquarium water should be replaced and filters / cartridges replaced and disinfected before disposal.

Aquarium water can be sanitized before disposal by adding one cup of bleach per gallon and allowing it to sit for 10 minutes before dumping the water down the drain.

This method can also be used to disinfect gravel, filter, and other structures, and is highly recommended if zebra mussels are found attached to moss or in the aquarium.

Zebra mussels are small crustaceans with a brownish triangular shell. As the name suggests, they often have zebra stripes. They usually don’t exceed an inch, and some plants found in pet stores are less than a quarter of an inch in length.

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