Officials are urging Mainers to destroy their moss balls after zebra mussels were found living in them at Maine pet stores. Credit: Courtesy of MDIF&W

Officials are urging Mainers to destroy their aquatic moss balls after zebra mussels were found living in them at pet stores in central and southern Maine.

Zebra mussels, a restricted/prohibited species in Maine, can “outcompete native species, and clog boat motors, hydropower structures, intake pipes and other in-water structures” if released into the wild, according to a DIF&W spokesperson.

The mussels have been found on moss balls that are labeled “Beta Buddy Marimo Balls,” “Mini Marimo Moss Ball and “Marimo Moss Ball Plants” in pet stores. The moss balls are included in the sale of a betta fish and officials are urging pet stores to remove the balls from their shelves and destroy them.

To destroy a moss ball, one would need to freeze it in a sealable bag for at least 24 hours; boil it in water for one minute; or submerge the moss ball in chlorine bleach for 20 minutes, officials said.

Officials said that if the moss ball was in a fish tank the entire tank would need to be disinfected by removing the fish; disposing all aquatic plants in the same manner as the moss ball; add one cup of household bleach per gallon of water, mix and let sit for at least 10 minutes; drain the tank and dispose the bleached water down the sink or toilet; and thoroughly disinfect any gravel, filters, pumps, decor or other items with 1 cup bleach per water gallon and soak for 10 minutes or replace everything.

It is important to not flush the moss ball or any untreated water it was in down the toilet or in an outside body of water, including storm drains, officials said.