It was March 3, 2021 when wildlife agencies all across the United States were issued a warning about the discovery of zebra mussels found in aquarium moss balls.  After further investigation viable zebra mussels were found in multiple pet stores including Georgia.  Although zebra mussels have established populations in numerous locations in the U.S. Georgia has been lucky enough to keep them out of our waterways.

The pet stores have removed the moss balls from the shelves, but some people may have purchased contaminated moss balls.  It is important you check your aquariums if you have purchased moss balls in 2021.  There are steps you can take to remove them from your aquarium and dispose of them properly.  Detailed instructions for disposal of the moss balls and zebra mussels and how you can sanitize your aquariums can be found at https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/ANS/zebra-mussel-disposal.pdf.  NEVER DUMP YOUR AQUARIUM CONTENTS IN ANY LOCATION WHERE THEY COULD REACH LOCAL WATERWAYS.  https://georgiawildlife.com/ans

Zebra mussels are an aquatic invasive species that get their name from their dark zig-zag stripes.  They are a freshwater bivalve that has a maximum shell size of about 3 centimeters, and are usually found in large clusters. They are native to the Black, Caspian, and Azov Seas.

Zebra mussels probably arrived in the Great Lakes in the 1980s via ballast water that was discharged by large ships from Europe. They have spread rapidly throughout the Great Lakes region and into the large rivers of the eastern Mississippi drainage. They have also been found in Texas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.

One unique feature the zebra mussel has that our native mussels lack are byssal threads extending from underneath their shell that allow it to attach to hard objects, surfaces, or other mussels.  Zebra mussels are suspension feeders, eating phytoplankton, small zooplankton, large bacteria, and organic detritus by filtering the water and straining out the edible material.

Zebra mussels can cause damage in many ways.

  • They filter out algae that native mussels, fish, and other primary consumers need for food.
  • Clutches of zebra mussels will attach to native mussels causing the native mussel to starve.
  • Power plants spend millions of dollars removing zebra mussels from clogged water intakes.
  • They can damage boats by encrusting boat hulls and clog water systems used in boat motors

Learn more about zebra mussels and how they impact aquatic ecosystems and the economy