Moss ball and zebra mussels. Photo by Idaho Fish and Game.
Zebra mussels first caught a ride to Oklahoma waters on barge traffic in 1993, but may have found a new way to invade our state's waters. The destructive clams have been found attached to and inside clusters of filamentous algae, or "moss balls," sold at pet stores to accompany betta fish. The "Betta Buddy" product line is being pulled from shelves, but this unsuspecting friend of zebra mussels has already been distributed across the U.S.
If you've recently purchased moss balls, biologists recommend freezing the moss balls for 24 hours, or boiling the moss balls for one full minute before disposing of them in the trash. Tanks, filters, gravel, structures and tank water should also be disinfected with a bleach solution. Flushing potentially contaminated water or moss balls, or using the moss balls as mulch could allow the zebra mussels to get a stronger foothold in our state.