British Columbia

Mar 09, 2021 2:21 PM PT | Last Updated: March 9

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service tweeted a picture of one of the invasive species recently found on popular aquarium plants known as moss balls, originally shipped from pet suppliers in Europe. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service)

B.C. officials are sounding the alarm over a tiny invasive species they say has hitched a ride into our province and could be hiding on popular decorative aquarium plants known as moss balls.

Both the B.C. government and the Invasive Species Council of B.C. are asking aquarium owners to check for the deadly zebra mussel after it was discovered on such products originally sold in Washington state pet supply stores, according to statements Monday.

The council said the small but mighty mussel was also found closer to home in an aquarium in Terrace, B.C., late last week.

“Now that they’ve come in through local shipments, there’s a real high alert on for checking out the aquarium to make sure that you’re not actually housing an invasive mussel in your aquarium,” said Gail Wallin, the executive director of the Invasive Species Council of B.C.

Zebra and quagga mussels are relatively small compared to local, non-invasive species, according to the provincial website. (B.C. Government )

According to a statement from the province, conservation officers conducted more than 600 inspections at retail aquatic pet and plant stores where they found the mussels in moss balls at multiple locations, including Terrace and the Lower Mainland.

The council’s statement Tuesday said there have also been reports of people finding the mussel-infested moss balls across western Canada and in several U.S. states.

“If they take hold in [our] waterways, they threaten native species and fisheries and could cause damage to hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal water supplies and recreational boating of more than $43 million a year,” said Wallin.

The zebra mussel is a small freshwater species which was originally native to some European lakes, according to the council. 

According to a tweet from the B.C. Conservation Officer Service Tuesday, anyone who finds them in their home aquariums is asked to place the moss ball into a sealable plastic bag and freeze for at least 24 hours or place the moss ball in boiling water for at least one full minute.

Following that, owners should place the moss ball and any of its packaging in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash.

The council also asks owners to avoid flushing moss balls down the toilet or disposing of them in the compost.

“In both Washington and Terrace, the invasive mussels were found by informed individuals, so it shows how important it is to learn more about preventing invasive species,” Wallin said.