TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pet stores and aquarium owners are advised that the Arizona Department of Agriculture on March 16 issued a Director’s Administrative Order prohibiting importation or movement within the state of the aquatic nursery plant Aegagropila linnaei, a green algae common in the aquatic plant and aquarium trade and more commonly known Marimo balls, Cladophora ball, moss ball or lake ball.
The action comes after the Department of Agriculture and the Arizona Game and Fish Department in early March found Marimo balls infested with invasive zebra mussels in a number of Arizona pet stores. Zebra-mussel-infested Marimo/moss balls have thus far been detected by state agricultural or wildlife agencies in 26 states. They are imported from at least 18 countries under a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Zebra mussels that have been distributed with the moss balls can be easily overlooked because the larval life stage of the mussels (veligers) are microscopic. Although zebra mussels have not yet been detected in Arizona waters, they are similar to invasive quagga mussels, which were first detected in Arizona in 2007. Both can quickly become established in a waterbody and cause millions of dollars in damage to boats and water intake pipes while creating significant ecological harm to native mussels, fishes, and other aquatic wildlife.
Pet store owners and members of the public currently in possession of Marimo/moss balls are strongly urged to destroy them utilizing the DESTROY, DISPOSE, DRAIN instructions provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Do not dispose of the moss balls in drains, waterways and gardens. Aquarium owners who had moss balls placed in their aquarium are urged to either decontaminate or quarantine/observe their aquarium using these methods.
As a reminder, it is illegal to possess zebra mussels or quagga mussels in Arizona.
Moss balls may be imported into Arizona if accompanied by a quarantine compliance certificate (stating that the commodity was inspected and found free of zebra mussels) issued within seven days of shipment.