Zebra mussels found in fish product at SD pet stores

Rebekah Tuchscherer
rtuchscherer@gannett.com

Zebra mussels have been found in an aquarium product sold at seven South Dakota pet stores, according to South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP).

The invasive species was found in Marimo moss balls, a type of algae that draws nutrients from water that would otherwise feed less desirable forms of algae.

All contaminated products have been removed from the pet stores and discarded, according to Tanner Davis, GFP’s aquatic invasive species coordinator. The moss balls were originally imported to the U.S. from Ukraine, where zebra mussels are native.

Zebra mussels have invaded over 600 lakes and rivers in the U.S. and can create myriad problems, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They spread rapidly, eat the lake’s phytoplankton and cause heavy metals to accumulate in the ecosystem more quickly than usual.

“They’re very small,” Davis said of the fingernail-sized mussel. “So they’re easy to miss if you’re not looking.”

Fish owners who have recently bought moss balls from the following stores should place the potentially contaminated product in a plastic bag, freeze it and discard the contents in the trash, according to GFP. Do not flush or use chemicals on the moss balls, as any zebra mussels would likely survive.

Pet stores that carried the Marimo moss balls included:

  • PetSmart, Rapid City
  • PetCo, Sioux Falls (2)
  • Mini-Critters, Sioux Falls
  • Woofs & Waves, Sioux Falls
  • Ed’s Pet World, Mitchell
  • Critter Mart & More, Watertown

South Dakota GFP says South Dakota lakes currently contaminated by zebra mussels include McCook, Yankton, Cochrane, Kampeska, Pickerel, Lewis and Clark, Francis Case and Sharpe.

Zebra mussels are an invasive species that have been found in Pickerel Lake in Day County. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers