RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- People who have fish tanks may need to get rid of an item that is made for use in them.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources says recently purchased live marimo moss balls may be contaminated with invasive zebra mussels.

According to a release, the moss balls are frequently sold for use in aquariums under the trade names of “Betta Buddy” and “Mini Marimo Moss Balls.”

These products are available in physical pet stores and online retail outlets. 

DWR says contaminated moss balls have been confirmed as several stores in Virginia.

The release says these moss balls are a type of algae that forms a ball two to five inches in diameter, which are usually purchased for home aquariums to improve water quality and aesthetic appeal.

Zebra mussels are small, D-shaped mollusks that have a white and black striped pattern on them, and moss balls could be contaminated with young mussels that are not yet visible to the naked eye.

These mussels are an invasive species that have caused economic and ecological damage, and populations are difficult to eradicate once they are established.

If the species becomes established in a waterway, DWR says it requires significant yearly costs to maintain infrastructure for power generation or water supply.

While there are currently no zebra mussel populations in Virginia, they have been found in West Virginia and Maryland.

So consumers who have recently purchased marimba moss balls are encouraged to dispose of them immediately by putting them in a plastic bag and either freezing them overnight, boiling them or soaking them overnight in a bleach solution.

The balls should then be bagged and disposed of in the trash and aquariums thoroughly cleaned.

DWR says, under no circumstances, should moss balls or any aquarium species be released into the environment. Penalties for the unlawful releasing of zebra mussels may reach $25,000 and may include additional fines for investigation and eradication.

The release says retailers are in the process of removing these items from shelves. The product was imported from Ukraine to a California distributor and then shipped across the country.

The distribution facility is currently under quarantine and all shipping has been stopped, but some products may still be for sale.

Anyone who has purchased these moss balls and who has found zebra mussels is asked to alert DWR at [email protected].

For more information on zebra mussels, click here.