For most of the last 10 or so years I have been focusing on reef tanks. There was a time when I had some of both kinds. Eventually, I had an issue keeping them both, so I switched to just reef. Now I am back to just planted. This old photo circa 2013 is from a time when moss balls were still a thing. During that time, they (among other things) became illegal in the hobby. The reason? Muscles hitchhike on the moss balls and get into the local waterways.
If you live here in Arizona, you are likely familiar with this. If you boat our waterways, you most certainly have read the literature on the subject. There are times, I know, when we look at these laws and think they are stupid. They certainly seem stupid. They are telling someone with an aquarium that they jeopardize the natural habitats.
Thing is, most people who keep fish tanks aren’t like you and I. It isn’t a hobby for them. Either not yet, or it never will be. They get into it for various reasons then find out that it has challenges they were not ready for or labors they lack time to perform. They don’t want to kill off the things living in their tank, and they don’t want to admit to the local fish store that they can’t hack it. That means the easiest thing for them is often to toss everything surreptitiously into a pond or lake or canal. Because some people cannot be trusted not to do this the item is then banned. In most cases the likely outcome is that these things will never again be available for legal purchase.
I have not read the text of the ban yet so I cannot say if it allows local trade of moss balls. I know it has banned importation and sell. Sometimes these laws do not include items already in existence. Meaning, just because you cannot import, sell or buy from a store doesn’t mean that the thing can no longer exist. If you have had a moss ball in your tank for years the law most often doesn’t state you have to get rid of it or face legal action. That often means you can grow a thing and give it away.
We saw this often with corals. They became endangered in the while and conservation efforts meant they could not be harvested. But people who had them in their tank were free to propagate them. This is one reason clubs that farm and propagate corals came into existence. There are some corals, I have no doubt, that will be saved from extinction because they exist in well maintained reef tanks. There are good arguments for allowing people to keep what they already have.
It is frustrating that I cannot get moss balls and mystery snails anymore. I understand why this has happened. I hate to point a finger and blame people, but the fact is these laws come about because of irresponsibility and ignorance on the part of people new to fishkeeping. I know the people reading this care or they would not have read this. By putting information out there for people and participating on forums and Facebook groups we can make sure we don’t lose more of the things we love to keep to bans.