Whether you call them Marimo Moss Balls, Lake Balls, Japanese Moss Balls–or just, “Hey, Moss Balls”–these cuddly orbs of algea are fascinating additions to a home garden or fish tank. (The name in Latin, incidentally, is Aegagropila linnaei). We certainly don’t argue with people who refer to their plants and vegetables as their “babies,” but we really love the Marimo Moss Ball as the kind of vegetation that really does feel like a pet. [photo via Tiny Terrains]
These bizarre creatures (if you don’t mind the term) are native to Japan (mostly in Lake Akan), Iceland (usually in Lake Myvatn), Estonia, Scotland, Russia–and creeks in Iowa. Yep, right in the USA. They can grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter, and need about as much care as you’d expect from a ball of algea. They simply require a monthly squeeze to drain the water out of them. That will keep the Moss Ball floating freely and soaking up sunshine on all sides. But leave them out of direct sunlight. They don’t like that.
The most important thing about Moss Balls, though, is that they keep on giving. They’ll thrive on their own, and propagate by splitting. They don’t even mind if you take a knife and split them yourself. The exposed inner algae strings quickly thrive, and you can bring them back to being orbs by either wrapping them in thread, or rolling them in your hand. Soaking a Moss Ball in club soda provides carbon dioxide levels that really get the algae thriving.
There’s no fertilizer required, either, although the Moss Ball doesn’t mind some, either. You can also help out your Moss Ball with a preferred pH of 6.5. to 7.5.
A lot of people keep their Moss Balls in an aquarium. If you have fish, then you’ll find that the plant life does all the good things that algae usually does for an aquarium’s inhabitants. You don’t need to have fish to display some Moss Balls, though. You can use a small goldfish bowl. The kind that aren’t really appropriate for goldfish (they deserve more room), but are perfect for floating balls of algae. (We especially like the heavy Moss Ball bowls that we’ve purchased from Tiny Terrains.)
It doesn’t hurt to add some glass pebbles and other beddings, as Tiny Terrain offers for decoration. There are plenty of colors that look great with green. We used a fish bowl with a very small opening, and our favorite Moss Ball has thrived to the point that we have a ship-in-the-bottle effect. So there’s another reason to invite these awesome orbs into your home now! And if you want to give yours a name–well, that’s nobody’s business but your own.