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Marimo Moss Balls - Decorative Aquatic Plant Pets

Updated on June 25, 2014

Care and Enjoyment of You Marimo

Marimo is a filamentous green algae that is formed into a ball by the constant motion of underwater currents. It is native to Japan, primarily Lake Akan, and also Scotland, Iceland and Estonia. The proper name for this peculiar plant form is Cladaphora Aegagropila Linnaea. It is often referred to as moss balls, lake balls or cladaphora balls. The popularity of the marimo for domestic culture has increased dramatically due to its fascinating shape, attractive moss green color and the fact that it is simple to care for. Some people view it as an underwater house plant, others as a natural art form and aquarists prize it for its ability to inhibit algae growth by competing for nutrients with the less desirable species. Marimo are compatible with most freshwater fish and work especially well in beta jars and with freshwater shrimp. The shrimp enjoy plucking the micro-organisms from between the fibers of the algae. Aggressive larger fish, like cichlids. may tear into it so it is not recommended for that environment.

In its wild form, marimo in Japan can grow to over 12 inches in diameter. In a home aquarium this will not happen due to many factors including nutrient availability, space constraints and slow growth.. Marimo balls also have the unique habit of rising to the surface of the lake during periods of increased light and sinking back down when light levels are diminished. This has resulted in them being referred to as rising moss balls. This is a misleading name as they are not moss, but algae, and do not usually perform in this manner when confined..

Marimo thrive in groups or as individual specimens

Marimo Care


Caring for one or many marimo is relatively simple. All they require is fresh water without chlorine and good light without any exposure to direct sunlight. The are just as content alone or with company and really don’t need a lot of room in the container. The water in small non-aerated containers needs to be changed weekly to prevent stagnation and bacteria growth. This may be needed more frequently in hot weather. Tap water should be left to stand uncovered for 24 hours to permit chlorine dissipation prior to use. Filtered tap water is fine. Make sure the water stays cooler rather than warmer; 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect.

Your marimo likes to be played with gently by rolling it around in its container. This prevents it from being in contact with the bottom for too long in the same place, which may cause browning of the fibers. It also helps to maintain its round shape. Should any brown, or white, areas form they may be trimmed away with a pair of small scissors, removing as little as possible. Marimo grow at a slow rate of 5mm per year and overly trimming will inhibit that growth.

Marimo should also be removed from the water they are in to a separate water source like a bowl. There they should be gently squeezed to expel any dirt they have trapped. A whitish emission may be seen in the water which is perfectly normal. Once the marimo is clean it can be squeezed one final time out of the water like a sponge. When it is returned to the container or tank it will float for several hours before taking in enough water to sink it.

Propagation of Your Marimo

The best method of propagation is by division. The marimo can be separated much like pulling a piece of cotton from a cotton ball. The inner algae fibers, once exposed to light will quickly begin photosynthesis. The new piece and the mother piece can be reshaped into a ball. This can be done by hand by the meatball rolling method, but it often is difficult to get it to hold its shape. Placing the marimo into a container of water and adding a current from a small air pump will keep it moving and create a round shape naturally.

A Living Green Heirloom


Be aware that many pet stores and online merchants are selling moss balls that are not marimo but other forms of algae wrapped around Styrofoam balls or even rocks. These are not real marimo. Your genuine marimo ball will continue to live and grow as long as it receives the proper care of clean water and minimal light. As it grows your can create offspring that you can put into jars with decorative gravel and ribbon or raffia tied lids, and give them as green gifts to friends and family. When you do, tell them that their new fuzzy friend will provide them company for over a hundred years or more. They will be impressed.

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