Do you know Marimo? Roundish, green, and mossy—this unique indoor plant is full of personality! Marimo moss balls are equally strange and charming, allowing them to grow in popularity as interesting house plants. Aquascapers and aquarium fanatics are no strangers to these fuzzy algae balls as they are both decor and filtration for fish tanks. Marimo moss balls are increasingly found at garden centers and online for use in home water gardens of all sizes.
What is Marimo?
Marimo is the Japanese word for “ball seaweed,” which should give you the hint that, despite the common moniker Marimo Moss Ball, it is not moss at all. It is a type of green algae, Aegagropila linnaei, usually found in Australia, Estonia, Scotland, Iceland, and Japan rolling around at the bottom of freshwater lakes. Marimos are solid algae, radiating from the center and weaving themselves into a dense ball that is incredibly slow growing. Marimos grow only a few centimeters a year, so purchase them at a size you like and they will provide low-maintenance enjoyment for many years to come.
Caring for Marimo Moss Balls
Caring for a Marimo moss ball is easy, with no daily effort and almost no maintenance beyond changing the water. A Marimo moss ball is a great first plant for children and self-proclaimed “Black Thumbs.”
Marimos are aquatic plants and, therefore, they need to be submerged in water to survive. The water requires no special care like distilling, adding chemicals, or boiling. Tap water is just fine in most areas unless your water is undrinkable from the tap.
Keep the water at room temperature and change it every two weeks. Frankly, I probably change the water every four to six weeks and my Marimos are happy as clams. The bowl gets a bit slimy after that time and starts to look cloudy, so I take five minutes to wash it and get back to enjoying these low-maintenance plants.
How to Clean Your Marimo Moss Balls
- First, remove them from the water and set them in a bowl.
- Wash the bowl, rocks, and any decorative items with gentle dish soap and warm water. Use a sponge or nail brush to scrub the film off the inside of the bowl.
- Rinse the Marimos under tepid, running water by gently squeezing out the water and allowing them to fill again.
- Fill the bowl back up with water and add the Marimos. If you have squeezed out too much water they will float to the top. Eventually, they will saturate with water again and sink to the bottom.
Tip: Don’t squeeze them into the clean water if you want them to float. The water removed will make the bowl cloudy, and you will have to change it again.
Get the Lighting Right
Marimos usually grow on the floor of lakes, so they do not want direct sunlight. Normal household lighting is just fine. Keep them safe from bright light and they will stay healthy for years.
Propagating Marimo Moss Balls
That nice, round shape comes from rolling around on the bottom of a lake when they are in nature. The Marimo that you’ll adopt is most likely captive bred. Breeders will divide up larger balls into many small ones by pulling off chunks and rolling those into a ball shape. Many of the “nano” balls that are sold are made this way. It will take some time for the algae to restructure and grow back into a ball shape with threads radiating from the center. In the meantime, they look pretty much the same and are not harmed.
If you have a large or misshapen Marimo, you can divide it and roll it into balls. Remove the balls from the water occasionally and roll them gently between your palms. Eventually, they will look like velvety round moss balls.
Beware of Fake Marimo Moss Balls
A real Marimo moss ball will be solid algae throughout, with the growth pattern radiating from the center outwards. It will tear easily if you try, but should not simply fall apart in water.
As with all plants, only purchase a Marimo from trusted suppliers. There are many fake Marimos out there, from Styrofoam balls with artificial moss glued on to hair algae rolled into balls. Ask the supplier if the Marimo they are selling is Aegagropila linnaei, and where they got their supply. And be sure to only make purchases from suppliers who stand by their products so that you can return it if you realize that it is a fake.
Designing with Marimo Moss Balls
If you are looking for a fun garden therapy project that has almost no care requirements, then see how to create a modern living water garden over on my blog at eBay.