Friday, August 01, 2008

Marimo Algae (moss ball)

Marimos Ball
Japan Moss Ball

These "Moss balls" are the latest craze to hit the aquarium plant hobby. They actually are said to be great for algae control because they "outcompete" the algae by using the same nutrients and starving the algae. In its natural habitat, their ability to move around by using the undercurrents to sink or rise in order to position themselves to receive plenty of light to carry out photosynthesis is interesting. What is Marimo?... Those who have not heard of Marimo would probably wonder what it is. Commonly known as Marimo in Korea, its technical term is Cladophora aegagropila, also called "Tribbles" or "Algae Balls" in the West. Marimo is the name given to a type of land locked algae formed by many small strings of algae tangled together in a radial pattern forming a fuzzy green ball. Mari comes from the Japanese word for ball and mo refers to algae. Native to Akan Lake in Japan, it is considered as national treasure declared as a natural monument. Although these balls have been observed to grow to some degree growing in freshwater lakes and ponds in European countries and some other lakes in Japan, only in this particular lake they grow to be a noticeable size in perfect spherical shape. Why is it popular?... There are numerous reasons that account for the Marimo craze. First of all, it is very simple to raise. Marimo neither requires special care nor occupies much space, as it is grown in a glass jar or even in a fish globe with fishes. No sun light is necessary, and of course, fertilizer is not needed. Softly rinsing off moss on the ball and gently tabbing it in order to help it form a perfect spherical shape with a finger on a palm when changing water once a week are all that it takes. A Marimo vase can be placed anywhere below 25 degree. Unlike pets such as dogs or cats, of which the owner feel uneasy to leave them alone at home, and might grow up to have an abnormal character, there is nothing to worry about Marimo. Rather, it helps to refine emotion. In addition, this algae is free floating, and displays unique behaviors according to habitat changes. As it is photosynthetic, it floats or sinks in the water in response to columns of light, and actually rolls around on the bottom of the aquarium. Thereby, it is mistaken with animals because of its movement, which is another factor that grabs people's interest. Moreover, as its life span is quite long - the biggest Marimo ball is known to have lived over 100 years. Breeding the algae balls in right condition, one can hand over a couple of generations from grandparents to a grandson, working as a medium of family love. Above all, the main reason for it gaining public favor would probably be due to the legend; once there lived a daughter of the chief of a tribe around Lake Akan. She fell in love with a commoner, but confronted opposition of her parents. She ran away with him and sublimated into Marimo. For that myth, in Japan, it has become spotlighted as "love plant," which realizes true love and accomplishes one's heart's desire when it is given and taken as a present. It has crossed the ocean to reach Korea, welcomed by children, lovers and parents.

Marimo Balls were first discovered in Lake Akan almost 100 years ago by Tetsuya Kawakami. In 1921 they were declared a "Japanese Natural Treasure" and the public's interest in Marimo was stirred. Marimo began being sold in jars to tourist who paid high prices to have their very own Natural Treasure. Not long after, a hydro-electric plant was built on the Akan river leading into the lake. This river was dammed and the lake's water level fell dramatically. Dead and decaying Marimo began littering the shores of Lake Akan and people were appalled at this mass death of their Natural Treasure. Due to both the peddling of individual Marimo and the damming of the Akan river, the numbers of Marimo balls were declining fast.
An environmentalist movement to save the Marimo of Lake Akan was started, and an appeal was made to the people of Japan to return their bottled Marimo souvenirs. Surprisingly, the people responded, and great numbers of the bottled Marimo were returned to the lake. The people of Lake Akan were so overwhelmed by the support they received that they held a festival in appreciation. And so it was, on October 7, 1950 the first of the annual Marimo Festivals was celebrated at Lake Akan.

Two years later the stature of the Marimo was elevated to "Special Japanese Natural Treasure." The population of Marimo balls is still dwindling and there is much research being done now to try to save or recreate this unusual form of Cladophora. As of yet no breakthroughs have been made.

Cladophora balls are a mobile form of algae and exhibit a number of interesting "behaviors". These include rising and sinking in the water column in response to light, rolling about and dumping collecting sediment from their surface and rotating positions with other Marimo on different tiers of the lake bottom. This last phenomenon allows Marimo to be found at deeper depths than light would allow for stationary plants.

Diameter:2-12" (5-30cm)
Light requirements: high-very high
Temperature: 68-82F (20-28C)
Hardness tolerance: medium
pH tolerance: 6.8-7.5
Easiness: average.
Mine range from 1.5 to 2.5 inches
Lights: medium light
Temperature: 72-76F
Hardness: in hard,
pH: 7


Available at
Mr. Aqua Aquarium System Philippines