Moss ball – Cladophora aegagropila
Scientific name: Cladophora aegagropila
Common names: Moss ball, Japanese moss ball, Marimo ball
Maximum size: 4 to 12-inch diameter.
Light needed: Moderate to High (2-3 watts/gallon)
Water conditions: pH 6.8-7.5, 72-82° F, KH 3-8
Hardiness: Easy as long as it has good light
Growth rate: Slow
Propagation: Division of the ball
Distribution: Northern hemisphere
Here is an excellent and attractive addition to any freshwater tank. The Marimo ball, also known as Moss ball or Japanese moss ball is actually a filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta) found in a number of lakes in the northern hemisphere: Japan, United Kingdom, Russia, Iceland and Northern Europe.
In its natural habitat, the Marino ball is moved around by undercurrents and sink or rise in order to receive plenty of light to carry out photosynthesis.
It ranks among the strangest plant on Earth and has been granted the status of National Treasure in Japan. In Iceland it is believed that taking good care of the plant will “make your wishes come true”.
At first it was thought that Marino was extremely slow growing. Recent studies, however, suggest that the slow growth rate in more recent time is due to poor water conditions. It has also been found that the growth rate can be improved by mixing sea water with the lake water (I would avoid doing this in my tanks) or by providing more nutrients.
The Marino ball is an exception to the rule about avoiding algae at all cost. They are actually said to be great for algae control because they “outcompete” the algae by using the same nutrients and starving the algae.
Marino balls develop their characteristically round shape because water currents push them around the bottom of lake beds. This algae is free floating so you don’t need a substrat in your tank. As it is photosynthetic, it will float or sink in response to light. The oxygen they produce makes them lighter so they rise to the top. To make them sink again, just squeeze the air out. It became a problem for me in tanks with plenty of Co2 and strong light. I finally decided to attach them to rocks and roots.
Some aquarist have created quite unique scapes using Marimo balls attached on wood or as a substrate cover. An easy way to do this is to open them up with your fingers and attach them to whatever you want with fishing line. They can be attached to small rocks to cover the substrat or they can be attached to roots. Just use your imagination.
Unfortunately, it tends to pick up detritus. To clean it, just remove it from your tank and give it a few squeeze in a bucket outside your tank (not in the tank).
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