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What Are Moss Ball Pets? Detailed Guide!

Moss balls make unique and low-maintenance pets. They do not need to be fed, and only require occasional maintenance such as water changes and cleaning. They are also known for their ability to filter water and improve water quality in A Aquarium.

However, many people want to know what are moss ball pets? and where do they come from?

So in this blog post, we will take a look at the history of moss balls, as well as some other related questions you may have about moss balls.

What are moss ball pets?

Despite what the name suggests, Marimo moss balls are not actually made of moss, even if they look like it. Marimo is actually a type of algae belonging to the genus “Chlorophyta” that grows in the form of a ball due to the pressure of water currents.

These balls are found naturally in lakes in cold areas such as Japan and Iceland, where they grow in large colonies at the bottom of lakes and can grow to sizes ranging from 12 to 30 centimeters wide, depending on their location.

The filaments of these green balls grow in all directions from the center of the ball and branch continuously, thus laying the foundation for their peculiar spherical shape.

However, these balls of “moss” can also be found on the sides of aquatic rocks, or in the form of small floating filaments which, in large numbers, often form large green “carpets” on the bottom of lakes.

It turns out that Marimo is rare and tends to be found mainly in Lake Mavatn in Iceland, in some lakes in Scotland, and in Japan, mainly in Lake Akan.

Even so, these curious balls of algae have also recently appeared in other countries around the world, including Australia and North America, although it is rare and these varieties are not as perfectly spherical in shape as the Marimo of Japan, for example.

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Considered a natural treasure

Marimo moss balls are so popular that it has been protected and revered for a long time, to the point of being officially considered a natural treasure since 1920.

In fact, the Japanese government invests great efforts in Lake Akan for the conservation of the Marimo and even goes so far as to hold an annual festival in its honor that lasts 3 days.

In Iceland, moss balls have enjoyed protected species status since 2006, but this is mainly due to their gradual disappearance from the Maven.

Indeed, just a few decades ago, these balls covered up to two and three layers of the lake bottom, but today, most of them have disappeared.

This phenomenon is due to pollution caused by mining in the area that began around 1960.

The large amount of waste dumped in the lake as a result of mining has drastically increased the population of bacteria in the lake, which has ended up blocking the passage of sunlight to the bottom, so the algae began to die.

Why are moss balls called pets?

There are several reasons why many people consider moss balls as “pets.”

First of all, you must remember that they’re a rarity of nature that is not seen everywhere, something that increases their appeal as an object of desire and admiration.

In fact, many aquarium hobbyists like to use moss balls in their aquariums because of the various benefits they bring as aquatic plants.

Due to their rarity and characteristics, moss balls are also used as a resource to educate about the care of the environment, especially to the youngest, and are often given as souvenirs to remind people about the importance of its preservation.

Finally, in several countries, but especially in Japan, parents often give moss balls to young children to use as their first pet for several reasons:

  • Require minimal care, almost none
  • Teach children to be responsible
  • Facilitate the learning of values such as patience and compassion
  • They are soft to the touch and are fun to hold
  • Marimo can live more than 100 years

In addition, although Marimo balls are usually kept at the bottom of the water, under certain conditions they can float to the surface, giving the sensation of movement and “intelligence” like other pets in the animal kingdom.

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Do moss ball pets have feelings?

All living things feel or perceive their environment in some way, but let’s talk a little bit about science. Clearly, plants and organisms such as algae – yes, algae are organisms – don’t sense in the same way as humans and many groups of animals.

However, some scientists argue that plants possess a “very rudimentary nervous system” based on cells that interact with certain hormones and substances that transmit information.

Most plants would have this system installed in their roots, this being the system they would use to find nutrients in the soil as they grow.

In other words, plants also use electrical impulses to communicate and obtain information, although this is a far cry from the way even the simplest brains in the animal kingdom do it.

However, scientists clearly indicate that plants don’t possess consciousness, so they cannot feel pain like animals, for example.

Are they considered alive?

Yes, moss balls are living things, but there is some confusion about Marimo balls, as they are often called “moss balls.”

Many people still believe that algae are plants, but the latest scientific evidence indicates that they are actually organisms more similar to bacteria, which also possess the ability to absorb chlorophyll, hence their green color. Algae are also capable of producing oxygen through photosynthesis.

You will surely say: but they look like plants, they are plants!

In reality, algae can take many different forms, from microscopic cells to large multicellular organisms living in colonies. In fact, there are two main types that divide the algae family:

  • Prokaryotic organisms or cyanobacteria.
  • Eukaryotic organisms or any other type of algae

Marimo moss balls belong to the group of eukaryotic organisms; that is, they are the result of a combination between bacteria and plants – something that happened at some point in history – which resulted in another type of organism with characteristics of both worlds.

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How to care for a moss ball pet?

Moss balls pets don’t really need a lot of maintenance, making them a good choice for those who don’t have a lot of time to care for other types of pets.

The most important factor in keeping your moss balls always beautiful and healthy is to change their water regularly. You can do this every two weeks or so unless a large amount of water has evaporated from the aquarium.

However, make sure that the water doesn’t contain an excessive amount of chlorine, as this would be harmful to your pets.

In case algae appear in the aquarium or container where you keep your pets, you can use a sponge – free of chemical products – to remove the algae easily.

How to clean your moss ball pets?

Although it’s not common, if you notice your moss balls accumulating debris, you can gently squeeze them in clean water to remove the dirt.

It is also a good idea to turn them around in your hands regularly to prevent them from losing their round shape, especially if you have them in a space where there is no undulatory movement.

Signs That Your Moss Ball Is Unhealthy

If for some reason your Marimo balls are not 100% healthy, they will alert you in several ways, so pay attention.

Moss balls darken: This is usually an indicator that your moss balls are getting too little light or that the temperatures are too high. In the former case, you should increase the lighting, but if the water temperature is too high, it is best to move the container to a cooler location.

Moss balls turn white: This may be a sign that your Marimo balls are receiving too much direct light. You should move your green pets to a shadier location. If there appears to be a white, slimy substance growing on the moss balls, this could be some type of hostile algae that you’ll need to remove.

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Where to buy moss ball pets?

If you live in the United States, you should know that it is now illegal – at least temporarily – to buy authentic moss balls in the country due to a restriction imposed by the government since February 2021.

This restriction is due to the fact that the Marimo moss balls that were being sold before that date, especially in large chains such as Petco and PetSmart, included inside them a species of invasive mussel that poses a great danger to the country’s biodiversity.

If you live outside the United States, you can probably buy moss balls at the big pet store chains in your country, but be aware that there are many imitations on the market.

Most authentic and perfectly round-shape moss balls pets are mainly found in countries such as Japan, Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, and Estonia.

Final words

Moss balls pets or Marimo balls are a different kind of pet ideal for children, people with little free time, and as a decorative element for the home.

If you are looking for something small, delicate and adorable that doesn’t give you headaches, then a Marimo moss ball may be your best choice.

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