Marimo Moss Ball

So today I went onto Amazon to check black Friday deals. Instead I found A Marimo Moss Ball tank. It’s so cute and everyone in the reviews seemed to really enjoy theirs.

(Marimo fun facts at bottom!)

I currently have a tiny tree, and a cactus on my desk. I didn’t want to add more clutter to the side of my desk near the window. Marimo mass balls don’t need a lot of light so I can keep it on the other side of my desk that’s away from the window. I decided I would make one myself and save some $$$.

I went to two stores to try and find a container. I tired Target first and I found a tall drinking glass for $1. Check the bottom for pictures of that.

The next store I tried was Bed, Bath & Beyond, which was right next to the Petsmart I shop at. I hadn’t even thought of it until I got there. I found an almost perfect container. I wish it were a tad bit taller, but I still think it looks pretty cool. I found it in the bathroom section. I walked the whole store once and found nothing. I figured that there had to be something in that huge store. That’s why I went on a second walk through. I didn’t think I’d find anything in the bathroom section, but it was one of the only places I hadn’t looked.

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So this is the container. Its got a cute little rope handle and wood lid. I bought two. One for me and one for my dad for Christmas. The following will have two pictures; all left are the same, all right are the same jar. So next I went next door and got some river rocks in 3 different colors.

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Next I put them in, darkest to lightest (left to right in the picture above).

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Then I added the Marimo balls!

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Here’s one more picture of the jar from the left, the one I’m keeping at home.

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It’s pretty cute don’t you think? I’m going to try and find stands for them. Maybe a tall wooden rectangular stand type thing or a squat circular stand. If I can find one, I’ll add it as an edit to this post.

They are a little expensive at Petsmart. You can buy them cheaper offline, just be sure it’s not a fake. They sell “moss balls” for reptiles (not sure why reptiles need them but hey). They are just an endoskeleton with moss wrapped around the outside, not a true Marimo.

Pricing:

  • jar = 14.99
  • stones x3 = 1.99
  • Marimo = $8.49 (sale price)

If you buy all three stone colors the total is = $29.45

If you buy one stone color the total is = $25.47

For a cheaper version, just use the stones and a cheap cup. Here’s mine:

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The total with all three stones is $15.46

The total with one stone color is $11.48

Which one do you like better? Jar or Glass? Let me know because I like both and can’t decide which to use.

Fun Facts!

Marimo are Japanese. Mari = spherical, mo = moss.

Here’s the word in hiragana まりも.

In English we pronounce it mary-mo, but in Japanese it sounds like ma-ri-mo where ma’s “a” is soft. Almost like mario with an m in there.

They only grow in certain places because of currents. The algae is constantly being swirled in circles so it becomes a little ball.

Marimo can live for 200 years and the biggest they become is 12 in in diameter!

Owning a Marimo is supposed to bring you good luck.

Edit Dec. 1:

The Marimo ball produces little bubbles on its surface as it photosynthesizes. Sometimes it floats because of that. It’s really cool to see them appear. I take the little guy out, squeeze gently, and roll it around in my hand. It’s really soft. Then I put it back in. A few hours later there are small bubbles all over; on the glass, stones and Marimo. Nature at work!

Edit Feb. 14:

I found the perfect container for my marimo! I got it at Target. I think it was $12. Here’s a picture. I think it’s super cute!!

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It’s a little hard to see but there is some sand at the bottom and the marimo. The rest is just fake flowers that are affixed to the bottom. So I get a cute decorative plant, and my little marimo gets a home!

The Nitrogen Cycle

One of the most important things for your tank is the Nitrogen cycle. A closed environment gets dirty very quickly. The only thing keeping your tank clean is bacteria. Like anything else in life, bacteria eat and produce waste. Then other bacteria eat that waste and produce their own. That is how your tank functions. In nature the ocean is so much larger than the amount of waste that there is no worry of build up. In your tank however, things can get dicey quickly. Once established things will run nice and smooth with the occasional water change. No system is perfect and eventually your tank will get build up. Weekly partial water changes take care of this problem.

First step:

Your fish and dying plants produce ammonia in their wast. Too much ammonia is toxic to fish and will burn, and eventually kill them. To get rid of the harmful ammonia you need nitrifying bacteria. Certain nitrifying bacteria eat the ammonia. Their waste product is called nitrite. Nitrite is also poisonous to fish.

Second step:

Nitrifiying bacteria (not the ammonia eating ones, another type) come in and eat the nitrite. They produce nitrate. Nitrate is not poisonous fish in small quantities. High nitrate levels suggest that you might be overfeeding your fish (the left over food producing extra food for the bacteria, which then produce more waste). It can also suggest you have too many fish for your size tank. If you nitrates are always high, try feeding less, and if that doesn’t work, consider buying a bigger tank, or moving fish out of that tank.

Third step:

In nature the nitrate would be recycled by something else. In your tank it just builds up. Once it builds up you change the water and replace it to remove the nitrates.

Here’s a diagram from Petco’s website.

Your goal is to create a perfect balance of producers and consumers in your tank. This process can take up to 8 weeks. I’m no chemist so instead I’ll link you to two different sites. The first site is very clear and provides pictures and a video at the end. The second site is a little more complicated and provides a little more info. These sites provide info on fishless cycling, the safest way to establish your tank.

  1. Wiki
  2. Pet Keepers Guide

Now I took the other route, cycling with a fish in the tank. I didn’t know better. Doing a cycle with a fish can cause fish death or illness. I listed everything I used in my blog here.

It was really a stressful process. I tested the water everyday and in the beginning did water changes everyday. The ammonia was my biggest problem in the beginning. The levels were always high. I purchased an ammonia detoxifier a little ways into the process. It makes the ammonia safe, but provides false ammonia readings with most water tests. It took my tank around 4 weeks to cycle. I added beneficial bacteria, but I’m not sure if that helped, or the fact that I have a small tank resulted in the quick cycle.

I was really worried that I had hurt my fish when I noticed black dots all over her tail fin. 20141203_003915

I wish I had taken a picture of her the first day I got her. I have no way to compare. I think that the spots were naturally on her. They are very symmetric and haven’t faded. Ammonia burns can fade over time with proper treatment. I used stress coat+ to help heal her.

I’m glad it’s over. Doing water changes every other day was very time consuming and everything got wet every time. I treated the replacement water every time and also allowed it to sit out a few hours so it would reach room temp. If you don’t have a tap dechlorinator you must allow 24 hours to pass before you put that water in the tank. I use Top Fin dechlorinator.

Either way, it’s a time consuming process that takes determination. It’ll all be worth it in the end I promise!

Also, I have ordered some new decorations off Petsmart as they were having a 20% off everything black Friday promotion. I can do a blog unboxing once it comes and tell what I think of the products so check back soon!

More Necessary Expenses

At this point I started researching. I wasn’t sure how much to feed my fish, and my snail was acting sluggish (no pun intended). I soon learned that I made a foolhardy mistake. Fish tanks are actually a working ecosystem, ironically what I wanted in the first place. Tanks go through a cycle of producers, consumers and decomposers. This is called the Nitrogen cycle. I’ll link my blog post about the Nitrogen cycle here.

If you don’t set the cycle up first, fish death is very possible and probable. If your fish are always dying within weeks of ownership this may be why. To counter this you need a plethora of supplies, diligence, and time.

I went to the store and got some supplies. I got a ton of water treatments (to establish the cycle) and some other things. I’ll talk about everything here and provide pictures. There will be a list at the bottom. Everything is stored in a black box purchased for $3 at Target.

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I noticed what appeared to be Ammonia burns on my fish. I learned that high ammonia levels can actually cause black burn spots on your fish (I later figure that those spots were actually a part of her because they never went away, and are actually fairly symmetric). So I purchased Stress Coat+ because that’s what was recommended to me by people on this amazing website. All my questions were answered within hours of posting them.

I would recommend Stress Coat+ for anyone anyway, because introduction into a new tank can cause stress. Also if you ever removing your fish to clean their tank, this will help when you replace them into the tank. It also replaces their slime coat, which keeps them healthy.

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Because of the Ammonia problem I also purchased Am Guard. It removes ammonia and is good for use in emergencies. The packaging claims that standard water tests gives false positives because of the chemicals in the products and tests.

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My pH was a bit high, and even though people recommend leaving pH levels alone, I went ahead and got a gentle pH balancer. It’s meant to be used weekly and keeps the levels even. It does not instantly change the levels, which is good because rapid changes can send fish into shock.

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The last product is the most important and most recommended. It’s called Prime and it’s by Seachem. It helps detoxify Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrates. Those three things are what throw your tank out of balance. You need all three, but you need safe levels.

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You have a choice of water testing kits, but the ultimate, almighty kit is the API Mater Test Kit. It’s expensive, but you need to test your water levels around once a week, and at least once a month in an established tank. When establishing a tank you have to test everyday.

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If you have a small tank like me, you’re going to need fractions of ml to treat your tank. I already owned 1 ml syringes that were segmented into tenths. We had them for medicating our guinea pigs. They are super helpful and should be fairly cheap. Check your local store for some.

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The last thing I got was a gravel vacuum. It is hard to photograph so I’ll link it here. It is essential for any tank maintenance. You don’t only use it for vacuuming gravel, it also siphons out water. I use it every time I do a water change. Technically you can do it with any tube, but you need to create a suction by sucking the air out with your mouth. This vacuum provides a pump to create that suction and is super easy to use.

  • Gravel Vacuum Small = $9.99
  • API Master Test kit = $27.49
  • Marineland pH regulator .8 fl oz = $8.99
  • Prime by Seachem 3.4 fl oz = $4.69
  • API Stress Coat+ = $5.99
  • Am Guard by Seachem 8.5 fl oz = $4.97
  • TOTAL = $62.12

Buying a Tank

I went to Petsmart ready to get a real tank. This was October 10, 2014. I went in knowing I needed a small tank, but also a cheap one. If you read my previous blog you know that at this point I had a running total of $57.27 on this project so far. Everything I had bought was able to be put to use in the new tank as well, except the air stone, tubing, and pump. If I had known, I could have saved $13.14. So now you can save money! Anyway, I went in and saw this tank and misread the label. The label was poorly placed and led me to believe the tank was $17. The 1 gallon tanks below these on the stand were $17. This stand was a cardboard “sale” stand, so placement and stickers were everywhere. I don’t regret the purchase though, because this tank is perfect and I saved $10.

It is a 2.5 gallon tank, and also comes in 5 gallon. The 2.5 is $39.99 and the 5 is $59.99. Seems a little steep, but it comes with almost everything you’ll ever need.

So the tank itself is very modern looking. It is rectangular with a bowed out front. It is 11.5 inches long, 12.5 inches high, and 7.625 inches deep. It weighs 3.5 lbs unfilled.

It sits in a stand that looks a little more modern in the white color, but I like it in black too. The stand contains a built in drip tray, which has been handy for me a few times.

The lid is equip with two LED lights, and a feeding hole. It also has a narrow slit down the back to allow the filter cord out. Should you need a water heater, the slit should allow ample access for that cord as well. It would easily accommodate a thermometer. You won’t have to worry about cutting anything or creating additional holes. The LED plugs in separately of the filter and has an on/off switch located closer to the tank than to the plug.

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It comes with what I like to call, a waterfall filter. It pulls in water, filters it, and then the water pours out the top like a little waterfall. The company call it a Quietflow filtration system. Because of this, the water is aerated and you don’t need an air stone. The filter is silent. 100% SILENT! This is by far the best part of this tank. It comes with one filter pack (which could last well over a year, I’ll explain why in a different blog), one packet of color enhancing Betta food (which will also last forever), and a water conditioner containing a dechlorinator, good bacteria, and nutrients good for Betta fish. I believe the labeled warned that it must be placed on a flat table that can handle 45 lbs of weight.

It comes with a divider. NEVER ever place two bettas in such a small space. 1.25 gallon is not enough for one betta fish. Technically 2.5 isn’t big enough either. I have the divider tossed in a drawer.

It also came with coupons for and samples of Aqueon Betta bowl plus, and Aqueon color enhancing Betta food. Betta bowl plus sample is one use, but the food sample could last you months. (Go down to the ** for a review on Aqueon Betta food)

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I had to get decorations! So I found this adorable flower arrangement. It was well priced and fit perfectly in my tank. Along with the shells I already had, I knew my tank would look very sleek.

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While I was buying everything, almost all the packaging had Betta fish on it. Betta this, Betta that. Soooo…. I looked at the fish available. I hadn’t even told my parents I was getting a new tank, let alone a fish. I’m 19 and in college, but live at home and commute. I figured, “Hey I’m the one taking care of this tank, right? So I can buy what I want.” With that in mind I pushed forward. Since the tank was so small, I didn’t want to get one of the large (beautiful) male Betta fish. Also, they were like $14 for one fish! That’s more than my hamster cost! Anyway, I looked at the girl fish and found a baby one. She was so much smaller than the others and I knew she had some growing to do. Some fish stop growing if you put them in a small tank, so I hoped this would happen and she wouldn’t get too big. I really didn’t want to stress any fish out because the tank was too small. She was a pale bluish white, but when the light caught her she was a beautiful teal/turquoise color. So everything in hand I went home and set the tank up before my parents came home. My next blog will explain why this was a stupid thing to do (buying the fish and the tank at the same time). If you plan on owning a tank you MUST read my next blog on Nitrogen tank cycling or read up on your own.

**Review – I had Betta food from previous fish. We had always owned male Betta fish. I was using the sample provided, but thought I’d try the old food (we had so much left). The pellet was too large for my poor fish to swallow. She tried about 5 times before I took it out and gave her the Aqueon food. The Aqueon food was great! I stated above she was a pale bluish color. After eating this food, almost immediately her color darkened and became more vibrant. She is now a beautiful blue/purple/green, light depending. Originally, my mom had asked me why I bought such an ugly fish. She hadn’t seen the way the light had reflected off her in the store. I knew she was beautiful and this food helped bring her natural beauty out! Highly recommend.

  • Tank = $29.74
  • decor = $9.99
  • fish = $5.79
  • Betta color food = $4.29
  • TOTAL = $54.57

*Note: a second shrimp had died that day, prompting me into hasty purchasing. Normally I like to research before major purchases. I knew the water quality was getting worse and had to buy a new tank.

Lastly, I need to mention that this tank does NOT include a heater. The room I keep my tank in is always around 75 degrees (F). I’ve never needed a heater. Be aware, most fish require a temp of 70-80 degrees (F).

How it All Started

My journey into tank ownership all started with a self-sustaining ecosystem. I saw a self-sustaining ecosystem on Amazon. It sounded really cool and looked really cool, until you realize how expensive they are. You can see one here (all links open in new tab). I really wanted something on my new desk, so I researched how to make my own. I found this website and this video and created my own mason jar ecosystem. I used two little ghost shrimps and a conical snail. I used an old dechlorinator from our old fish tank to treat the water.

Mason Jar

  • mason jar = free
  • shrimps = $.39 each
  • snail = free
  • plants (I don’t remember species) = $3.99
  • gravel (GloFish aquarium gravel pink) = $5.99
  • algae thins (Top Fin) = $3.99
  • top fin fish net = $3.39
  • TOTAL = $18.14

The only problem was that I couldn’t get any pond algae and the system failed. I tried twice before I decided to move the system into a larger tank. So back to the pet store I went. I only go to Petsmart because they treat their animals much better than other pet stores.

Originally I was afraid my plants hadn’t been producing enough oxygen, so in addition to live plants, I also got an air stone. An air stone is a little thing, that comes in a lot of shapes, that connects to a pipe, that connects to an air pump and produces little bubbles. I also needed a new dechlorinator as mine had expired and a bacteria supplement to help keep the tank clean. I purchased suction cups to keep the piping against the sides of the tank. I bought 4 shrimps because they are known to be very delicate and die easily.

  • half gallon plastic tank = $4.99
  • air stone = $.99
  • 8ft of aquarium piping = $2.49
  • air pump (Top Fin) = $8.99
  • suction cups = $.97
  • money wort (plant x3) = $2.79
  • dechlorinator (Top Fin) = $3.99
  • bacteria supplement (Top Fin) = $3.99
  • shrimps = $.39 (x4)
  • real shell decorations (all living things decorative hermit crab shells) = $4.99
  • TOTAL = $36.34

So now I had a real tank, kind of. It was little and cute. I liked watching the little shrimps playing around together in the tank. Soon though, my plants started dying, and algae started growing all over. I tried to keep up with it, but it was impossible. I put the tank in more direct light, hoping to save the rest of the plants. My only hope was to get a snail to eat the algae. So, once again, back to the pet store for me. I purchased a golden mystery snail.

  • snail = $2.79

So the snail turned out to be a girl. I never in a billion years would have thought that having a snail would be so fun! I loved watching her move around and eat with her little mouth. I’ll write a whole blog dedicated to her and why you should get a snail!

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The snail was awesome, she ate the dead plant matter, cleaned up the algae and was super cute and fun to watch. The downside? Almost overnight, she ate everything. All the plants, dead or alive, were eaten. The amount of poop was insane. I had to suction it out with a straw everyday. She tripled in size because of it. With no plants filtering anything the algae took on a whole new level. The tank was cloudy and gross, a shrimp had died, and I knew there was no recovering it. So back to the freaking pet store I went. All this happened within a 6 week period.

It was time for a real tank.

To be continued….