One quite characteristic trait of Czech people is their love for plants. They just love having plants in their homes – philodendron vines entwined along the coving, herb gardens overflowing from their little balconies, kokedama balls hanging in every other cafe you step into (they even have them in a cosy little vegan restaurant next door to us). Older generations stick to the more traditional plants such as ferns, ivy and zamioculcas. Millennials, on the other hand, are coming up with more innovative ways to decorate with plants – one of them being these absolutely adorable marimo moss balls!
What are these mysterious lake midgets?
These little green balls are in fact Aegagropila linnae, a rare kind of algae that naturally grows into a fluffy ball. They grow at the bottom of lakes in Japan, Estonia, Iceland and even in some lakes of Scotland! They are so round because of the streams and gulfs that shuffle them around the bottom of the lakes. They are proper treasured in Japan and people treat them like pets because the balls move around in the water as if they were some kind of animals. Don’t worry though, they are really just super cool plants!
These moss balls, marimo balls or lake midgets as they are endearingly called by Czech people, are often sold in pet shops as plants suitable for fish tanks. They are good for keeping a tank pH at the right level, they are naturally water purifiers and also create a fair amount of oxygen – you can actually find them in Pets At Home (however they are insanely expensive there so I don’t recommend buying them from there!). In the Czech Republic they have become a trendy hipster plant and they are now being sold in flower shops!
How to care for marimo balls?
But how do I care about these balls and what do I even do with them?! I hear you cry. Well, you haven’t actually owned an easier plant to care for, let me tell you that!
You can keep your moss balls in a water tank with your fish or you can come up with another creative solution – I have mine in large glass storage jar I got in IKEA for £4 (it’s this one), but you can find so many other glass containers in IKEA – like this one, or this one, or even this fancy one! You can also use any other jar you find at home, perhaps a nice jar that your favourite jam comes in! Or in a tall bottle that comes with a slightly wider bottleneck (so you can fit the marimos in it). They don’t necessarily need to be grown in a glass jar either, you can also use ceramic bowls or any other containers that can hold water. They don’t need to be in the jar on their own – you can decorate it as much as you like, perhaps with sea shells, pebbles, driftwood, or even little fun decorations you can get in a pet shop! I’m in fact growing some lotus plants from seeds which I’d like to add to the marimo balls once they have sprouted.
Lake midgets don’t need a lot – they are happy in a very cold water (which reminds them of being at the bottom of a lake). I change the water once a week but it depends on how many midgets you have and how quickly the water gets, so keep an eye on that. When I’m changing the water I roll them around in my hands which helps them keep their round shape (kind of like when they’re rolling around at the bottom of a lake). They don’t like direct sunshine and hot temperatures so you can easily keep them in a dark corner of your home and they’ll be happy. If your little midgets start turning brown or yellow (which means they are not very well) you can add a pinch of salt in the water.
Overall these little lake midgets are very easy to care for – and watching them roll around your tank and rolling them around in your hands is extremely therapeutic! They cost £1-£3 to buy, they grow super slow (about 1cm a year) and can last over 100 years! They also make such cute gifts and are perfect for kids to learn about caring for pets before you can them a puppy or something a little more demanding.
Where to buy a lake midget?
You can get them in this aquarium shop here or in this one. I also need to warn you against buying these on eBay, Amazon or, God forbid, Aliexpress – they very often sell fake moss balls which are just fluffy looking balls of plastic and have nothing to do with living plants at all. And who wants to have a piece of plastic floating around a glass jar, right?
For more tips on how to make your home into a proper green jungle, click here to read one of my most popular home decor posts!