The Aquatic Gazette

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Eheim Filtration Installation Set 1 & 2

In Filtration on July 31, 2011 at 07:25

Almost all aquarists are familiar with the iconic green filter pipes and hoses from Eheim. They have become so much of a brand symbol for Eheim that there should be no chance that Eheim will ever change its colour, although it is almost universally agreed that it is quite an eyesore.

For those that wants a neutral colored filtration pipe but do not want to mess around with glass pipes, you can consider Eheim’s Filtration Installation Sets.

The Eheim Installation pipes, which are made of plastic, come in a grey and black colour scheme and are purchased as two different sets. Set 1 contains the inflow filtration pipe and Set 2 contains the outflow filtration pipe. Both sets must be purchased separately as Eheim does not offer them as a combined set.

The first thing that struck us about these pipes were that they were modular. The majority of Eheim’s users with normal green pipes would have experienced the need to cut their pipes to length in order to properly fit their aquariums. For these installation sets, the pipes do not come in one established piece but in separate modular pieces, enabling easy modifications to their length and depth according to your required needs.

The assembled pipe below, is the outflow pipe. The length of the outflow’s rain bar can be adjusted to consist of one module or up to 3 combined modules. A well-fitted rubber stopper is provided to close up the end of the rain bar.

The rain bar is held in your desired location by up to 4 of Eheim’s excellent rubber suction cups. These suction cups are highly regarded and are among the best within the aquatic hobby. With the rain bar fully assembled, we realised that Eheim has provided an extra right angle connector and that is well appreciated.

A hose will be attached to the inlet valve of the outflow pipe and is held in place by Eheim’s excellent hose connector. This hose connector will securely hold the hose in place till your next hose maintenance or change.

A much welcomed modular design that makes you feel better about paying for these installation sets as all Eheim filters come equipped with the required filtration pipes.

The quality of plastic used for the usual green Eheim filtration pipes are of a very high standard. Even so, it is very safe to say that these filtration pipes are build much better and are of a even higher standard.

Every module and part reeks of quality and professionalism. We are actually pretty impressed by the design and build quality of these filtration pipes, so much so that we would not hesitate to use them over glass filtration pipes, if the use of plastic is not an issue.

The inflow pipe is no less impressive that the outflow pipe, using the same high quality modular plastic parts as the outflow pipe. The inflow pipe has lesser modules and parts, as its function is of a more straight forward nature. It was nice of Eheim to produce a black version of their green inflow guard and it just reinforces the fact that their normal green filtration pipes are nowhere as professional looking.

A close up on the Eheim logo shows the precise and clean machining that is found throughout these filter pipes. All parts fit nicely and smugly, without difficulty. With such a high quality product, it was easy to have a sense of confidence when fitting the pipes together.

When you really think about it, there is nothing really exciting about the Eheim Filtration Installation Sets. They are not made out of glass, they do not create whirlpools and they do not offer a completely transparent view into your aquascape.

But like Eheim’s renowned Classic filters, they are excellent because they perform the task required, in the simplest and most straight forward manner, which results in excellence. The quality of plastics used, and its unbreakable properties would mean that your Eheim filtration set should last you a very long time.

We like these filtration sets so much that we will be using them on [TAG]’s next show tank. If you are searching for a high quality, well machined and superbly executed filtration pipe that does not have to be made of glass, get these filtration sets. In our opinion, all Eheim filters should come standard with these, even if it means a slight price hike. They are worth it.



ANS Nano Glass Filtration Pipes

In Filtration on July 28, 2011 at 17:50

After our article on the Power Men glass filtration pipes, we decided to track down the smallest commercial glass filtration pipes to see exactly how small they can get. The smallest we could find were by ANS, and they are so small, that we wonder if they are even usable.

These glass filtration pipes are really small, and we have included a 50 cent coin in our pictures as a comparison to how small they really are. Our first thought during this review was to wonder if there is such a small canister filter on the market with filter hoses that fit the width of these ANS nano pipes.

A search on the internet revealed that there is an interest for nano canister filters and because of this interest, aquatic companies have responded to the demand. Notable nano canister filters include the Eden 501, Rapids Mini and the Zoo Med 501 filters.

Because these filters are much smaller compared to other established filters such as the Eheim 2211, they often come with their own filter pipes and accessories. Even so, we have not found a commercially made filter that uses a hose size small enough to utlise the ANS nano glass filtration pipes.

The overall build quality of the ANS nano is good, better than the Power Men pipes in our opinion. The glass is clear, strong and without any deformities, similar to the Power Men, but the ANS nano pipes do not have the design faults that we highlighted in the Power Men.

The ANS nano uses a glass that is stronger than the Power Men but no less clear. We do not think it is because ANS uses clearer glass, but rather because of its minute size, there is no difference in its clarity when compared to the Power Men. We are glad that ANS has decided to incorporate glass that is pretty thick as this will drastically cut down the number of accidental breakages, especially when the ANS nano pipe is so small.

An issue we had with the outflow sprout of the Power Men pipe was that it was too small for its size. We are happy to report that the outflow sprout of the ANS nano is appropriately sized and should create a decent whirlpool, aiding in clearing the protein layer.

While looking at the outflow pipe from the side, the sprout protrudes from the body of the pipe by quite a fair bit, more than what we observed from other glass filtration pipes. Rather than this being a design error, we feel that it is a good thing as this nano pipe is really minute. Having it extend further into the aquarium will help it clear the relatively thick tank walls because no matter how small your nano aquarium is, aquatic tank makers do not usually produce an aquarium with walls that are thinner than 4mm in thickness.

The intake vents of the inflow pipes are cut nicely, even and smooth. This once again, is in contrast to the terrible cracks that were found on the Power Men glass pipes. Credit must be given to ANS for excellent quality control on their nano pipes, especially when it is more difficult to cut, and its a fraction of the price when compared to the Power Men pipes.

We have little trouble recommending the ANS nano glass filtration pipes because of their excellent workmanship and quality. The only trouble is, that we have not come across a filter that uses filtration hoses of this size.

If you know of such a filter, please drop as a comment and we will be happy to bring them in for a look.


Aquascape | Why & How

In Aquascape Series on July 26, 2011 at 15:20

In our Aquascape Series, we have covered the introduction of aquascaping and the three most popular aquascaping styles of today; the Dutch, Nature Aquarium and Riparium styles. With our last edition of this series, we will now try to argue the case on why almost all aquarists should also be aquascapers.

In our conversations with aquarists who are not aquascapers, the common reason why they have not attempted, or ever consider aquascaping is because of the perceived level of difficulty behind it. In this article, we will prove that aquascaping does not have to be complicated or difficult, and anyone can do it.

click to view Takashi Amano

The primary reason to aquascape is because it does our fauna good. In the wild, freshwater aquatic fauna exist in an environment that has been aquascape by nature, dwelling in an astonishing variety and variation of flora, stones and driftwood.

The majority of fauna we have in our aquariums today are tank bred. And although they have never experienced life in nature, it can be observed that they do prefer an aquascaped aquarium rather than an empty one. Fauna in an aquascaped environment exhibit an interaction with the aquascape and most fauna have been observed to be more comfortable or stable, due to the security the aquascape provides.

Some aquarists do not want to start aquascaping because they do not like to care for plants or that they do not want the extra trouble to care for plants. For such an aquarist, aquascaping is still possible through the use of hardscape only. Hardscape primarily consists of rocks and wood, and an aquascape that only consists of these two elements will still provide an environment of security for your fauna. In fact, some fauna are more suited to a hardscape exclusively environment as compared to a planted one.

click to view ADG 60cm Hardscape film

Aquascaping does not have to be difficult, although it can be. For the aquarists that desires an effective, good-looking aquascape that does not require a high level of technical knowledge, a instant aquascape approach can be easily achieved.

An instant aquascape is one in which flora is bought from the LFS in its grown form and does not need to be planted in substrate. Some examples of such flora include the Java Fern, Java Moss, Anubias Nana and US Fissiden. When purchasing from the LFS, they often come attached to driftwood or rocks and if they don’t, are easily attached with cotton thread or fishing wire.

Using these flora, with a few branches of driftwood, an effective aquascape can be instantly created with reference to nature or the more complex aquascapes.

TAG Betta Tank | Instant Aquascaping

The success of an instant aquascape is therefore not on the flora type, but on your creativity and vision when deciding on the flora’s placement within your aquascape. To achieve a natural expression in your aquascape that will not feel artificial, it is essential to view and learn from nature or famous aquascapers like Takashi Amano. Multiple aquascaping forums and pictures of aquascaped tanks exist, and they are an invaluable resource for a new aquascaper.

Accomplishing a aquascape that is complex and elegant is very possible when just using the above mentioned flora. In fact, we feel that it can be as challenging as normal aquascaping techniques as the type of flora used is very limited. An effective design and vision will be needed to create an aquascape that is complex and well balanced.

click to view ADA Aquascapes

For those that are not interested in creating such an aquascape but would just like some flora for their aquariums, the purchase of flora such as the Java Fern and Anubias Nana will suffice. Purchase them tied to rocks or driftwood and place them in your desired location within the aquarium, it is so easy that a child can do it.

The Java Fern and Anubias Nana are also extremely hardy flora, able to survive in conditions that no other flora can. So you will not need to care for them, other than to carry out the usual aquarium maintenance that is already established for your fauna’s health.

click to view Anubias barteri var. nana
click to view Marimo Ball
click to view Microsorum pteropus | Java Fern

Another advantage of an instant aquascape is its simplicity in care. All flora that are used for an instant aquascape are hardy by nature, and the providence of CO2 or nutrients are not entirely necessary, although they will benefit from any addition.

These flora grow slowly and therefore do not require large amounts of CO2 or nutrients. CO2 that is already present in the water column and nutrients that result from the waste produced by fauna will be sufficient for their survival. Because they grow slowly, lighting is also not much of a concern and whatever lighting you have on your aquarium to view your fauna is usually sufficient. These flora have also been known to survive just based on ambient light, although we do not recommend that. The chance of an algae problem is also marginally lower since lighting levels can be low.

Day 2 of our Corydoras tank that was aquascaped by instant aquascaping

We hope that this article has inspired and encouraged all aquarists with a non-aquascaped aquarium to give aquascaping a shot. Just for your fauna’s sake, it is worth it, as they are now living in a natural environment and not a cold hard cell.

All the pictures in this articles are attached to other individual articles that will prove useful if you are new to aquascaping. Aquascaping is an art, and at times it may be frustrating, but enjoy the ride, because an aquascaped tank is worth it.


Power Men Glass Lily Pipe

In Filtration on July 25, 2011 at 14:13

Aqua Design Amano (ADA) introduced the now iconic glass filter pipes many years ago. Since then, these elegant, beautiful filter pipes have charmed aquascapers as works of art and with their ability to be almost invisible in an aquascape.

Because of the popularity of glass filter pipes and the premium pricing adopted by ADA for their high quality products, many other aquatic companies have also introduced their own interpretation of these filter pipes that cater to those that are not willing to pay for the ADA original.

Power Men (PM) is a little known company and we only found out about it through our LFS. A search on the internet will show that these glass filter pipes are only found on ebay and the few dedicated LFS that bring them in.

If you are familiar with ADA’s glass filter pipes, you will immediately notice that these PM glass filter pipes are not of the same standard as the ADA ones. However, we also do not expect them to be, as their retail cost is significantly lower than ADA’s.

The quality of glass used in these filter pipes is solid, smooth, well-formed and without deformities. The only issue we had with the construction was the sculpturing of the outlet sprout. It is not as big or rounded as we would like it to be and that has limited the famous whirlpool effect that these filter pipes are known to create.

The main advantage of having the whirlpool effect is that it will clear the protein film that is often found on the water surface of an aquascaped aquarium. If you are using a spray bar outlet or a shepard pipe, the same result can be achieved simply but ensuring enough water surface agitation.

The bend in the outflow pipe was also not as smooth as we would have preferred. Although it will not likely lead to any noticeable different in water flow output, a great draw of these glass filter pipes are their elegant curves and beauty. There is a lack of smoothness and connectivity between the pipe and sprout, and this has lessen the beauty of a glass filter pipe by quite a fair bit.

The same glass used in the outflow pipe is used in the inflow. And as such, it is the same soild, smooth, well-formed glass that we have earlier observed. But just like the outflow, with its slightly poorly designed outflow sprout, the inflow does have problems with its intake vents.

Looking closely at the intake vents, we can see that there are cracks found around the vents. We do not know if this happened during the cutting process or it developed afterwards. Either way, it is troubling.

If the cracks happened during the cutting process, the fact that it was still shipped out for retail shows that PM’s quality control is not up to par. If the cracks happen after shipping and in the hands of the retailer, it will shows that the glass used is not of good quality, although it appears to be so.

There has been multiple heartbreaks among ADA filter pipe users when they break during maintenance, and that is with the high quality glass that ADA uses. If PM’s glass is not as strong as ADA’s, we foresee even more breakages although it will not hurt the wallet that badly.

All in all, we feel that although the PM glass filter pipes are not as costly as their ADA counterparts, their workmanship and quality control could have been better. The PM filter pipes are priced about the same level as other glass filter pipes offered by other aquatic companies. We recommend giving them a visit before committing to these filter pipes.


jcardona1′s Wild Discus Biotope | Pictorial Update (3)

In Pictorial on July 20, 2011 at 00:15

It has been slightly more than a month since jcardona1 last updated this splendid discus tank. Here are 11 new fantastic pictures that have been taken by him and we know that you are going to enjoy them!


Photography credit: jcardona1

Ecoxotic Aluminium LED Arm

In Lighting on July 13, 2011 at 21:58

About 3 months back, we had a quick look at Ecoxotic’s new EcoPico desktop aquarium. It generated quite a stir and was our most read article for the following two months. A big reason why the EcoPico desktop aquarium commanded such interest was because of its sleek and sexy aluminum LED arm. Thus, we decided to bring in the LED arm to give you a closer look and a detailed review.

Technical Specifications
Approx Measurements: 10 inches long | 3 inches wide | 4.5 inches tall
Total Watts: 3 watts
Light Spectrum: 12,000K White | 460nm Actinic Blue

Ecoxotic’s choice of packaging for its aluminum LED arm is much-lauded. The recyclable packaging is as big as it needs to be. By choosing a stylish triangular design rather than the usual rectangular box, Ecoxotic may have saved as much as 35% of boxing material. As our aquatic friends in the wild increasingly suffer from the effects of global warming, we would love to see more aquatic companies follow Ecoxotic’s green example.

The packaging is as large as it needs me to be, as seen beside the LED arm.

The Ecoxotic LED arm is for aquariums that are around 30cm in size. LED arms for such nano tanks exist, but as LEDs are still not as cheap to produce as the common fluorescent light, some companies have decided to use vastly inferior LEDs in order to price their products cheaply. This has created quite a fair deal of discontentment with aquarists who have used these inferior products, as they expect LEDs to last the usual 50,000 hours and not to lose lighting intensity after 500 hours.

Before Ecoxotic made this LED arm available, the only other reliable and stylish LED option for nano tanks was the ELOS E-Lite LED. However, the ELOS LED was more suitable for the marine aquarist because of its lighting intensity and its numerous LEDs translated to a price higher that what most freshwater aquarist will pay for.

Thankfully, Ecoxotic’s LED arm now gives the nano freshwater aquarist the option of a reliable LED arm at a reasonable cost. The LEDs found in the Ecoxotic are of good quality, able to output optimal lighting intensity for 50,000 hours. With a photoperiod of 8 hours a day, that works out to slightly more than 17 years!

The LED arm comes with one LED strip, and every LED strip is 9 watts of light. Ecoxotic smartly engineered the LED arm to have space for another 2 strips, allowing a total of 27 watts of light. Some aquarists have gone even further and have proven that it is possible to squeeze another 2 strips at the edges for a grand total of 5 strips or 45 watts of light. If you need that extra output, just order the extra strips and it is simple to attach them on the arm with the provided adhesive.

All those extra LED strips will have their individual power cords and instead of having multiple power sources, Ecoxotic has made it possible through the use of their splitters to power up all the individual LED strips through a single power source. This shows that the company has really thought through the use of the product from an aquarist point of view, we are impressed.

The Ecoxotic LED arm’s main strength is its design. With today’s popularity of rimless aquariums that emphasises a minimalistic and clean look, aided by unobtrusive equipment, a lighting unit which takes the conspicuous spot on top of the aquarium requires an appropriate design to fit into that minimalistic concept.

Some aquatic companies have also hopped unto the LED bandwagon, but they seem to be happy to house them in housings that will hold a compact fluorescent tube. In contrast, the Ecoxotic LED arm is sleek and metal sheet thin, with the advantage of the minute size of LEDs played fully.

When using the Ecoxotic LED arm with a rimless tank, the combination works perfectly. The structure and thickness of the LED arm flows with the similar structure of an aquarium and the choice of a curvature, rather than a right angle, takes away the tension in design that is critical as it occupies a conscious space.

The LED arm is made of high quality aluminum that does not flex easily under pressure. It should also be noted that if the choice to discard the LED arm after its 17 years lifespan is taken, aluminum is easily recyclable, and this is just another example of how environmentally friendly Ecoxotic is.

At the legs of the LED arm, where the arm grips the tank, Ecoxotic has used good quality rubber to prevent the aluminum legs from damaging your tank wall. The black rubber matches the LED arm perfectly and we didn’t realised the use of rubber till we inspected that area. Also, rubber is waterproof and we will not see any degradation of the material. This is unlike other light units which utlise plastic to hold their light units to the tank wall, as the paint on the plastic often comes off because of its constant contact with the aquarium’s waters.

The width of the rubberize aluminum legs have been designed to fit aquarium walls of thickness 6mm or less. If you plan to use the LED arm on an aquarium of thickness substantially less than 6mm, a screw adapter is provided to narrow that gap and ensure the LED arm is secured. On our 5mm aquarium, the arm fitted nicer without the need for the screw adapter.

The intensity emitted by the LED arm is good and it does look brighter than 9 watts from a compact fluorescent tube, partly due to the pinpoint nature of LEDs. There are three choices of colour temperatures for the LEDs. There is the choice of using the 12,000K White LED, the 453nm Blue LED, or a combination of the 12,000K White LED and the 453nm Blue LED in your desired combination.

The Ecoxotic LED arm is an excellent product that only comes along once in a while. Well designed, reasonably priced, made of superior material and long lasting. When we were authoring this review, the Ecoxotic LED arm really reminded us of Eheim Classic filters, which shared all these positive attributes and are recognised today as a legacy, with their popularity undiminished in the last 20 years or so.

Simple in design but brilliantly executed, we have high hopes for the Ecoxotic LED arm, and the legacy it will establish.


Product specifications credit: Ecoxotic

Riparium | An Introduction

In Film on July 9, 2011 at 23:06

Devin Biggs, the founder of the Riparium style of aquascaping, introduces the fundamentals of the Riparium style in the film. He touches on the equipment needed and showcases the different types of fauna and flora.

We look forward to more such films of the Riparium style as they will be a useful resource for the increasing Riparium aquascapers.


credit: Riparium Supply

Eheim Air Pump 100

In Filtration on July 8, 2011 at 15:56

The Eheim Air Pump 100 is Eheim’s smallest air pump and can deliver adjustable air output to a single air tube. The bigger models, 200 and 400 are able to deliver air to multiple air tubes and they are all independently adjustable.

Technical Specifications

Pump strength: 98.28 litres per hour
Power consumption: 3.5 watts
Dimensions: 15.24cm x 6.35cm x 9.65cm

The two main criteria for any good aquarium air pump is its low operational noise floor and diaphragm reliability. Cheaply made air pumps tend to be much louder and not as long lasting, as less attention and effort has been paid to utilise technology in muffling the diaphragm’s vibrations.

The build quality of the Eheim 100 is of the usual superior quality that Eheim is known for. Superior rubber matched with high quality plastics are found throughout the air pump’s construction. Also, the design and quality of the diaphragm translates to what makes the Eheim air pumps famous, its extremely low noise floor.

The low noise generated by the Eheim 100 is exceptional when compared to other air pumps of the same category. Eheim accomplishes this suspending the pump diaphragm in a harness, that hangs in the middle of the air pump’s enclosure. The detachment of the pump diaphragm from the actual air pump’s enclosure helps in eliminating the majority of vibration that results from the diaphragm’s operation. The thick rubber that covers both ends of the pump also helps to reduce and dampen the transmission of vibrations to environments outside the air pump.

The dial that controls the amount of air output is large enough for easy handling and it has a sufficient amount of friction for precise control.

An aquarium air pump, such as the Eheim 100, will be required if there is a need to aerate an aquarium through an air stone, or to filter an aquarium using an air-driven filter. If only aeration is desired but the aquarium has space for an air-driven filter, we will advice using an air-driven filter instead of an air stone as it provides additional filtration capacity while aerating the aquarium at the same time.

The Eheim 100 is bigger in size than other air pumps of the same output. And this can be attributed to the space needed within the air pump’s internal enclosure to independently suspense the harness. When compared with the minute GEX Roka Boy Compact, the Eheim 100 appears huge.

There has been some feedback among aquarists that the Eheim 100 does not stay quiet after a period of time and its performance will drop. It should be noted that this is not just typical to the Eheim 100, but to all air pumps as the diaphragm suffers from wear and tear and has a limited lifespan. Unlike aquarium filters in which the impeller can be changed out, there is currently no option to change a air pump’s diaphragm.

However, it is not all bad news. We have been using our Eheim 100 for about 2 years and it has performed admirably, with no noise increase or drop in performance. The degradation of the diaphragm is inevitable, but the Eheim 100 should give you a few years of solid performance before succumbing to old age.

The Eheim 100 is one of the quietest, or the quietest air pump in the market today. If you are in need of such a low noise floor, the Eheim 100 gets our recommendation.


Product specifications credit: Eheim

Ocean Nutrition Atison Betta Pro

In Food on July 5, 2011 at 12:05

Ocean Nutrition’s Atison Betta Pro is highly regarded among Betta splendens keepers. In the aquatic food business of today, aquarists are spoiled for choice. Out of the multitude of generic feeds, many have been specially tailored for specific fauna, and the Betta Pro is one of them.


Pure brine shrimp embryos | wheat flour | vitamins (stabilized ascorbic acid, vitamin E supplement, niacin | thiamine mononitrate | folic acid | calcium pantothenate | riboflavin | menadione sodium bisulfate complex | Vitamin A acetate | pyridoxine HCL | Vitamin B12 supplement | Vitamin D3 supplement, biotin) and preservatives (calcium propionate, ethoxyquin).

Guaranteed analysis

Protein 39.9% | Fiber 4.4% | Fat 8.6% | Ash 7.6% | Moisture 7.7%

Ocean Nutrition developed the Atison Betta Pro with established Thai Betta breeder, Atison Phumchoosri, who owns 2 betta farms in Thailand that sends 20,000 bettas into the market on a weekly basis. Betta Pro was developed with his knowledge on what a betta needs in its diet to be healthy and successful when breeding or at a show.

The Betta Pro was developed to be a total replacement for live food and is primarily made out of bine shrimp embryos instead of normal fish feed. Bettas are sometimes fussy eaters and the closer the commercial feed is to live feed, the better. The use of bine shrimp embryos will have a better acceptance rate of the Betta Pro as a commercial feed, among bettas.

Bettas are carnivorous and a high protein diet is important for their good health. The Betta Pro guarantees a protein level of 39.9%, very similar to another popular and well established betta feed, the Hikari Betta Bio-Gold, which has a protein level of 38%.

The pellet size of the Betta Pro is very small and will fit easily into a young betta’s mouth. They float easily and are not susceptible to sinking, staying afloat even when moved by a good surface current.

As with most commercial feed companies, Ocean Nutrition recommends feeding your betta till it cannot consume anymore within a feeding window of a few minutes. For those aquarists who need a better guideline, we would recommend feeding about 14 pellets daily, divided into two feedings. As with all feeding practices, monitor your betta and use the recommendations as a guideline. Some bettas may need less, some may need more.

Quality commercial feed such as the Betta Pro will always prove itself with the results they deliver. Bettas that are fed with the Betta Pro show strong colouration, good body development and attentiveness.

The Betta Pro comes in 3 sizes. A small 15 grams jar is great for the single betta owner, the 75 grams jar for the multiple betta owner and the 500 grams packet for the betta breeder.

Because of the use of bine shrimp embryos, the Betta Pro is one of the more expensive betta feeds available, however, the use of such embryos rather than generic fish feed can only be good news for the bettas. If you don’t mind the higher price, give the Atison Betta Pro and try, and join the ranks of numerous satisfied betta owners worldwide.


Product information credit: Ocean Nutrition

Marimo Ball

In Flora on July 4, 2011 at 01:38

The Aegagropila linnaei or Marimo ball, is one of the most unusual flora available today. It is the only flora to be spherical in shape, with no roots, rhizome or leaves, resembling a green ball of moss.

The name “Marimo” is credited to a 19th century Japanese botanist by the name of Tatsuhiko Kawakami. “Mari” can be translated to “bouncing ball” while “Mo” can be translated to “a generic term for aquatic plants”.

Although the Marimo ball can be natively found in Estonia, Iceland, Japan and Scotland, it was made popular by the Japanese. The Japanese established the Marimo ball as a national treasure in the 1920s and in recent times, launched a publicity campaign that used this unique flora as a mascot for addressing environmental concerns.

The Marimo ball is made up of a species of filamentous green algae known as Chlorophyta. This algae grows into large green balls that has a velvety feel and appearance. Because of this, Marimo balls are also known as Japanese moss balls.

In lakes where the Marimo balls are found, they move throughout the lake by wave action and it is this current that maintains the Marimo balls’ spherical shape. At the bottom of the lake, there is sometimes more than one layer of Marimo balls, the same wave action bounces these different layers about and ensure that all layers get their fill of sunlight. It is from this bouncing movement that inspired the flora’s name.

In the aquarium, the Marimo ball is not fussy about lighting levels or CO2 injection. There should however be enough nutrients provided and an aquarium temperature of not more than 28 degree Celsius.

Although the Marimo ball has been known as a hardy aquatic plant, some aquarists have not been successful in sustaining them in health over a long period of time. If the Marimo ball appears to be losing is dark and intense green colouration and seem to be turning brownish, we suggest keeping the aquarium’s temperature to a 25 to 27 degree Celsius range and to add more nutrients.

The Marimo ball should also be removed from the aquarium and given a light squeeze and wash to clear it from detritus that will hinder its photosynthesis process. Upon returning it to the aquarium, place it in resting on a different side as before to ensure that its entire surface area is routinely exposed to light.

Beneath the outer surface of a Marimo ball lies the same Chlorophyta algae, but in a dormant state. This dormant algae is filled with chloroplasts that becomes active if they are exposed. In the wild, a Marimo ball continues to grow until it reaches a diameter of about 20 to 30cm centimeters before being broken apart by wave action, forming two or more separate Marimo balls.

The Marimo ball comes at a pretty steep price because of its slow growth rate, an average of just 5mm a year in ideal conditions. Propagation can be encouraged by splitting an existing Marimo ball into multiple smaller pieces, and then placed in an aquarium with a good current with ideal conditions.

When propagated this way, some parts of the smaller, newly formed Marimo balls may be brownish in colour. Over time, these parts should turn into their trademark green as the chloroplasts activate. In less than ideal conditions, the entire newly formed Marimo balls will turn brown, easily falling apart, and accompanied by a rotting smell.

The Marimo ball makes for a good centerpiece in a small aquascape, or as an expensive carpet in a big aquascape. Its ability as an ‘instant’ flora in an aquascape, coupled with its unique appearance and non-fussy nature makes it popular among aquarists.

The popularity of the Marimo ball does not stop with the aquarist, numerous companies have taken to placing nano Marimo balls in small jars and these are marketed as a novelty. A Japanese stuffed toy character, Marimokkori, was also inspired by the Marimo ball.

In our hobby, the diversity of flora is often the true beauty of aquascapes. As such, the Marimo ball stands tall and proud, as it is a flora unlike any other. If you can find a Marimo ball in your local fish shop, we recommend that you give it a try, and experience its uniqueness for yourself.