Recently my friend and I went to dinner. Once our bill came and was paid, we had one of those moments where it was either we go home now or we come up with something else to do. But what to do?
I knew PetSmart was nearby, so for whatever reason, I asked if my friend wanted to go. She agreed, and off we drove. Inside, we started by looking at the fish. I reflected on my first pet ever, a betta named Rainbow, and then noticed the price markup on bettas. Or at least I don’t think bettas were $5 when I was a kid.
Stuffed in between the bettas in their cups of water were cups with green blobs. At first I thought these must be snails or sea urchins or some sort of critter with claws, but upon further inspection, I deduced these to be $8.49 Marimo moss ball plants.
Yes, $9 moss balls.
Experience Level: Beginner
Grows to 12”
Me: “Is this for real? I want to find a salesperson and ask them about this moss ball. Does it need a tank? Maybe food?”
My friend spotted an approaching salesperson.
Me: “Hi, I was thinking about buying a moss ball. What does it do?”
Salesperson: “You mean the plant? Well, it, uh, it filters the water in the fish tank.”
Me: “But can you have one without a fish?”
Salesperson: “I guess so."
Me: “What else would I need if I was to buy one? Can I keep it in the cup of water?”
Salesperson: “I would put in a bowl. We have these recommended drops for the water and food.”
Me: “The moss needs food?!” This was too much to agree to.
Salesperson: “Oh no, I thought you meant the betta fish?”
Me: “No, just the moss. I think I’m going to buy one for my friend.”
Salesperson: “You’re just getting your friend moss? I’ve never thought of doing that.”
Me: “Yeah, I owe her a Christmas present.”
I had decided during this conversation a moss ball would be the perfect gift to give Sara. I already had another gift to give her, but this would round it all out. I also could envision this moss ball sitting in our living room. It would be the talk of all future parties.
Everyone: “What is it?” (This would probably also be Sara’s reaction upon being handed a bowl of water containing a green sponge.)
Us: “A moss ball!”
Everyone: “There’s no fish?”
Me: “It ate the fish.”
Seriously, the moss ball creeped me out a little. I felt squeamish holding the container, like claws would emerge from the green clump, and it would scuttle to escape like a marine tarantula. (Ohmigawd, can you imagine if marine tarantulas were a thing?! That’s going to be the SyFy Channel’s next original movie.)
Once the salesperson walked away, I consulted Google for some additional information on my soon-to-be pet. Marimo (which means “seaweed ball”) moss balls are a Japanese plant that is solid algae and grow 5 mm per year. In their natural habitats (freshwater lakes!), they can grow between 8 to 12 inches in diameter. There’s also some folklore on them representing your heart’s desire. Well, not to break anyone’s heart, but a moss ball is not my heart’s desire.
They also live to be 100+ years old. “For this reason, we often joke that the Marimo make wonderful family heirlooms,” read the website.
My friend texted her boyfriend that I was buying a moss ball. “He asked what it looked like, and I told him it looks exactly like he’s imagining.”
We stared into the cup of water.
My friend remarked, “It’s starting to shed.”
Plumes of algae floated in the water.
At the counter, the cashier asked if I wanted to sign up for a PetSmart membership. I declined since I was buying a moss ball. Do you really think I’m going to be a regular customer?
Me: “Do you know what I’m going to name him…I mean her?”
Walking up to the counter, I was pretty sure this moss ball was male. However, I was reassigning its gender because of the name I had just come up with.
My friend and the cashier stared at me.
Me: “Her name is Kate Moss!”
In the car, I asked my friend to hold Kate while we drove to the Dollar Tree to buy her a new home and some turf.
The Dollar Tree proved to not have the necessary terrarium Kate needed. However, I did find some $1 aviators that I bought.
Cashier: “I have to ask what that is.”
Yes, we brought Kate into the Dollar Tree with us.
Me: “Oh, that’s just a moss ball.”
At AC Moore, we found her a $1 bowl and $2 white pebbles. I couldn’t wait to put her tank together. It would be so aesthetic!
I got to do it the next day when I gave Kate to Sara. Sure enough, Sara asked, "What is it?" followed by, "Does it do anything?"
Does jewelry do anything? Do books do anything?
Sara's mom commented later, "I don't know what it is, but it's definitely a creative gift."
All in all, Kate is an excellent addition to our apartment, and we didn't even have to ask our landlord.