Earlier this year I came across marimo (literally “ball seaweed”), which look like cute little balls of moss. They’re actually a type of algae ball from Japan that are popular as no maintenance “pets.” I bought mine in a local plant shop (Pistils), but you can also find them on Etsy. This week I decided to make my moss balls a cute little home out of a recycled lightbulb. You can also use this technique to make a lightbulb terrarium, if you prefer. It’s a fun way to reuse something you would otherwise throw away.
Lightbulb, preferably clear, incandescent type, NOT an LED or compact fluorescent (I used a decorative G25 bulb)
Heavy-duty work gloves
Marimo/moss balls (make sure the ones you get are small enough to fit through the bulb opening!)
Small adhesive vinyl bumpers (these are designed for protecting furniture, and you can find them in hardware stores)
Decorative elements (rocks, shells, etc)
Paintbrush or skewer
Acetone nailpolish remover (optional)
First, a note about safety: You should definitely wear safety gloves and goggles for this project, since you’ll be working with broken glass. Please be careful!
1. Wearing your work gloves, gently but firmly hold your lightbulb and use the pliers to remove the metal piece on the end of the bulb. It should come right off with a good tug. Insert the pliers in the small hole left by the removal of the metal piece, and break off chunks of the black glass until it’s all removed.
2. Now you still need to remove the filament. It’s inside a tube inside the bulb. Insert the pliers into the bulb and pull out whatever you can grasp, then, as carefully as possible, break the interior tube with the pliers. Dump out the resulting pieces.
3. You’ll probably have a layer of broken glass around the interior lip of the bulb. Use the pliers to break off these pieces until the edge is nice and even.
4. If you are using a frosted bulb, you’ll want to remove the coating. How difficult this will be depends on the brand of bulb. Some coatings will wash right off, but this one didn’t. I scrubbed at it with a pipecleaner and shook rice around in it, and there was still a residue until I added white vinegar, which took the coating right off.
5. You may also have letters or numbers printed on the exterior of the bulb. You can scrub them away with a bit of acetone nailpolish remover on a Q-tip.
6. Stick three adhesive vinyl bumpers on the bottom of your lightbulb to hold it upright. If yours aren’t sticky enough to be secure, you can use a dab of E6000 glue to make sure they don’t come off.
7. Use the funnel to add decorative sand to your lightbulb.
8. Add water, then your marimo and any rocks or other decorative elements. Use the paintbrush or skewer to help arrange them.
All you have to do to care for your moss balls is give them indirect light, and change the water every one to two weeks. Easiest pet ever, right?