Low-care pet?
December 18, 2013 11:43 PM   Subscribe

Visited a fellow window-less office and saw a small, apparently forgotten jar tucked behind their computer. Upon inquiry, my coworker pulled it out and was astonished that the little shrimp-things and plants inside were still alive and madly swimming around. He told me he thinks it was a kit one of them got in the mail. I want something like this.

I love having a pet or plant to care for. Unfortunately, I'm away for up to 3 months at a time. When I'm available, I do a great job at caring for whatever it is.

I'm looking for some water-based animal/plant or enclosed terrarium biome-like thing that I can entrust to be okay if I have to leave it alone. If it doesn't require sunlight (impossible, right?) and it's small, I could maybe even take it with me.

The most animal-like thing I'm allowed to own are fish, pretty much. I don't care how small the critter is so long as it's visible, visibly moves around, and isn't, you know, bacteria or something microscopic. I'm good with plants, but it may not get the best sun. Leaving my window open gets light, but I'm facing a wall under an overhang and have a very limited view of the sky or sunlight; my from-home situation doesn't provide sunlight at all, either living or at work.

I just really feel like I need some physical creature or something to care for, or I can tend to get somewhat sad. I've tried computer or phone-based check-on-them games and desktop critters, but it doesn't provide as much satisfaction as, let's say, a cactus.

I know about that dinosaur plant that you can let dry out and resubmerge. I'm looking for as many options as possible though. Thanks!
posted by DisreputableDog to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I found a pdf about making one yourself.

There is at least one company (Ecosphere) making them but the prices are a little high.
posted by squinty at 12:09 AM on December 19, 2013

Best answer: How about an Eco-Sphere? They are a range of sizes and prices.
preview, squinty beat me
They are also on Amazon
posted by artdrectr at 12:12 AM on December 19, 2013

Best answer: When I was a kid, these were called "Sea Monkeys."

Just recently on kid's television, I saw them advertised as a flashier product than the old fashioned Sea Monkeys from my youth - damn! I can not remember the brand name!!

Even BETTER....


It's $60 bucks, and I can't wait to get one!!!

posted by jbenben at 12:18 AM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm thinking about getting a mini marimo moss ball. Maybe you'd like one as well?

There is an endearing symbolism revolving around love and happiness and they are said to bring good luck. In Japan they even have marimo plush toys and funny mascots.
This etsy seller says they move around sometimes in their tank.

There are beautiful glass terrariums that can be decorated with many things for the marimo to enjoy.

It grows at room temperature in tap water that ideally is to be changed every 2-3 weeks and is adapted for low light conditions. Marimo moss balls don't take direct sunlight well at all.
It can live for a very long time but grows very slowly at a rate of about 5mm per year. The larges marimo moss ball is believed to be around 200 years old and measures 95cm (37 inch).

There are many affordable terrarium kits with marimo moss balls on etsy but you can buy the moss balls at well stocked aquarium / pet supply stores and even ebay for very little ($1-3) as well. It is considered an aquatic plant rather than an animal. It might be fun to hunt for a nice big glass at the thrift store and amass the other decoration yourself.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:07 AM on December 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

I just want to add that I totally get that longing for a pet(-like) companion but think it would be really wise to opt for something very simple. I think a single fish in a small tank with no other animals or plants is not ideal at all. It's a pretty sad way to live for the fish.

You could also look into succulents, they are fun little plants that need very little care. Again, placed in a decorative terrarium they are a joy to look at.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:12 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

One thing I forgot, the marimo can be stored for up to 4 weeks without water. Therefore it even meets your criterion for portability on your trips.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:40 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to work with a guy who kept crickets in a small terrarium on his desk. Everyone loved to drop by and check out how they were doing. When he was away for a few days, he'd get a workmate to throw in some lettuce every day or so. And the best thing was, being in a completely closed office environment, it was nice to walk by his desk and hear the chirp of crickets - it kinda made me feel like I was out in nature, not stuck in an air-conditioned monstrosity.

Although apparently they breed like rabbits. I can ask him for more info if you want - PM me if so.
posted by Diag at 2:48 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had an eco-sphere, given to me as a gift. I actually found it incredibly stressful and distressing--if the temperature isn't optimal (and I lived in Florida), the little shrimp die, one by one, and then eat one another while you're powerless to do anything but watch. I eventually did some research and these are incredibly bad environments for the shrimp--who usually live in large schools. Aquarium keepers hate these things.

In my experience, there are no truly low-care pets. Want an ant farm, for instance? Well, it's now illegal in most states to buy a queen, and ants slowly die, purposeless and miserable, without one.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:09 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: As "Disney evil" as this initially makes me sound, I don't want this to turn into a debate on the ethics of owning or building such habitats and their contents.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:11 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I had a "lucky bamboo" plant for something like seven or eight years. All I had to do was refill the water once a week and trim any dead leaves, and over time it grew pretty tall. It's no substitute for a critter, but it lived way longer than any fish I've ever had, with a fraction of the effort. I grew pretty attached to it and really liked seeing it in my home.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:06 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you really sure this isn't good enough? just joking, Joyce

There are some plants that simply will not die and will remain green and living without much attention but will go crazy given the smallest encouragement, pony tail palms for instance.

I think you're on the right track with terrariums, which were all the rage in the 70's, and I think something that includes insects such as crickets (as mentioned above) or ooh, what about stick insects? They would thrive for weeks at a time with minimal interference.
posted by h00py at 5:26 AM on December 19, 2013

Please do not bring crickets into an office environment. Their chirping can be incredibly annoying when you're trying to concentrate. I would hate it if one of my coworkers decided they'd be a "fun" addition to our space, especially if said coworker then left for months at a time while the rest of us still had to suffer through their noise.
posted by belladonna at 5:40 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Well yeah, fair cop. Just go with the stick insects, then.
posted by h00py at 5:47 AM on December 19, 2013

Best answer: grow-a-frog? i had them when I was little and I remember them being lots of fun and had some leave-it-alone capabilities.
posted by ghostbikes at 10:28 AM on December 19, 2013

Sorry, but I don't think stick insects will work. I kept a variety of stick insects in my teens; they all needed feeding about once a week and misting pretty much daily.

What about Mexican jumping beans?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:44 PM on December 19, 2013

If it doesn't require sunlight (impossible, right?) and it's small, I could maybe even take it with me.

An air plant might be up to the challenge.
posted by Tufa at 8:02 PM on December 19, 2013

Best answer: "...he little shrimp-things and plants inside were still alive and madly swimming around. He told me he thinks it was a kit one of them got in the mail."

Yup, these are sea monkeys and you can order them from Amazon. They will dance to trance music for you.

The substance marketed as "sea monkey food" actually just has more sea monkey eggs in it, so as long as you keep periodically "feeding" your pets you should continue to have sea monkeys. This allows you to delude yourself into believing that you still have the same crop of pets you started with because there's no way to tell them apart anyway. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 11:15 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

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