Java Fern – Easy and Hardy

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Java Fern is an easy and hardy aquatic plant that is perfect for beginners and can thrive in a variety of lighting and water conditions.

With its unique leaf structure and slow growth rate, it is a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts.

In this complete care guide, I will walk you through everything you need to know about planting, maintaining, and propagating Java Fern in your aquarium.

So why wait? Let’s dive in and get started!

Quick Facts

Scientific NameMicrosorum pteropus
AppearanceGreen leaves with pinnate leaflets, attached to a rhizome
SizeLeaves can range from a few inches to several feet long
Growth RateSlow
Plant TypeAquatic plant, suitable for various positions in the aquarium
Water ConditionspH: 6.0-8.0, Temperature: 68-82°F, prefers slightly acidic to neutral water
Lighting RequirementsLow to moderate light conditions, 6700K spectrum bulb recommended
SubstrateNot required, can be attached to surfaces or planted with roots in substrate without burying rhizome
FertilizersNot a heavy feeder, liquid or substrate fertilizer can be used if needed
AquascapingNot required, can be attached to surfaces or planted with roots in the substrate without burying rhizome
PropagationCan be used as a background or midground plant, attached to a hardscape

Java Fern Overview

Java Fern is a popular aquatic plant that is widely used in planted aquariums.

Its slow growth, unique leaf structure, and easy propagation method make it a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts.

The plant can tolerate various lighting conditions and water parameters, making it suitable for a wide range of aquarium setups.

In this article, I will provide an overview of Java Fern, discuss its appearance and size, explore the popular types, and highlight the benefits of having Java Fern in your aquarium.

Appearance & Size

Java Fern has distinctive green leaves with pinnate leaflets that are attached to a rhizome.

The rhizome is a thick, horizontal stem that anchors the plant to surfaces such as rocks or driftwood.

The leaves can vary in size depending on the species and can range from a few inches to several feet long.

One unique feature is its ability to grow adventitious plantlets on the tips of its leaves, which eventually detach and can be replanted in the aquarium.

Popular Types of Java Fern

Several popular types of Java Fern are commonly found in the aquarium trade.

One of the most common types is Microsorum pteropus, also known as “Java Fern Standard.”

This type has broad, lance-shaped leaves and is often used as a background or midground plant in aquariums.

Another popular variety is Microsorum pteropus ‘Windelov,’ which has finely divided and wavy leaves.

There is also Microsorum pteropus ‘Trident,’ which has triangular leaves with multiple lobes.

These are just a few examples of the many beautiful variations that are available to aquarists.

Benefits of Java Fern in Aquariums

There are numerous benefits to including Java Fern in your aquarium.

One of the main advantages is that it is a hardy and low-maintenance plant, making it ideal for beginners.

It can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and does not require special care or intense lighting.

Additionally, Java Fern is known for its ability to absorb excess nutrients from the water, which can help prevent the growth of algae.

It also provides shelter and hiding places for fish and other aquatic inhabitants, creating a more natural and aesthetically pleasing environment in the aquarium.

Water Conditions & Lighting Requirements

Java Fern is a versatile plant that can adapt to a wide range of water conditions.

It can tolerate a pH range of 6.0-8.0 and a temperature range of 68-82°F.

However, it is important to note that this plant prefers slightly acidic to neutral water with moderate hardness.

When it comes to lighting, Java Fern is not demanding and can thrive under low to moderate light conditions.

It can tolerate a wide range of lighting spectrums, but a 6700K spectrum bulb is recommended for optimal growth.

Java fern attached to an aquarium log

Substrate & Fertilizers

One of its unique characteristics is its ability to grow without being rooted in the substrate.

It can be attached to various surfaces such as rocks, driftwood, or even aquarium decorations.

However, if you prefer to plant Java Fern in the substrate, it is important to avoid burying the rhizome, as it can rot if covered.

Instead, gently place the roots into the substrate while allowing the rhizome to remain above the surface.

Regarding fertilizers, this plant is not a heavy feeder and can thrive without additional fertilization.

However, if you notice slow growth or yellowing leaves, you may consider supplementing with a liquid or substrate fertilizer specifically designed for aquarium plants.

Maintenance of Java Fern

Java Fern is a low-maintenance plant that requires minimal care.

Regular water changes and the removal of any dead or decaying leaves are usually sufficient to keep the plant healthy.

One important thing to note is that Java Fern does not respond well to being pruned or trimmed.

It is a slow grower, and excessive pruning can lead to stress and potential growth issues.

It is best to allow the plant to grow naturally and only perform minimal maintenance as needed.

Growth Rate & Algae Control

Java Fern has a slow growth rate compared to many other aquarium plants.

It can take several months or even years for Java Fern to reach its full size.

While its slow growth can be a disadvantage for aquascapers looking for fast results, it is advantageous in terms of algae control.

This plant can help prevent the growth of algae by competing for nutrients in the water column.

Its dense and sturdy leaves also provide shade, reducing the amount of light available for algae to photosynthesize.

Tank Placement & Aquascaping

Java Fern can be placed in various areas of the aquarium, depending on your aesthetic preferences and the needs of your aquatic inhabitants.

It can be used as a background plant, midground plant, or attached to hardscape elements such as rocks or driftwood.

When arranging, consider leaving enough space between individual plants to allow for their growth and prevent overcrowding.

Combining Java Fern with other plant species can create a visually appealing and balanced aquascape.

How to Plant Java Fern in the Aquarium

Planting Java Fern in the aquarium is a straightforward process.

If you prefer to attach the plant to hardscape elements such as rocks or driftwood, you can use super glue gel as a quick and secure method.

Apply a small bead of glue to the desired attachment point, hold the Java Fern against the glue for 30 seconds, and then let it air dry for an additional 3 minutes.

If you choose to plant it in the substrate, gently bury the roots while keeping the rhizome above the surface.

Avoid covering the rhizome to prevent rotting.

Beautiful layout using java fern and driftwood

Care & Growing Guide

To care for Java Fern, provide it with low to moderate lighting and maintain stable water conditions.

Regular water changes are important to ensure water quality and nutrient availability.

Prune any dead or decaying leaves and remove any excess algae that may accumulate on the plant.

Java Fern is a slow-growing plant, so be patient and allow it time to establish and spread in the aquarium.

Propagating Java Fern

Java Fern is an easy plant to propagate, thanks to its ability to produce adventitious plantlets on the tips of its leaves.

Once the plantlets mature, they will detach and can be replanted in the aquarium.

Simply separate the plantlets from the parent plant and attach them to your desired location, whether it’s on rocks, driftwood, or the substrate.

It can also be propagated by dividing the rhizome.

Carefully cut the rhizome into smaller sections, ensuring that each section has healthy roots and leaves, and plant them separately in the aquarium.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, Java Fern is a versatile and low-maintenance aquarium plant that is well-suited for beginners and experienced hobbyists alike.

Its unique appearance, hardiness, and ease of propagation make it a popular choice for aquascaping.

Whether you choose to attach Java Fern to hardscape elements or plant it in the substrate, it will provide numerous benefits to your aquarium, including algae control, natural shelter for fish, and aesthetic appeal.

So why wait?

Get yourself some Java Fern and enhance the beauty of your aquatic paradise!

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Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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