Java Fern Care Guide And Complete Propagation Tips

java fern care

Last updated on September 16th, 2022 at 11:36 am

Java Fern has been around in the aquarium trade for many years, although it is far from being one of the newer plants in the hobby. It’s known to be one of the few plants that can handle very poor water conditions such as low levels of dissolved oxygen and high levels of nitrates and phosphates, as well as one of the few that can thrive under intense lighting conditions such as those found in deeper aquariums.

Not to mention its ability to grow under all sorts of water conditions and temperature ranges, which makes it an excellent plant to keep in any type of aquarium setup.

Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) is one of the most sought-after and popular aquarium plants available to aquarists today. They have long, arching leaves which are arranged in a fan-like manner, creating open areas where your fish can swim comfortably in their natural environment. Java Fern is easy to care for, making them ideal for beginners and advanced hobbyists alike.

The benefits of Java Fern will be discussed further in this article, along with tips on how to propagate and care for this beneficial plant in your own home aquarium or pond.

Java Ferns make great plants to have in your aquarium because they thrive under low-light and low-oxygen conditions, like those found in most aquariums. They also help purify the water of your aquarium by consuming excess nitrates and are easy to propagate so you can quickly add them to your aquascape!

This article will cover the benefits of java fern, how to propagate and care for java ferns, and tips on creating an ideal environment for java ferns in your own aquarium!

What is java fern?

java fern care

Java ferns are a type of aquatic plant that is highly popular among hobbyists. These plants provide ample hiding spaces for fish and other aquatic organisms, as well as open up space in your aquarium for swimming.

In addition to their aesthetic appeal, java ferns also contribute to water quality in many ways. This plant can be propagated easily by stem cuttings. In nature, java fern typically grows underwater or along riverbanks.

Under controlled conditions (e.g., in an aquarium), these plants don’t require any specialized substrate or nutrients to survive—simply place them into an established tank where they will continue growing indefinitely. Eventually, new shoots from established Java ferns will form roots of their own; these should be removed from the mother plant prior to being placed into a new aquarium setup.


Java fern (Microsorum pteropus) is an aquatic plant that’s used frequently in aquarium tanks. Commonly found in Asian and Oceanic rivers, it’s often seen growing alongside waterfalls and streams.

Because it requires less light than many plants, it’s usually a great option for more discerning aquarists who don’t want to deal with algae. Many fish love java fern as well, including catfish and dwarf cichlids.

It grows quickly in most types of water, although those new to its care may notice some leaf browning or dying at first due to lack of nitrogen (an essential nutrient). Once established, however, java fern tends to thrive without much maintenance at all.


java fern care

Java fern is an easy-to-grow freshwater plant that helps clean your aquarium and provides shelter for smaller fish. It requires very little maintenance, though it should be given a few small supplements to keep it healthy.

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It belongs to a family of plants known as Microsorum, which get their name from their exceptionally tiny leaves; in fact, each leaf is only one millimeter long! They’re also called mites because of how small they are. These aquatic plants aren’t likely to grow more than 13 inches tall, making them easy to manage in most tanks.

Java Fern is a typical green aquarium plant with two primary parts: rhizome and leaves. The rhizomes, which are brownish hair-like filaments that hook themselves to a variety of surfaces, serve as an anchor.

The leaves are extremely resilient, with a leathery feel and a variety of distinct forms ranging from thick to spiky. It is available in a range of hues, from light to dark green. Generally, the darker the green, the brighter the lights.

Some mature leaves contain a few black/brown microscopic round lumps (one mode of propagation that we’ll examine momentarily) and a few dark veiny lines that run through them.

The plant may grow to be around 13.5 inches tall and 6-8 inches wide. This makes it ideal for a broad range of tanks, including big community tanks, thickly planted tanks, and even display tanks.

The original plant contains varieties that affect the size and form of the leaves. We’ll explore some of the more common aquarium kinds, but there are also some less well-known options.

Types of java fern

java fern care

Narrow Leaf Java Fern

The leaves on this plant are narrower and sprout at a steeper angle than that of the standard Microsorum pteropus. The leaves can grow to be 4 to 8 inches long, and the plant can reach a height of 12 inches.

Needle Leaf Java Fern

This species has even thinner leaves than the narrow leaf plant and is much smaller. It may reach a height of 6 inches. True needle leaf Java is rather uncommon in the market.

Trident Java Fern

One of the most unusual varieties, it features feathery lobed leaves having 2-5 lobes along each side of the leaves. It is smaller than that of the narrow leaf, but it develops faster and contains extra forks in each leaf.

Windelov Java Fern

A one-of-a-kind variety with beautifully branching leaf tips. It typically develops to be about 8 inches tall.

Java fern propagation tips

Java fern propagation is actually quite easy. There are three ways that you can propagate your fern: spores, rhizome division, and bulbils. Java fern has two types of leaves – a single frond and a multiple frond (fan) variety. The single-frond variety is more delicate than its fan counterpart, but it also provides a much higher yield when propagating your java fern.

In order to propagate your plant, you’ll need to select a healthy frond. A frond will have roots at its base and is growing vigorously when it’s ready for propagation. Pick a frond that is about 6 to 8 inches long and place it into an 8-inch pot filled with fresh water.

You may need to trim off some of the ends in order for them to fit properly inside of your pot. Soak your ferns in water overnight and then return them to their regular aquarium after allowing them to dry out a bit.

Within two weeks, you should notice several new leaves growing from your original fern. Repeat these steps for each new leaf until you’re able to create another 6 to 8 inch section that can be propagated on its own.

When propagating java fern from rhizome division: To propagate via rhizome division, simply pick up a section of the root along with one or two leaves using a pair of tongs or gloves (you don’t want to damage any leaves).

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Then simply push apart the newly formed rhizome sections and allow them to settle back down into your substrate before covering everything back up with aquarium gravel. This technique takes longer than spore propagation but produces a higher yield.

Other tips

Once your fern has been established for about three months, it can begin budding out baby plants called bulbils at various spots along its leaves. These bulbils eventually fall off of the mother plant and are dispersed throughout your aquarium where they develop into full-size plants within months if they are not eaten by fish first!

There are so many benefits associated with having java ferns in your tank. They provide superb cover for fish fry while also providing excellent filtration through photosynthesis. Plus, they make excellent decoration pieces!

Java fern care tips

java fern care

Java fern care is easy by taking into consideration the below tips:

Java fern aquarium size

You can keep java fern in almost any size aquarium, but it looks its best and grows fastest when kept in a larger, well-planted tank. You will have to plant them separately from hardier plants, however, as they require higher light levels than most aquatic plants.

Try keeping java fern with anubias nana or sheephead swordtails (Xiphophorus birchmanni) for an attractive and durable display that requires little maintenance. The java fern is one of several species of water ferns known by that name.

Other water ferns include chain sword, cinnamon fern, climbing hygrophila, and water sprite. Although all look somewhat similar at first glance — they’re generally leafy green plants growing in still or slow-moving waters — each is unique and has slightly different care requirements.

Tank requirements

You can make a home for your java fern on driftwood, in pots, or mounted on background items. It should be placed in moderate to high light conditions, and it’s recommended that you maintain a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your tank is too cold, your java fern will begin to suffer and eventually die. An efficient method of raising water temperature is to attach an aquarium heater to an adjustable heat controller with a thermometer built into it. When set at a higher temperature than that required by your fish, these devices allow you to boost water temperatures without stressing your aquatic pets.

You will also need some clippings from other java fern plants so that new roots may grow off of them. This will enable you to propagate even more java fern plants once you have mastered caring for one specimen.

Java fern light requirements

Light levels are important in any aquarium, whether it is planted or not. If a plant is placed in an area of low light it will grow spindly and may never achieve its full potential. On top of that, Java fern needs at least 3 watts per gallon for optimal growth, which equates to about three watts of fluorescent light per square foot in a 10-gallon tank.

Tank mates

Smaller fish like bettas, guppies, and neon tetras are ideal tank mates for java fern. Because they don’t eat plants or have fin nipping tendencies, they shouldn’t damage your plant. Keeping these types of fish also helps keep ammonia levels down in your tank because they will use left-over food as an energy source rather than it being broken down into toxic nitrates by bacteria.

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If you do choose to put other species of fish in with your java fern, make sure that their long term care needs (such as temperature or pH) are similar to those of java fern; if not, there is a chance that one type of fish may out-compete another and possibly kill it off. Cichlids and catfish are two examples of fish whose upkeep requirements differ greatly from java fern.

That being said, you can always try placing smaller quantities of each type of animal together to see how they interact before going all-in on a community tank with several different types of animals. Another option for keeping multiple types of animals together is using dividers to create biotopes within your aquarium.

The idea behind biotope tanks is that each section has its own set up so any animals placed in each zone stay more naturally adapted to their particular environment(s).

This way you can add multiple forms of wildlife without worrying about total chaos breaking out! It also creates an aesthetic benefit since each section looks distinctively different — creating depth and three-dimensional interest.

Common problems

Unwanted Brown or White Colored Spots on Leaves: Maintaining a healthy amount of flow in your aquarium’s water can help prevent brown and white spots from appearing on your Java fern leaves. A small protein skimmer and activated carbon filter are recommended additions to ensure that adequate surface movement is provided while reducing unwanted chemical elements in your aquarium water.

Browning can also occur if too much light is present, as well as other common fish ailments, but these are best dealt with by a professional aquatic veterinarian. To avoid unwanted growths or bacterial infestations on your plants’ leaves, stay vigilant about their health and overall state of being. If you see any discoloration take place, change out 25% of your tank’s water ASAP.

Also, consider altering (if possible) some aspects of lighting conditions in order to prevent further damage from occurring.

Remember: plants do not get sick; they just get stressed!

How to plant java fern

java fern care

Before planting, take your Java fern rhizome and dunk it in water for about 20 seconds. This will cause it to swell up and make it easier to insert into your substrate. While some people just place their plants straight into their substrate, I recommend wiping off any excess dirt with a paper towel before doing so.

Once you have done that you can plant them directly into your substrate or use root tabs until they take hold of your substrate. These are available at most pet stores and come in various sizes depending on what size plant you want to grow. Just remember to give your roots enough room as Java ferns like to spread out wide when planted.

They also prefer having roots submerged under an aquatic plant nutrient solution than having them planted directly into loose gravel without one. You can also fertilize your java fern occasionally by adding new fertilizer every few months if you desire to do so.

There is no need to worry about overfeeding because java ferns are typically not picky eaters and tend not to absorb many extra nutrients from fertilizers anyways, unless they’re extremely high-quality ones, meant specifically for aquatic plants rather than typical houseplant foods used on other types of aquarium vegetation.

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Other types of java fern

java fern care

There are other three different types of java ferns available. They all differ slightly, but they are all easy to care for and can survive in most water conditions. One thing they do have in common is their natural habitat, which is growing on tree trunks and branches, not floating at or near the surface of bodies of water. Below we will go over each type and then some tips on how to care for them.

1.  Christmas java fern

This is by far one of the most common and favorite types because of its appearance, which in many cases looks just like a clump of pine needles stuck to a branch. They come in two forms: short-furred and long-furred; they are both equally easy to care for as they require very similar things.

It’s important to note that short-furred ones can grow up to 24 inches long while long-furred can be upwards of six feet! Just make sure you don’t choose something so large it will end up tangling with your fish or other plants, but also keep in mind that it will grow over time if you take care of it properly!

2.  Broadleaf java fern

They have leaves roughly twice as wide as a standard one, hence its name. These can grow to around eight inches long and can sometimes form colonies if they’re happy in their environment and you’re taking care of them well.

3. The last type is known as a midget or pygmy java fern

Due to it being smaller than all other types at around two inches when fully grown; they also have tiny pin-like leaves that are too small for fish to eat. These are more often used in aquariums with shrimp or fry (baby fish) because they will hardly be seen when placed into their aquarium, unlike larger versions.

There’s a very small chance of your plants growing tall enough to touch your light fixture so feel free to place these anywhere! These three types come from different regions and climates but can grow in nearly any pH level you’d like, which makes them some of the most versatile and easy-to-care-for plants on our list.

They typically do well even if only fed occasionally and don’t need daily care; however, they still need to be cleaned just like any other plant.

Is java fern good for your aquarium?

Yes! Java ferns are used to provide additional cover for fish and create hiding places for newborn fry. They also help maintain water quality by consuming nitrates from your aquarium water. They aren’t often appreciated, but java ferns (Microsorum pteropus) are relatively easy to care for, even for beginners. In fact, in my experience, it’s not even necessary to fertilize them or replace their gravel.