Java Fern

Java Fern

Java Fern is a common aquarium plant available in the market. It has various varieties depending upon leaves shape. It has three parts leaves, roots, and rhizome. You can grow it in the aquarium to get a forestry look.

Java Fern

Java fern usually grows along the riverbank or underneath the water by attaching itself to the ground or rocks. These plants are compatible with a wide range of fish and plants.

Java fern belongs to the Polypodiaceae family it is a famous aquarium plant. It is a wild plant and has different varieties depending upon the geographical region.

It is present in Indonesia, the Philippines, and other areas of South Asia. Dutch German botanist Karl Ludwig was the first person to describe it in 1833.

Its scientific name is Microsorum Pteropus. It is an epiphytic plant it grows by attaching to rocks, tree trunks, and ground. It is suitable for decorating fish aquariums due to its unique leaf shapes and slow growth rate.

Java Fern Profile

Scientific name Microsorumpteropus
Family Polypodiaceae
Size 2 to 12 inches
Growth Low to moderate
Tank size 10 to 15 gallon
Lightning Low
Leaves shape Variable
Propagation Through roots rhizome and plantlets cutting
Care level Easy
Fertilizers and CO2 Not necessary


It has overall grey coloration and has three main parts. It is a tall plant with a height extending to 12 inches and 6 to 9 inches in width.

It is very adaptable and can survive in many types of tanks with different tankmates. The parts of this plant are following.


In a java fern, rhizomes serve the purpose through which the leaves propagates. It looks like green roots and grows along the surface to which the fern is attached.

The roots and rhizomes of the plant propagate through the bottom of the rhizome. This part absorbs most of the water and nutrients.


This aquarium plant has different varieties depending upon the shape and form of leaves. The leaves have colors ranging from medium to dark green.

They also have black color veiny lines that run along the entire length of leaves. The texture of leaves is somehow leathery and hard. They vary in size from a half-inch to 12 inches.


The roots propagating from the rhizome are bright brown. They are strong and firmly anchor the plant to any surface.

It eliminates the possibility of carrying away the plant with water flow. They do not have any role in absorbing nutrients.

Brown and yellow dots on java fern

The black dots on leaves are bumps because they are means of growing new java ferns. In some cases, these spots also show serious illness. The yellow dots indicate a nutrient deficiency in plants.

Black spots on java fern

These black spots are also a source of new plants from where baby plants sprout. But in some cases, these spots indicate nitrogen deficiency. You can add a nutrient supplement to counter the nitrogen deficiency.


It usually grows in forests along the riverbank and attaches itself to the ground or rocks with its roots. It can live on both above or under the water surface. 

It is not adapted to a dry environment always requires little moisture for survival. It grows fast in rainy areas.

Types of java fern

It has many types depending upon the time of shape of leaves. They can have narrow, broad, and twisted shapes but, all have the same name Microsorum Pteropus.

Needle leaf java fern

These types of plants have the thinnest leaves like needles. They can grow up to 6 inches. They are very rare and smaller than other types.

Narrow-leaf java fern

This type has narrow leaves and grows at a steeper angle than other plants. They can grow up to 4 to 12 inches.

Windelov java fern

This type has finely divided leave tips and has a length of 4 to 8 inches.

Trident java fern

It has feathery lobed leaves and 4 to 5 lobes on each side of the leaves. It will create a trident appearance of a plant. It is 4 to 6 inches tall, smaller than narrow leaves.

Java fern Red

The size of the red java fern is similar to other leaves but, young leaves are red. Its leaves can turn from red to green as they age. They can grow in length from 2 to 4 inches.

Latifolia java fern

This type of plants contains wide leaves with a large and broad appearance than other varieties.

Petite java fern

It is small in size leaves are just like a regular java fern. It is the best option for a small tank because it will not overgrow in the tank.


Java fern reproduces by an asexual process called apomixes. This process does not involve seed production, fertilization, and meiosis. It starts when dark spots appear on the backside of leaves. From these spots, baby plants appear underneath the mature plants.

Plantlet is another name for these baby plants. The plantlets start to grow and develop strong roots and rhizome, then break off from the mature plant and get swept out with water flow.

When finding suitable places, they anchor themselves to the ground. These plantlets look exactly like an adult plant.

Tank requirements for Java fern

You can grow them in a fish tank and have some requirements to survive. These plants are low maintenance; there is no need to give them special attention. Here is a brief description of all the requirements.

Tank size

The tank size depends upon the type of java fern you are going to grow. The varieties with broad leaves need more space than narrow leaf java fern.

Most of them can grow in width up to 8 to 9 inches so choose a 10 to 15-gallon tank for planting it. The smaller tank can hinder the growth of plants leaves can outgrow the tank.

In such a case, you have to trim the leaves more often to maintain a healthy growth of fern in the tank.

Water parameters

It can live in a range of water parameters like temperature, PH, and hardness. You can take freshwater to plant them in the aquarium but they can grow equally well in saline water.

These plants can survive a wide range of temperatures for up to 20 to 30 days in the tank. Here are the water parameters ranges that these plants require to grow and propagate.

Parameters Values
Temperature 70 t0 80 Fahrenheit
PH 6 to 7.5
Hardness 3 to 8

Light requirements

You need not worry about which wavelength of light is suitable. You should choose lights that match the natural environment of the tank.

Hang any fluorescent or incandescent light to illuminate the tank. Keep the light low because they grow well in dim lights. When the light is too strong, the java fern changes its color from greyish to brown. Intense light also promotes algae growth, which is harmful to them.

On average, they require 1 to 2 watt of light per gallon of tank. You can use 6000 to 7000k bulb in the tank to prevent them from excessive lighting.

They require lights for at least 12 hours per day to continue growth and propagation. When you see them turning brown, turn off the light for few days. They will take some time to get back to the original color.

Fertilizers and CO2 injections

They grow in water and exchange plenty of carbon dioxide with water. But when you want to speed up the growth, add both fertilizers and CO2 in the tank.

You can add other nutrients like phosphates to speed up the growth of them. Try to add 3ppm phosphate weekly to see visible results.

Use liquid fertilizer of any brand twice a week to enhance the propagation of the plant. Keep the fertilizer quantities minute to prevent any damage to the tankmates. Add CO2 injection in aquarium water weekly in appropriate quantities.

You can also add tablet fertilizer by burying it in the substrate. It will start releasing nutrients after few minutes. There are two suitable options for tablet fertilizers.

  • Tropica plant care nutrition capsule.
  • Seachem flourish tabs

 When you are adding fertilizer, add water frequently in the tank. Because adding too much fertilizer can increase algae growth.


This aquarium plant does not need any substrate to grow in the tank. You can put a rocky stone at the bottom of the aquarium to provide them anchoring surface. They grow equally well without a substrate. Never use soil as a substrate because it will rot in the soil.

How to plant java fern in an aquarium?

Before planting them in an aquarium:

  1. Prepare a hooking surface.
  2. Use any rough rock or driftwood to provide an anchoring substrate. You can breed it alone or with other plant groups in the tank.
  3. Grip the roots of the plant in hand and tie them with black thread.
  4. Secure the roots with any object in the tank.
  5. Let it grow until the fern finds some hooking place.

The tiny plants start to sprout from brown dots within 2 to 3 days.

Use wide driftwood to increase the surface area for leaves. Never try to bury the rhizome because java fern will not grow at all in such a condition.

When the plants start growing, the roots are secure untie them. Plant java fern in the middle or back of the tank to give an aesthetic look to the fish tank. When you plant them in the front of the aquarium, it will hide the tank front view.

How to attach java fern with rocks using super glue?

These plants grow slowly and can take up to 4 to 5 months to attach themselves to any surface. You can use super glue gel to fasten them with rocks or driftwoods.

First, take few leaves of this plant along with other parts. Then remove plant rock wool around the roots by running water on them.

Then make the roots dry by smoothly rubbing with a paper towel. Then find any suitable rock part where you can attach the plant.

Open the super glue gel by puncturing the top of the tube. Apply a thin layer of glue gel on the rock in the vertical direction.

Press the plants’ rhizome and roots exactly above the glued area and held it in this position for some time.

Then you can do the same procedure with other plants and place them in the aquarium. You should complete it within 10 to 20 minutes because it can not survive without water.

Java Fern Propagation

Propagation is growing new plants by germinating adult plant parts like seeds, roots, cutting and, rhizomes. It starts to propagate within few days. You need not do any job in initiating the propagation.

Plantlets cutting

 Just check when the plantlets appear beneath the leaves. Wait until plantlets grow and roots start to appear on the bottom, then pluck them from adult plant and tie with other surfaces like driftwood or rough rock stone. They will start growing there. 

Rhizome cutting

You can also use rhizome to propagate the java fern. Just cut a piece of rhizome with some leaves. Place it in suitable condition, and it will start growing.

Trimming java fern

Trimming is essential for the plant because soon, they will occupy the whole space in the aquarium. It will create many problems for fish and shrimps in the tank.

Use a sterilized scissor to cut all the dead leaves from the plant. Never cur all the brown leaves at once. Cut less than half of the leaves and leave the plant, then observe what will happen to it. When you see many plantlets growing with adult plants, cut a few of them with scissors. 

Java Fern Tankmates

Java fern is compatible with a variety of plants and fish. You can keep both small and large fish in a tank containing these plants.

Fish that eat plants do not nibble on java fern. The appearance and leave structure are very hard. Such plants do not appeal to fish.

You have to take caution at the beginning of the life cycle of the plant. In this condition, the roots are not healthy; a crowded tank can cause irreparable damage to the plant.

In such a situation, tie them tightly to driftwood for safety. Here is a list of all the tankmates for these plants.

  • Cichlids
  • Catfish
  • Arowanas
  • Tiger Oscar
  • Betta fish

Java Fern Care and maintenance

Caring for and maintaining java fern is a simple task for you. You have to take care of simple things. First, determine the look of fern you want in the tank.

When you want to get a bushy look, leave the plantlets with adult plants to grow. When you want to separate the adult plant from plantlets, keep cutting the baby plants timely; whenever you see any brown or burn spots cut the leaves with a knife. This will prevent the spreading of burn spots to other leaves.

You should change the water weekly because plants take nutrients from water through their food column.

In terms of cleaning the tank, java fern makes it easy because you can easily displace the plant in the tank. Just move the anchoring spot like driftwood to another place for some time to clean up all the waste.

Buying guide for java fern

Before purchasing a java fern, get complete information about the appearance of it. Besides, you should have sound knowledge of the diseased plant. Here are few points you should keep in mind while purchasing it.

Its leaves are green and bright in color. They should not have browning along the edges of leaves.

This plant is available as a cutting of adult plant with few leaves and roots. Check the length of all leaves. They should be few inches long when you buy them.

Check the rhizome of the plant; it should also have a bright green color. When you see any browning of the rhizome, it is not normal.

A small plant of any variety costs up to $6 to $8.When you want to buy tall fern with more leaves and attached driftwood, it can cost up to $20 to $30.

Can java fern grow out of water?

Java fern always grows immersed or submerged in water. You have to maintain an 80% humidity level to grow them out of water. Never try to plant them in dry conditions. These plants can also grow out of water in a humid environment.

To do this, fill the aquarium with water and cover its open end. Provide direct light by attaching fluorescent light to the tank lid. Y

ou can add water to half or three-quarters of the aquarium to increase moisture content in it. The plants will grow out of the water with leaves resting on the water surface.

Is java fern right for your aquarium?

These plants grow well in freshwater. When the aquarium water is fresh, then java fern is 100% suitable.

These plants are also easy to maintain and grow, so; it is ideal for low maintenance fish tanks. It is available in different varieties and leaves shape so you can get the more appealing effect in your tank. 

Benefits of java fern

It provides various benefits when you grow them in the aquarium.

Absorb ammonia and nitrates

These plants absorb nitrates and other nutrients in the water that are harmful to other living organisms in the tank.

They stabilize the environment of the tank by playing a role in the nitrogen cycle. They consume ammonia nitrates and other chemicals that are by-products of this cycle.

Create hiding places

They usually overgrow in tanks and give a bushy look that gives small and large fish hiding places where they can hide during the night.

This bushy and forestry look serves as a décor for your fish tank. You can create a separating wall with these plants by placing them in the middle of the tank. It will separate aggressive fish from other innocent creatures.

Common issues with java fern

It can suffer from different issues like brown and black spots on leaves. The leaves also scratch due to the intense light in the tank.

Java fern melt

In this condition, its leaves start to get brown and mushy. The plant even can die due to the rotting of all leaves. This condition can occur due to many reasons like

  • Low nutrition level
  • Too much blue-green alga
  • Too much light

Cyanobacteria are a form of bacteria that causes melting in them. These bacteria cover the whole plant like a thin film.

Too much light and nutrition deficiency can enhance the growth of such bacteria. You can peel off the layer of bacteria that is slimy and soft in touch.

Why my java fern is not growing?

It is expected that when we plant the new fern in the aquarium, it starts dying. It happens more frequently with adult plants. It takes time to grow, but when you do not see any growth even after months, it indicates some issue.

Malnutrition is the biggest factor when java fern stops growing. It also starts dying when we change the environment by planting in another place. Rotting and scorching of leaves can also hinder the growth.

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