Java Fern: The Best Aquarium Plant Ever? Complete Care Guide

Java Fern is one of the most common and easy to keep plants in the aquarium. Is it hard to believe me? Search for the best aquarium plants in google, and in every list, you will find java fern. Well, you might need reasons to support this claim. But, till the end of this article, you will agree with me too. This article is all about the java fern and why it is the best aquarium plant ever.

Java Fern (Microsorum Pteropus) is a beautiful, green aquarium plant. It is a very hardy plant and very easy to care for. They can survive in low light and they go along with a variety of other plants and fishes. You would never want to miss the java fern while establishing an aquarium. You do not need special methods for its reproduction too.

Java Fern: An Overview

Java fern is a traditional aquarium plant kept in fish tanks. I feel this plant brings an image of wild habitat in the aquarium. And for me, the java fern is the best aquarium plant.

Fish don’t prefer to nibble the java fern, probably it tastes bitter for them. So, it is safe with a variety of fish. But fish love to hide and play with these plants. This plant is strong and can sustain lots of blows to it.

Java fern can grow well in the tank with a basic setup. It is easy to propagate these plants. If you want your aquarium to get bushy, then leave the plants alone. But if you want to keep a few plants only, then you need to remove small platelets that pop up in the leaves. 

While many aquatic plants are prone to dying, the java fern is the exact opposite. The only way the java moss will die is when its rhizomes are buried in the substrate.

If you leave them alone, the java fern can turn into a bush. Even with the lowest care and maintenance, you can grow a lot of it. You can decorate your tank more or can even sell it for a reasonable amount. There is no reason anyone would not like this plant. 

These ferns imitate the natural environment for the fish and provide plenty of hiding places in the aquarium. 

It grows up to 13.5 inches in height and 6 inches in width.

You might also be interested in 9 Best Low Light Aquarium Plants | Benefits of Aquarium Plants.

Java Fern Appearance

Java Fern is a greenish aquarium plant. They can be moderate to dark green. If the plant has been exposed to bright light then, the color is darker and vice-versa. Rhizomes, roots, and leaves are their basic body parts. 

The leaf structure of various java fern is different. The shape and size of the plant will vary according to its variety.

Some leaves contain black lines; vein-like structures. Do not confuse it with diseases. This is one of the ways of propagation. You may also occasionally see black bumps in the leaves. This indicates a new plantlet is going to arrive.

But, if you do not notice small plantlets coming out from black spots, then the black bumps may also be a sign of nitrogen deficiency. For more information, you can read our next article ‘How to Start Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle | Aquarium Cycling’.

Large brown spots on the leaves of these plants indicate fern melt, which may eventually lead to fern rot.

Origin And Natural Environment Of Java Fern

The java ferns originated from South-east Asia. In their wild habitat, the java fern is found in shady and moist places. It grows on the rocks, tree trunks, and ground.

The name “Java Fern” comes from the Indonesian Island of Java. They are mostly found in Indonesia, Thailand, Malasia, and some parts of India and China.

How Do I Plant A Java Fern?

Planting a java fern does not mean burying the roots into the soil or any substrate. It means attaching or anchoring Java Fern’s rhizome to the wood or any decorative piece in the aquarium.

When we bury its root into any substrate, a java fern just rots and slowly die.

Java Fern requires minimal care and attention. Even though you just throw it in your aquarium, it will float and grow. It is that easy! But the best way to plant it is to tie it in the wood, rock, or any decor of your aquarium.

Where Should I Place A Java Fern In The Aquarium?

You should place a java fern at the back or middle of the aquarium. These plants can be bushy and grow like a weed over time. So, this large plant may hide fish or other decorative items in the aquarium.

How Can I Attach My Java Fern To Rock Or Wood Pieces?

The basic idea of the java fern plantation is to attach the plant to the rocks, pebbles, wood, or any decor that you use in the aquarium. After a few weeks, the roots will hold the surface itself.

Here are some ways how you can attach the java fern to the decoratives:

Anchoring With Superglue

One of the best ways to anchor the java fern to the decoratives is to anchor it with superglue. The gel version of the superglue is easy, quick, and more convenient to use.

You just need to take the decor you want. Then spread the superglue to the place you want to attach the plant and finally, paste the java fern onto that surface. I would recommend Gorilla 7700108 20 Gram 2-pack Super Glue Gel, Clear personally to anchor these plants.

Hold the decorative piece and the plant for a half minute and then let it dry for 3 to 4 more minutes. Finally, you are ready to drop your plant at the aquarium.

Anchoring With Thread

The second method for anchoring the java fern to another object is by using thread. Just place the java fern above the wood, stone, or pebble and tie both of them firmly. But keep in mind, not to tie them so tight that the thread cuts the rhizomes. 

It is quite easier to tie the java fern in driftwood. But in the case of stone, due to its shape, the thread may slip-off sometimes. The best driftwood I have ever purchased is PIVBY Natural Aquarium Driftwood Assorted Branches Reptile Ornament for Fish Tank Decoration, which comes in a pack of 3.

One of the perks of this method is that you do not need to untie the thread on the surface. The thread will deteriorate automatically.

Anchoring With Fishing Line

Anchoring with the fishing line is similar to anchoring with thread. All the processes for tying up are the same.

But, as I mentioned earlier, the thread deteriorates in the water but the fishing line won’t. So, you will need to remove the fishing line after few weeks from the java fern and the surface it is attached to.

I would suggest Berkley Trilene Big Game, Clear, 8 Pound Test-1700 Yard be used as an anchoring fishing line.

Anchoring With Zip Ties Or Rubber

You can even attach the java fern with zip ties or rubber. Take the surface where you want to attach the java fern(i.e wood, stone, or any decoratives) and place the plant accordingly. Then, tie the rhizomes carefully to the surface. 

Make sure, you take off the plastic zip or the rubber after a few weeks. They do not just dissolve in water. They may pollute tank water instead.

How To Care For Java Fern In An Aquarium?

If you are a beginner or you have a black thumb then java fern is the best for you. Java fern requires low or very little care. This ease of care also makes the java fern plant one of the most preferred aquatic plants worldwide. 

Growth Rate Comparatively slow
Care Level Easy
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallon
Light Low to moderate
Temperature 22℃ to 27℃ (72℉ to 82℉)
Water pH level 6-7.5

Tank Requirements

Java ferns are not too specific for their tank requirements. They are very hardy and can adopt a huge range of temperatures and water conditions.


Java Fern doesn’t require too much light. In their natural habitat, the java fern is found in shady places. So, low to moderate levels of light is appreciable in the tank. 

Ideally, 1.5 watts of light is suggested for each gallon of water in the tank.

Aquarium Bubble LED Lights RGBW, TOPBRY Remote-Controlled Air Stone Disk is the best lighting for an aquarium. The great thing is that it comes with 16 Color Changing and  4 Lighting Effects for Fish Tank Decorations.

Water Parameters

These java ferns can do well in a wide range of water parameters. However, consider these:

pH level: 6 to 7.5

kH level: 3 to 8

If you are having difficulty in maintaining such parameters, you can learn more about How to Maintain Aquarium Water Hardness from our Freshwater Aquarium Guide. Moreover, you can also check out ‘How to Adjust pH in Fish Tank’.

The water of the tank with java fern can be changed periodically. More than the plant, it is important for the fish that resides in it. So, you will need to perform 10-25% water changes every couple of weeks. You might want to check our article on ‘Is Too Much Water Change Harmful For Your Fish: How To Do It Safely‘.


The temperature of 22℃ to 27℃ (72℉ to 82℉) is ideal.


Most of the time, the java fern doesn’t need any kind of fertilizer. But, if you notice there hasn’t been much growth in the plant even after months, then it is better to add liquid fertilizer. Note that the fertilizers should be added according to the proper direction.

Ensure that the fertilizer contains iron in it. Iron is responsible for the green pigment in the java fern. You can use ThriveC Aquarium Liquid Plant Fertilizer | All in ONE Fertilizer Designed for Lower TECH Tanks (500ml) as a fertilizer but be sure you check the level of nitrate in the aquarium from time to time.

Carbon Dioxide

If you are wondering whether the java fern needs carbon dioxide, the answer is “NO”. Other aquatic plants require carbon dioxide for their growth and life. Java fern is a hardy plant and it can grow well without CO2.

Of course, adding it can help growth, but even without CO2, the java fern will be fine. Doesn’t it feel like you have such an understanding friend?

How To Maintain Java Fern In An Aquarium?

There is almost 0 maintenance in the tank with java fern. It’s just that if you do not want your aquarium to turn bushy, you will need to remove the little plantlets. Also, you will need to cut and remove the rhizomes of the plant. Only if, you do not want a lot of them.

Are any of the plants easier to keep as such? Well, I don’t think so.


Unless you are planting the java fern for selling purposes, you do not need to do anything for its propagation. Once you plant your java fern in any decorative item and give it a little light, the plants are ready to propagate.

The propagation of the java fern is through asexual reproduction.

Java fern propagates through its rhizomes and adventitious buds. A rhizome is the horizontal and mostly underground part of any plant that can bear roots and stems. It continuously grows to produce little java fern.

Propagation through rhizomes is the basic reproduction method. But many times due to suffocation in the roots and rhizomes, they can reproduce through leaves as well.

The java fern reproduces through adventitious buds also. The leaves produce small buds through which new plantlets are formed. You can remove these small plantlets and plant them again on the other surfaces.

But many times, these little plantlets grown from the leaves fall off themselves. They start to float in the aquarium and will eventually find a surface to attach themselves. Well, it is normally how it is supposed to go right?

However, this is a sign of ill health and stress in the java fern plant. There is an ongoing debate on this topic. Some aquarists say the falling plantlets are the actual way to reproduce. But some say that the mother plant lets-off those baby plants so that they could get a better environment than she is getting now.

Fun Fact

When the java fern starts dying, it starts to reproduce through its leaves. Sometimes, we can even see 20 new plantlets in a single leaf! Can you believe it?

So, if you notice any single leaf having a lot of plantlets in it, you need to guess something is not right.

No wonder, this plant can never die! And there is no doubt, the java fern is the best aquarium plant. You may also like to check out Nano Planted Aquarium Set up Guide.

Varieties of Java Fern In The Market

There are various types of java fern available. These are some of the common varieties of the java fern:

Java Fern

The original or true form of the java fern can grow up to 14 inches (35 cm) in height. 

Narrow Leaf Java Fern

As the name suggests, the leaves of the narrow leaf java fern are narrow. Its leaves grow to a steeper angle than that of the original form of java fern. Narrow-leaf java fern can grow up to 12 inches tall. The leaves can be 4 to 8 inches long.

These leaves form a large bush, which gives the small fish the place to hide. Also, this feature of narrow leaf java fern assists in the spawning process.

SubstrateSource Microsorum Pteropus Java Fern Narrow Leaf Live Aquarium Plant (Pot) are the best ones you can find online.

Needle Leaf Java Fern

Needle Leaf Java Fern has long and narrow leaves. They form the descent vegetation in comparison to all other java ferns. So, they may seem unmanaged, untidy, or messy sometimes.

Needle leaf java fern is quite uncommon. They can grow up to 6 inches. You might be bewildered whether this is a java fern or not when you view needle leaf fern for the first time.

Trident Java Fern

Trident java fern has many forks on a single leaf. It may resemble you of our hand; many finger-like structures coming off from a single leaf. Trident java fern grows shorter up to 10 inches only. 

Trident java ferns are also less common species of this plant. You can get AUBNICO GOODGROWLIES Mainam Microsorum Pteropus Java Fern Trident Thin Leaf Potted Tropical Beginner Freshwater Live Aquarium Decorations Aquatic Plants if you are thinking of getting a trident java fern.

Windelov Java Fern

Windelov java fern or the lacy java fern look similar to the normal java fern. But at the top, these leaves are branched. It may seem like the fish had nibbled the top part of the leaf.

Windelov java fern grows less, only about 8 inches in height. You can get these species for your aquarium here.

Purchasing Java Fern? Here Are Things To Consider

Well, Java Fern is a plant you would never want to miss while establishing an aquarium. It is abundantly found in pet shops or any online portals. But make sure that your purchase is of good quality.

Do not forget to check these things:

  1. The java fern must be of darker green color.
  2. The leaves should not have brown spots. This may be a symptom of rotting leaves or dying plants too.
  3. When you buy a bunch of java fern, make sure you select the plant that has rhizomes in it. Do not merely just buy a bunch of leaves only. This plant can propagate through leaves also, but propagation with the rhizomes is basic and easy.

How Much Do Java Fern Cost?

Java Fern is much affordable. We can get them from pet shops or online sites. This plant costs from $4-$10 depending on the size. 

But, if you are planning to buy Java Fern that has already been established in the wood, driftwood, or the pot itself, then it will cost you around $25. Again as per the size, it costs at least $20 and above.

You can also get a bundle of four types of species in one from Java Fern Microsorum Bundle – 4 Species (Trident, Windelov, Narrow Leaf, Philippine) Easy Low Light Aquarium Plants – Snail Free Guaranteed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Java Fern Grow Out Of Water?

Yes, java fern can grow out of water. It just needs a lot of moisture.

In their natural habitat, the java fern grows fully or partially submerged in water. These ferns are often found completely out of water. They are found in rocks or tree trunks that are moist.

Why Is My Java Fern Turning Brown?

Most probably, your java fern is melting. The large brown spots on the leaves or the whole leaves turning brown, which can be the result of excess light in the aquarium. The bright light often burns the leaves, resulting in its brown color.

Also, check if its rhizome is buried under the substrate. The rhizome should never be buried unless you want to kill it.

When a lot of algae are deposited in the leaves, it can also cause the plant to turn brown.

Can Java Fern Grow In Gravel?

Java fern can grow in a bare bottom aquarium as well. They don’t need a substrate to grow.

Yes, the java fern can grow in the gravel but you should not bury its rhizome.

Not only gravel, but the java fern can grow in driftwood, stones, and aquarium filter as well. These plants will just attach to the surface within a few weeks.

Java Fern Is The Best Aquarium Plant 

By now you may be summarizing what you have read above. The java fern is hardy, easy to care, and reproduce and they go well with many other fish and plants. Furthermore, they are beautiful plants and a wide variety of this plant is available.

Also, you do not need extra fertilizer or carbon dioxide to grow Java Fern! Even with the minimum care, they decorate your aquarium so well.

No plant can be this easy to keep. Besides, it does not die that easily. It is very affordable. Any beginner or anyone who had a previous bad experience in aquarium plants can easily succeed in it.

Probably, you have also been thinking, yes java fern is the best lately.

Well, now what counter-argument can you make against java fern?

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