Java Fern: Everything You Need To Know

Found in Malaysia, Northern India and in some remote regions of China, Microsorum Pteropus or Java Fern as its popularly known is one plant with much popularity as an Aquarium plant. Java fern’s popularity can be linked with the fact that having this plant in an aquarium brings so much beauty.

java fern care

The java fern as an aquarium plant is preferred as an aquarium plant for its ability to grow at a very reduced rate, and it is easy to reproduce.

Today on this blog, we’ll be looking at the origin and appearance, method of propagation and maintenance of java fern. We shall also look at other areas such as tank mates that copes so well with the plant but then, let’s take a look at a few exciting details about this beautiful aquarium plant.

Family: Polypodiaceae
Care level: 100% Easy
Growth Rate: Low
Max size: 14 inches
Least Tank Size: 10 gallons
Suitable water conditions: 68-82°F, pH 6 – 7.5, KH 3-8
Lighting: Moderate
Propagation: Rhizome Division

Introduction to Java Fern

The plant is of the Polypodiaceae family. Polypodiaceae is a family comprising of over 62 different genera.

Java Fern, however, is assumed the most popular specie of the trimicrosorum genus.

Java fern is believed to have originated from south-east Asia, a jungle plant which sometimes finds n in rocks, tree trunks and along the shorelines of streams and waterfalls. In Tropical rainforests. The java fern grows like grass. One exciting thing about the plant is its ability to grow both in submerged or partially submerged conditions.

Scientists have found it quite an interesting plant, little wonder they’ve been able to grow new varieties of the plant as we usually see in fish stores. In most fish stores, you could find narrow-leafed Java ferns, needle leafed, the Windelov and Tridents as well.

Economically speaking, java fern is cheap as a small plant could go for as little as $3. As a lover of java fern, one thing I’ve come to love about buying the plant is that in some cases, you could buy a plant already attached to driftwood which means you just put into your fish Tank.

Another point to note is that it costs a little more to buy java fern plants that are already growing. The average cost somehow depends on size.

Point to Note
Ensure you buy a healthy plant with no brown leaves
Don’t buy the bunch; sometimes the rhizomes are missing

Java Fern Appearance

After proper properly studying this plant for some time now, I think its right to say the most important components are the Rhizomes and the leaves!

Let me explain!

While the leaves are very hard, with their leathery texture, the level of the greenness of the leaves often differ. Leave colour ranges from medium green to dark green.

The Rhizome is the component of the plant that acts as an anchorage. They’re usually dark, hair-like strings that can attach themselves to different surfaces ranging from rough to stony surfaces.

A java fern grows to an average height of 14 inches with an average width of 7 inches. This qualifies it as one of the most desirable aquarium plant. It is suitable for any kind of Tank.

Let’s look at how to care for java fern.

Java fern care: Tank Requirements

It is essential to treat the java fern like a fish. This is because it exists submerged in water just like the fishes. Care must be taken to ensure the tank conditions matches that of its natural habitat or as close as possible to keep it alive.

We’ve already learnt from the onset that a typical Natural habitat of the java fern would be streams, jungle floors. On jungle floors, java ferns are observed to enjoy soft acidic water which is gently sprayed on its leaves, especially from waterfalls and streams. In order not yo change these conditions, it is recommended that we keep the pH level of the Tank between 6-7 and water hardness must be between 3-8dGH

It is possible to describe java fern as a Rambo! Lol, this is because it does not necessarily need too much to thrive anywhere. We’re tagging it the Rambo because it takes just a moderate lighting condition to keep it growing, the nutrient requirement is also minimal which is why ferns are considered a favourite aquarium plant especially for those on a budget.

Do you know a typical java fern grows in tanks as little as 10-gallons? We must make it clear though that a 10-gallon tank should be the standard as anything lower could harm the plant. Just ensure the lighting condition is moderate as too much exposure to light could result in a brown coloured plant.

We advise lighting be reduced in cases where the plant is observed to have brown colouration. Reducing the light at this point will enable to plant return to its normal green colour
As for temperature, our dear java fern does perfectly well in the temperature range of 67.5 – 83″F
Don’t forget that java ferns are kind, and they do not require substrates. This means you could use any substrate of your choice and never worry about interference from a fern.

Best way to Plant Java Fern

If you are wondering how to plant java fern, then this section is entirely for you! Remember we mentioned the plant is composed of 2 components; leaves and rhizomes?

Well, the Rhizome is the component of the plant that doesn’t like to be buried. What this means is that in order to be effective in planting java fern, never bury them at all since this could kill the plant. Java ferns always prefer attaching themselves to driftwood or rough surfaces. Just ensure a sizable piece of driftwood is used for the job as this would give our dear plant enough space to spread.

Recommended: Cost of Foodstuffs

Ensure the black fishing wire is used to secure the roots of the plant to your driftwood. Using black fishing wire prevents the roots from being visible from outside the fish Tank, and this I think is not nice – these roots love privacy!

Also note that in order to enhance the beauty of your Tank, it is not recommended to plant a java fern anywhere other than the middle of the Tank. This is because a typical java fern can grow large, even larger than expected, and when this happens, it could cover the entire Tank and make the aquarium look like a jungle.
I know some people love the jungle look

Java Fern: Best way To Maintain and care

The truth is, some of us, fish lovers, find it hard growing plants in the aquarium. If you fall in this category os fish lovers, welcome to the club because java ferns are often easy to care for.
Most times, you may get tired waiting for the plant to germinate. Delayed germination is often the case when the plant is finding it hard adjusting to conditions of the aquarium tank. Rest assured, once germination takes place; your java plant starts growing without delay!

Java Fern: Common Problems

Stunted Growth

A few weeks after germination, people often feel the plant does not grow or is stuck, but this is normal and could go on for a few weeks. if this persists, it is advised you apply fertilizers


Why do Java Fern Die? Java ferns would die if planted in the substrate. People do this based on the assumption that it is always right to plant all aquarium plants in the substrate. Once you plant java fern on a substrate, the first thing you’ll observe is the change in colouration from green to Brown. This is followed by death

Watch out for large brown spots as this often result tp java fern melt. when this happens, the plant rots and become mushy

How to perform Java fern Propagation

There are two best ways to achieve java propagation successfully; these are highlighted below!

1. Using the Rhizomes

Cutting the Rhizome in half and replanting these cut pieces could mean production of younger ferns while the parent plant continues to grow

2. Propagation from Tiny Java Ferns

This means waiting for a time when tiny java ferns begin to grow on the underside of the leaves of the parent plant

These are cut using sharp and sterilized scissors and planted elsewhere to continue.
Do not forget tying with the black fishing wire as we discussed on planting section above!

Tank Mates and Compatibility with other fishes

We were wondering how compatible java ferns are with fishes in the aquarium? Well, it may shock you to find our fern totally compatible with a great number of fish.
Java ferns are compatible with herbivorous fishes, in fact herbivorous fishes are seen staying far away from java ferns for reasons including tough leaves.
Cichlids, tiger Oscars, catfish, Arowanas and other big fishes that find plants appealing are compatible with java ferns.

Conclusion: How suitable is java fern for your aquarium?

Well, from what we’ve seen so far, it is obvious the plant will thrive well in a freshwater aquarium. Also, if you are a lazy fish lover or an experienced one, java ferns offer a good quality that makes them the go-to aquarium plant as they are not only easy to care for but also affordable and compatible with a good number of fish!

References – Wikipedia