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Scientifically known as Microsorum Pteropus, the Java Fern plant is a classic and popular plant. If anything, this plant is an aquarium smash hit thanks to its unique leaf structure, slow growth, and ease of care as well as reproduction. Also, the Java Fern doesn’t require strict water parameters and will do well with a wide variety of fish.

Which is why this plant is so appealing to beginner aquarists. But before you go ahead and incorporate it in your aquarium, it’s paramount to know everything there is to it. Or at least everything that matters. To this end, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you be familiar with the Java plant:

Java Fern Origin

Java Fern belongs to the Polypodiaceae family, which has over 60 different genera. Also, this family has over 50 tropical fern species while Microsorum is a genus within it. A jungle plant that grows on rocks, around tree trunks, on the ground, as well as along waterlines of waterfalls and streams, Java Plant is a native of Southeast Asia.

It was first documented in 1833 by Dutch-German botanist Kari Ludwig Blume. And while it was initially spotted along the banks of rivers and streams (freshwater) in Malaysia, India, China, and Thailand, Java Fern Plant remains a true aquatic plant. Which means it can grow and thrive completely immersed in water.

In fact, this plant requires mostly the roots and rhizome to stay underwater. Otherwise, it will die.

Java Fern Appearance

Java Fern is a green aquatic plant comprising three main parts: leaves, rhizomes, and roots. The leaves measure anywhere from ¼ inch to 12 inches long. In Java Fern’s most natural form, the leaves appear bright green, narrow, long, and pointed.

The rhizomes are stems that look almost like dark green roots and they tend to develop adjoining anything you attach the Java Fern plant to. It’s important to note that the roots of this aquatic plant grow out of the rhizome’s bottom while the leaves develop out of the top.

Talking about the roots, they feature a dark brown colour and are fuzzy. Their main function is to anchor the Java Fern and not to absorb nutrients as most people believe. Once the roots attach to something like a rock or a log, no current can easily sweep away the plant.

In fact, the Java Fern is an epiphyte, meaning the roots don’t root themselves in soil or sand, but instead attach to something throughout the plant’s life. So how does the Java Fern draw nutrients and water? It absorbs them directly from the water column. Not underground.

Java Fern Water and Light Requirements

Java Fern isn’t picky about water parameters. It can thrive in brackish, freshwater, hard water or soft water. Also, this plant does well in a wide range of PH and can stand a water salinity of about 1.009. Which is why the Java Fern works in just about any setup and for anyone.

What’s more, Java Fern doesn’t have strict lighting requirements. If anything, this plant will thrive in temperatures that are too low or too intense to kill other kinds of aquatic plants. If the light is too intense, the leaves burn resulting in transparent or brown spots, which will need pruning. Even so, this aquatic plant tends to grow quicker in brighter lights, though this isn’t a requirement.

Take note that your plants will need 1.5 watts of light for every gallon of water. And 5000-7000 K bulbs work perfectly fine with Java Ferns.

Java Fern Maintenance

Java Fern is one sturdy plant. As such, it doesn’t need much maintenance throughout their aquarium lives. If you grow them in large fish tanks, they may even not require any pruning, unless they get out of hand. However, it’s best to get rid of their dead leaves regularly.

And by the way, dead leaves don’t necessarily mean your plant is drying out. Leaf decay occurs naturally, so don’t panic unless it appears extensive. Equally important, here are some other issues you may notice with your plants (and how to deal with them):

– Java Fern Melt

In the initial stages after introducing a new Java Fern to a new tank, multiple leaves may turn brown or yellow, get mushy, and die. This phenomenon is quite common especially if the original owner developed the plant in tissue culture.

You can handle it by trimming any yellowing leaves starting at the rhizomes. Usually, the plant starts to acclimate to your water and produces new leaves. It’s important to note that many people experience the most trouble with Java Ferns when they dose them with any kind of fertilizer.

– Brown Spots Under Leaves

This is nothing to worry about. But most people see them and freak out. Rows of dark brown or black spots under a Java Fern’s leaves simply mean that the adult plant is about to bear plantlets.

Java Fern Propagation

Plant propagation means developing new Java Ferns by germinating seeds, splitting rhizomes/ bulbs, and root cuttings. If anything, propagating Java Ferns is simpler than it sounds.

After seeing the black or dark brown spots, wait until the plantlets appear and develop to form several trailing roots as well as leaves. Then you can separate them from the parent Java Fern and tie them to driftwood so that they can begin growing on their own.

Alternatively, you can snip off a rhizome section (with a few leaves attached) and tie it down the tank. It’ll soon grow to become a new Java Fern plant. As such, you can propagate Java Fern as many times as you wish.

Wrapping Up

Java Ferns come highly recommended for any beginner aquarist. These plants are easy to care for, practically disease proof and don’t require any fancy setup. And now comes the best part.

There are several different species of Java Fern that you can choose for your tank. Mind you, each features unique textures and shapes, but all will make your aquarium quite beautiful.

What more could you wish for? Set out to grow your own Java Fern today. You won’t regret it.

Written by Fabian

Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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