Java Fern: Identification and Care Guide for Aquarium Enthusiasts

Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) is a popular aquatic plant that has been widely used in the aquarium hobby for decades. This plant is known for its attractive appearance, hardiness, and low maintenance, making it a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts of all levels. In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know about Java Fern, from its care requirements to its benefits and potential drawbacks.

What is Java Fern?

Java Fern is a slow-growing, hardy aquatic plant native to Southeast Asia. It is a type of fern that grows in tropical environments and is commonly found along riverbanks, streams, and other bodies of water. Java Fern has long, dark green leaves that grow out of a rhizome, an underground stem that produces roots and new plants. Java Fern is popular with aquarium enthusiasts due to its attractive appearance, hardiness, and low maintenance.

Classification of Java Fern

Kingdom: Plantae

Java Fern belongs to the kingdom Plantae, which includes all types of plants, from mosses to trees.

Division: Tracheophyta

Java Fern belongs to the division Tracheophyta, which includes all vascular plants with tubes system for transporting water and nutrients.

Class: Polypodiopsida

Java Fern belongs to the class Polypodiopsida, which includes all ferns. They are vascular plants, reproduce via spores and do not have seeds or flowers.

Order: Polypodiales

Java Fern belongs to the order Polypodiales, which includes the largest group of ferns.

Family: Polypodiaceae

Java Fern belongs to the family Polypodiaceae, a large family of ferns distributed throughout the world.

Genus: Microsorum

Java Fern belongs to the genus Microsorum, which includes several ferns commonly used in aquariums.

Species: Microsorum pteropus

Java Fern is a species commonly called Java Fern and is native to Southeast Asia.

Characteristics of Java Fern


Java Fern has long, delicate leaves that are typically light to medium green. The leaves are often feather-like in appearance and are between 4-12 inches in length. They are attached to the plant by a stem-like structure known as a rhizome.

Java fern 2
Image by Walter Frehner from Pixabay


The rhizomes of Java Fern are the key to identifying this plant. They are thick and fleshy and can often be buried in the substrate or attached to objects in the aquarium. The rhizomes will produce roots that help anchor the plant in place.


Java Fern reproduces by producing spores that grow into new plants. These fragments are usually formed from the tips of the rhizomes and can be separated and planted in another location in the aquarium.

Growth Habit:

Java Fern grows slowly and is not typically an aggressive grower. It does not require frequent pruning, and its leaves can last several years.

Benefits of Adding Java Fern to Your Aquarium

Low Maintenance:

One of the biggest benefits of Java Fern is that it is low maintenance. It can grow in a variety of light and water conditions and does not require frequent pruning or fertilization. This makes it an excellent choice for beginner aquarists or those who want to keep a low-maintenance aquarium.


Java Fern can survive in a wide range of water temperatures, making it ideal for aquariums with fluctuating temperatures.

Great for Beginners

Java Fern is a great option for those new to the aquarium hobby as it is easy to maintain and can thrive in many different environments.

Improved Water Quality:

Java Fern acts as a natural filter, removing excess nutrients and pollutants from the water in your aquarium. This helps to improve water quality that reduces the need for frequent water changes and maintain a healthy environment for your fish and other aquatic animals.

Provides Shelter:

Java Fern provides a natural hiding place for fish and other aquatic animals. Its dense foliage can offer a sense of security and reduce stress levels in your aquarium.

Adds Aesthetic Value:

Java Fern has an attractive appearance that adds visual interest to your aquarium. Its long, dark green delicate leaves and unique texture provide a beautiful contrast to other aquarium plants and decorations. Java Fern can also be used to create a natural-looking habitat for aquarium fish.

Easy to Propagate:

Java Fern is also easy to propagate by separating the rhizomes and planting them in another location in your aquarium. This makes it a cost-effective option for those who want to add more plants to their aquarium without spending a lot of money.

Resistant to Disease: Java Fern is a hardy plant that is relatively resistant to disease. It can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and is not susceptible to the most common aquarium diseases.

Cons of Java Fern

Invasiveness: Some aquarium hobbyists have reported that Java Fern can spread rapidly and become invasive in their aquariums. This can be due to its hardy nature and the ease with which it can spread from one aquarium to another.

Competition with Other Plants: Java Fern can compete with other plants in the aquarium for resources such as light and nutrients. This can lead to stunted growth or even the death of other plants.

Can be Difficult to Remove: Once established, Java Fern can be difficult to remove from an aquarium. This can be due to its strong root system and the ease with which it spreads.

Is Java Fern Toxic to Fish and Other Aquatic Animals?

Java Fern is not toxic to fish or other aquatic animals. It is considered a safe and non-toxic plant for aquariums. This means that it is safe for your fish and other aquatic animals to swim and hide among its leaves without any risk of harm.

However, though Java Fern is safe for your aquarium, other plants may not be. Always research the plants you want to add to your aquarium to make sure they are safe and non-toxic to fish and other aquatic animals.

Is Java Fern Invasive?

Whether Java Fern is invasive depends on a few factors, including the size of the aquarium, the type of fish and other aquatic life present, and the care and maintenance provided to the aquarium. Java Fern is not considered invasive in the wild, but in a closed aquarium system, it can quickly spread and become difficult to manage.

How to Plant Java Fern in Your Aquarium

Planting Java Fern in your aquarium is a simple process that can be done in just a few steps.

Materials Needed:

  • Java Fern rhizome
  • Aquarium substrate
  • Tweezers or other planting tools

Step 1: Choose a Location

Choose a location in your aquarium where you would like to plant the Java Fern. Java Fern can grow in low light conditions but will grow better in brighter light. It is best to plant Java Fern in an area with a moderate current so that its leaves do not become clogged with debris.

Step 2: Prepare the Rhizome

Remove the Java Fern rhizome from its packaging and rinse it off in clean water. If the rhizome has any dead or yellow leaves, remove them with scissors.

Step 3: Place the Rhizome on the Substrate

Use tweezers or a similar planting tool to place the rhizome on top of the aquarium substrate. Ensure that the rhizome is not buried in the substrate, as it will rot if covered.

Step 4: Attach the Rhizome to a Decorative Object

Java Fern will not grow roots in the substrate, so it must be attached to a decorative object such as a rock or piece of driftwood. Use fishing lines, rubber bands, or similar material to secure the rhizome to the decorative object.

Step 5: Maintain Optimal Water Conditions

Java Fern prefers slightly acidic water with a pH of 6.0-7.0 and a temperature between 72-82°F. It also prefers water that is low in nutrients, so it is best to avoid adding fertilizer to the water.

Step 6: Monitor Plant Growth

Java Fern is a slow-growing plant, so it may take several weeks or months for new leaves to grow. Monitor the plant’s growth and adjust its placement if necessary.

Care for Java Fern in Your Aquarium

Light Requirements:

Java Fern is a low-light plant that can grow in various light conditions. However, it will grow better in brighter light. It is important to provide adequate light for your Java Fern so that it can photosynthesize and produce energy for growth.

Water Conditions:

Java Fern prefers slightly acidic water with a pH of 6.0-7.0 and a temperature between 72-82°F. Maintaining good water quality by performing regular water changes and avoiding overfeeding is also important. Java Fern prefers low nutrient-rich water, so it is best to avoid adding fertilizer to the water.

Substrate Requirements:

Java Fern does not require a substrate and can be attached to a decorative object such as a rock or piece of driftwood. If you choose to use a substrate, it is essential to choose one that is well-draining and does not contain any sharp edges that could damage the plant’s delicate leaves.

Pruning and Maintenance:

Java Fern is a slow-growing plant and does not require frequent pruning. If you notice any yellow or dead leaves, you can remove them with scissors. It is also important to monitor the plant’s growth and adjust its placement if necessary to ensure that it is getting adequate light and water flow.


Java Fern can be propagated by separating the rhizomes and planting them in another location in your aquarium. To propagate Java Fern, gently remove the rhizome from the main plant and plant it in the substrate or attach it to a decorative object.

Propagation steps of Java Fern

Propagating Java Fern is a simple and easy process that can be done by anyone. Following some steps, you can have a thriving and beautiful Java Fern in your aquarium in no time!

Here are the steps for propagating Java Fern:

  1. Choose a healthy parent plant: Look for a mature Java Fern plant that has a well-developed rhizome and plenty of healthy leaves.
  2. Cut the rhizome: Use sharp and clean scissors to cut the rhizome of the parent plant into small pieces, each with at least one healthy leaf.
  3. Plant the rhizome pieces: You can either plant the rhizome pieces directly into the substrate or tie them to a piece of driftwood or rock. If planting directly into the substrate, make sure the rhizome is covered with a thin layer of a substrate. If tying to driftwood or rock, use a fishing line or cotton thread to secure the rhizome in place.
  4. Wait for roots to grow: Java Fern takes about 2-3 weeks to form roots, so be patient and give it time. You can check for roots by gently pulling on the rhizome. If it resists, it has roots.
  5. Provide proper care: Once the roots have formed, make sure the plant receives proper care, including adequate lighting, water temperature, and water movement. Java Fern prefers a water temperature of 72-82°F and pH between 6.0-7.5.

Common Diseases of Java Fern in Aquariums

Java Fern is a hardy plant that is relatively resistant to disease, but proper care must be taken to prevent common diseases from affecting your plants. By understanding the standard conditions of Java Fern and controlling them by taking steps, you can ensure that your aquarium plants remain healthy and beautiful for years to come.

Lets know some of the most common diseases of Java Fern:

  • Yellowing Leaves: Yellowing leaves on Java Fern can be a sign of improper lighting, water quality, or a lack of nutrients. To prevent yellowing, ensure the plant receives enough light and maintain proper water parameters.
  • Melting Leaves: Java Fern leaves that are turning brown, melting, or dissolving can be a sign of a fungal infection or bacterial disease. To prevent this, maintain clean and healthy aquarium conditions, avoid overcrowding, and quarantine any new plants before adding them to your aquarium.
  • Root Rot: Poor water quality, over-fertilization, or a lack of proper lighting can lead to root rot. To prevent root rot, ensure the plant has adequate water circulation, avoid over-fertilizing, and maintain good lighting.
  • Algae Growth: Algae growth on Java Fern can be a sign of too much light or poor water quality. To prevent algae growth, reduce lighting and maintain proper water parameters.

In conclusion, Microsorum pteropus or Java Fern is a popular and attractive aquatic plant that is easy to care for and hardy in various water conditions. Whether you are an experienced aquarium lover or a beginner, Java Fern is a great option to consider for your aquarium. With its attractive appearance and low maintenance requirements, Java Fern is sure to add a touch of elegance to your aquarium and provide you with years of enjoyment.

A B M Zahidul Hoque

I'm the owner of After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I have joined as a scientist at Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh. I started Weeds in Gardens to make you familiar with different weeds and their positive and negative aspects.

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