How to Plant a Java Fern in Aquarium - Does It Need Soil

Written by Ivy

Jan 30 2023

How to Plant a Java Fern in Aquarium - Does It Need Soil

Since you've found this article, you must be interested in learning more about Java Fern. Throwing a Java Fern into your water will allow you to grow one in an aquarium. It will actually begin to grow even if you simply drop it in. Java Fern will flourish while floating, or the current might allow it to attach to something that its roots can hold onto.

How to Plant a Java Fern in Aquarium


By putting the roots in some gravel or tying them to a piece of wood, rock, or other decor, you can also decide where it will go. Super glue gel is my go-to method for planting Java fern. Make a small bead of glue and place it on the piece of décor to which you want to attach the fern. After 30 seconds of holding it against the glue, let it air dry for an additional 3 minutes. Watch it grow after you put it in the tank! The only thing to be careful of is not burying the plant's rhizome, which resembles a twig. This rhizome is where all the roots and leaves come from. It will rot if buried beneath sand or gravel. The fact that java fern doesn't need substrate makes it an excellent choice for tanks with bare bottoms.

Almost any light will do when it comes to growing Java Fern. In fact, it will be grateful for any happiness in its life! Java Fern doesn't care what lighting spectrum or even how many watts you're using. But if you give Java Fern a 6700k spectrum bulb, she'll thrive. This plant thrives in any range of low to medium light. You can actually burn or melt it at very high light levels. The Sahara Desert should not be imitated over your tank, so resist the urge. Java Fern can survive with so little light that many aquarium hobbyists have left it in a bucket for several weeks and it still thrives! For instance, a bulb burned out in one of my breeding tanks for several months, but every time I shone a light into the tank to catch the fry, the Java Fern looked fantastic!

Your Java Fern will begin to reproduce as soon as it is planted and receiving light. The edges of the leaves develop into tiny Java ferns. Once they reach adulthood, they drop off and attach to whatever should land there. In the aquarium, you can also break off pieces of leaves to let them float. The plant even has a backup plan in case of an emergency; in the event that it begins to wither, it immediately produces new plantlets, sometimes as many as 20 offspring per leaf. This is a great way to prepare a new tank or to grow it to give to a new fish friend.

Aquarium fish enjoy swimming through these plants, which is an added bonus. For them to swim in, java ferns can produce a jungle that is constantly changing. With the slow growth factor of this plant, many people only do 1 big trim every year and then let nature takes its course decorating their aquarium au natural. Even many plant-eating fish will not eat Java Fern because the majority of fish dislike its flavor. The leaves are also incredibly heavy and rough. They can withstand abuse from a large cichlid or some goldfish who are just playing with them.

After you've discovered it and begun to spread it, you should be aware that there are additional java fern varieties available, including Java Fern Trident, Java Fern Needle Leaf, Java Fern 'Windelov,' Java Fern Narrow Leaf, and other less well-known varieties. While they all share the same growth requirements, each of these has a distinctive appearance.

Java Fern Facts & Overview

Scientific name: Microsorum pteropus
Common names: Java fern
Origin: Southeast Asia
Height: 12–14 inches
Growth rate: Slow (1 inch per month)
Color: Green
Aquarium placement: Midground
Water type: Freshwater
Temperature: 68–80°F (20–26°C)
pH: 6.0–7.5

Java Fern Aquarium Conditions & Requirements

Due to their low maintenance needs and hardiness, java ferns are simple to care for. The plants need low lighting conditions in the tank because you'll typically find them in shady areas of the wild.

They are perfect for tanks with bare bottoms because they don't require substrates like gravel or sand. In the event that substrate is used in the tank, avoid burying your fern in it as this will cause the plant to rot. Make use of a rock or piece of driftwood to grow your fern instead.

Aquarium Requirements

As jungle plants, java ferns favor tank conditions that resemble a similar shady, humid environment.

Keep the tank's pH, temperature, and lighting similar to those of a moist, shady tropical forest because these plants thrive in the jungle where the water is soft and acidic. Most environmental factors won't harm these freshwater plants, but too much light can harm their leaves.

Aquarium Conditions

Java fern Aquarium conditions should be as follows:

Water type: Freshwater
Tank size: Minimum 10 gallons
Water temperature: 68–80ºF
Required substrate: None
Tank placement: Midground or background
Acidity: pH level 6.0–7.5
Water hardness: 3–8 dGH
Filter: Any filters can be used with Java ferns
Light type & strength: Subdued fluorescent
Hours of light: Six hours per day

Despite being hardy and capable of growing in frigid environments, Java ferns prefer to be kept in warm aquariums.


Aquarium Placement & Aquascaping

Java ferns look their best in the tank's background or middle ground. If your tank is fronted by a large fern, the fish or decorations may be hidden from view.

If you're planting a few ferns in one tank, space them far apart from one another because they have a tendency to become bushy plants.

How to Plant Java Fern in the Aquarium

You must first quarantine the plant to make sure it is free of any pests and chemicals that might hurt your fish before you can introduce a Java fern to your aquarium safely.

Follow these steps to quarantine the plant:

  1. Removing any leaves that are dead or dying.
  2. Put on disposable gloves, combine unscented bleach with 20 parts water, and then immerse your plant for up to 150 seconds in the solution.
  3. Before placing the plant in a quarantine tank, give it a thorough two-minute rinse.
  4. Before being transferred to the aquarium with the other fish and plants, your fern needs to spend three to four weeks in the quarantine tank.

Put the plant near rocks or driftwood when you're ready to plant your Java fern in the main tank so it can anchor itself to its ideal spot. With a cable tie, secure the plant where you want it to grow until the fern naturally attaches itself, such as on a specific rock or piece of wood.

A different option is to just put the fern in the tank; it will eventually find a piece of rock or wood to attach to. The rhizome of the fern will rot if it is buried under sand or gravel.

Java Fern Care & Growing Guide

Java ferns' hardy nature makes them easy to care for and virtually unkillable when kept in the right conditions.


The Java fern doesn't need fertilizer because it can absorb nutrients from the water through its leaves. When performing water changes, add a liquid fertilizer to the tank if you'd like to promote faster growth.

Although CO2 is not required for Java fern growth, adding it to the tank will hasten the growth of the plant.


Java fern rhizomes will rot if they are planted in materials like gravel and rocks. When the Java fern turns brown, you can tell if the rhizome is rotting. (Read More: Java Fern With Brown Spots)

Black spots on the fern's leaves are where the plant sprouts, despite the fact that aquarists occasionally mistake these spots for disease. Reduce the lighting in the tank if, after a few weeks, the black spots don't sprout new ferns as they might be burns.

Java fern melt is another common problem that these plants face. Large brown spots that cause the fern to become mushy are signs of melt. Too much light or too much algae in the tank are the two main causes of melt. Snip off the affected leaves, then improve the lighting and algae conditions in the tank until the plant's health returns. Fertilizer can also be helpful.

These plants don't need to be pruned frequently, but if the fern gets too big for the tank, you can occasionally trim it.

Start by lowering the water level so you can reach your fern before trimming it. Use a pair of sharp scissors to cut away any dead leaves. Then, to control the fern's growth, you can prune any larger leaves and any small shoots.

How to Propagate Java Fern

It is not necessary to create special conditions for the propagation of the Java fern.

Propagate your fern with one of the following two methods:

  • Replant a section of the rhizome that has a few plants attached after cutting it off. The separate plants will then grow if tied down to a spot in the tank
  • On the plant's leaves, watch for the emergence of tiny black spots. These are very little Java ferns. Once they start to sprout, cut the tiny ferns off the leaves and plant them elsewhere in the tank

Conclusion: Should You Get a Java Fern for Your Aquarium?

Java ferns only need a 10-gallon tank with the right water temperature because they don't require much in the way of substrate or lighting.

The perfect addition to any aquarist's tank, this freshwater plant will remove carbon dioxide from the water and look lovely while doing so.

A Java fern might be the simple plant you're looking for if you've previously had trouble caring for aquarium plants. Keeping this unusual, colorful plant alongside other freshwater species is advantageous for even seasoned plant keepers.