Java Fern is a member of the Polypodiaceae family which has more than 60 different genera. Microsorum is a genus within this family, which includes over 50 species of tropical ferns.
Perhaps one of the most popular species within the Microsorum genus is Microsorum pteropus, otherwise known as Java Fern.
It originated from South East Asia and is a jungle plant which typically grows on rocks, the ground and around tree trucks along the waterline of steams and waterfalls. It also grows in tropical rain forests, like grass. It can grow whilst both fully submerged or partially submerged.
Java Fern has been in the hobby for a long time, and over the years new varieties have been developed. The most popular ones you’ll find in fish stores are narrow leaf, needle leaf, trident and windelov.
Java Fern is a traditional green aquarium plant, and is made up of two main components; rhizome and leaves.
The rhizomes act as an anchor, and are dark brown hair-like strings that attach themselves to many different surfaces.
The leaves are very hardy and have a leathery texture in a range of unique shapes, from bushy to spiky. It comes in a variety of greens, from medium to dark green. Typically, the higher the lighting, the darker the green. Some mature leaves develop a few black/brown tiny circular bumps (one method of propagation which we’ll discuss shortly), and occasionally have a few black veiny lines going through the leaves.
The plant can reach heights of about 13.5 inches, and can reach 6-8 inches in width. This makes it perfect for a wide variety of tanks, from large community tanks to heavily planted tanks or even a show tank.
The original plant has variants which impact the size and leaf shape. We’ll take a look at some of the most popular aquarium varieties; however there are other less known varieties available too.
- Narrow Leaf Java Fern: This plant has narrow leaves, which grow at a steeper angle than the regular Microsorum pteropus. Leaves grow to around 4-8 inches and the plant can grow as high as 12 inches.
- Needle Leaf Java Fern: This plant has even thinner leaves, and is smaller than the narrow leaf plant. It can grow to heights of 6 inches. True needle leaf Java is fairly rare in the trade.
- Trident Java Fern: This is one of the more uncommon variants, it has feathery lobed leaves with 2-5 lobes on each side of its leaves. It is shorter than the narrow leaf, but grows quicker, and has more forks in each leave.
- Windelov Java Fern: A unique variant with finely branched leaf tips. It usually grows to around 8 inches tall.
The benefit of Plants
EASY TO PLANTING - simply throw it into your water. Really - even if you just drop it in, it'll start growing. Java Fern will thrive while floating, or the current may allow it to attach to something that its roots can hold onto. Simply take the piece of décor you want the fern attached too and make a simple bead of glue. The only thing to watch out for is that you don't bury the rhizome (the twig like portion of the plant). All the roots and leaves extend out of this rhizome. A great benefit to this plant is that it does not require substrate, making Java Fern idea for bare bottom tanks.
NOT PICKY FOR LIGHTING - Java Fern isn't picky about which spectrum of lighting you're using or even the number of watts. However, Java Fern will do best if provided with a 6700k spectrum bulb. Any range from low to medium-high light is perfect for this plant. At the very high end range of light, you can actually burn or melt it. So resist the urge to recreate the Sahara Desert over your tank. Java Fern can live off such little light that many aquarists have forgotten it for several weeks in a bucket and it still lives!
FAST AND EASY TO REPRODUCING - Tiny Java Ferns are formed at the edge of the leaves. Once they mature they drop off and attach themselves to wherever they should land. You can also break leaves off and let them float in the aquarium. The plant even has an emergency contingency – if it starts to die it immediately produces new plantlets, sometimes as many as 20 babies per leaf. This is a great method for getting ready to setup a new tank or propagating it to give to a new fish friend.
FISHES LOVER - Aquarium fish love to swim through these plants. Java Ferns can create an ever evolving jungle for them to swim in. Most fish do not like the taste of Java Fern, so even many plant eating fish will not eat it. The leaves are also very thick and rugged. They can take a beating from a large cichlid or some goldfish who just like to play with them.
- Temperature: 68-82oF
- pH: 6.0-7.5
- Lighting: Low to moderate
- Aquarium Placement: Any
- Care: Easy
- Suitable for Beginner: Yes
- Can Live in Emersed: Yes
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