Java Fernon May 18th, 2012 at 8:00 am
Java Fern is one of the world’s most widely used plants in planted aquariums. It slow growth, unique leaf structure, and reproduction method makes it an aquarium smash hit. Java Fern tolerates most lighting conditions and many environments – from soft acidic water to alkaline conditions, and even brackish tanks! It is also easy to find in most local fish stores; but if not, there is always some available on Aquabid.
Now if you’ve found this article, you’re obviously looking for more info on Java Fern. Planting Java Fern is easy; 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. You can also choose where it will go by burying the roots in some gravel or tying it onto a piece of wood, rock, or other décor. My favorite way to plant Java Fern is to use super glue gel. Simply take the piece of décor you want the fern attached too and make a simple bead of glue. Hold it against the glue for 30 seconds, and then let air dry for another 3 minutes. Place it in the tank and watch it grow! 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. If it is buried under gravel or sand it will rot. A great benefit to this plant is that it does not require substrate, making Java Fern idea for bare bottom tanks.
When it comes to growing Java Fern, almost any light will do. Indeed, it will be thankful for any brightness in its life! 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! For example, one of my breeding tanks had a bulb burned out for several months; yet every time I shined a light into the tank to catch the fry, the Java Fern looked great!
Assuming you’ve got it planted and are giving it some light, your Java Fern will soon be 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.
As an added benefit, aquarium fish love to swim through these plants. Java Ferns can create an ever evolving jungle for them to swim in. 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. 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.
Sourcing some Java Fern (Microsorum Pteropu)s shouldn’t be too difficult. Once you’ve found it and started to propagate it, you should know that there are other varieties of Java Fern available: Java Fern Trident, Java Fern Needle Leaf, Java Fern Windilov, Java Fern Narrow Leaf, and other less known varieties. Each of these has a unique look to them with all the same growth requirements we already learned. Luckily most stores are always looking to allow hobbyists to bring in Java Fern for purchase or trade. Since it is a slow grower, you might even earn some nice store credit if you tackle the more unique and rare varieties. If you get too much, just post it on Aquabid. At the time of writing this article, for instance, a nice portion of Java Fern shipped was roughly $12.00.
One needs to be careful about starting up a tank with Java Fern or pruning too much at once! Since this plant is such a slow grower, it can have terrible fights with algae. A good crew of algae eaters and sucker fish go a long way to ensuring it wins the battle. You can also plant it with faster growing plants like Vallisneria. If you do lose the battle to algae, just pull off a couple of leaves and float them in a dish of water under some light. Once it makes some plantlets, remove those and start them in the tank again free of algae, and hopefully winning the battle this time around.
If you’re having trouble finding Java Fern or any of the more rare varieties, leave a comment here and we’ll try to get people connected who might have access or wish to trade plants. The readers here can also share and send some for the cost of postage to get started, just understand some of the rarer varieties may not always be available.