Java Fern is a decorative aquatic plant that grows well in swimming pool tanks, garden ponds, and any other aquariums. It can be grown emersed or submersed, though the latter is preferred.

The bottom of the leaves attach to rocks, driftwood or even bogwood through long rhizomes which primarily grow underground.

Java Fern Facts & Overview

**Scientific name: **Anubias barteri var. nana

Java Fern is a very undemanding and undemanding plant that can grow emersed or submerged. It is one of the easiest aquatic plants to take care of in addition to being one of the most beautiful and beneficial. Java fern adds oxygen, filters water, and is helpful in preventing algae growth. It’s possible to plant java fern nearly everywhere (though not in soggy soil).


Although it is said that this plant can grow in most conditions, the truth is quite different. This plant requires low light levels to remain healthy, at least three watts per gallon with the maximum being five watts per gallon. It also requires little fertilizer and minimal CO2 or it can suffer nutrient deficiencies, which will cause its leaves to be smaller than normal.

Java fern is likely to shed most of its leaves when you first put it in your tank. This is absolutely fine as the old leaves don’t need any nutrients once they have been processed by the plant. In addition, it is a common fact among aquarists that java fern can be made to flower in an aquarium when provided with high light levels and fertilizer tabs.


In terms of propagation, you will notice small plantlets growing along the older leaves towards the base of the leaf crown. You can remove these leaves when you see them appearing in order to propagate more java ferns.

Java Fern is not picky about water conditions; it will thrive with even low levels of nitrate or phosphate, though if the latter two are very high (above 0.25ppm), the plant might suffer nutrient deficiencies like smaller leaves. The pH of the water should be within 6.2-7.5, while hardness shouldn’t exceed 10°dH (in most cases 5° is enough).

If you want to increase the chances of getting some plantlets on your java fern it’s best to place them in a tank with sappy green algae growing on the back glass. When java fern is attached to rocks in the aquarium, it’s recommended that you use peat in the substrate, but when planting directly in the substrate, this isn’t necessary.

Java fern has small white roots throughout its rhizome structure. If these are severed, they will not grow back or regrow properly unless placed on sand or peat.

Java fern can live in full bright light or in very low lighting, but prefers bright light. This plant will grow emersed under the correct conditions, but is usually grown submersed.


Planting Java Fern

It’s best to use a substrate of sand and peat, though java fern can just as easily be planted in clay pots or rock structures. In outdoor ponds, it’s very beneficial to use the roots of other plants such as Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) and Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus).

When planting java fern in substrate, first tie off one of its leaves to a rock or the substrate. This might take a while because it needs some time for the roots to fully spread, but when this happens it will attach itself in no time.

It’s recommended that you place java fern towards the rear of aquariums because their leaves naturally grow in this direction due to low lighting conditions. If there is enough light, however, the plant will naturally grow upwards.

Java fern can be planted in groups or as individuals depending on preference. When planting several plants together it’s advisable to pick out different shapes and sizes for a more visually appealing presentation. If you are using java fern as an algae remover, you should place it somewhere where the water current is moderate so it can get enough food.

Java fern needs to be tied down using plant weights or something of the like because the roots are not strong enough for this task. You should also make sure that your java fern isn’t going to be in a spot where an excessive amount of sunlight is going to hit one side of it (in which case the leaves will curl up and die).

Water Conditions for Java Fern

It thrives in any type of water condition as long as its lighting, temperature and nutrients are appropriate. The water should be well-filtered and contain a fair amount of oxygen. The pH should ideally be kept between 6.2 and 7.5, with the KH (Alkalinity) at around 2-10°dKH and the GH (Hardness) between 5-20°dGH.

As mentioned before, if you want to grow java fern emersed make sure that your water is on the acidic side. The best way to achieve this is by using pure peat in your substrate.

Planting Java Fern Outdoors

It’s best to use a clay pot because this will retain humidity, which will make it easier for the plant to grow submersed. Place some sphagnum moss at the bottom of the pot before adding sand and then java fern.

The humidity will also help the plant grow faster, which is why it’s important to place a tray filled with water underneath the pot. This needs to be changed daily or every other day because the moss will release tannins into the water that might lower its pH.

You can also tie java fern to rocks which are then placed in the pond. Make sure that your rocks are not smooth because this makes it easier for plantlets to fall into the water.

Nutrients for Java Fern

Java fern can thrive when its nutrient levels are low to moderate, but won’t do well when they are too high. The optimum nutrient level is 5-15 ppm (Nitrogen 0.5-1 ppm, Phosphate 0.2 ppm and Potassium 1-2 ppm). Java fern is capable of absorbing nitrogen from the water so you don’t necessarily need to add it.

However, if your java fern isn’t growing as well as it should be, you can start adding light doses of potassium by adding Epsom salt once every 2-3 weeks. You should start seeing an improvement after about a week or so.

Disease & Pests

If you’re keeping your java fern indoors, it’s best to treat them for red spider mites before they become infested. Outdoors, the only pest you might have to worry about is snails, which you can remove by hand.

Propagation & Repotting

Java ferns propagate using plantlets that grow from their leaves. You can detach these plantlets and grow them in separate containers once they are big enough. Just make sure that the container has a good amount of water so they can grow emersed.

If you want to propagate java fern for the purpose of growing it underwater, then don’t produce any plantlets. By eliminating this method of propagation the plant will have sufficient time to send down roots before possibly being submerged in water where it might rot and die.

You should be able to divide your java fern once it starts getting crowded in its pot. Just make sure that you have a good amount of sphagnum moss when dividing them because the roots tend to take hold within this material instead of soil.

Java fern can also be propagated through spores, which are produced by the plants in the form of tiny black dots located on the leaves.

Propagating java fern by this method is very difficult, which is why it’s usually not recommended for beginners or hobbyists. The best way to propagate java fern through spores is by placing the leaf in water and waiting 6-8 weeks for them to take root.

If you want to learn more about this method, you can check out the video below.

Water Conditions for Java Fern

The conditions your java fern needs to grow are very basic and it doesn’t require much effort on your part. The temperature should be between 23 and 28°C (74-82 °F), and the pH and GH/KH levels should be between 5 and 8 dGH/7KH and 2-10 dKH/8.2-12.4pH respectively.

Appearance & Growth

If you keep your java fern in bright light, it will grow towards it so that its leaves are pointing upwards. If the plant is kept in lower lighting conditions, then it will grow outwards instead of upwards. This is why it’s important to place them where they get enough sunlight each day because this will promote growth and help your java fern thrive.

If you want to encourage faster growth, then fertilize your java fern once every 2-3 weeks using a high quality fertilizer that contains micro nutrients and trace elements.

In terms of appearance, java fern’s leaves are very soft and will feel like velvet when touched. This plant does not flower or produce spores. It’s best to remove faded or yellowish leaves because they can contaminate the plant if left there for too long.

Java Fern as a Water Plant

In some cases, java fern can actually grow outside of water as well as in it. It may not be as suitable as an outdoor pond plant as something like water lilies, but it’s a good option if you don’t have the space.

If your java fern is growing emersed and producing side-shoots at the base of its leaves, then it can be planted in soil. Just make sure that you use shallow pots when planting them so they remain within reach of the water’s edge.

If you want your java fern to grow underwater, then simply place it in a small pot instead of letting it sit directly in the water. It’s best if the pot is placed inside an aquarium because this will give you more control over what happens. If left outside of an aquarium, your java fern might just float off due to heavy rain or wind.

Java Fern Care

Java fern care isn’t very difficult. This plant is not picky about the water conditions it’s kept in, but it’s still important to be aware of them because if left too dirty, java fern can get diseased and die.

Make sure there are no insect larvae or snails present within the water because these creatures will attack and eat java fern.

In low light conditions, your plant will grow towards the water’s surface so that it can capture as much sunlight as possible. If it’s grown in a lot of shade, then you’ll notice new leaves growing outwards up to the water surface. When this happens, your java fern will start producing side-shoots at the base of its leaves.

If you plant your java fern in soil, then make sure that there’s a thin layer of gravel covering it before adding water. This will prevent soil from getting in contact with the water and causing cloudiness or damage to the plant.

Java ferns can survive in very small pots as long as they’re kept within reach of the water’s edge and if you want them to grow emersed (out of the water), then it’s best to use a shallow pot instead.

Tank Requirements

– Temperature: 23-28°C (74-82 °F)

– pH and GH/KH levels should be between 5 and 8 dGH/7KH and 2-10 dKH/8.2-12.4pH respectively.

– Light: Bright light. If kept in lower lighting conditions, then it will grow outwards instead of upwards.

– Fertilizer: Once every 2-3 weeks. Use a high quality fertilizer that contains micro nutrients and trace elements.

How to Plant Java Fern

When planting your java fern, keep in mind that you can grow it emersed (out of the water) or submersed. For best results, place it inside an aquarium first so you have more control over what happens. The size of the pot should be only slightly bigger than the plant itself so that it remains within reach of the water’s edge. The gravel covering should be thin and there should be no soil in the water because this can cause cloudiness or damage to your java fern.

It’s a good idea to place java fern into a tank that already has other plants growing inside it, especially if you want it to grow submerged. This is because java fern will need something to attach itself to and it’s more likely that it will do this if other plants are already growing.

If you want your java fern to grow emersed (out of the water), then place a very shallow pot on top of gravel and let it sit within reach of the surface of the water. This is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to grow java fern.

Common Problems and Diseases

Although tough and versatile, java fern is still vulnerable to some diseases such as:

– Brown spotting on leaf edges. This can be caused by damaged roots or leaves that have been left underwater for too long.

– Brown spots at the base of the leaves that cause them to fall apart and turn into a mushy mess. This is caused by high levels of phosphate in the water.

– Plant loss because of brown, mushy patches that appear along the stalk. When these patches turn into holes, then your java fern will start decaying and die. This happens when there’s a lack of calcium or iron in the tank .

The important thing to remember about java fern is that it needs a lot of light. If you place your java fern in a dark corner then it will grow tall and thin with weak, spindly leaves instead of bushy ones. This plant also requires a great deal of nutrients to stay healthy and not get diseased.


Java fern can reproduce through different ways, including:

– Small side-shoots that appear near the base of its leaves. These shoots will start growing horizontally until they attach themselves to something above them.

– Spores that grow into small plants called prothallus . If you see white, thallus-like structures on the underside of your java fern leaves then these are spores. You can place them in a jar of water to grow prothallus .

– The rhizome, which is the horizontal stem that grows at the base of your java fern. When it has grown long enough, you can cut it into separate segments and plant them inside the water.

Tank Mates and Compatibility

If you were hoping to add java fern as a companion plant to your aquarium, then it’s best if you avoid keeping it with fish because they can make short work of this plant.

Don’t keep high nutrient feeders with your java fern either because these pose the biggest threat to healthy growth. You should also avoid keeping them together with species that love the top layer of the water because they will interfere with each other.

Java fern can keep by itself or with stem plants, but it’s best to avoid keeping it together with fast-growing bottom dwellers . If you do want java fern as a companion plant for these fish, then make sure that they are not known fin-nippers because java fern leaves are soft and easily damaged.


Is Java Fern Suitable for Your Aquarium?

Java fern is a very versatile plant in terms of water conditions . It can grow and thrive in almost any type of freshwater tank, but it’s especially suitable for:

– Shallow tanks that don’t go deeper than 50cm.

– Non CO2 tanks because java fern doesn’t need carbon dioxide to get the most from its nutrients. It can even thrive in ponds and outdoor tanks.

– A tank with soft water, ideally pH 6.5 – 7.5 and a temperature of 18-25℃ because it won’t grow as well if the water is too acidic or alkaline.

– Low light conditions because java fern doesn’t need much light to grow.

– A tank with strong water currents because java fern can attach itself to surfaces through its rhizomes . If it doesn’t find anything, then it will end up floating around the aquarium.

Java fern is low maintenance and very hardy , which makes it suitable for beginners who are just getting into fishkeeping.


Java fern is the perfect plant for the casual aquascaper who hates trimming plants. You can leave it unattended for weeks or months at a time and return to find that it’s still growing strong, without any damage done by algae or aggressive fish. It can even survive in extremely dark corners underneath your aquariums’ hood as long as the water is clean and clear.

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