How To Plant Java Fern In An Aquarium

So, you’ve set up your ideal aquarium. You have beautiful fish, great lighting, stellar pH levels; now, all you need is the perfect plant to make your aquarium come to life.

That’s where Java Ferns come in. Due to their durability, lush color, and tenacity, Java Ferns are a popular addition to home aquariums worldwide.  

But, how do you plant Java Fern in an aquarium?

Here is our complete guide to planting, keeping, and caring for this gorgeous plant so you can become a Java Fern expert. 

How To Plant Java Fern 

One of the big reasons why Java Ferns are so popular in home aquariums is that they’re technically epiphyte plants, meaning their roots grow on other objects (like other plants, rocks, tree trunks, etc.)

What exactly does this mean? 

It means that Java Ferns can grow fully immersed in water and that their roots will grab onto rocks, the base of your aquarium, or anywhere else they decide to plant themselves.

Once you submerge their roots in water, they begin to grow. To plant, simply place the fern in your tank and let the fern take it from there.

An important note: Java Ferns need their roots in water at all times.

While their leaves can be out of the water, the roots need to be constantly submerged, or else they dehydrate and perish. 

Before their roots have a chance to get grounded, it might be a good idea to anchor the plant to another object within the aquarium to protect it from floating to the surface and dehydrating. 

To anchor the plant, take the rhizome (roots of the plant) and loosely tie it to decor, driftwood, fishing line, or cotton thread. 

It will only take a few weeks for the roots to take hold, and at that point, if you’ve used a cotton thread or fishing line, you can remove that from the plant. 

Another potential problem if you don’t weigh it down, the fern can bounce up, drift around, and float into the tank’s filter, where it could potentially suffer harm. 

It’s also helpful to know that java ferns can grow slowly. Be patient with your ferns; even if you don’t see growth, that doesn’t mean they’re not working hard! 

Light Requirement for Java Fern in Aqaurium

All plants have different light preferences, and while some plants are pretty particular about the type of light they receive, Java Ferns can grow in a wide range of light. 

That’s probably why so many aquarists argue about what kind of light Java Ferns prefer

But what everyone can agree on is this: java ferns are incredibly adaptable, so if you keep the light levels moderate, your Java Fern should be happy. 

This (among other reasons) is one of the reasons why these ferns are so great for beginner planters; even if you don’t have an experienced green thumb, it’s pretty hard to mess these tenacious guys up. 

However, many fern experts say that Java Ferns are happiest in low-light levels. As a result, Java Fern is one of the most popular plants for those who have low-light aquariums.

If you believe your Java Fern is getting too much light, you can reduce the brightness with small incandescent bulbs or softer fluorescent ones. 

Many experts say that Java Ferns need around 1.5 watts of light per one gallon of water. Generally, 5000-7000 K bulbs work the best for the majority of tank owners.  

If you have an aquarium with high levels of light, your Java Fern should still be able to thrive, but you may have to prune its leaves more as they tend to go brown or transparent. 

Also read: Best Light Spectrum for Aquarium Plants

PH and Alkaline Levels 

Though java ferns can survive in a wide range of pH levels, ideally, this plant tends to enjoy pH levels between 6.0 and 7.5 to 8.0. 

If you drop down too high or low beyond that, you may notice your fern suffering a bit and exhibiting signs like browning leaves or stunted growth.

For saltwater tanks, you need to make sure you keep alkalinity of 3-8 dKH. 

Maintaining the proper alkalinity prevents drastic pH swings, which in turn protects the health and safety of your Java Fern. 

Also read: How to Raise pH in a Fish Tank – 6 Effective Ways!

Why Plant Java Fern in An Aquarium? 

Because of their lush, broad green leaves and exquisite design, Java Ferns add a terrific aesthetic to your aquarium.

They’re great plans to keep and diversify the design of your aquarium to give it a rich, almost tropical look. 

If you’re looking to upgrade your aquarium with live aquatic plants that take little to no maintenance, the Java Fern is the plant for you. 

Concerns with Planting Java Fern 

Like with any plant or a new pet, there is a bit of an adjustment period when you first bring your Java Fern home. 

They need a minute to get acquainted with their new home, adapt to new water, different light, and so forth. 

If you see your Java Fern turning mushy or brown, do not worry! Many fern owners report seeing their fern die almost entirely at first and then coming back healthier than before. 

(This is not the case with established plants – if your established fern turns brown or mushy, this indicates a problem with your plant or tank). 

To aid your plants’ transition to their new home, encourage new plantlets and rhizome growth by anchoring them to a secure spot in your tank. 

You also may want to add liquid fertilizer when you change the water.

Another concern is algae attacks, to which Java Ferns are particularly susceptible. 

Especially when they’re young and haven’t had a full opportunity to get bigger, they can easily get damaged or killed by algae.

While the algae do not directly attack your fern, they are sucking away crucial nutrients your fern needs to thrive. 

If you suspect your fern is struggling with algae, decrease the amount of light your tank is getting and increase the size of your water changes. 

You also may want to remove the biofilm of the algae. 

Will My Fish Like Java Fern? 

Everyone needs stimulation, even your fish! Java Fern is an excellent addition to your tank because fish love to play and hide in the ferns. 

Plus, it’s fun for you to watch your fish having fun and swimming in and out of the great leaves. 

Additionally, once your fern has fully grown, young or shy fish enjoy taking cover in the luscious leaves. 

Another great benefit of java ferns instead of another plant? Because they’re so bitter, fish generally don’t like the taste of the leaves. 

Even if a fish gets carried away and tries to snack, Java Fern isn’t very delicious to fish, and so even fish that are herbivores tend to steer clear of your fern. 

Also read: Why do Fish Brush Up Against Plants in an Aquarium?

Where Can I Buy Java Fern for Fish Tank? 

Java Fern is extremely popular, which means that any aquarium store near you should carry it. You can also purchase some fern online if you don’t feel like visiting a store. 

The great thing about Java Fern is it’s easy to propagate, which means once you have some, you can make your own. 

That also means if you know someone with Java Fern, you could probably ask them for some as they probably have too much already. 

Because it’s so easy to grow, Java Fern is relatively inexpensive. Hop on over to your local aquarium store today to buy some for your new aquarium. 

How To Pick Out Your Java Fern

Like with any plant, you want to make sure that you are picking out a healthy Fern so that you don’t waste your money and that it will live on for many years.

What you’re looking for are big, deep green leaves that are strong and not mushy. 

A significant indicator that your fern is not healthy is looking for browning around the edges of the leaves.  

If there is browning, that’s a big sign that the leaves are dying due to health complications like dehydration or an insect.

Make sure to inspect your plant thoroughly before taking it home. 

If for any reason you suspect the fern is suffering from health problems, simply go to another store: these ferns are so popular you shouldn’t have a hard time finding another, healthier plant. 

Final Thoughts 

Java Ferns are excellent additions to any home aquarium.

Fish love to play and hide in them, and they also provide terrific shelter if you have baby fish or fish that are just plain shy. 

Additionally, they’re incredibly easy to plant and maintain.

Of course, every plant has a small degree of maintenance, so if you notice your plant’s leaves brown or the plant itself becoming mushy, that’s reason enough to play around with light levels, water hardness, and so forth. 

All in all, Java Ferns are lush, beautiful aquatic plants that both you and your fish will love to have. 

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