Adaptable and loved by many aquarium enthusiasts, the java fern is the perfect aquatic plant for beginners and expert aquarium, terrarium, and water-garden owners.
It’s sleek and conservative appearance make it easy to incorporate into any aquatic/semi aquatic environments. The hardness of java ferns makes care easy and rewarding for these plants.
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The java fern, scientific name Leptochilus pteropus, is a semi and fully aquatic plant that is often cultivated in captivity within the aquarium trade.
It has many different varieties that can be found in homes and ponds worldwide, with each variety having similar care requirements.
If interested, check out our webpage on growing Windelov Java Ferns, which have a unique appearance in comparison to the conventional Java Fern.
The original java ferns are native to the island of Java in Indonesia, growing in freshwater ponds, streams, and rivers.
They tend to reach sizes of up to 13 inches (33 centimeters) tall and readily spawn tiny plantlets from their leaves.
Java Fern Temperature Requirements
Java ferns are native to tropical and subtropical environments. As a result, they thrive best in aquarium temperatures of 74°F to 82°F (23°C to 28°C).
However, they can tolerate sustained temperatures as low as 60°F (16°C), making them perfect for indoor unheated aquariums.
Java Fern pH Requirements
These aquatic plants happily adapt to most pH ranges found in aquariums.
Specifically, they will tolerate pH levels as low as 5.5 and as high as 8.0. Even though they tolerate a wide range, it is best to keep them at a neutral pH close to 7.0.
Additionally, avoid exposing java ferns to large swings in pH over a short period of time. Rapid changes in pH can be detrimental to all types of aquatic life.
Water Hardness Information
Similar to other freshwater aquatic plants, this species does best in soft water conditions without high concentrations of heavy metals or added minerals.
Always take care to test aquarium water and ensure that it is in the correct parameters before adding live plants (and animals).
Java ferns thrive in moderate to low light conditions, but they readily adapt to higher light intensity.
At least 6 hours of direct light is ideal, but these ferns can handle 12-14 hours without an issue.
As a general rule, aim to use lights with a wattage rating that equals 1.5-3 watts per gallon of water.
As far as types of lights, these plants handle anything provided.
Full spectrum LED, fluorescent, incandescent aquarium tube lights, or even a sunny window sill are great options to use.
For temperature color ranges 5000K – 7000K lighting does best.
All plants require carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to survive and grow through photosynthesis.
Thankfully, CO2 is naturally absorbed into water and java ferns do not need additional supplementation in order to grow.
However, carefully and responsibly adding carbon dioxide to aquariums can help boost the grow of ferns and other aquatic plants.
For an in depth guide to setting up and using carbon dioxide injection in aquariums, visit aquariumadvice.com to learn more.
Planting Guide for Java Ferns
Similar to most other aquatic plants, java ferns should never be directly planted into aquarium sand or soil.
Planting directly into sand or soil can lead to the roots of the plant to rot or become coated in algae.
The best way to plant java ferns is to secure them to objects within the aquarium using a plant safe glue or string/fishing line.
Over time, the fern will begin to wrap its roots around the object and secure itself.
Because of this, it’s best to attach them to objects with rough surfaces like rocks, driftwood, or aquarium decorations.
Also, coarse gravel or rocks are acceptable substrates for java ferns. They can planted in the substrate as long as the roots have room to grow.
Lastly, java ferns thrive best when planted entirely underwater (submerged) or partially submerged with the tops of the leaves coming above the water line.
They can be grown above water, but they require high moisture levels and a water source.
Java Fern Planting Depth
Java ferns and their varieties will grow at any planting depth as long as they receive enough light.
This makes them perfect for tall aquariums or outdoor ponds in warm environments.
Additionally, java ferns are capable of growing while free floating along the surface of the water. Eventually, they will attach to an object and continue to grow.
Similar to carbon dioxide supplementation, java ferns generally do not need additional fertilizers in order to grow.
However, adding a balanced fertilizer to your aquarium or pond can help improve the general health of your ferns.
Fertilizers provide aquatic plants with the nutrients, minerals, and elements required for growth and survival.
Adding fertilizers will boost the growth of your plants and help them take on a deep, vibrant green color that contributes to a beautiful, natural look for your aquascapes.
More Java Fern Care Tips
Do Not Grow Java Ferns in Saltwater
Java ferns and their varieties are exclusively freshwater plants and do not tolerate the high salt concentrations found in seawater.
They are able to adapt to brackish water with moderate salt concentrations, but this process may require extensive time and care.
However, low salt concentrations used to treat aquariums or added to improve the health of aquatic animals can be beneficial for these plants.
They Thrive with Water Currents
Java ferns are often found growing in running streams and rivers in Indonesia.
As a result, they will thrive in aquariums or ponds with moderate currents.
A current can help expose the plant to more carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, helping to boost growth.
Also, currents help to prevent the build up of bacteria, algae, and fungus on the leaves of the plants. This improves the overall health of the ferns.
However, to much current can cause them to detach from objects or rocks and send them to another location.
Too little current allows for the build up of fungus or algae that can negatively impact the health of the plant.
Java Fern Reproduction
Java ferns are able to reproduce in three main ways.
As a result, growing your own at home is simple and easy, and it will probably happen naturally.
Reproduction by Plantlet
Java ferns and their varieties usually reproduce by cloning themselves.
Over time, the ferns will start to develop miniature versions of themselves on the undersides of their leaves or from the tips.
Once the plantlets are large enough, they develop their own root systems and eventually detach from the parent plant.
The plantlets will float to the surface of the water where they can be collected or left to drift until they attach to an object.
Reproduction by Division
Aquatic ferns grow from a rhizome, which is a horizontal running main root that puts up new leaf shoots and smaller roots.
As the rhizome continues to grow it develops new leaves connected to a root system, and the new shoots effectively grow as independent plants.
Once the shoots have become large enough, they can be carefully separated from the main plant by cutting the rhizome.
Take care to ensure the cutting has a leaves and roots still attached to the rhizome.
Plant the cutting and care for it as a independent fern.
Additionally, parts of the rhizome that connect shoots may naturally die off, allowing java ferns to spread without cutting.
Reproduction through Spores
Spores generally appear on the undersides of leaves as dark spots, but they usually end up developing into tiny plantlets rather than releasing mass amounts into the water.
Java ferns can produce through spores when growing out of the water in order to spread across land and develop plantlets while underwater.
Because of this, its recommended to use the other methods of propagation in order to grow more java ferns in aquariums or ponds.
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