Java Fern Aquarium Plant Guide | How to attach Java Fern to Driftwood?

Java Fern has a scientific name “Microsorum pteropus”, & aquarists have been keeping this plant in fish tanks for a long period of time & it is one of the most famous aquatic plant. It can grow either partially or fully immersed in tank water. They are hardy & can grow in almost any conditions.

You can keep Java Fern with many fish & there is no need to maintain ideal water parameters for the plant to grow, & it does not need extra fertilizers because fish waste releases ammonia which breaks down into nitrates, & plants absorb them, & they fertilizes plants. Java Fern is very simple to grow in water & they are recommended for novice.

Java Fern grows very slowly when completely submerged in water which is good news for aquarists because aquatic plants if grow faster, then they can cover more space of the tank & can offer little room for the fish to swim. So, aquarists look for plants that grow slowly & their maximum size is small. You can find these qualities in Java Fern because its growth rate is low to medium, & it can grow up to 13.5 inches. If you offer enough carbon dioxide & lighting, then this plant can grow faster.

In today’s post I have described the complete aquarium plant guide for Java Fern.





Care Level


Growth Rate

Low to Medium

Max. Size

13.5 inches

Min. Aquarium Size

10 Gallons

Ideal Water Parameters

Temp: 68 to 82 Degree Fahrenheit

pH: 6.0 to 8

Water Hardness: Soft – Medium - Hard

Tank Lights

Low to Medium

Placement in Aquarium

Medium to Background


Java Fern Origin:

Java Fern is named after Indonesian Island of Java, & you can find this plant in Thailand, Malaysia, Northeast India & certain areas of China. The size of plant leaf, & its appearance is different based on the location.


Java Fern Plant Appearance:

Java Fern is a leafy plant with green leaves, & it has 2 parts: step (also known as rhizome) & leaves. The stem of the plant is scientifically named “rhizome”. It can help in the growth of the plant roots, & you can use it to attach java fern to driftwood & other objects of aquarium. It grows longer & thin, & seems like hair. Rhizome helps plant fix itself to different surfaces of fish tank.

Java Fern Aquarium Plant Guide
Java Fern Aquarium Plant Guide

Java Fern has beautiful green leaves that captures the attention of people. Color of Java Fern is based on the lighting & aquarium conditions. If it is exposed to high lighting, the leaves will turn dark green.

Java Fern has sword shape leaves. The color of the leaves is green. They have different appearance based on how they are reproduced. The leaves of the plant turn dark green when exposed to excessive light.

Java Fern is also known as Leptochilus pteropus. They are available in multiple types & their names vary based on the look of the leaf such as needle leaf, narrow leaf, windelov, & trident. They all seem beautiful in aquarium & have similar requirements.


Java Fern Plant Propagation:

It is very simple to propagate Java Fern in aquarium. Just add it to fish tank & it will start growing on its own. This plant can be seen floating on water, or you can submerge it by fixing it to aquarium objects that allows the roots of the plant to hold onto. It is possible to bury the plant roots in substrate or attach it to driftwood, structure or any other object. I think that using super glue is good for attaching Java Fern to structures. Drop super glue on the driftwood, & hold the plant against it for about 30 sec so that glue can fill the gaps & firmly fix the plant. Then allow the plant to air dry for about 3 min. It is time to place Java Fern in aquarium & monitor its growth. Make sure you do not bury Java Fern rhizome which allows roots & leaves of the plant to grow out of it. Burying rhizome will rot it. Gravels are not required for Java Fern & you can keep it in bare bottom aquariums.

Java Fern can get nutrients using its leaves & rhizome, & if you want to use it as natural aquarium filter, then expose its roots & rhizome so that it can filter dirty water & remove pollutants.


How to fix Java Fern Plant to Driftwood:

You can easily fix this plant to driftwood but it needs a little work & patience. Many hobbyists use string to tie Java Fern to objects which can help fix plants to stuff but I recommend using super glue which is faster & easier way of keeping Java Fern in place.

Step 1: Buy Driftwood & Java Fern:

Purchase the plant & driftwood from fish store. Check out this video if you want to know how to clean driftwood before using it for fish tank. If you follow every step correctly then you can clean the driftwood that can offer a gorgeous appearance to your fish tank.

How to clean driftwood

Step 2: Use brush or scrubber to clean Driftwood:

Washing Driftwood

Make sure you gently wash driftwood with clean water to remove all the dirt & debris. Use tooth brush or scrubber for better cleaning of the debris. Then it is time to prepare a container by filling it with clean water, & sterilize the driftwood & wipe out more impurities.

Step 3: Boil Driftwood to remove tannins & debris:

Boiling Driftwood

Clean the driftwood by boiling it in a container filled with water. Make sure you remove all tannins which release from driftwood. Remove water with tannins & add fresh water. Do this multiple times until no more tannins are released & driftwood is ready for aquarium use. Otherwise, driftwood will release tannins in aquarium water, & its color resemble dipping tea bag in water.

Driftwood is larger than pot

If you want to wipe out leeching from wood then I recommend boiling it. I have boiled a large driftwood & I couldn’t fit a pot to fit driftwood completely inside it. So, I have completed this step by boiling few sections of the wood & then have boiled other sections of the wood to clean it fully.

Boiling driftwood will fill your pot water with tannins. It may take multiple retries before driftwood is ready for tank use. I also noticed that thicker parts of driftwood release more tannins, so I recommend boiling that part for longer period of time to fully clean driftwood.

Step 4: Hydrate Java Fern if placed outside for a while:

Spray java fern to hydrate it

If you have placed your Java fern outside aquarium water for a while, then I recommend spraying water on the plant to keep it hydrated. This way roots of the plant will absorb moisture.

Step 5: Use Glue for fixing Java Fern to Driftwood:

Avoid using glue on roots
Avoid using glue on roots

Look for large Java Fern & fix it to driftwood by spreading the super glue on the surface & holding java fern against glue. Then attach little java fern plants in the gaps for spreading a thick layer of java fern on driftwood. I have myself used Non drip gel for fixing plant to driftwood. Glue rhizome of Java fern to driftwood & avoid using glue on roots of the plant. Roots of Java Fern are used for absorbing nutrients from water.

Step 6: Or use elastic thread to tie Java Fern to driftwood:

Use elastic thread to attach Java Fern to driftwood

Another way for fixing java fern to driftwood is using elastic thread which is not dangerous for Java Fern. When elastic thread is submerged in water, it becomes invisible. If you can't fix using super glue or there is not enough surface for fixing Java Fern to structure then you can use elastic thread to tie plant to structure.

Step 7: Gently place Java Fern in Aquarium:

Putting Java Fern in aquarium needs gentleness. If you do things the wrong way then your plant might detach from the driftwood & float on the water. So slowly submerge your plant & driftwood in the water & avoid disturbance.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Java Fern Plant:

Check out what aquarists have been asking over the internet about Java Fern:


Can Java Fern survive when its roots are buried in substrate?

Yes, but do not bury the rhizome & there are other ways to grow this plant by fixing it to driftwood or structures, or let it float on the surface of water.


Can Java fern grow if not immersed in water?

Yes, it is possible for Java Fern to grow out of water & the top reason why your Fern melts is because you have added it your aquarium.


Why my Fern is turning brown?

The top reason is that it could be melting. It can likely happen if you have buried the rhizome, or it has been fighting algae, or Java Fern was grown outside water & you have recently added it to your aquarium water (submerged).


Why leaves of my Java Fern have yellow spots?

If Java Fern produces yellow spots on its leaves or they start rotting away fully from the stem, then your tank water has low nutrients.


Why my Java Fern develops scorched leaves?

Scorched Leaves problem appears if your plant is exposed to excessive lights & the solution is to lower tank lighting.

If all plant leaves turn brown, or take transparent color & then fall off then the problem is that your aquarium is getting too much light from other sources. To fix this problem, my advice is to place your tank in a location that does not receive enough light from other sources. Also, you can lower light settings of your tank lights to avoid this problem.


Why my Java Fern is developing black spots?

One of the reasons behind the appearance of black spots on Java Fern is that new growths are emerging on the underside of the leaves where you can see black spots.

Another reason behind the reason of black spots is low nitrogen. You need to add fertilizer if that happens.


Why my Java Fern is not growing?

The reason is that your plant is not getting enough nutrition. My advice is to add liquid fertilizer to your aquarium water.


Why I see black veins or spots on my Java Ferns?

If you spot black veins or spots on your plant then don’t worry because your plant is getting mature.


Why I need a bigger tank for Java Fern?

Due to big size of adult Java Fern: 13.5 inches tall & 6 to 8 inches wide, it is best to grow this plant in at least a 10-gallon aquarium.


Is there any difference between Java Fern & Java Moss?

Do not confuse Java Fern with Java Moss because they have similar names. The former can grow slowly than the latter. 

Difference between Java Fern vs Java Moss
Difference between Java Fern vs Java Moss

Java Moss is a delicate plant with irregular little branched stems. The little oval shaped leaves of the plant cover the stems. This plant is greenish in appearance. 

Java Fern is a green leafy plant with green sword shape leaves coming out of the stem.


Is Java Fern a beginners plant?

Java Fern seems delicate but when added to fish tank can give it a stunning appearance.


From where can I buy Java Fern?

It is sold in the whole world because of its distinct appearance & you can easily propagate this plant in aquarium & it needs simple care.


Can I keep Java Fern with Fish?

Yes, fish loves Java Fern & it is compatible with many fish due to its hard nature. It grows well with fish because it can absorb fish waste as fertilizers. Fish can hide in the leaves of Java Fern which relive their stress. Betta fish loves Java Fern & many aquarists keep this plant in betta tank. They provide a natural environment for bettas & other fish.


What are the ideal water conditions for Java Fern?

Java Fern can grow in almost any water condition. The ideal water parameters for Java Fern are:

Temperature Range: 68 to 82 Degree Fahrenheit

pH Range: 6.0 to 8

Water Hardness: Soft, Medium or Hard water


Which surface is better for Java Fern growth?

They grow well on rough surfaces rather than smooth. They can grow a lot easily when attached to rocks, driftwood, or other structures instead of fixing them to plastic or glass. But they can still grow on smooth surfaces but with low grip as compared to rough surfaces.


Where to keep Java Fern in Aquarium?

Keep Java Fern in a location of aquarium which provides enough space for the plant to spread. Overtime it will spread like a forest. So, the best place to keep Java Fern is near the back of aquarium or a bit out of the way.


Can I leave Java Fern floating in my aquarium?

It is possible for Java Fern to grow when it is floating on the water surface. It looks beautiful this way too because rhizome of the plant will keep searching for things to attach itself to & start to grow down.


What are the best lights for Java Fern?

You can use any light that can provide low to moderate intensity. If Java Fern is exposed to high lighting then the plant will grow faster.


Do Java Fern need carbon dioxide or fertilizers for growth?

There is no need to add carbon dioxide or fertilizers to grow Java Fern in aquarium. Fish waste releases toxic chemicals which the plant can absorb as fertilizers. Also, they can absorb carbon dioxide released by fish. If you keep Java Fern in a tank with no fish, then still your plant will grow because they are hardy & only need water & lights for growth.


How to fix Java Fern to surfaces?

You can use super glue or any other glue for fixing Java Fern to surfaces. Also, you can use string for attaching this plant to rocks, driftwood or structures.

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