15 Secrets For Growing Healthy Java Fern
Java Ferns are a great addition to any aquarium and they are pretty fun to grow. What are the tricks for growing Java Ferns well, however?
Whether we’re talking about Lance Leaf, Windelov, Narrow Leaf, Needle Leaf, or any other type, Java Ferns are unquestionably awesome. What are the secrets for growing healthy Java Ferns, however? How can you make sure that these awesome plants grow and look exactly like they are supposed to? We’ll cover all the basics below.
What makes Java Ferns so great?
Java Ferns are one of the best plants you can use for aquarium decoration and countless types of fish love swimming, hiding, and playing in their leaves. As they naturally grow in the rocks and roots of river waters, Java Ferns or Microsorum Pteropus are perfect for aquariums.
Even the rhizomes (roots) of the Java Fern look pretty cool, especially underwater, and make them work even better as decoration. Another huge plus is that even most plant-eating fish like the goldfish avoid eating the Java Fern, making it an easily sustainable decorative plant.
This fern is great for any tank that’s 10-gallons large or more. It’s also especially recommended for any type of South American pet fish or all cichlid fish.
Native to China, Taiwan, and Malaysia, Java Ferns are not the most difficult plant to grow but there are some tricks to them you might want to keep in mind.
The 15 secrets of growing a healthy Java Fern
You’ll need to maintain the right carbonate hardness for this plant to thrive. The exact measures you’ll need to stick to include water pH between 6.0 and 7.5, as well as alkalinity of 3 to 8 dKH. Carbon dioxide in the water is also a No-No.
Of course, the good thing here is that these exact measures are also perfect for a lot of types of pet fish so this is something you should strive for anyway.
Java Ferns don’t exactly grow in water or soil. Instead, these plants grow by attaching themselves to rocks and driftwood in the water and then extracting everything they need from the water. This means that you’ll have to attach your baby Java Ferns to such stones and driftwood pieces. Alternatively, you can take Java Ferns that go together with driftwood pieces which a lot of pet stores sell anyway. Either way, it’s a pretty easy solution.
If you plant the Java Fern in substrate/soil it may survive a while but not for long. A lot of people mistakenly believe that Java Ferns can survive on a substrate. That’s because the Java Fern is a sturdy plant and can suffer through the ill-suited conditions provided by the substrate for weeks. However, this will still deprive the Java Fern of nutrients and will eventually kill it.
Tie the Java Fern with zip ties or other tools for the best effect. One way to help your Java Ferns to start growing as quickly and as effectively as possible is to tie them to the driftwood pieces yourself. You can use any simple piece of thread or zip ties to do that – as long as it keeps the fern tightly attached to the driftwood or rock, it will work.
However, do remember to remove the thread or zip tie once the plant takes root and starts growing – you don’t want the tie to hurt your Java Fern’s roots.
You can look after Java Ferns in water tanks of varying sizes. The recommended aquarium size range is 10 to 55 gallons. There really isn’t an upper limit, however – as long as you’re happy with how they look, you can add Java Ferns to any size and type of aquarium.
The water temperature is pretty important too. For Java Ferns, 72o to 82o Fahrenheit is the best temperature (22 o to 28o Celsius). This is pretty easy to maintain, however, and again – it’s the right temperature range for most pet fish species anyway.
Java Ferns take a while to take root and start growing. Don’t expect these green beauties to start growing up immediately and don’t get discouraged if they need a bit of time. That’s normal. Once they get going, however, looking after them is pretty simple. If you’re wondering exactly how a Java Fern ought to be planted, here’s a good and simple video by MASS Aquariums:
Don’t worry if you notice black lines or black bumps in the leaves. This is actually quite normal for Java Ferns. The black lines you see are simply the leaf’s veins and if you notice a black bump – those are new leaves growing.
Java Ferns are pretty delicate – moving them can stunt their growth for a while. Moving an aquarium’s plants is something you occasionally may have to do, especially if you own several aquariums. As these ferns are pretty delicate, you should be as gentle as careful with the moving process. However, keep in mind that even if you do everything right, the ferns will probably have a rather stunted growth for a while.
This period can range anywhere from several days to several weeks. As long as you haven’t physically harmed the plant, however, left it to dry for far too long, or re-planted it in a poor way, it will eventually spring back up and start growing normally. In just a few weeks, you can expect your Java Ferns to quickly grow to up to 6 inches ( 15-16 cm) wide and up to a foot tall (30 cm).
Arrange the Java Ferns and other plants smartly in your aquarium. The best place for the Java Fern is in the middle or the back of your aquarium. If you place this or other plants in the front, they will block your view of the aquarium.
This may sound obvious and intuitive but when you et small Java Ferns you can easily underestimate just how much they are going to grow. So, when you set up your plants, think of how they are going to look in a few weeks, not just how they look now.
Use different plants for the best possible effect. Java Ferns work very well with all other aquatic plants and there really aren’t any popular aquatic plants that are incompatible with Java Ferns. So, don’t be afraid to try different arrangements and to mix and match your underwater garden until you find the arrangement that looks best for your tank.
Pick the right lighting for your Java Fern. There really isn’t a consensus on what that light might be, however. Many people prefer bright lights while others opt for dimmer lights. Obviously, this is subjective and there are many additional factors such as – what other plants you have in the aquarium, what light is preferable for your fish, is there any sunlight already coming in, and so on.
Regardless, you should plan your lighting tools according to your preferences. Don’t hesitate to play around too – if you don’t like how the Java Ferns look at first, it’s very possible that you’re just not using the “right” light for your preferences.
Pick safe lights too. Another thing to consider is which lights are safe for your ferns and which – not so much. Intense incandescent bulbs can burn your Java Ferns even underwater – watch out for brown spots on the fern’s leaves that you might have to prune.
Of course, the size of the tank and the distance of the lights from the plants matters too. Generally speaking, however, softer incandescent or fluorescent lights are recommended and Java Ferns thrive well in low-lit aquariums.
As for how much light the fern actually needs – that’s typically 1.5 watts of light per every gallon of water. The standard recommendation for that are 5,000 to 7,000 K bulbs for standard home aquariums.
Brackish water is excellent for the Java Fern. This is a freshwater plant so freshwater seems like the intuitive choice, right? Yes and no – Java Ferns can fare well in freshwater but they do best in brackish water, i.e. in water with a bit of salt in them. That’s the case because brackish water resembles the water in estuaries. As long as the salinity of the water (salt contents) is kept up to 1.009, your Java Ferns will be happy.
If your fern isn’t growing even after weeks, you’ll need to add more fertilizer. If you keep your water clean, your Java Ferns may not even need any fertilizer. However, if you notice that your ferns aren’t growing even after a prolonged time period, it’s time to dust up the liquid fertilizer. Just use it according to its instructions and make sure your chosen product includes iron – that’s what keeps the fern’s leaves green. Without iron, the plant’s leaves will turn drab olive and eventually they’ll turn fully black and die.