Java fern – Microserum pteropus: Aquarium Background Plants

java fern

The Java fern is clearly one of the very well-known plants for the aquarium.

Java fern is suitable for greening the background of the basin under certain conditions. Aquarists who do not want to wait too long for the background to be greened should, if they decide on Java fern, choose larger plants.

  • This is recommended because the well-known plant does not grow too quickly. Why Java fern is so popular in the aquarium hobby is easy to explain
  • On the one hand, the plant is easy to cultivate in the aquarium, and on the other hand, the aquarist opens up many design options in one go by choosing this plant.

Apart from that, Java fern is also very nice to look at and thus enhances almost every aquarium.

In the following you will learn how Java fern presents itself optically in detail, how it can be cultivated and how an aquarium can be designed in different ways with this plant.

java fern
Java Fern

Java fern: Quick facts

Popular names: Java fern, black salsify fern, floor fern, step fern, wing fern

Synonyms: Polypodium pteropus Blume, Microsorum pteropus (Blume) Ching, Colysis pteropus (Blume) Bosman, Leptochilus pteropus (Blume) Fraser-Jenk.

Mistaken name: Leptochilus decurrens

Full botanical name: Microsórum ptéropus (flower) Copeland

Difficulty: very easy

Use: epiphytes (greening of hardscape), background, middle ground

Slow: growth

pH value: 5 – 8

Temperature tolerance: 4 – 30 ° C

Carbonate hardness: 0 – 14 ° dKH

Total water hardness: 0 – 30 ° dGH

Propagation: leaves, roots, rhizome division, division, separation of daughter plants

Can grow immersed? Yes

Java fern: Natural habitat


Microsorum pteropus, the Java fern, also known as salsify, step or tier fern, grows in countless locations in tropical and subtropical Asia.

It is mostly found attached to rock or wood and in streams and waterfalls, but has also been found on sandy soil.

This fern is adapted to strong currents and frequent alternation of flooding and drying out. Some populations grow constantly submerged – even in still waters -, others terrestrially on moist forest floor.

Java fern: Optical Characteristics

A healthy Java fern is simply beautiful to look at. A not inconsiderable part of this is due to the fact that, under good conditions in the aquarium, the leaves are intensely green in color.

Young Java fern leaves usually acquire the rich green color over time.

A special feature of the Java fern is that it forms a rhizome. The roots and leaves of the Java fern form from the rhizome. The leaves are much longer than they are wide, becoming narrower towards the top and finally tapering to a point. However, the rhizomes should not be buried, otherwise they could rot.

The inside of the leaf is also extremely decorative on the Java fern: The structure of the leaves creates a wavy impression without the leaves appearing to be kinked.

A Java fern can sometimes reach a height in the aquarium that corresponds to the long side of an A4 sheet of paper. Thus, the plant is sometimes also suitable for background greening, as long as the respective aquarium is not extremely large.

Since the plant, as already indicated, does not grow rapidly, however, it can easily be assigned a place in the middle distance in the aquarium.

Java fern: In the aquarium

The “classic” large and broad-leaved Java fern is a long-known, undemanding, versatile aquarium plant that is very well suited as a perch on stones and root wood. The dark brown thicket of roots of the Java fern offers the aquarium inhabitants a safe haven.

Microsorum pteropus also grows without any problems if it is attached to the substrate. The fern can also be allowed to drift freely in fish and shrimp farming tanks.

Microsorum pteropus is very adaptable, but shows its best side with a good nutrient and CO2 supply and then also grows relatively quickly. It can be easily reproduced by dividing the rhizomes and by young plants that develop on old leaves.

How to Care for Java Fern – Easy, Robust Plant for Beginners

Java fern: In the aquarium

Java fern is not a plant that should overwhelm the aquarist who is fundamentally interested in aquarium plants. For example, the tolerated temperature range for Java fern is relatively generous.

Of course, a Java fern also needs light in order to thrive in the aquarium, but this light supply does not have to be excessively strong in the aquarium.

Difficulties with Java fern seem to be rather rare: the plant lives up to its reputation of being suitable for beginners too. Now and then you read that Java fern forms black dots on the leaves, which then cause concern for the aquarist and are not necessarily beautiful to look at.

A lack of potassium is sometimes discussed as the reason for this, but it could also be that the aquarist worries about his Java fern for nothing and misinterprets the clusters of spores that sometimes form on the underside of the leaves. If it is really a matter of clusters of spores, this is more of a good sign: In this case, the fern will multiply and this will usually only work with all plants if they are not excessively sick.

Those who cannot explain the discoloration either with a lack of potassium or with the formation of clusters of spores should, however, stay on the ball and try to clarify in other ways why the Java fern is discolored. Among other things, it should be ruled out that algae have made themselves comfortable on the fern: This can happen with slow-growing plants, but of course you should counteract the algae growth in the aquarium at times when algae have a negative effect on the water quality and thus ultimately can also affect plants and animals.

Although the Java fern is quite uncomplicated, you should of course handle this aquarium plant carefully and carefully. In the case of Java ferns, this is especially true when it comes to “planting”.

Java fern should not be planted in the aquarium in the traditional sense by burying all the plant components under the leaves in gravel or sand. This can quickly damage the plant: the rhizome, which we have already discussed above, could no longer breathe in this case, so that the plant could fall down. In the aquarium Java fern is only planted with the roots – if you want to save yourself this, you can simply weight down the Java fern in the aquarium or fix it in some other way so that it stays in its original place and does not float in the aquarium. The variant of fixing Java fern to the ground is only one design option that this versatile plant offers. In the following you will find out how you can use Java fern to enhance your aquarium in other ways.

Java fern: Decorative stones, roots and aquarium walls

Java fern is one of the plants for the aquarium that is ideally suited to be tied onto furnishings. For this, the aquarist simply selects a beautiful root or a beautiful stone, ties the Java fern, for example with the help of fishing line, without damaging parts of the plant.

Constant checking of this attachment is usually not required with Java fern: Java fern can grow onto the furnishings to which it is tied, even if this can take a little time. Due to this property, the plant is also suitable for greening aquarium walls. This usually works particularly well if you select the rear wall: The dense greenery can then block the view of the equipment behind the aquarium.

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