Java Fern: Caring, Species, Growing, Planting.

Java fern

The Java fern, also known as black salsify fern, is a popular and widespread aquarium plant. Because it’s easy to care for and adaptable, it is ideal for beginners. This plant’s special feature is that the roots can be easily attached to objects such as stones. Find out everything you need to know about the Java fern in our guide – from care and keeping to correct planting.

Where does the Java fern come from?

The Java fern is a marsh plant from Asia. In the wild, Microsorum Pteropus grows in streams and waterfalls, mostly on a rock or attached to wood. The fern is very adaptable. Depending on its location, it can continuously thrive underwater or on land on moist forest soil. The leaves of the Java fern are elongated, narrowing towards the top and finally tapering to a point at the ends. Due to its dark brown to black roots, it has received the nickname black salsify fern.


  • Other trade names: Black salsify, step fern, floor fern
  • Scientific name: Microsorum pteropus
  • Plant family: Pond fern family (Polypodiaceae)
  • Origin: tropics and subtropics of Asia
  • Difficulty: suitable for beginners, easy to care for, and robust
  • Leaves: narrow rather than broad, intensely green, hard leaves
  • Growth height: between 15 to 30 centimeters (depending on the species)
  • Growth: slow
  • Roots: dark brown to black
  • Water temperature: 20 to 28 degrees Celsius
  • Light: shady and illuminated areas possible
  • Space in the aquarium: small species can stand in the aquarium’s front part; larger plants should be planted in the rear part of the tank.
  • Special features: As an epiphyte plant, the black salsify best thrives on stones or roots on the ground.
  • Suitable for: perch tank, shrimp aquarium and as a terrarium plant in paludarium (aqua terrariums)
  • Caution: You should not plant the rhizomes (earth sprouts) in the ground. Otherwise, they will rot.
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What types are there?

You can buy different types of Javafern for your aquarium. We introduce you to the five most popular cultivated forms in the aquarium hobby:

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Java fern Tropica ( ” Tropica” )

The Java fern “Tropica” is one of the most widespread cultivars alongside the “Windelov” variety. The name comes from the company Tropica, which patented this variant of the black salsify fern. Accordingly, a license for commercial breeding is also necessary. The Tropica variant reaches a height of up to 30 centimeters, sometimes even up to 50 centimeters. The leaves are up to 15 centimeters wide. Since the Tropica fern grows quickly and can get very tall, this variant is only recommended for larger aquariums.

Javafarn Windelov ( ” Windelov” )

The Java fern with the name “Windelov” is also protected by the Tropica company. In contrast to the Tropica variant, this Javafern is only ten to 20 centimeters high and belongs to the small-leaved species.

Narrow Leaf Java Fern (“Narrow”)

Several variants of the Java fern have the addition “narrow” (narrow leaves). As the name suggests, all of these species have narrower leaves and have also established themselves in specialist shops under English. You can also find subspecies such as the Javafern “orange narrow leaf.” The ends of the leaves turn orange. The Java fern “short narrow leaf,” also known as the mini Javafern, is particularly popular in nano aquariums, as it hardly gets higher than 15 centimeters.

Java fern needle leaf ( “needle leaf”)

With a leaf width of five to seven millimeters, the Java fern “needle leaf” has even narrower leaves than the variety “narrow leaf.” The subspecies again differ in terms of their leaf length.

Javafarn t rident (M icrosorum pteropus trident )

The “trident” variety is a very filigree plant and spreads out like a trident. In terms of leaf width, it is similar to the variant “needle leaf.”

Our tip: Before you decide on a Java fern species for your aquarium, consider the following point: Except for the “Tropica” variant, all plants grow slowly. If you don’t want to wait too long for a green aquarium, it is best to buy a slightly larger Javafern plant right away.

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How do I properly plant my Java fern?

You can plant a large Java fern in the back of your aquarium. Since most species grow relatively slowly, the black salsify fern is also suitable for the middle distance. In contrast, you can plant small-leaved mini Javaferns in the foreground. You can choose between two variants for planting:

Plant in the ground; you should never actually plant a Java fern in your aquarium in the true sense of the word. That means: It should never be put into the earth or into the soil substrate. Use coarse gravel instead if you want to fix the fern in the ground.

A special feature of the Javafern is that it forms a rhizome (ground sprout). You have to pay attention to this when planting. If you bury the rhizome of the Java fern, it will no longer be able to breathe. The plant begins to rot and dies. So if you want to plant Java fern properly, you can only fix the roots in the ground, but you have to leave the rhizome free.

  1. Tie up

However, you have another option: You can also attach your Javafern to objects. This gives you endless design options for your aquarium. In addition, the grown plants with free-standing roots are very special eye-catcher.

You can easily attach Java fern to objects in your aquarium: for example, to roots, stones, or pieces of wood.

To do this, choose a root or a stone in your aquarium and carefully tie the Java fern to the object with the help of a fishing line or twine. Be careful not to damage any parts of the plant. You can also try wedging the plant between two stones instead. The Javafern grows onto the object over time by forming an adherent root. For this reason, the fern is ideally suited to decorate aquarium walls.

What do I have to consider when caring for and keeping my Java fern?

The Java fern is a robust aquarium plant that does not have high demands. It is adaptable and thrives, almost anywhere. Posture difficulties are rare.

The water temperature can be between 20 and 28 degrees Celsius, so even tropical temperatures are possible. You can place the black salsify fern in shady or lighted places in the aquarium.

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In addition, the aquarium plant does not have any special requirements in terms of water hardness, pH, or nutrient supply. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that the Javafern shows its best side with a good nutrient and CO₂ supply. This is reflected in the lush, green leaves. With a regular partial water change, you can easily ensure that there is sufficient carbon dioxide available.

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Why is my plant turning black?

If the leaves of the Java fern develop black spots, this indicates an iron or potassium deficiency in the plant. In this case, use a special fertilizer and remove the old leaves from your aquarium.

If you can rule out a nutritional deficiency, it is essential to investigate the discoloration caused. Sometimes algae can be a trigger for brown or black Java fern. With the help of algae control products, you can get rid of the problem quickly and easily.

How can I propagate my Javafern?

Java fern is easy to multiply. Either separate part of the rhizome and tie it again to an object in the aquarium, or you wait until the mother plant of the Java fern has developed daughter plants.

You can recognize the daughter plants by the offshoots that form on the leaf tips. If you do not remove the young plants and let them grow, a beautiful, step-shaped growth will emerge over time.

For more tips on all aspects of maintaining and setting up aquariums, we can recommend our aquarium magazine.