Java Moss Care – A How To Guide

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Java moss is a hardy, low-maintenance plant that can be grown in just about any type of aquatic environment. If you’re looking to add some diversity to your tank, or you have a new tank and want to fill it with plants from the start, this article has everything you need! Read on for an informative guide on Java Moss care. We will cover everything from proper environment, conditions, trimming, and more! Check it out!

A Brief Overview Of Java Moss

Scientific NameTaxiphyllum barbieri
Common NamesJava moss
FamilyHypnaceae
OriginSoutheast Asia
Skill LevelEasy
LightingLow-High, 40-200 PAR (Umols)
Tank PlacementForeground, Midground, Attached, Floating, Carpet
Flow RateModerate
Temperature Range64-86°F
HeightUp to 4 inches
pH Range5.0 – 8.0
PropagationDivision
Growth RateModerate
Feed TypeColumn Feeder
CO2 RequirementNo, but recommended

Origins And Habitat

Java moss is native to Southeast Asia where it grows in a variety of moist habitats, both above and below the water. This aquatic plant grows on river banks, attached to rocks, wood, and tree trunks.

What Does Java Moss Look Like?

What Does Java Moss Look Like

 Java moss is an all-green creeping moss that forms a tangled mass of delicate stems. The stems hold branches that reach nearly an inch in length.

The branches are covered in tiny, hollow leaves. Interestingly, Java moss that is grown emersed develops much larger leaves than those grown submerged. The shade of green and the density of the plant varies depending on the strength of the lighting where the plant is growing.

Java moss does not have true roots and gathers all its nutrients through its leaves and stems in the water column. They do, however, have fine red-brown structures known as rhizoids that work like roots to attach the plant to solid structures.

Placement And Lighting

Java moss works really well in a variety of aquascapes. This moss adds amazing textures and accents to nature aquariums, especially if grown on hardscape features like driftwood.

Java moss is one of the most versatile plants in the hobby. The secret to its versatility? Rhizoids.

These ‘roots’ don’t absorb nutrients but have the function of anchoring the plant. Java moss does not grow from the substrate will anchor itself to just about any solid object with a bit of texture.

That being said, these plants don’t need to be attached to anything to grow well, and can simply be left to float in the tank. Let’s take a closer look at some of the uses for Java moss in the aquarium.

Attached To Hardscape

One of the most popular placements in the planted tank is on hardscape features like driftwood, rocks, or even aquarium decor. Attaching the moss to your hardscape takes a little effort, but it’s really not that difficult.

Simply tie a clump of Java moss to the object using thread or fishing line. After some time, the moss will attach itself to the object with its roots/rhizoids and the fishing line can be removed carefully.

Java Moss on Driftwood

Moss Tree

As strange as it may sound, Java moss makes for a fantastic underwater tree for aquarists. Clumps of moss attached to the ends of an upright branching piece of aquarium driftwood with fishing line can look truly incredible.

Take your time in selecting a great piece of driftwood because this will make all the difference to the finishing java moss trees. You can usually find great pieces at aquarium shops or from online stores.

It is best to use a clear, fine fishing line or a neutral colored thread for a more natural look. The thread or fishing line can be carefully removed once the roots of the moss have attached themselves firmly to the driftwood.

Carpet Or Wall

Another innovative and interesting way to use this plant is to create a Java moss carpet or moss wall. Java moss is probably your most realistic option for growing carpets in a low-light tank. How to attach the moss to the wall or bottom of the tank takes a little planning, however.

The secret is to sandwich the moss between two pieces of mesh. Stainless steel or plastic mesh works fine, and if you find that the ‘sandwich’ isn’t staying put on the substrate at the bottom of the tank, put a few stones or aquarium weights between the mesh but under the Java moss to weigh it down.

The mesh can be cut to a shape of your choice to keep the Java moss carpet contained in the area you want it.

A Java moss wall can be made in much the same way as a carpet, except you can use suction cups to attach it to the glass. This technique works really well for creating a natural backdrop in the tank, and that way, you can’t see the suction cups.

Floating

The easiest way to use Java moss is simply to toss it in your aquarium and let it grow. Java moss as a floating plant has some pros and cons though.

On the one hand, floating Java moss is great for providing structure to bare breeding tanks without substrate and creates a safe haven for small fish, fry, and shrimps.

Java moss can look a little untidy though and if left to drift, there’s a chance it’ll find its way up to the intake of your aquarium filter and cause you some problems.

Floating Moss Ball

A more complicated, but very interesting way to grow java moss is to create floating moss ball. You can do this by attaching the moss to a floating object like a wine bottle cork with thread.

If you attach some clear fishing line to the floating moss ball and anchor it to the bottom of the tank, you can keep your moss ball in place in the midwater.

Lighting

Java moss isn’t very particular about lighting. It really doesn’t need much of it, but then, all aquarium plants need light to grow.

Providing good light will result in brighter, more compact but faster-growing Java moss, but there is a catch. Strong light that isn’t perfectly balanced with nutrients and CO2 could easily result in a clump of algae-covered Java moss in your aquarium.

What Are Good Tank Mates For Java Moss?

Java moss is one of the best plants for breeder tanks because it creates a safe environment for small invertebrates and fish eggs and fry. For a very simple set-up, a big bunch of java moss grown as a floating plant in a bare tank works great.

It’s not only baby fish that enjoy Java moss though. Any small or shy species will enjoy sheltering in a clump of moss.

The massive surface area of this plant also provides a great area for livestock to forage on biofilm and micro-organisms. Java moss also oxygenates the water in your tank, which is great for your livestock.

Good Tank Mates

Just about any tropical or cool water freshwater fish that is not vegetarian can be kept with Java moss. Just be sure that the fish enjoys the same parameters as the Java moss.

Fortunately for aquarists, it is possible to grow Java moss under such a wide range of parameters that compatibility usually isn’t a problem.

Some great fish to keep with Java moss include:

Fish Species To Avoid

Goldfish and cichlids will have no problem eating your Java moss, or just tearing it up and spreading tiny pieces off this plant all over your tank in the process. If they do not eat your java moss, they can also uproot with their foraging and digging habits.

To be on the safe side, avoid keeping any plant-eating fish like silver dollars or plecos as well. Siamese algae eaters are also reported to eat Java moss on occasion, especially the new growth.

Feeding Java Moss (Fertilization)

 Java moss is not a very heavy feeder. Generally speaking, Java moss will not require additional fertilizers, especially if you keep fish in the tank.

In low light tanks, in particular, the moss will not be able to use excess nutrients and feeding is likely to result in a hair algae problem. In tanks with medium to strong lighting, however, a light application of liquid fertilizer can be helpful. If you are planning a mass planted aquascape that included Java Moss, you should consider investing in a quality liquid fertilizer like APT Complete.

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CO2 Injection

The Java moss plant does not need injected CO2 to thrive and grows very well in low-tech aquariums. The amount of carbon dioxide naturally available to plants in the aquarium is sufficient to keep this plant healthy.

That being said, all plants require CO2 to live and photosynthesize, and added CO2 will improve the growth of Java moss if used correctly.

How Much CO2 Do You Need?

If you do run CO2 in your tank, and you keep fish or other aquatic animals, it is important to ensure that your levels never exceed 30 ppm. Above this level, CO2 causes suffocation in your livestock and will result in losses.

How long Should You Run CO2?

When you start up your CO2 injection, it takes about 2 hours for the gas to reach optimum levels in the aquarium. Therefore, it is best to start adding CO2 before your lights start up.

Since plants can’t use carbon dioxide in the absence of light, It is best to shut off your CO2 at the same time as your lights go off, or a little before.

Usually, you should run your lights for about 8-10 hours per day, which means you should run carbon dioxide for 10-12 hours per day for the best result.

Types of Java Moss

Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri) can be pretty variable in appearance, depending on the water condition in the aquarium. There are a few similar species of moss in the hobby, however. Although they are different species, with different care requirements, they are very similar-looking plants.

Similar Species

  • Christmas mossVesicularia montagnei
  • Singapore moss – Vesicularia dubyana
  • Weeping moss – Vesicularia ferriei
  • Taiwan moss – Taxiphyllum alternans
  • Peacock moss – Taxiphyllum sp. ‘Peacock’
  • Stringy moss – Leptodictyum riparium
  • Phoenix moss – Fissidens fontanus

Java Moss Care

Java moss care is very easy, provided you grow it in suitable conditions. This plant can be trimmed heavily using a pair of aquascaping scissors, but this can be quite a messy business.

The trimmings tend to drift around and look pretty unsightly. Sometimes trimmings will settle somewhere and begin to grow there, making this plant quite difficult to contain if you’re not careful.

One way to avoid this problem is to ask a friend to vacuum up the Java moss trimmings as you cut them so that they cant drift around. If you can’t find someone willing to stick their hands into your fish tank, you can try multi-tasking. Some people even get creative and attach their aquascaping scissors to the end of the vacuum intake. Here is a great video on java moss trimming by AlanScaping.

It is wise to switch off your filter while trimming to prevent leaves and branches from getting sucked up. Filters with pre-filter sponges over their intakes are also very handy for planted tanks.

Vacuuming your Java moss as part of your normal cleaning and maintenance routine is a good idea to remove any detritus that could settle in the moss and result in changes to water quality.

Java moss carpets made with mesh or moss attached to driftwood can also be removed from the tank and rinsed off using water removed during a water change.

Planted Tank Parameters

Java moss isn’t very picky about water parameters. When it comes to pH, Java moss grows fine from 5 through 8 and does well in hard or soft water.

It can be grown over a pretty wide range of temperatures, from 64 right up to 86°F. They do show a preference for slightly cooler conditions, however, and tend to grow best in aquariums from 70-75 °F.

Water Quality

Java moss actually helps to improve water quality by soaking up excess nutrients from fish food and waste. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to stay on top of your water quality, however, because nutrient-rich conditions tend to favor algae growth.

One of the most effective ways for aquarists to maintain good water quality is to perform regular partial water changes. This is important because often your filter alone can’t keep the water safe and harmful chemicals can build up over time.

Get into the routine of doing a water change regularly every week or two, and always remember to use a water conditioner to make tap water safe for your moss and livestock.

Filtration

One of the downsides of Java moss is the tiny leaves and branches getting sucked up into aquarium filters and clogging up the filter media. This is especially likely after trimming your Java moss, or if your plants grow unattached in your tank. Lots of filter maintenance should be done and broken pieces of moss should be removed immediately to prevent excess ammonia production and algae growth. Consider a quality power filter for smaller aquarium or a canister filter for larger setups.

Flow

 Java moss grows best in tanks with good flow. Not too powerful, but enough to keep water circulating through the plants to provide fresh water to the inner stems and prevent waste from settling on the plants.

Aquarium Maintenance

Aquarium maintenance is an essential part of the hobby and is also an important part of growing vibrant and healthy Java moss. Let’s take a closer look at how to maintain your aquarium.

Testing Water Conditions

Even though Java moss can grow in a pretty wide range of conditions, it’s always a good idea to test your water regularly. This is pretty quick and easy to do using a simple test kit from your local aquarium store and will help you keep an eye on the health of your aquarium.

The best time to test is before adding any plants to your aquarium, and then just before each water change. In this way, you’ll know the parameters of your local water, and whether you’re performing water changes often enough.

How To Set Up Your Tank for Java Moss

 Java moss has no specific tank requirements really. It is such a versatile plant that it can grow in most aquariums, provided your parameters are compatible with its needs. Your choice of substrate is not really important at all.

If you don’t have any sort of prefilter over the intake of the filter in the tank, consider buying a model that does or you can rig your own if you’re handy. Just be sure that whatever you use does not restrict the flow too much because this will put some strain on the motor and reduce the effectiveness of your filter.

Java moss is great for just about any tank size, from nano tanks of just a few gallons and up. This moss will spread to dominate a very small tank though so you’ll need to stay on top of trimming.

How To Propagate Java Moss

The Java moss plant is one of the easiest live aquatic plants to propagate. Simply divide the plant by cutting or tearing a few stems off a clump and attach them to the hardscape or allow them to float.

Health And Disease

Signs Of Health in Java Moss

Healthy Java moss plants should have a vibrant green coloration and be soft but not fall apart too easily. Out of the water, this plant will be very limp but should have great texture underwater.

Signs Of Ill Health

Avoid Java moss that is turning yellow or brown. Adding unhealthy Java moss to your tank that is already brown and falling apart is a bad idea and will probably just result in a mess.

Common Health Issues And Treatment

Algae

One of the most common health issues with Java moss is your carpet getting covered in algae. One way to treat this problem is to dose the affected plant with a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide works wonders for killing algae, but it can also kill your fish, inverts if not used carefully.

A rule to live by when it comes to using chemicals in your fish tank is: use as little as possible to get the job done. Remember, if you haven’t used enough, you can always try again next week, but if you use too much, the results can be devastating.

As with all algae growth issues, it is far more effective to focus on the cause of the problem rather than treating it with chemicals. The most common causes are:

  • Light that is too powerful and/or on for too long each day
  • An imbalance of light, nutrients, and carbon dioxide in the system
Java Moss and Shrimp

Algae eating animals can be very helpful for algae control in general as well. It must be noted that not all algae eaters will feed on every variety of algae. Some examples of algae eaters include:

  • Amano Shrimp
  • Nerite Snails
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Plecostomus Catfish

Of course, before adding any algae eater to your tank, make sure your tank is big enough and set up correctly for that species.

Melt

It is very common for aquatic plants to ‘melt’ when first introduced to your tank. This usually happens because the conditions in your tank are different from what the plant has been used to, and it needs to go through an adjustment period.

While adjusting, Parts of the plant will change color, eventually dying and rotting away. It is better to cut away any dying foliage and remove them from your tank, rather than leaving them to rot and affect your water quality.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Java moss does not need much in the way of nutrients, but if you do find your plants are losing color, you may want to try dosing a fertilizer with iron and macronutrients.

Use fertilizers in moderation though, too much can cause algae problems.

Plant Pests

Because of the dense and tangled nature of Java moss, it’s very easy for unwanted pests and parasites to hitch a ride from the farm where they were grown, or your local aquarium store, and into your tank.  

To prevent this, rinse the plant out with water from your fish tank when you get it home. Never use straight tap water for this because it can contain harmful chemicals that will damage your moss.

A very weak solution of 20 parts water to one part bleach makes a great pest-killing dip. Dip your moss in the solution for about a minute and then rinse it out carefully and thoroughly in water with a dechlorinator before adding the moss to your aquarium.

Where To Buy Java Moss

Java moss is a very popular in the aquarium trade is widely available. You can usually pick up this plant pretty cheaply from your local aquarium store. Apart from physically visiting pet stores, a more convenient option is to order your aquarium plants online. The link in the box below will take you to retailers who sell quality Java moss. Check it out!

Java Moss

One of the easiest mosses to grow in an aquarium. Great for small fish and shrimp

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FAQS

Is Java moss good for aquariums?

Java moss is a great plant for aquariums. It provides a safe refuge for fry and small animals while oxygenating the water and soaking up excess nutrients in the water column.

How fast does Java moss grow?

Java moss tends to have a slow to moderate growth rate. The growing speed does vary a lot depending on the conditions in the tank, however. It is possible to speed up Java moss growth with better lighting and CO2 injection and fertilizers, provided you keep everything in balance to avoid algae problems.

How do you keep Java moss alive?

Java moss is usually a very easy aquarium plant to keep alive. It is tough and adaptable and it thrives in most freshwater aquariums. Make sure your tank setup and parameters match this plant’s needs and you should have no problem.

Can brown Java moss turn green again?

Fully brown Java moss is dead and should be removed from your tank before it breaks apart and rots. Naturally, you want to give your plant the benefit of the doubt of course, and if there are any healthy green branches, they may well pull through and regrow.

A safe option is to remove the dying moss from your tank and see if you can grow it in a separate container filled with your tank water, that way if it doesn’t bounce back, you won’t have to worry about it spoiling in your tank.

Closing Thoughts

Java moss is a really fun and versatile plant that is great for all planted tank enthusiasts, from beginners all the way to professional aquarists.

Making Java moss grow can be as simple as dropping some in the aquarium or as interesting as making moss trees and walls with suction cups. This is definitely one plant that everyone should consider growing.

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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