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The tank is coming together nicely; the substrate is in, there are a few pieces of driftwood in, and the filter system is running. However, the habitat is missing something, A live plant perhaps. A friend mentioned using Java moss as a low-maintenance green for his tank, so what about that?

Java moss is a low-maintenance way to add green to an aquarium or to aquascape it. The moss tolerates a wide variety of water conditions, temperature ranges, and light levels, in addition to providing cover and food for small fry in a breeding tank.  

What is Java Moss?

Java moss is a hardy aquatic moss related to the mosses often found on the floor of northern boreal forests. It is native to south-east Asia. Its scientific name is debated, the original classification being Vesicularia dubyana, but now thought to be Taxiphyllum Barbieri. This distinction can be important if your plant vendor uses the Latin name to differentiate mosses.

Java Moss Use Cases

If you are a beginner at aquarium keeping, then java moss is a good choice for introducing plant life to your tank. It will require little maintenance and tolerates water temperatures of 70 to 95 degrees.

For breeding tanks, Java moss makes a thoughtful addition. The thick, fluffy moss provides an ideal place for fry (baby fish) to hide from larger fish. The fry will also snack on the moss, providing nutrition to these typically difficult to feed small fish.

Another use for Java moss is aquascaping. It can be attached to nearly any surface and sculped to resemble tree foliage or the like. Java moss can be used to create a carpet on the floor of your tank or a moss wall on the side or back of the tank by hanging a mesh substrate and attaching the moss to it. 

If ornamental shrimp or algae-eating fish are residents of the tank, they will appreciate Java moss. The shrimp pick through the moss to find algae and bits of plant waste to eat. This is a mutually beneficial relationship as over time, as the buildup of algae can smother the moss.

Can You Grow Java Moss?

Yes, you can grow Java moss! Java moss is a prolific and fast-growing moss. A single plant is all that is needed to get started growing a mat in your aquarium. Once established, the moss can be spread to other places in the tank or to other tanks simply by breaking off a piece and attaching it where desired.

The new moss bundle will begin to grow on its own within several days. Java moss will also self-propagate when small pieces break free of the main mat, lodge elsewhere, and begin to grow.

Java Moss Tank Requirements

Java Moss is not a picky plant, its primary requirements are light and space. The minimum recommended tank size is five gallons. The tank does not have to be very brightly lit, but the brighter the tank is (to a point), the faster the moss will grow. The caveat to this is that algae also love bright light and can quickly overrun a bright tank with poor water quality. 

Temperature-wise, 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit is preferred, and the desired PH range is 5-8 for optimum health and growth. The tank should have some water movement to bring nutrients to and through the moss, but too strong of a current can dislodge the moss from its perch.

How to Plant Java Moss in Your Aquarium

Java moss can easily be planted in an aquarium. Simply attach the moss to the desired object with a piece of fishing line, rubber band, glue, or wire. To establish a carpet on the floor of your tank, hold the moss down with either a mesh net or weigh it down with some substrate until the moss develops rhizoids, which are small, thin filaments that hold it to a surface. Java moss will float if not tied down initially. 

Maintenance & Care

Java moss requires very little maintenance. The biggest concern is keeping the plant trimmed to avoid overgrowth. The second concern is algae. Algae will smother and kill moss if left unchecked. Having algae-eating fish and/or ornamental shrimp in your tank will help to prevent the buildup of algae on the moss. Having either of these as tank mates will save you time and effort in trimming off affected portions.

Algae can also be removed by scrubbing with a soft brush. If the algae do overtake a section of moss, the moss will turn brown and needs attention immediately to avoid losing that section of the plant. 

Fish and plant waste can build up over time in your moss. During a cleaning session, pull the moss out and rinse it thoroughly before returning it to the tank. This will not harm the moss. You can also use a tank vacuum to gently clean your moss without removing it. Do this and you should be able to allow longer time intervals between removal cleanings.

Issues You May Face with Java Moss

Java moss is low maintenance, but that does not mean that it is trouble-free. Java moss can quickly take over a tank if left untrimmed, clogging filter systems and becoming so thick that the center starts to die out from lack of light and nutrients. As the lower level starts to die out, the moss will detach from its anchor point and float to the surface or into your filter intake and plug it. 


Top 5 Best Mosses for Your Aquarium

#1: Java Moss – Vesicularia dubyana

As discussed above, Java moss is a hardy, fast-growing moss that tolerates low light and temperature of 57-86 degrees Fahrenheit. PH can range from 6 to 8. This moss thrives at the 70-75 degree temp range, but growth will slow above that. The only downside to this moss is the need for frequent trimming.


#2: FISSIDENS FONTANUS (PHOENIX MOSS)

Pheonix moss is a lesser-known moss in the aquarium community, but it should really get more recognition. Phoenix moss can handle temperatures from 40-79 degrees Fahrenheit with a PH of 5-7 and prefers shaded areas. This moss is slower growing than Java moss and will require less frequent trimming over time. Phoenix moss is also native to North America and was only discovered recently. This moss is also the most expensive one you can buy, so budget accordingly if you want to use it.


#3: FLAME MOSS

Flame moss is different and unique from other mosses listed herein that the moss prefers to grow vertically. Its shoots tend to stand up rather than feather out and can grow to several inches in length. This vertical posture gives the appearance of a fire, hence the name flame moss. Flame moss is dark green, much darker than Java moss, and adds a nice contrast of color to your tank.

This moss is somewhat more demanding in temperature control than others, requiring temperatures between 68 and 82 degrees, however, it is not affected by the PH of the water, adding some forgiveness to its care. Flame moss does not attach well to substrates and will need to be secured to its desired home with some fish line or thread for several weeks or months. Flame moss is a very slow-growing moss. This trait, combined with its penchant for vertical growth, means that your Flame moss will seldom need to trimming


#4: CHRISTMAS MOSS

This moss is a bit more work than the previous three but is very pretty. When full size, the ferns resemble the silhouettes of tiny Christmas trees. Christmas moss is sensitive to temperature and will melt above 82 degrees. The plant’s growth is dependent on the light it gets; in brightly lit aquariums it will grow horizontally, but in dimly lit tanks it will grow vertically.

Christmas moss does not attach itself easily to a substrate and will almost always need to be superglued to it. Frequent trimming is also a must with Christmas moss. If the plant gets too heavy, it will break loose and slide off the substrate.

There are two other varieties of Christmas moss; Brazilian and Mini. The Brazilian variants have a similar leaf spacing with shorter, more compact leaves. The Mini is just that, a compact and miniature version of the full-size Christmas moss.


#5: TAIWAN MOSS

This a slow-growing moss that tolerates water temperatures of 59 to 82 degrees, and PH from 5 to 8. It prefers temps under 77 degrees for optimum health. Taiwan moss attaches readily to a substrate and has a Christmas tree-shaped leaf similar to Christmas moss.

This moss is also thicker than Christmas moss but looks more delicate because of its thinner leaves. The peculiar quirk to Taiwan moss is that it only grows downward. So, if you want to create a moss wall or any other feature with it, remember to start at the top.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does Java Moss Grow Fast?

Yes, Java moss grows fast. The exact rate of growth depends on water temperature, PH, and the amount of light. If tank conditions are optimum, expect to trim your moss once a week to keep it from getting unruly.

Java moss will also pop up uninvited in other areas of your tank. Small pieces of the moss regularly dislodge from the main body and float with the current. Wherever these pieces lodge, they will begin to grow another mat of moss that will need to be dealt with quickly if you do not want it there.

Does Java Moss Clear the Water?

Java moss can help to clear the tank water by feeding on the nitrates from fish waste. Controlling the nitrate levels will also serve to reduce the likelihood of an algae outbreak. Moss and other plants are the best way to control nitrate levels without chemicals.

What Makes Java Moss Turn Brown?

Java moss will turn brown due to sub-optimal tank conditions that allow algae to grow unchecked. The algae grows on the moss, restricting its intake of nutrients and light, causing the dead appearance. You can reverse this condition by carefully cleaning the algae from the moss and your tank. When optimal water conditions are restored, the moss should begin to regain its green color. Java moss can also turn brown if the mat of moss is allowed to grow too thick. The top layers of moss will block the light and use most of the nutrients, effectively smothering the base layer of moss.

Is Java Moss Harmful?

Java moss is non-toxic to both fish and other animals. While it will not poison a creature, some have reported fish deaths from their fish snacking on Java moss and then being unable to digest it. This occurrence is rare as most fish do not care for the taste of Java moss. The only other harm this plant can do is the particles that break free from the mats can plug a filter system. Also, if left to grow wild, Java moss can cover air stones and intakes.

Will Java Moss Grow on Driftwood?

Yes, Java moss will grow on driftwood or anything else in the tank. To get it started on the wood, attach the piece of the moss to the driftwood with thread, fish line, or superglue. Tying the moss is effective, but the moss likes to slip out from underneath the string or fish line after a few weeks.

The glue method seems to work the best, holding the moss to the wood until it grows onto it. The gel version of the original Super Glue has shown itself to work very well for this application with no adverse effects on the fish or the moss. 

Conclusion

Java moss is a hardy, prolific plant that can brighten up your aquarium. The moss provides cover for young fish and a feeding ground for other aquatic life. The moss will also absorb nitrates in the tank, contributing to water clarity. 

As long as your java moss is pruned regularly and kept under control, it will provide years of beauty and enjoyment for you and your fish. Why not give it a try?

Brandon Tanis