Java Moss is one of the most common and easiest to grow aquarium plants you can get. It’s scientific name is Taxiphyllum barbieri, and it is a member of the Hypnaceae family. 

It is native to South East Asia and in its native habitat grows in marshes, rivers, and streams attached to pretty much everything it can find; rocks, driftwood, and other vegetation.

Due to its nature as an extremely hardy and undemanding plant java moss has grown in popularity to become probably the most common plant in freshwater aquariums. It also has many and varied uses, such as in aquascaping and breeding, where the fry can hide amongst the small leaves.

Complete Java Moss Care Guide

Java Moss Information

Care LevelVery Easy
Temperature Range59°F – 86°F (15°C – 30°C)
pH5 – 8
PlacementCarpetting, floating, foreground, middle
LightingLow – High

Java Moss Basic Information

Java moss is a very aesthetically pleasing plant. It has small irregular stems from which small leaves about 2 mm in length grow. 

It can grow both above and below the water surface, which is one of the reasons it makes for such a versatile plant! If it grows under water then the leaves are a lot smaller and greener than any that grow above the water surface. 

Being so dense and having such small leaves makes it perfect for use in breeding tanks and in tanks where fish have eaten fry. It gives the perfect place for the fry to hide and seek refuge from the other fish.

Like most mosses, java moss doesn’t have true roots. Instead it utilizes rhizoids to anchor and attach itself to itself to its surroundings.

Rhizoids are very interesting structures; they are basically the evolutionary precursors to roots, and are very similar to the root hairs found on roots. Rhizoids are unicellular structures, whereas roots are multicellular. They are found in the Bryophytes, which is an informal grouping of three non-vascular plants; namely the liverworts, hornworts, and mosses. Non-vascular means they lack the complex tissues for transporting water and nutrients.

The main function of rhizoids is to anchor the plant to whichever substratum it finds itself on, whether this be rock, wood, or soil. While this is their primary function they also help the plant absorb water and nutrients, but to a very limited degree. They mainly absorb nutrients and water directly through their stems and leaves.

Java Moss was originally classified as Vesicularia dubyana, which is actually a similar, but different type of moss from Brazil. So always use the scientific name of Taxiphyllum barbieri when buying Java Moss to ensure you get the correct type. We like the following by Greenpro:

Greenpro Java Moss Live Freshwater Aquarium Plants Easy Ready to Grow
  • LIVE AQUATIC PLANTS : JAVA MOSS from Greenpro come with a portion cup. Growing beautifully, spreading dense carpet in your aquarium tank.
  • EASY AND READY TO GROW : Moss can be grown in any size of tank. Nano tank, shrimp tank, betta etc to large aquarium tank. Can be attached to rocks, driftwoods, background moss wall.
  • BEST QUALITY : With our experience, every plants from Greenpro will be professionally inspected, packed and organized with suitable boxes for all weather conditions to make sure that will retain the freshness and healthiness to our customer hands.
  • REAL JAVA MOSS : No substitution, many other companies try to substitute this moss with other species.
  • HIGH TECHNOLOGY : Our plants grown by using the latest technology and facility with digital controlled nursery to ensure that our plants are diseases pest snail and algae free.

Java Moss Tank Requirements and Ideal Conditions

As already stated, java moss is one of the hardiest plants available. As such they can survive a wide range of tank conditions, which we will run over soon. But what are the ideal conditions for java moss?

Ideally you want the temperature range to lie between 69.8 and 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 to 24 degrees Celsius. You also want there to be a good water current, and soft acidic water.

While this is the ideal, they can survive in temperatures as low as 59°F (15°C) to as high as 86°F (30°C). Though if the temperature is up towards the higher end the growth rate will slow, and towards the ideal temperature the growth rate will quicken and the plant will look healthier overall. 

Java moss can thrive in both high intensity and low intensity lighting, which makes it perfect for placing anywhere in the aquarium. You will notice a difference in growth when in high and low intensity lighting however. High lighting will produce lighter leaves and stems, and the plant will grow to be denser and more compact; whereas low lighting will cause darker growth and a sparser, taller plant as it looks for light. 

As said above java moss prefers slightly acidic water, with a pH of around 6. But it can thrive happily in aquariums with a pH range of 5-8 without any issues. 

Java moss prefers a good water current as it helps to prevent algal growth and buildup in its leaves, and a good current also brings the nutrients which the moss will absorb through the leaves and stems. It will happily grow in any water currents though.

Growing Java Moss

Getting Java Moss Started

Getting java moss started in your tank is quite a simple affair. It needs an attachment point for the rhizoids to anchor to, and this can be anything you think is appropriate in your tank, such as stones, driftwood, wire mesh, or even a cork if you want it floating.

It takes around three weeks or so for java moss to full anchor itself to the substratum, so until the rhizoids have had this time to anchor themselves you need to help it along.

There are a few different methods of doing this. You can use superglue to attach the moss to the substratum, but make sure that the glue is aquarium safe. You want a glue in which the active ingredient is cyanoacrylate.

However we think the easiest way of attaching Java Moss is to use fishing line. Try not to use untreated metal wire or string, as this can rust or the dye can run.

To attach java moss with wire you simply need to remove whichever object you want it attached to from the tank, cover it with the moss you have purchased, and wind the wire tight around both until the moss doesn’t fall off when you turn it. Cut the wire so there are no straggly ends, and so you can’t see the wire under the moss. Don’t worry too much if there are indents where the wire is pushing into the moss as it will grow over and cover the wire fully. 

Once the rhizoids have been able to grow and anchor the plant onto whatever you want it on, it is best to leave the wire in place, especially if you cannot see it. If you can see the wire and it is getting on your nerves a bit you can take the moss out and unwind the wire, but be careful you don’t rip the moss away. 

Uses of Java Moss 

You can use java moss in a number of ways in your tank. You can use it to carpet the walls or base of your aquarium, to create trees, to use it as a floating plant, and to cover eyesores like HOB filter inlets and outlets. 

It is used extensively in aquascaping as it is very easy to trim and maintain to a specific shape, and it is also very useful in breeding tanks as it gives great protection to young and newborn fry.

We will explain how to use java moss in each of these ways in the following section. 

Tropica Taxiphyllum sp. 'Spiky' Live Aquarium Moss - in Vitro Tissue Culture 1-2-Grow!

Ways to grow Java Moss

Java moss carpet

There are numerous ways to grow java moss in your aquarium depending on how you want your aquarium looking. 

You can have the plant grow as a carpet over the walls or the base of your aquarium. To achieve this you can get two pieces of mesh. First things first measure the area you want to cover in your tank and cut the two pieces of mesh into these dimensions.

Then use fishing line to attach the java moss to one piece of the mesh until you have achieved good coverage; don’t be too gentle with it, you can cut it and force it into shape if needs be. 

Then place the other piece of mesh on top of this, and attach it with more line. Then you can put this in the tank wherever you want it. If you want it up against the wall you can attach some suction cups to help it stay in place. After a few weeks the moss will grow in and through the mesh, and then you can keep trimming it into shape. 

This will create a brilliant looking carpet effect of moss in your aquarium for you to enjoy!

Java moss trees

Another amazing way to showcase java moss and create a brilliant ornament showpiece in your aquarium is to create a tree. 

To create a java moss tree you need to first get an appropriate bit of driftwood. You want one that has branches like a tree, but if you can’t find one like that you can glue or tie two bits or more together. 

You can either tie java moss to your tree creation, or you can carefully glue the moss to the tree. Use very small amounts of glue, and sparsely place the moss. Trim back any excess before you place the tree in your aquarium.

Once the moss starts to establish itself on the tree it will slowly grow  over the branches and the tree, creating a stunning tree effect. 

Floating Java moss

It is very easy to have java moss as a floating aquarium plant. It can look really nice having it floating on the surface, and can encourage fry and smaller fish out of their hiding places to where you can see them. 

You can simply drop some java moss into the tank and it will float, but this is not recommended as it will probably sink eventually. If you tie the moss to a cork then you can achieve the floating moss effect. 

It is advised to attach the piece of cork to something, otherwise it will move about in the current of your tank and if you have the filter intake near the surface it can get caught up. So anchoring it in one place is probably the best thing to do.

Java Moss Care and Maintenance

Java moss care

Credit: mbalazs2 (Flickr)

Java Moss Care

Caring for java moss is extremely easy, as you can imagine for a plant that can cope with the huge temperature range and other conditions. 

If you see that the growth is looking thinner than you were expecting, or that some areas of the plant are browning or dying, then there are a couple of things you can do. First check the conditions of your fish tank, and ideally change the temperature and current if they aren’t in the ideal range.

If this is all fine then you can add CO2 or nutrients into the water via fertilizers. Ensure you have a good quality aquarium CO2 regulator so you can easily and safely inject a boost of CO2 to enhance growth. 

If you add aquarium fertilizer to the tank to give the plant a nutrient boost and hopefully kick start growth, then do so using liquid fertilizers. As java moss absorbs the vast majority of its nutrients through the leaves directly from the water column the nutrients need to be already in the water! Be wary though as adding nutrients can fuel algal growth. 

If you want a good quality liquid fertilizer you can read our article on the Top 10 Best Aquarium Plant Fertilizer Options.

Java Moss Maintenance

As you can imagine java moss needs very little maintenance at all. You can let it grow wild and freely, and to be honest this isn’t the worst thing you can do. While java moss can get a bit scraggly, especially in lower lighting, it looks pretty good just left to its own devices. 

However if you want a neater and more sculpted look, you can simply cut the moss into the shape you want with a small pair of scissors. This creates a much neater looking plant, and is recommended if you have java moss carpeting the wall or base. 

This trimming is also recommended, especially for carpets, as bits of debris from the water can get tangled in the moss. Getting dirt and debris in the plant can quickly look quite unseemly, and it can also fester and release harmful compounds into the water. 

If you can see that your java moss does have bits tangled in the growth, or has algal growth trapped within the fronds, the best way of dealing with it is to remove the decoration or substratum that it is attached to from the tank so you can clean it easily. 

Rinse it thoroughly in some tank water, and get all the debris out. You don’t need to be too careful with it as java moss is very hardy and won’t be killed with a bit of manhandling. You can scrape any algal growth off from the moss too, but do a little careful not to break the moss. 

Common Issues with Java Moss

The most common issue with Java Moss is little pieces of getting caught in the filter mechanism. This is especially common if you have hidden the intake valve with the moss. While this does aid in hiding the valve, and they can be quite an eyesore, having a plant growing next to or in front of the valve has issues.

Make sure that you trim and maintain the moss around the filter carefully and keep it nice and short. Also make sure to check the filter regularly to make sure that the trimmed pieces of moss don’t clog up the filter media.

Algal growth can be a big problem for java moss as it can grow in amongst the dense growth. You can prevent algal growth by having a nice current, and lowering the lighting. If you have already got algal growth in your moss, then you can try to remove it yourself with a bit of force, or you can use hydrogen peroxide solution. But be very wary of hydrogen peroxide, as if you have it too strong it can kill your moss.

As java moss is so easy to find and grow, if algae becomes a real problem the easiest solution is to sort out your water conditions, remove the affected moss and simply start again. You can actually end up spending more time and money in trying to completely remove the algae.

Remember that algae grows well under high nutrient loads, high lighting, high CO2 levels, and poor water conditions. If you have a good filter, good water movement, and good systems in place then you shouldn’t get outbreaks.

So is Java Moss right for you? 

Java moss is a great addition to any freshwater aquarium, whether it be an advanced aquascaped show tank or a beginner basic tank. The plant is extremely hardy and easy to grow, and looks great!

It is very useful in breeding tanks as the dense growth makes it an ideal place for fish to lay their eggs and for fry to hide in. 

It thrives in a huge range of conditions so it can be almost guaranteed that it will grow well in your tank. 

The main issue with java moss is with algal growth which can be very difficult to get rid off. But as this moss is very easy to buy and to grow, then starting over is generally the best policy. 

You can also read the following plant care articles:

Featured image credit: AJC1 (Flickr)

About the author

Authority Aquarium Staff

Authority Aquarium Staff writers are experts and aquarium enthusiasts, our in-house marine biologist fact checks all our content and reviews to bring you the best advice for your aquarium health.

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