Java Moss Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)

Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri) is a popular aquatic plant used in aquascaping. It is one of the most common mosses used in the aquarium as well as the most popular moss in the hobby. The reasons for this popularity are pretty simple and obvious. Java moss is easy to grow and propagate, it is versatile and it adorns the tank beautifully. Java Moss beautifully spreads over the surface of the substrate, turning the underwater world into something harmonious and natural.

Keep reading for more information on Java moss, and how you can grow and care for it.

Java moss – check out the price on Amazon

Quick Notes about Java Moss

Common Name Java Moss
Scientific Name Taxiphyllum barbieri
Tank Size (minimum) 5 gallons (~20 liters)
Difficulty Easy
Lighting Low to medium
Optimal pH 5.0 – 9.0
Water hardness    Very soft – very hard
Temperature 15 – 32 C (59 – 90°F)
Substrate Not needed
Growth Rate Slow to moderate
Placement in Tank Foreground / Midground 
Height 5 – 10 cm (2 – 4 inches)
CO2 Not needed – Low
Propagation Splitting, cutting off daughter plants

Origin of Java Moss

Java moss is native to tropical regions in Southeast Asia where it grows on rocks and tree trunks in rivers and streams. It can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore and Vietnam. Java moss scientific name is Taxiphyllum barbieri and it is classified as follows:

Kingdom: Plantae
Class: Bryopsida
Order: Hypnales
Family: Hypnaceae
Genus: Taxiphyllum
Species: barbieri 

Most Popular Varieties of Java Moss

Unfortunately, I need to start off by saying that scientific names provided by aquarium stores are often wrong. Some types of moss look very similar and can confuse even experienced aquarists.

Christmas moss (Vesicularia montagnei)Christmas moss (Vesicularia montagnei): The mature fronds of this plant hangs down and overlap each other like the branches of a Christmas tree, hence the name “Christmas moss”. The plant is semi-aquatic and grows on shaded, wet banks of streams and creeks in tropical regions of Asia.

At first glance, Christmas moss is very similar to Java moss, so they are often confused. However, unlike Java moss, every branch of Christmas moss has very small shoots growing parallel to the stem. Its leaves are rounded with a sharp ending.

Vesicularia dubyana (Singapore Moss)Singapore moss (Vesicularia dubayana): This moss species is widespread in Singapore and some parts of Malaysia where it grows on wet soil in shaded places. Singapore moss looks like Christmas moss except that its fronds are shorter and not so triangular in outline. It also features a dull to dark green color with flattened irregular pinnacle branches. 

 

Weeping moss (Vesicularia ferriei)Weeping moss (Vesicularia ferriei): This plant is native to China. The fronds are identical to that of the branches of a weeping willow tree. The leaf shape is similar to that of the Christmas moss. The difference is that the leaves of Weeping moss are almost two times smaller and do not taper towards the end so sharply.

It looks especially great on all kinds of aquarium decorations. Professional aquarists often use it to create a “rainforest” in the aquarium. This is a very gentle and slow-growing plant, which requires a careful and accurate attitude. 

Taiwan moss (Taxiphyllum alternans)Taiwan moss (Taxiphyllum alternans): Taiwan moss is an expensive moss species. As the name suggests, the species is exported from Taiwan, although the origin is not certain.

Its shoots have triangular shape with the rounded up ends. In Taxiphyllum alternans, only the upper part of the leaf is serrated (the “teeth” are small and uneven), while in the Taxiphyllum barbieri, the leaf has “teeth” along the entire edge.

 

Habitat of Java Moss

Java moss grows in moist tropical regions in Southeast Asia, they can be found attached to rocks and gravels, tree trunks in tropical rainforests and brackish regions, banks of freshwater streams and rivers.

In the wild, this species is often found growing in association with Microsorum Pteropus (Java fern). 

Description of Java Moss

Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)Java moss is a delicate bright green colored moss with small branched stems. It has two short costae and narrowly oblong leaf cells and grows up to 5 – 10 cm (2 – 4 inches) tall.

The branching is irregular and covered with rows of tiny overlapping oval-shaped leaves (2 mm or 0,08 inches long) which occur on both sides of the stems. Leaf shape is oblong to oblong-lanceolate with a short and wide leaf tip.

The leaves of submersed forms of this plant species are much smaller than those grown on land. Java moss has no true roots, instead, it absorbs nutrients through the leaves and stems. It is a versatile plant and can be grown as a free-floating plant or it will send out rhizoids to attach itself to gravels, rocks, driftwood, and other ornaments. 

Water Parameters and Tank Requirements

Java moss is a hardy and durable plant that can grow in any type of water (both freshwater and brackish). It does not require any special care, which makes Java moss an excellent choice for beginners and advanced aquarists alike. It can thrive not only in cool water, but in low light at tropical temperatures that would soon result in the death of the most aquarium plants.

Tank size:

Java moss is a great option for nano tanks. The recommended tank size for this species is at least 5 gallons (20 liters). However, you will need a larger tank if you will be planting lots of it.

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

The following water parameters should be sustained in the tank to enable the Java moss grow and develop properly.

Temperature: Water temperature suitable for this plant should be in the range of 21-24° C (70-75° F), but it can also survive in temperatures of up to 15 – 32 C (59 – 90°F).
Hardness: 5 dGH and above preferably, up to 20 dGH.
PH: Java moss can tolerate extreme aquatic pH values (5-9) but it does best at 6-8. A pH testing kit should be utilized to ascertain the measure of acidity or alkalinity of the tank water periodically.

Lighting:

This plant appreciates low-medium lighting conditions. You can utilize LED lights or fluorescent tubes in the tank for this purpose at least 8 hours daily.

Read more about it in my article “Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting”.

Substrate:

Java moss does not require any preferred substrate for planting. It can be attached to stones, rocks, gravel, driftwood, bogwood or any type of decorations. Any chosen substrate will do just fine, this plant can attach and grow on most surfaces perfectly.

Supplements:

Java moss can thrive without fertilizer application and external CO2 dosing. However, it appreciates the application of liquid fertilizer rich in nutrients like Potassium, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Iron. Additional CO2 dosing of up to 15-30ppm helps to hasten its growth, the effect is not very significant by the way.

Note: Excess fertilizer application can harm the plant and cause algae growth. So it’s a balancing act if you decide to use them.

Important: If you keep shrimp in the tank, I would highly recommend reading my articles:
CO2 in a Planted Tank Guide
CO2 in a Shrimp Tank

How Copper Affects Dwarf Shrimp
Shrimp Safe Plant Fertilizers
The point is that a high level of CO2 and Copper (most fertilizers contain copper) is extremely dangerous to the shrimp. In my article about copper, I also refer to the most popular shrimp-safe plant fertilizers.  

Planting Java Moss 

Java moss is quite easy to plant and it can take a wide variety of forms. Here are some of the ways in which you can plant Java moss in an aquarium:

  • Floating

To float Java moss on the water column, divide the moss plant into many pieces and place them on the surface of the water. It will grow normally and develop into a mature floating plant.

  • Attaching Java Moss to Rock & Driftwood

After you have obtained some moss plants from the pet store, the next step is to tie it to a piece of driftwood or rock with a dark colored thread or fishing line. This will help put the plant in position and hold it firmly. You can remove the thread after 3-4 weeks.

  • Java Moss Carpet

This plant can be grown to form a carpet in the tank. When done successfully, it provides your tank with an aesthetically pleasing floor underwater and its maintenance is easy.

Now, to create a carpet you will need some pieces of mesh and fishing line or thread. Lay down the first piece of mesh and gently cover it with Java moss. Ensure you divide them in bits and arrange them accordingly so they sit flat.

Once you have established a good spread, place the second piece of mesh on top and use thread or fishing line to secure the two pieces together firmly.

The sandwiched Java moss is now ready to be planted in the tank and it will slowly start to grow through the mesh. This provides you with a visually pleasing bed of moss which you can use to cover the floor of the tank.

  • Java Moss Wall

This method is a little bit technical. To form a Java moss wall on the tank, you need a plastic mesh (7 – 10 mm, preferably black or other neutral colors) and suction cups to hold the moss against the tank walls.

Next, fold the plastic mesh net in half, sustain the folded nets with the suction cups and then stuff moss inside each end to form a wall. Java Moss will grow through the mesh and soon cover all the spaces.

  • Java Moss Tree

Another wonderful form you can create with the Java moss is a tree. This can be achieved with a piece of driftwood which is upright and has the structure of a tree. For this purpose, you will need a piece of driftwood which has a tree-like appearance with a few branches extending outwards. Alternatively, you can merge many pieces of wood together to form a tree shape, but that would be time consuming and too technical for beginners.

The next step in forming a Java moss tree is to get the Java moss plant to be used; disinfect them to eliminate bacteria, parasites, pathogens, and snails. Afterwards rinse thoroughly and dry them. Use an aquarium-safe glue to attach the moss to the branches of the driftwood. After attaching all split pieces of Java moss, gently trim off extra parts and irregularities from the structure to give it a well defined tree-shaped outlook. For a weeping willow effect, allow the Java moss tree to grow a bit more until it hangs over the branches.

  • Java Moss Ball

To create a ball with the Java moss plant, you can either get a round shaped object like a sphere-like stone or bio ball, then use strings or fine netting to tie thin layers of Java moss all round the spherical object. While doing this, try not to overlap each individual moss for a better overall effect.

  • Cave Overhangs

First, you need to obtain a cave structure. Next, attach a plastic screen to the cave with an aquarium-safe super glue. Once you have attached the anchor material to the cave, then you can now use strings to attach Java moss to the cave. Depending on your taste, to get a hidden cave look: simply let the front portion of the Java moss cave to form an overhang, then you need to trim the back areas to blend with the structure. 

Propagation of Java Moss

Attaching Java Moss to mesh. PropagationThe propagative means of Java moss is through division. This involves breaking off pieces from the plant bunch and attaching it on surfaces or hardscapes.
Note: Aquarists often propagate Java Moss by tying them to the stainless steel mesh and the plant will cover those squares with time. 

Care & Maintenance of Java Moss

Trimming: Trim the Java moss carpet or wall regularly to get rid of excess parts that are overstuffing the tank. Trimming the plant helps it to stay in shape and promotes healthy growth and development. Collect trimmed parts from the tank and dispose them properly, this is to prevent decomposition and the tank water going bad.

Vacuuming: This is important in maintaining this plant. Vacuuming helps to get rid of detritus in the tank. Detritus consists of fish wastes, tiny bits of detached plant matter, decayed leaves, uneaten food that ends at the bottom of the tank. If these things are not removed, it breaks down into ammonia which disrupts the water quality and can harm the plants.

The moss plants will typically collect detritus from fish waste and algae in the tank, brushing them up at intervals will help and also the introduction of algae-eating shrimp to clean these up. Always check to be sure they are not eating the mosses. 

Java Moss Benefits

Java moss has a lot of benefits and contributes positively to an aquarium.

We will look at some of the benefits:

  • Oxygenation: Through its life activities, Java moss aerates the tank water.
  • Reduces (slows down) the growth of algae. Note: Java moss is a low nutrient plant, so do not expect miracles here.
  • Helps in biological and chemical filtration.
  • It beautifies the tank with its tiny lush green leaves and stems. Java Moss can take various artistic forms which will enhance the aesthetics of any kind of tank set-up.
  • It acts as a breeding place for egg laying by some fish species.
  • Java moss supports the growth of biofilm which is an ideal first food for newly hatched fry and shrimplets.
  • Java moss acts as a foraging place for invertebrates, tiny fry and juvenile fish.
  • Shelter: Java moss provides shelter and hiding spots for shy fish and shrimp.

Note: According to the overwhelming amounts of reports and observations, Java moss is one of the best (if not the best) plant for a shrimp tank. You can read more about it in the article “Top 5 Plants for Your Shrimp Tank”. So, if you are planning to keep and breed dwarf shrimp, you should seriously consider it as your first choice. 

Difficulties and Problems of Java Moss

Algae: This is a common problem that plagues aquarium plants. Its causes are the availability of waste, ammonia, excess nutrients in tank water and excessive lighting. Algae should not be allowed to exist freely in the tank as they compete for available resources and can pollute the tank thereby creating adverse living conditions for other inhabitants.

Most times, algae can be seen growing on Java moss and other plants in the tank. You can keep algae under control by looking into the outlined causes and also introducing algae-eating freshwater shrimp and snails.

Note: For example, if you have shrimp or snails in your tank (especially Amano shrimp and Nerite snails), it will be even an advantage for you. They are voracious algae eaters (read more here). Keep in mind that algae will increase your shrimplet survival rate.

Browning: You may witness some parts of the Java moss turning brown. This is due to the lack of essential nutrients or if the plant is not getting enough light. 

You can also read “How to Spot Nutrient Deficiencies in Aquatic Plants”.

Java Moss & Tankmates

Java moss is compatible with a lot of aquatic species. It can dwell with the following species:

  • Guppy (Poecillia reticulata)
  • Green swordtail (Xiphophorus hellerii)
  • Molly (Poecillia sphenops)
  • Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)
  • Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
  • Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare)
  • Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras spp)
  • Clown loach (Boris maracanthus)

These species can harm the plant:

  • Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus)
  • Red devil (Amphilophus labiatus)
  • Siamese algae eater (Crossocheilus siamensis), they will devour the moss.

Do not forget about shrimp and snails. Java Moss is compatible with shrimp and most snails.

For example, Ramshorn snailsNerite snailsMalaysian Trumpet snails, Japanese trapdoor snailsMystery snails, etc.

All varieties of Neocaridina (Red Cherry Shrimp, Blue Velvet Shrimp, Snowball shrimp, Black Rose, Orange Sakura, Green Jade, Rili Shrimp, etc) or Caridina species (for example, Crystal Red Shrimp, Caridina cf. babaulti, Blue Tiger Shrimp, etc.), Amano shrimp, Ghost shrimp, etc.) 

Note: Some people say that Amano shrimp (Cardina multidentata) can eat moss if there is no other food available in the tank. Personally, I have not seen anything like this. I believe that people might confuse picking up algae with eating the plant itself.

Buying Java Moss

Java Moss - Taxiphyllum barbieriWhen buying Java Moss, you should look into the following:

  • Colour: Bright green colored leaves and stems.
  • Absence of decay or discolorations. Avoid damaged plants at all costs.

Java moss is very affordable and can be purchased at local aquarium stores. This species goes for a few dollars and you won’t be needing much of it since you can split them into many pieces for planting. 

Quarantine Java Moss

When you have obtained some healthy plants for cultivation, you have to quarantine or sterilize them first (using bleach to get rid of parasites and treating them with alum to eliminate snails) before putting them into your tank!

  • They can have parasites, pests like snails or even predators (dragonfly, damsefly nymphs, etc.).
  • They can be treated with chemicals (pesticide) to remove parasites, snails, etc. However, these chemicals are extremely poisonous to fish, shrimp and other invertebrates.

To find out more, read my articles:  

How to Remove Snails from a Shrimp Tank.
How to Quarantine and Disinfect Aquarium Plants.
Pesticides in Shrimp Tanks. Plants Quarantine.

In Conclusion

Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri) is a perfect aquarium plant. It is hardy & versatile, can thrive within a wide array of water and lighting conditions (even in dim or no lighting at all- although this is not advisable). If you are a beginner in the hobby, looking to get a plant which will grow and survive against all odds, then the Java moss is your best bet. It costs less yet adds a lot of value to your aquarium.

Java moss – check out the price on Amazon

2 thoughts on “Java Moss Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

    1. Thank you for the kind words!
      I am trying my best 🙂
      Michael

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