Java Moss: Care & How to Plant and Grow

Java moss is a freshwater species of the Hypnaceae family that is used as an aquarium carpeting plant. The versatile plant creates attractive aquascapes in home aquariums, giving the tank a lush, natural ambiance.

Java mosses come in various shades of green and are furry, densely-growing bryophytes with lots of small, delicate stems. The plant’s low care needs, aquascaping benefits, and affordability make it popular amongst aquarists.

Java Moss Facts & Overview

Java moss facts & overview

Scientific name:Taxiphyllum barbieri
Common names:Java moss, Bogor moss
Origin:Southeast Asia
Height:2–4 inches
Growth rate:Slow (1–1.5 inches per month)
Color:Bright green
Aquarium placement:Carpeting
Water type:Freshwater
Temperature:60–80°F (15–27°C)
pH:5.0–8.0

Origin

Java moss originates in Southeast Asia, including Japan, Singapore, Java island, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The plant grows on land and underwater and is usually found growing on rocks, riverbanks, and tree trunks in moist, tropical climates.

Java moss is one of the most common aquatic and semi-aquatic plants in the wild and has the ability to grow on almost every surface, including driftwood, gravel, and the surface of the water.

Availability

Finding Java mosses in pet stores and online is easy. The plant is widely available and affordable and costs $5–$15 depending on the quantity of moss. The mosses are sold on online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon, as well as at aquarium specialist stores like:

Appearance & Size

Java moss appearance

Java moss is a bright green leafy plant that forms dense, carpet-like clumps. The plant’s stems are short, reaching a maximum of 4 inches tall, and are covered in tiny 0.7-inch overlapping leaves.

Java mosses don’t have roots. Instead, the plants have tiny sticky “feet” called rhizoids, which anchor them in place. The plants grow slowly, at a rate of between 1 and 1.5 inches per month.

When grown underwater, Java moss has smaller greener leaves than when grown on land. Young, newly planted moss is brighter than old moss.

Benefits of Java Moss in Aquariums

Java moss in an aquarium

Java moss has aesthetic benefits that give the tank a natural appearance and provide a realistic habitat for fish in captivity.

The plant is a common feature in breeding tanks as a place for fish to lay their eggs, and the moss is known to harbor infusorians, which are ideal food for newly-hatched fry.

Compatible Tank Mates

The Java moss is suitable for tanks containing all species of freshwater fish. Fish and invertebrates that nibble on plants, and bottom-dwelling fish particularly enjoy this plant.

Java mosses are ideal for planting in tanks containing:

This moss can safely be planted with other aquarium plants without interrupting their growth.

Java Moss Aquarium Conditions & Requirements

Java moss and anubias on tree and carpet
Java moss and Anubias on wood

Caring for java moss is easy. The plant grows in most water types in the wild and prefers a strong water current, moderately warm water, and a neutral pH.

Java mosses don’t need a special type of substrate because they’re light enough to anchor to any surface or substrate.

Tank Requirements

When grown underwater in a tank, the plant has several requirements that should be considered during tank set up to mimic its natural damp, warm Southeast Asian habitat.

Java mosses need a surface to grow on, but they’re not picky — the moss will grow on substrate, driftwood, stones, glass surfaces, and tank decorations.

Moderate or dim tank lighting for 8–10 hours per day is fine because the plant is used to growing in shaded conditions in the wild. Bright lighting allows the plant to grow densely but increases algae growth.

The moss is used to moderately warm waters and tolerates temperatures up to 86°F, but it grows fastest in water with a temperature of around 75°F.

Tank Conditions

Ideal tank conditions for the Java moss are:

Water type:Slightly acidic to neutral freshwater
Tank size:Minimum 5 gallons
Water temperature:59–86°F
Required substrate:Substrate not necessary — grows on any surface
Tank placement:Carpeting
Acidity:5.0–8.0 pH
Water hardness:6–20 dGH
Light type & strength:Low to moderate aquarium lighting
Hours of light:Around 10 hours
Water heater:Not essential

The Java moss adapts well to fluctuating water parameters. However, the plant grows fastest in aquariums with good carbon dioxide content and clean water conditions.

Tank Placement & Aquascaping

Java moss doesn’t have roots, which means it can be grown on a variety of horizontal and vertical surfaces inside an aquarium. The easiest use of the plant is carpeting for the bottom of the tank.

Because the moss grows dense and short, it’s ideal for covering-up unattractive features in an aquarium, like plastic decorations.

This moss is a popular aquascaping plant, and it looks attractive when grown on a piece of driftwood assembled in the tank to look like a small tree. The plant quickly spreads from its original clump if not trimmed.

Java Moss Carpet/Walls

A popular way to grow Java moss is as a carpet or wall. This provides your tank with an aesthetically pleasing floor or wall and is easy to maintain.

To create a carpet, you will need two pieces of mesh and some fishing line or thread. It’s important to make sure that all the materials you put into your tank are non-toxic.

Lay down your first piece of mesh, and lightly cover it with Java moss. You can cut bits off to arrange them so they sit flat, don’t worry about keeping it whole. Once you have good coverage, place the second piece of mesh on top, and use thread to secure the two pieces together.

The sandwiched moss can then be placed into the tank and will slowly start to grow through the mesh, providing you with a visually stunning bed of moss that you can use to cover the floor or the wall.

Alternatively, you can weigh the moss down to create a carpet. In order to do this, sprinkle a light layer of gravel over it to hold it down as it attaches itself to the floor of the tank.

Java Moss Trees

Java moss can also be used to create trees, using a piece of driftwood that stands vertically. Ideally, you’d choose a piece of wood that gives a tree-like appearance, with a few branches extending outwards.

Alternatively, you can tie a number of pieces of wood together to form a tree shape. Remember any glue you use should be suitable for aquarium use.

Collect your Java moss. If you’ve taken it directly from your tank, you’ll need to gently pat it off taking care not to dry the moss out.

Using small amounts of glue, attach the moss to your branches in small amounts. Once you’ve attached all your moss, trim off any extra, wispy bits to create the tree-shaped look.

Then place the moss tree into your tank.

How to Plant Java Moss in the Aquarium

All Java moss should be cleaned in a bleach mix before being added to an aquarium, because the plant can carry pests or nuisance algae.

Some Java mosses are delivered already attached to a surface such as a piece of driftwood, which should be carefully peeled off before cleaning the moss.

How to Safely Introduce Java Moss into Your Tank

To clean a Java moss in preparation for introduction into a tank, follow these steps:

  1. Place the Java moss in a bucket of clean, plain water.
  2. Gather two more buckets, cleaning gloves, unscented bleach, de-chlorinator, and tap water.
  3. Mix one part bleach and 20 parts tap water in one bucket. Prepare the second bucket with water and one dose of de-chlorinator, measuring according to the product instructions.
  4. Put on the cleaning gloves and fully submerge the moss for 90 seconds inside the bleach-water solution.
  5. Immediately transfer the plant to the bucket of de-chlorinator and leave it to soak for five minutes.
  6. Transfer the moss to your tank.

How to Plant Java Moss

To establish the moss quickly, separate it into thin, 2-inch pieces to allow the maximum amount of light to hit the leaves and stems. Place the plant pieces on the substrate, a rock, or other flat surface and allow several days for the plant to anchor.

In order to plant Java mosses on challenging surfaces, such as the curved edge of driftwood, tie the plants in place with fishing wire. Leave the wire in place until the plants attach to the surface on their own, then use scissors to snip the wire.

Care & Growing Guide

Java mosses are hardy plants that grow steadily in most water conditions. They’re easy to care for because they don’t need special nutrition or specific water conditions, and they don’t overwhelm the tank with excessive growth.

Nutrition

Fertilizer and CO2 can be used to encourage the Java moss to grow faster than normal. However, these extra nutrients aren’t necessary if the moss lives with fish, and hair algae are likely to grow if the plant is over-fertilized.

Maintenance

Java moss isn’t prone to any plant-specific diseases, but there are several problems associated with this plant to avoid:

Dirt Buildup

Java moss’s densely-growing leaves accumulate detritus from uneaten food and fish waste, which pollutes the tank.

To clean built-up dirt off of rocks, tank decorations, or driftwood, remove the entire object with the moss and rinse it under cool water. To clean Java moss on surfaces that can’t be removed, use a ⅜-inch tube to siphon detritus out of the moss.

Algae Growth

Algae commonly grow on Java mosses, especially in tanks with intense lighting. Typically, algae grows faster than moss, so removing the algae without ripping out the moss is difficult.

To reduce algae growth, add algae-eating fish and invertebrates to the tank, like Chinese algae eaters and Amano shrimp. Before introducing a new species to the tank, ensure it’s compatible with established tank species.

Leaf Browning

Java mosses turn brown when they don’t have sufficient nutrients, light, or clean water.

To prevent the plant from dying, add a small amount of fish-safe fertilizer to the tank, take steps to control algae growth, add more carbon dioxide if necessary, and check that your water and lighting conditions are optimal.

Overgrowth

The moss needs to be trimmed back occasionally to prevent it from taking over the tank. Trimming gives the plant a clean appearance and allows for healthier growth by giving all of the leaves and stems access to light.

Trim the plant into a smooth, single-level carpeting layer with a pair of scissors whenever it begins to grow into a small bush.

Propagating Java Moss

Java moss propagation is easy with the following steps:

  • Use scissors to trim off a 2-inch section of the plant.
  • Place the plant section on a surface where you’d like new Java moss to grow. Attach the plant with fishing wire if it floats away.
  • The plant section will naturally attach itself and begin to spread within three weeks, at which point the fishing wire can be removed.

Should You Get Java Moss for Your Aquarium?

Java moss is a hardy, vibrant plant that boosts the aesthetic appeal of a home aquarium.

You should get this plant if you’re keen to aquascape your tank with affordable, easy-to-grow vegetation.

Don’t get Java moss if you don’t have methods in place for controlling algae growth, as this moss is a breeding ground for algae.

This moss is an ideal plant for beginner and experienced aquarists because it’s colorful, useful, and easy to plant and maintain.

Java Moss FAQs

About Robert 461 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.

38 Comments

  1. Hugh W Joiner Jr says:

    I just discovered your site! Love all the great information! I am a retired veteran with PTSD and have found having an aquarium helps me with meditation and relaxing. I very much enjoy aquascaping the tank and watching my littler buddies along with my pups, bit even more importantly learning about each species and genre! This site has really been helpful!

    • Exactly the same for me bud my partner bought me an aquarium, a great help with my combat Ptsd. Stimulating while also relaxing. Take care Mart from ex forces ptsd racing

  2. Nathan says:

    Fantastic info!
    I was wondering if too much Java Moss is harmful? My java moss has had massive success with growing under the conditions you mentioned above, however I am wondering I should be removing some of it? I currently have it very clumped together with no signs of it dying, as it could comfortably take up a quarter of my 4-5ft tank. It just keeps growing! Very easy!

    • Robert says:

      Hi Nathan,

      The only drawback of having too much is the moss will compete for nutrients against the micro-organisms. Personally I would trim and maintain it 🙂

      Rob

    • Bill says:

      Goo Job,

      Sounds like you have your tank dialed in just right, now go sell some small pieces online and put that money back into your tank system.

  3. David Pabon says:

    Best info on java moss. I want to plant some and later add red cherry shrimp. Do you ship red c shrimp outside conUS?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi David. Thank you, we don’t sell anything, we’re an informational site. Many thanks, Robert

  4. Jocelyn says:

    Thank you for all the info!
    I’m wondering if I can grow java moss in a vase like Marimo balls? Or with a beta fish with no filter?

    • DD7990 says:

      You probably could grow java moss in a vase if you change the water every couple of days and also put some kind of aquatic plant fertilizer every once in a while (if there are no other source of nutrients). However please don’t think that java moss can replace the functionality of a filter for a betta fish, that’s just plain cruel. Bettas need heated AND filtered tanks preferably no smaller than 5 gallons (or at bare minimum 3 gallons). I personally am planning to use some java moss just to assist in maintaining water quality in-between the weekly water changes but I would NEVER remove the water filter completely. If you think your betta is ok without a filter, think about how you would feel if you were locked in a bathroom (with no air vents) for example, and toilet is clogged + no plunger to unclog it and you have to breathe in all the nastiness… and you can understand how a betta fish suffers when it has to breathe in its own waste fumes. Please don’t do that to your little buddy, he/she deserves better.

      • Fishkeeping World says:

        Totally agree. All Betta fish need a filter. You can read more about caring for Betta’s here: https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/betta-fish-tanks/

      • Frank says:

        I just got a Betta fish he is in a 20 gallon. Yeah I hate seeing them in little bowls in pet shops.

    • Kyle says:

      I grow Java moss in a 1 gallon fish bowl with a heater and no filter, the bowl has a good substrate of activated carbon, clay and gravel. there is also a moss ball, pothos ivy and golden ribbon. No fish, only shrimp and a snail. The moss grows like crazy in there. faster growth than in my proper tank. I also grow moss in a .5 gallon micro tank with no filter and no heater and no substrate beyond tiny bit of gravel. I also grow moss in my paludarium which has no heater or filter and the bottom has nothing but a thin layer of sand. I only do 1-2 water changes a month and I only replace 20-30% of the water. My tanks all have a decent amount of seed shrimp and they do an amazing job keeping the tanks clean.

  5. Craig says:

    One little concern that I have encountered after a recent purchase of JM on eBay is the potential for stowaways in particular the “Predator” I have the misfortune to be hosting. It’s green in colour and has a tail (gills in fact)that looks like a archery arrow.(3 sided) and the ‘tail’ is so similar to fern fronds. It’s body is like a dead stem of elodea. It’s face is (o-v-o) but more sinister with diabolic horns. I discovered it’s a killer. It’s a Damselfly nymph. Arrgh

  6. Sharon Bailey says:

    Hi, can java moss be used in a tank without water pump or fish, and changed every fortnight for example? Thank you.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Sharon, yes you can and it should still grow fine. Thanks, Robert

  7. LIFFIN PETER says:

    Hi,
    I have just bought Java Moss covered on a coconut shell, the quantity of Java Moss is not much. I introduced it in my 30 Ltrs Tank. My tank has a filter and this is the only plant in my aquarium. Since the time I have introduced it in my tank, my Common Pleco is on it. It just love munching the surface of the shell. I am worried if it will destroy my Java moss. Please advise.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Peter, Java moss is pretty much indigestible. It’s likely that he is just moving the plant around to find bits of food or debris inside it. It’s unlikely he’ll destroy it. Thanks, Robert

    • Muscleguy says:

      Many plecostomus catfish require wood to chew to aid their digestion. If the coconut shell is the only wood in there your poor fish will be chowing down on the shell, not the moss. Put some bogwood in the tank, ideally a piece big enough for it to hide behind as well and it will be much happier.

      I have ancistrus cats, suitable for smal aquaria. They bred in my 10g and the female there now is the last of the babies. I had a large bogwood arch across th back of the tank, the catfish ate it into one large and one small piece. People if you have such catfish, give them wood to chew.

  8. Joey Pierce says:

    I really enjoyed the thread. I clumped java moss to the back of my new 180ltr tank. It started going brown,I then had a huge algae outbreak. Can make it out because the tank I had in the same location under the same conditions has the same algae what thrived.

  9. Long Hoang says:

    I used glue to stick java moss in to a driftwood but a part of the moss is in the shadow because of driftwood., It mean no light for the moss. Is it ok?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Long, only time will tell. It should be fine. Thanks, Robert

  10. Trisha Harding says:

    I put some outside in my tiny outdoor pool containing a waterlily. It has done a good job keeping the water clear with no algae. Will it survive the winter outside in the UK?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Trisha, I would imagine not because of the temperatures they require, but I’ll leave your question here in case any one else has any direct experience which they can share with you. Thanks, Robert

  11. Jennifer says:

    Hi Robert, I recently decided to make a moss wall in a 5g that will eventually contain shrimp (currently just has snails). How long will it take the java moss to start growing out through the mesh? It’s a Fluval Spec V with the standard light that comes with it, so I have no idea if that is a lot of light, not enough, etc. I have other plants in it as well, but I haven’t been fertilizing yet, as I was waiting for them to establish themselves before adding ferts. Thanks, Jennifer

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Jennifer, you should definitely start to see plenty of growth within a month or two. Thanks, Robert

    • Antony Costema says:

      Hi Robert,
      I’m about to start my first tank, it’s 70ltr & I plan on just having male guppies. Will java moss be a good idea for me?

  12. Ana says:

    Hi , I have 25 gallon planted tank with few platy’s . All my plants doing okey , not perfect but java moss is melting.
    The water quality it’s good. I put my light directly above java moss (who is attach to wood) do you think this could be a problem?
    I’m using Excel from sachem daily. I don’t know what else to do. Any suggestion ?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Ana, it is normally for Java Moss to do this during the acclimation period, how long has it been in the tank for? Is it possible that the moss was left out of the water for too long prior to adding it to the tank? I would cut away any brown or dead parts, and make sure it’s not packed too densely. Thanks, Robert

  13. Joe Muraska says:

    I put java moss into a newly established tank. the tank is 268 litres. I have a UV filter and a power filter in the tank. the moss turned brown and died. I added more java moss and the same happened again. Whts causing my java moss to die.

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Joe, Java Moss can sometimes take up to a couple of months to adjust to new water parameters. I’d suggests allowing your tank to fully cycle, make sure that the lights are only on for 8-10 hours per day, and perhaps use liquid fertilizers when you first add the plant. Thanks, Robert

  14. Allison says:

    Greetings from Queensland, Australia.

    Excellent advice, thank you. I have a 72 litre planted tank, home to 12 cherry shrimp, many small snails, 2 mystery snails and 12 neon tetras. I’ve recently added a Java moss according to your advice and it’s growing very well.

    Thank you,
    Allison

  15. Todd Isler says:

    If you have any trouble with fluffy algae growth (usually from adding items from local streams) just purchase a mystery snail. They’ll clean off all the algae growth from your java moss and are fun to watching action. Eventually they may munch the java moss too… but they’re excellent at cleaning it when I accidentally introduce contaminants.

  16. Sophia says:

    Hi, I am having problems with my java moss. I’ve had it in my tank for about two and a half months now and it was nicely secured to my spider wood. I began to have a problem with hair algae so I reduced my lighting from about 10 hours a day to 4 hours a day. This dramatically improved the algae problem but I noticed my java moss became darker and started to turn brown. Two weeks in now, it has fallen off the spider wood completely and is becoming more and more brown. I don’t think the problem is algae but lighting? Is there any way to save it? It was so healthy and growing like crazy before this happened!

  17. Betta_Lover says:

    Can I put java moss in my bettas tank

  18. Logan says:

    Would java moss be compatible in a rope fish tank? I just love the look of it, but I don’t want to put it in the tank if it could stress out the fish.

  19. Fishkeeper says:

    I have a small amount of Java moss in my 60 gallon aquarium and I have to leave it for a month. There are no fish in the aquarium yet because it is not yet fully cycled. I am wondering if it will be ok for a month if I change the water before I go or if it will run out of nutrients and I should have someone come over to do something with it.

  20. robin thompson says:

    I can’t keep Java moss alive. Put it in my 5 gal with just ramshorn snails and it totally disintegrated. Temp is 74 and water parameters are fine.

  21. Louise says:

    I have just bought some Java moss on 20cm pieces of bamboo, they arrived looking very dark and I have read that someone had an outbreak of snails when they placed it in their tank, can I rinse this in tap water with tap safe then put it in my tank, also I have 1 goldfish will it be safe if he eats it as he tries to eat everything. I received the moss 2 days ago and it’s still in the packet will it be okay. Thank you in advance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*