Java Moss 101: Care, Planting & Growth in Aquariums

One of the most popular choice of plants for freshwater tanks is Java moss. It’s a versatile carpeting plant that attracts both novice and seasoned fishkeepers and aquascapers.

The furry, dense, yet delicate plant is known for its extremely basic maintenance routine. It adds a stunning look to any tank with its bright green colors.

So, if you want to grab this plant for your tank, let’s get started!

What are the Characteristics of Java Moss?

OriginSoutheast Asia
Scientific NameTaxiphyllum barbieri
Common NamesJava moss, Bogor moss
AppearanceBright green, irregularly branched stems, oblong/oblong-lanceolate leaves on both sides, rhizoids to attach itself to objects, dense carpet-like and clumpy
Size5-10 cm (2-4 in)
Growth RateMedium (3-4 cm/1-1.5 in per month)
Care LevelEasy
Minimum Tank Size5 gallons and above
Water TemperatureDuring growth: 72-75 °F (22-25 °C), Maximum tolerance: 60-85 °F (15-29 °C)
pH Level5-8
Water Hardness6-20 dGH
LightingModerate to dim
CO2Not necessary, up to 30 ppm max
PropagationSplitting by cutting the plant from the base

What is the Natural Habitat of Java Moss?

Java moss is native to the humid and tropical regions of Southeast Asia. Many say it’s only been recorded in the wild at Vinh, Vietnam. But others say it’s also found in Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Java islands, and East Indian Ocean islands.

It grows on the ground, tree trunks, rocks, riverbanks, and underwater in streams and rivers. While found in jungles, around waterfalls, and most freshwater bodies, the plant also has a slight tolerance toward slightly brackish waters.

In the wild, it’s often seen to grow along with Java fern (Mircrosorum pteropus).

Which Family does Java Moss Belong?

The aquatic and semiaquatic plant hails from the family Hypnaceae under the order Hypnales. Its binomial name is Taxiphyllum barbieri but commonly it’s popular as Java moss and Bogor moss.

Interesting Fact: The name “Java moss” has been used in the aquarium plant trade for another species – Singapore moss (Vesicularia dubyana). But the two are entirely different.

People also confuse it with other similar-looking moss like Christmas, Weeping, and Taiwan moss.

How does Java Moss look?

Java moss is bright green in color. It has small, irregularly branched stems, which are covered with several rows of small overlapping leaves on both sides. The leaves are oblong or oblong-lanceolate, accompanied by a short and broad tip.

When the leafy plant is grown underwater, it usually has smaller and greener leaves than the ones growing on land. Young and new moss also look much brighter than old ones. The moss gives a dense carpet-like clumpy look.

Known for being rootless, the plant absorbs nutrients using its stems and leaves. When placed on objects, it often grows reddish brown, tiny-sticky, feet-like structures called “rhizoids” to secure itself to objects like gravel, driftwood, and rocks.

What is the Size of Java Moss?

The stems of Java moss can reach around 5-10 cm (2-4 in). The leaves can grow up to 1.8 cm (0.7 in).

But if not pruned regularly and under low-light conditions, the plant may grow taller than usual but wouldn’t be as dense.

What is the Growth Rate of Java Moss?

Under optimal conditions, the moss has a slow growth rate of 3-4 cm (1-1.5 in) per month. When introduced to a new environment, it takes 4 weeks to get accustomed to it, secure itself using rhizomes, and grow at the usual rate.

The growth rate can be improved with optimal lighting, fertilization, and CO2 injection.

What are the Benefits & Uses of Java Moss?

Java moss is a popular choice for aquariums or any vivarium for the following reasons:

1. High Durability

The plant is so durable that it thrives even with the least care and maintenance. It’s perfect for beginners because of its low mortality rate.

2. Helps in Breeding

If you like to breed your aquatic pets, this moss provides comfort and safety for the young ones. Microorganisms like infusoria grow on Java moss, which is food for juvenile fish.

This also works as a great spawning mop for egg-scattering fish. Thus, the eggs stay hidden from predators. It’s also easy to relocate eggs along with the plants to another tank.

3. Home to Shrimp

This plant also provides shelter to shrimp. Moreover, when algae grow on the plant, shrimp feed on it.

4. Aesthetics & Aquascaping

Since the plant doesn’t have roots, you can easily drape it and create clean and unique aesthetics in your tank. You can place it as a floating plant, on walls, on decor like driftwood, and as carpeting material.

5. Detoxifier

It detoxifies water by dropping nitrate levels and boosting oxygen levels.

How to take care of Java Moss?

Java moss planted aquarium

Now, if you’re all set to get some Java moss for your tank, it’s time you prepare the right conditions to ensure its well-being.

What are the Tank Requirements for Java Moss?

What is the Tank Size for Java Moss?

Java moss is an ideal choice for nano tanks, i.e., 5-10 gallons. Of course, you can also use it in bigger tanks, but you’ll need it in bulk.

What should be the Water Chemistry for Java Moss?

Moss is pretty hardy, but to ensure its best health and sustain it for the longest time, maintain the following water parameters.

  • pH Levels: 5-8
  • Water Temperature:
    • During Growth: 72-75 °F (22-25 °C)
    • Maximum Tolerance: 60-85 °F (15-29 °C)
  • Water Hardness: 6-20 dGH
  • Carbonate Hardness: Up to 20 dKH

What type of Soil does Java Moss need?

The plant doesn’t need soil or substrate as it lacks roots. You can place it on stones, sand, gravel, driftwood, or bogwood. It can keep up with any type of substrate.

What is the type of Lighting required for Java Moss?

This moss is known to grow even in shaded regions. It needs moderate to dim lighting of 0.5 watts per liter for about 8-10 hours a day. Use a timer if you forget to turn off your lights. Otherwise, your tank will be overpowered with algae.

To help the plant grow densely, use bright lights. But it may boost algae growth in your tank. Moreover, check whether the lights heat up your tank water. The plant can stand up to 86 °F (30 °C), but it grows best around 77 °F (25 °C).

What is the Water Flow Rate for Java Moss?

In stagnant water, the moss turns brown and dies. So, a moderate to strong and steady current is best to keep fresh water flowing around the moss.

Unless you don’t use an extremely thick and dense layer of moss, the usual flow from your filter will suffice.

Does Java Moss need CO2?

This moss grows pretty fast, even without external CO2 injection. So, your aquarium doesn’t need it any further.

If you still want the plant to grow faster than usual, you can add some pressurized CO2. Ensure there’s around 3-5 mg CO2 per liter or less than 30 ppm. Otherwise, it’ll cause suffocation and death of your aquatic animals.

What type of Fertilizers & Nutrition does Java Moss require?

The plant doesn’t have extreme nutritional needs. Thus, you don’t need additional fertilizers for it. It’s especially true if there are fish in your tank.

Avoid fertilizers completely in low-light tanks. In this case, the plant can’t consume the nutrients. Instead, the leftover nutrients may lead to severe hair algae.

Under moderate-to-strong lighting, use liquid fertilizers sparingly.

If you want to build a heavily planted aquascape, use a high-quality liquid fertilizer.

Which are the Aquatic Species compatible with Java Moss?

Some compatible fish with this plant are as follows:

Some compatible invertebrates are:

  • Neocardinia shrimp species
  • Cardina shrimp species
  • Snails

Which Species to Avoid with Java Moss?

The following aquatic animals are incompatible with this plant:

  • Oscar
  • Red devil
  • Siamese algae eater
  • Chinese algae eater
  • Crayfish

Author’s Note: Often, people report that Amano shrimp nibble on Java moss when there’s no food. But they actually graze on the algae and do not eat the plant.

What are the issues of having Java Moss in the aquarium?

While Java moss is one of the easiest to care for and grow plants, it certainly comes with some challenges, as follows:

1. Dirt

Leftover fish food and fish waste often get stuck to the plant – especially when the water flow is low. It looks scummy and dirty, and the breakdown of dirt spikes nitrates and degrades water quality.


If the moss is attached to any object, remove the object along with the plant. Rinse it under running water until the gunk is off.

If the object is not removable, siphon the gunk with 3/8 inch tubing. Stick it into the moss and suction out.

2. Algae

Algal growth is a common issue if your tank has intense or long lighting periods. It might turn into a stubborn issue over time.


Invest in a cleaner crew of cherry or Amano shrimp. They’ll eat all the algae in the nooks and crannies.

But if they aren’t compatible with your aquatic inhabitants, spot-treat the plant with Seachem Flourish Excel by spritzing it directly using a turkey baster.

Or, partially drain your tank and spray hydrogen peroxide solution directly on the algae. Leave it for a few minutes and refill the tank.

3. Discoloration (Leaf Browning)

The moss turns brown in the lack of nutrients, clean water, or sufficient light.


Here are a number of things that might work:

  • Add slight fish-safe fertilizer to your tank.
  • Control algae infestation.
  • Inject more CO2 than usual.
  • Maintain optimal water parameters and lights.

4. Pests & Diseases

Java moss isn’t prone to any specific disease or pest. But some common pests are Oomycetes and Apicomplexan protozoa. A healthy plant population can easily overpower them.

You only need to be alert about fungus gnat larvae infestation.

Identification: White or translucent larvae

Treatment/Prevention: Quarantine the plant in a separate tank before introducing it to the main tank. Treat it with diatomaceous earth.

5. Slow/Stunted Growth

Java moss may grow slowly due to excess or intense lighting, high water temperature, lack of attachment, algae growth, or malnutrition.


You can overcome the causes by the following steps:

  • Soften the light intensity if it’s too strong. Place the light further away from the moss.
  • For better growth, maintain a temperature range of 72-75 °F (22-25 °C).
  • Place the moss on other objects to grow optimally. While floating, it loses energy drifting.
  • Treat the algae (as stated above).
  • Add liquid fertilizer.

6. Overgrowth

If not trimmed, the plant can grow into a messy giant. When the older growth dies, it gets stubbornly tangled with the new growth.


Trim it with scissors once in a while. This also allows light to reach the entire plant and keeps all corners of the plant healthy.

7. Clogged Filter

Often, pieces of moss wash over with the current and get stuck to the filter.


Apply a sponge over the filter intake. Trim the moss more often.

8. Melt

This is common when you first introduce the plant to your tank due to the difference in its environment. It undergoes an adjustment process during which its parts change color, die, and rot.


Trim and remove the dying parts. Otherwise, they’ll deteriorate your tank water quality.

Planting, Growing, Propagating & Pruning Java Moss in the Aquarium

Yamato shrimp on java moss

Now, if you’ve decided to add Java moss to your tank, let’s follow all the important steps right from planting to maintaining it here…

How to plant Java Moss?

First, let’s learn how you can introduce the plant to your tank without carrying any pests or parasites and place it aesthetically.

1. Safe Introduction

Live aquarium plants may carry pests and parasites. So you must clean it well before introducing it to the aquarium. First, collect unscented plain bleach, dechlorinator, tap water, and a few buckets.

Next, follow these steps:

  • Let the moss soak in a bucket of plain water.
  • Wear gloves and mix bleach and water in 1:20 proportion in a bucket.
  • Fill another bucket of the same size with water and add 5 times the usual amount of tank dechlorinator.
  • Dip all the moss in the bleach solution bucket for 20 seconds at max.
  • Right after, dip the moss in the dechlorinator and let them soak for 5 minutes.
  • You may transfer the moss to your tank after that.

2. Tank Placement

You can place the moss on several surfaces like driftwood, rocks, decor, or mesh. There are different methods of placement. Before you pick a method, pull apart clumpy dense moss to have 2-inch pieces. Spray it with water from time to time to avoid drying it.

Then follow either of these methods:

3. Super Gluing

Necessities: Java moss, anchoring decor, forceps, super glue gel

How to do it?

  • Apply a dot of super glue gel on the chosen decor.
  • Press the moss on the glue using forceps. Don’t do it with bare hands.
  • Once the moss sticks to it, place it back in your tank.
4. Tying

Necessities: Java moss, anchoring decor, cotton thread/fishing line, scissors

How to do it?

  • Put the moss on the decor and tie it with a flashing line/cotton thread.
  • Clip the remaining line/thread.
  • Don’t worry if the moss looks spread out or sparse because of tying. It’ll let more light get in and grow back faster.
5. Floating

Another idea is to place the cut moss pieces on the water surface. They’ll eventually grow into mature plants.

6. Aquascaping

Some aquascaping ideas with Java moss are the following:

7. Java Moss Walls/Carpet

This method helps you cover the entire wall or aquarium floor.

Necessities: Java moss, non-toxic fishing mesh, tying method necessities, suction cups, rocks.


  • Measure the area you want to cover using moss.
  • Cut two pieces of the mesh of the desired size.
  • On the first mesh piece, place and secure with moss using the tying method.
  • Place another mesh piece over it. Tie the sides and sew through it horizontally and vertically every 6 inches. With time, the moss will grow through the mesh.
  • Clean the tank glass, and don’t add any substrate.
  • Place the sandwiched moss on the desirable surface. Place rocks on the corner to prevent the carpet-like structure from floating.
  • If you want it on the walls, sew suction cups on the underside of the mesh. Press down firmly on the glass to make it stick.
8. Java Moss Trees

Necessities: Java moss, upright driftwood with branches, scissors, super gluing method necessities.


  • On the driftwood branching sections, attach clean Java moss using the super gluing technique.
  • Cover all the branches with moss.
  • Take a look from afar and check whether it looks abnormal.
  • Snip off any unnecessary pieces to give a tree-like look.

Note: To create a weeping willow look, let the moss grow longer until it hangs downward.

9. Java Moss Ball

Necessities: Java moss, round-shaped objects like stone or heavy balls, and the necessities required for tying methods


  • On a round object, tie java moss in layers all around it with the string or fishing line. You can also use super glue.
  • Make sure you don’t overlap one moss with another.
10. Cave Overhangs

Necessities: Java moss, cave structure like a coconut shell, plastic screen, aquarium-safe sponge strips, super gluing method necessities, fishing line/thread.


  • If the cave structure has spikes or sharp edges, sand it until smooth.
  • Attach a plastic screen on it. If you can’t, superglue it. Or, attach aquarium-safe sponge strips.
  • If the cave material floats, attach an anchor, like another heavy decor or stone, using superglue.
  • Using a fishing line/thread, tie the moss to the cave. Or, if possible, superglue the moss on it.
  • For a hidden cave, let the moss on the cave front grow and trim the moss on the backside.

How to Propagate Java Moss?

This moss is one of the easiest to propagate among all aquatic plants. Here are the steps for it:

  • Trim a 2-inch section of the plant (including its base) with scissors.
  • Place the sections at the preferred spots. Attach the plant with a fishing wire to prevent it from floating away.
  • The section will start to grow within 3 weeks. You can remove the wire after that.

How to Prune Java Moss?

To maintain a clean and tidy look and encourage better growth, prune the plant with the following tips:

  • Cut off excess growth and parts with stubborn debris using a pair of scissors.
  • Don’t damage the healthy, vibrant green parts.
  • Don’t let it grow bushy, or the stems and leaves on the deeper corners won’t get enough light.
  • Collect trimmed parts from the tank and dispose of them. It’ll prevent nitrate buildup from decomposition.
  • Vacuum to double-check in case you miss any trimmed or decayed pieces.

How to Buy Java Moss?

Check for signs of good health like:

  • Vibrant green color
  • Soft but doesn’t fall apart easily
  • Limp outside water but good texture underwater

Avoid buying moss, which shows the following signs:

  • Discoloration (yellow or brown)
  • Wilting
  • Falling apart
  • Holes in leaves

This is one of the most popular aquarium plants, so it’s available in all local fish shops online and offline. It’s usually available for $5-10 for a golf-ball-size portion.

A word from FishInAquarium

Java moss has been popular in the planted tank hobby not only for its hardiness but also its affordability.

With a bit of creativity and patience, you can build a beautiful tank with lots of greenery. Especially if you plan to breed your pet fish or provide them some shelter, this is an absolute must-have!

If you found this article informative, don’t forget to share it with other enthusiasts. And if you have more questions, drop us an email, and our team will help you out!

Minnie B Miller - Professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium

About Minnie B Miller

Minnie B. Miller, a professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium, has over 8 years of expertise in fish breeding and care, gained through her roles at AquaticTX and Sea Lion Landing. Having honed her skills with various aquatic species, she is dedicated to empowering fellow enthusiasts by sharing her knowledge and experience.