Java fern growing roots on leaves the reason behind the strange sightSeeing your Java fern growing roots on leaves can be a peculiar sight for new owners of this plant species. Yet, this is normal and signifies that the Java fern is reproducing. With time the leaves die off and leave the baby roots behind.

This article has answered the baffling question of why Java ferns grow roots on leaves and what you can do about them, along with in-depth information about java plants in general.

Why Is My Java Fern Growing Roots on the Leaves?

Java fern roots on leaves are a reproduction mechanism that allows the plant to clone itself. The leaves of java fern have spores on them that aid in the plant’s reproduction. Thus, when Java ferns are mature, you tend to see many of the leaves sprouting roots. This form of reproduction is known as apomixis.

Furthermore, Java fern leaves grow to about 12 inches long and are narrow, long and spear-shaped. The roots that grow from the leaves help anchor the plant to whatever they are attached to and prevent them from being swept away.

How To Fix it

Provided the tank conditions are favorable, it is impossible to stop java ferns from growing roots on leaves. As we mentioned before, the roots on the mature leaves are a natural way of getting the plant to reproduce and thrive.

With time, the leaves with adventitious roots may break off and float at the surface of the water, producing a replica of the fern over time. Keep in mind that as more and more plantlets begin to form, your parent fern will start turning black. So, you will need to take off the plantlets for health and aesthetic reasons.

If the plantlets do not fall off on their own, you may have to propagate it, and that is a possible solution. And don’t worry; we promise that it is not as complex as it looks. Now that you know about java fern reproduction let’s touch base on how you can propagate it.


Once your java fern starts sprouting roots on its leaves and the roots begin to gather enough leaves, you know it is time to replant it. It typically takes about two to three weeks for this to happen.

Java fern propagation is easy, thanks to the plant’s hardiness in general. The only setback for this plant is that the plantlets produced cannot grow in soil and water. So, you will have to attach them to rocks or driftwood in the aquarium and weigh them down.

Below is a step-by-step guide on propagating java ferns:

  1. Cut off the plantlet from the main plant with sharp, sterilized scissors.
  2. Next, attach the desired plantlet to pieces of wood or rocks.
  3. You can use a piece of thread, fishing line, or thread to keep it attached.
  4. Place the attached plantlet at the back of your aquarium.
  5. Bear in mind that, over time, the thread dissolves.
  6. You should see the rhizomes forming roots that anchor the plant more in a few weeks.

At this stage, you can take out the fishing string or line, and voila! Your plantlet has become a healthy Java fern.

– Best Place To Cut Off The Roots

Cut off the leaves with roots at the point where they are attached to the main plant. Also, do ensure that you always use sterilized, sharp scissors.

Alternatively, you can cut off the existing rhizome in half and replant it in another location. With the right conditions, it will begin to flourish. You can damage the existing Java fern if you do it wrongly. Thus, we don’t recommend this propagation method for beginners.


We have answered some of the most commonly asked questions below, and we hope they help you out!

1. How Should You Handle Java Fern Plantlets When Your Tank Is Overcrowded?

The answer is simple; you propagate them close to the main root (rhizome). That way, all the plantlets grow around the same area, and you wind up with an even more elegant bush.

2. How Do I Care for Java Ferns With Roots on the Leaves?

The steps to care for your small Java fern are really easy, and their tiny ferns make for a great hiding spot for the fish in your tank.

Basically, if you provide them with an enabling tank environment you’ll watch them flourish. Follow our care guide below, to do exactly that:

– Tank Size

Java ferns don’t need large tanks to grow. A 10-gallon tank would do nicely, but we urge you to go for something larger if you have other tank inhabitants.

– Water Parameters

Java ferns can thrive in a variety of water conditions. But it is best to keep the aquarium temperature between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. What’s more, we spoke with experienced aquarists who agreed that a pH range of 5.0 to 8.0 and hardness of 2-12 GH is best for this plant.

– Lighting

You need 1.5 Watts of light per one gallon of tank water as a rule of thumb. That way, you have the perfect lighting condition for this plant to grow in. Too much high-intensity light causes the leaves to brown and results in the need for more frequent pruning.

– Fertilizer and CO2

Java ferns are easy aquarium plants, and they do not need fertilizer or C02. But, to speed up their growth, you can try using a liquid fertilizer. Moreover, you should increase their CO2 dose if you see the Java fern leaves turning brown. Sufficient CO2 intake ensures the plant grows as it should.

3. Can Java Fern Grow Floating?

Yes, Java fern can grow floating atop the water. Most times, when the leaves with roots break off, they float on the surface of the water, absorbing nutrients and growing. However, we advise that you weigh the plant down by attaching it to rocks, gravel or tree roots.

4. Can I Plant Java Ferns in the Soil?

No, you shouldn’t plant Java ferns in the soil or any substrate. This is because Java ferns are epiphytes and, as such, they’re incapable of surviving in soil. The soil prevents light from getting to the rhizomes, and so, the leaves turn brown and wither. Instead, attach them to rocks and driftwood with thread and watch them thrive.

5. How Do I Keep My Java Ferns Healthy?

To keep your Java ferns healthy, you should create a favorable tank environment for your underwater fern. Once all the parameters are within range and your water quality is high, you should have no problems. The next step in ensuring Java ferns stay healthy is to prune them from time to time.

6. How Many Hours of Light Do Java Ferns Need?

Java ferns need to be exposed to at least six hours of low-intensity light daily. Higher light intensity and extended exposure to light can affect the plant. Thus, we recommend limiting the light exposure to less than 12 hours daily.

7. How Quickly Do Java Ferns Grow?

Java ferns have a slow growth rate. With proper care, they can grow an inch in a month. That means that it takes them almost a year to reach their full height of 6-13 inches. You can speed up their growth rate a little by adding fertilizers and C02 to your tank.

8. Do Java Ferns Remove Ammonia and Nitrate?

Yes, Java ferns remove ammonia and nitrate from your aquarium. In fact, this is one of the key benefits of having a Java fern in aquarium. They use up the ammonia and nitrates produced as by-products of metabolism and effectively maintain balance in your fish tank.

9. Why Are the Leaves of My Java Fern Turning Black?

The leaves of your Java fern are probably turning black because they lack nitrogen. Other reasons why Java ferns can turn black include melting, high light intensity and plant rot.


Java fern growing roots on leavesHere are the main points that we covered in our article, so you can have the gist of everything in one place:

  • Java ferns reproduce by forming adventitious roots on older leaves, so Java fern growing roots on leaves is not necessarily a problem.
  • To fix this, you can replant them once the leaves have enough roots that are not falling on their own
  • Thanks to its ease of care, the Java fern is suitable for beginners and so, you can resolve the fact that there are roots growing on its leaves effortlessly too

Java ferns growing roots on leaves is not something to worry about, as it’s how this plant reproduces. Furthermore, if you follow our detailed instructions, you should have no problem!

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