Name: Microsorum pteropus
Origin: Southeast Asia
The Java Fern has very distinguished characteristics from most other aquatic plants. More than just beautiful, this plant is quite undemanding and easy to cultivate, even doing well in poorly lit tanks and without extra nutrients or CO2. It's also an ideal plant to use in setups that contain burrowing or vegetarian fishes, since in general they will not disturb it. This plant should not be buried in the gravel, but rather fixed to rocks and driftwood, leaving its roots loose in the water. The roots eventually attach themselves to the rock or wood.
When well adapted, it reproduces easily, and the reproduction is quite interesting: the daughter plants are born on the edge of the leaves of the mother plant and grow right there, clinging on it with their little roots. With time the daughters grow until they release themselves from the mother, and float around until they get entangled on something. The hairy roots adhere easily.
Java Fern actually requires low light; in higher intensity light it gets "burned" and develops transparent patches.
How perfect is this plant? It doesn't need soil, is very undemanding, and does not require bright lights. The way it propagates is a work of art. I have several tiny java ferns sprinkled throughout my planted tank. When I see a daughter plant, I just leave it alone. Sooner or later, the daughter plant will detach, float around the tank, and then you can attach it to something else in the tank. I find that mine "melt" on occasion, and I'm not sure what causes it. The "melted" leaves fall off the plant and are sucked out during water changes, and the rest of the plant keeps chugging along.
Even with my first time trying java fern, I have been pleased with the results. I use it in a 40 liter aquarium that I set up just so I could keep a dinky pair of incandescent bulbs on it and have plants. It's housed only with dwarf anubias, and java fern is a nice, taller, companion. Its roots attach well to a rock wall I made of lava rock, and looks great peeking out of all the crevices. It's nice to use when you have fish that prefer subdued light but like a planted tank. I will use it in an apistogramma tank. I only use a liquid fertilizer after water changes, and so far it has done well. Because of the incandescent bulbs, even though it produces new shoots like mad it hasn't attained the height that, in my opinion, makes it less attractive.
I recently bought some Java Fern from my LFS. I am pleased to see that it is growing nicely, and I´m paying special attention to a large daughter plant that looks about ready to go out on its own. It has grown entirely while I´ve had it, which is only about 3 weeks!
I have about nine bunches of java fern in my 350 litre planted tank, all in one corner and while true, they do need lots of trimming, they are excellent plants for baby livebearers, are stunningly effective and are very good driftwood plants.