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Hardiness: Easy
Light Needs: Low
Plant Structure: Rhizome
Family: Polypodiaceae
Genus: Microsorum
Region: Southeast Asia
Location: Philippines
Size: 16 inches (40cm)
Growth Rate: Medium
Can Be Grown Emersed: Yes


Microsorum pteropus, or Java fern, has long been popular in the aquarium hobby. It is easy to grow, attractive, and easily obtained. In recent years, several new varieties have appeared that differ from the standard broad-leaved form. One of the most attractive is Microsorum pteropus 'Philippine'. Its heavily textured and narrow leaves are exquisite. Introduced and sold by the Danish nursery Tropica, it has slowly found favor in aquariums everywhere. In the United States, however, it can still most easily be obtained by trade.

Although varying widely in appearance, most Java fern varieties are identical in their requirements. That is not the case with 'Philippine'. Although not a difficult plant, it definitely does have somewhat specialized requirements. Above all else, it does not take well to especially soft and acidic water, which is not surprising, since it is often found in brackish habitats in nature. If presented with unsuitable water parameters in the aquarium, it soon develops holes and blackish areas on its leaves. It almost goes without saying, then, that it does not belong with soft water plants like Tonina and Eriocaulon species. A general hardness of around 10 dGH and a pH of 6.6 and above are recommended. Because of its preferences and owing to where it is found in the wild, it would make an excellent candidate for a brackish planted aquarium.

Other than what has already been mentioned, it is not particularly fussy. 'Philippine' Java fern will make do with low light, carbon dioxide and minimal fertilization. With greater amounts of all three, it really shines, grows much faster and becomes very robust.

Like all varieties of Microsorum pteropus, 'Philippine' does best as an epiphyte attached to driftwood or stone. It may also be placed at the bottom of the aquarium as long as the rhizome is not buried. Propagation through rhizome division and plantlets on old leaves is productive.

Mature plants grow leaves that attain lengths of around 16 inches long, so either plan ahead for the plant's eventual size or be prepared to remove leaves as they grow too large. Removing plantlets as they appear helps to maintain the appearance of the grouping.

Photo #1: US and International Copyright 2007 by Tim Gross All Rights Reserved.