View Full Version : Dying Java Ferns

01-27-2014, 03:17 PM
Morning! I have a lot of Java Ferns in my 55. They have been thriving--several of them have leaves over 6" high, and they are growing fast, for Java ferns. The past couple of weeks, I have noticed a big die-off, though. The leaves are turning brownish, developing holes, and dying. The only change that I know of is that the thermostat got a little out of whack for a while and the water got a bit cool, now fixed. But that wouldn't bother them, would it? I have also been gradually reducing my stocking levels in an attempt to reduce nitrates (algae is a bit out of hand).

Set up is gravel over organic soil/bentonite. Ferns afixed to rocks and "lucky bamboo" stems. No ferts or CO2 injection; the plants seem to get adequate nutrients from the fish and soil. Nitrates around 30 ppm (working on lowering that); all other parameters good. I have had this set-up for over a year; the bamboo was added last August. Temp stays within a few degrees of 75, except the past week or so when it dipped down into the high 60s for a few days. Lots of other plants, including various crypts, ambulia, rotala, and a few anubias, and some tall lucky bamboo. All seem to be thriving except the ferns.

Any ideas what might be happening?


01-27-2014, 05:50 PM
Can you post pics of your ferns? What is your lighting?

01-27-2014, 06:43 PM
Could be a lack of C02 in the tank or a potassium deficiency. How do the roots look?

01-27-2014, 09:01 PM
At one point my healthy java ferns started getting holes in the leaves and browning up. I started adding Flourish once a week. problem solved. They are gorgeous and growing again. Might be something to consider.

01-28-2014, 01:01 AM
Have you recently added snails to your tank, maybe some hitched in on new plants? They could be eating your leaves.

As for the Flourish suggestion, I notice that if I go too long between doses of Flourish Comprehensive, my java fern leaves begin looking like that, too. After I dose again, they start to look better.

If I go too long between root tabbings, my crypts start suffering, as well.

I have a coldwater tank, but I don't think that's the problem. I have some java ferns that have remained beautiful and healthy for the entire time I've had them. If coldwater was the problem, all of them would be affected.

It could be, too, that the leaves only last for so long then die off and should be removed so that new growth can take their place -- kind of like a natural growth cycle that happens with most plants.

Try dosing with Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive and see what happens.


01-28-2014, 10:26 PM
No snails or other new critters (unless they're microscopic). Lighting is a 22" CF and a 22" t5, both 6500K, that I've had on the tank for over a year, both bulbs recently replaced, so I don't think it's that.

I don't think it is just old leaves dying off, either. It seems to be affecting all the leaves, big, small, and in between.

I am a little reluctant to add flourish, since in my experience it helps some plants, but kills others. Has anyone tried it with rotalla or ambulia? I know it wiped out some cabomba and anacharis pretty fast in another tank.

The thing that puzzles me is that, with the exception of changing my lightbulbs recently, reducing stocking slightly, and adding the ambulia, nothing has changed. At least, nothing I know of. And the other plants seem to be just fine, so it's hard to think it's a fertilization or CO2 issue... But *all* of the ferns are struggling and/or dying.

Maybe I need to travel to Delphi and consult the oracle, but it's so hard finding a goat to sacrifice these days...

01-28-2014, 10:27 PM
...are ferns prone to some sort of desease? It almost looks like some sort of infection, like the leaves are rotting alive.


01-28-2014, 10:31 PM
...also, I was talking about Fluourish excel. I have never tried "comprehensive." Should have read your comment more carefully.

01-28-2014, 10:46 PM
It could be you reduced the stock enough the plants aren't getting the nutrients they need anymore. Maybe reducing the stock and adding more plants was too much for the java ferns.

01-29-2014, 12:47 AM
Excel, which is not a fertilizer but a carbon substitute, has been said to "melt" some plants if overdosed, but I use it almost daily and it does not affect Java ferns. Try Comprehensive - that's a fertilizer, quite different from Excel.

01-30-2014, 02:31 PM
You know, now that I think of it, at the same time I started reducing stocking (in a very small way--I removed a school of 6 harlequin rasboras), I pretty drastically reduced feeding. I remember Walstad saying that fish food is great plant fertilizer.

So, here's my quandary, guys: To get my Java ferns growing again, It appears that I need to increase nutrients in the water, which would mean feeding more and/or chemical ferts. But I also need to reduce nitrates to combat my algae problem. If I increase feeding and/or fertilization, but add some floating plants (I'm leaning toward dwarf water lettuce), would that accomplish both?