Why Does My Java Fern Have Holes In Its Leaves? {8 Tips To Prevent It}

Are you noticing holes in the leaves of your java fern? Do you want to nurse your java fern back to good health? This article will help shed light (but not too much) on why java fern has holes in its leaves.

Why Does My Java Fern Have Holes In Its Leaves? Too much light or algae, lack of nutrients such as an iron deficiency and marine life nibbling away at its leaves are some reasons why you’ll notice holes in your java fern. 

Does Java Fern Grow In Soil Or Water?

This is a trick question because java fern doesn’t grow in soil or water. Java fern attaches itself with rhizomes to rocks or better yet, driftwood. They are a helpful and beautiful addition to aquariums. They can provide oxygen and shelter for marine life.  That is until, they are riddled with holes.

You can buy java fern already attached to driftwood from a local fish store or pet store. Java fern grows slowly, so please be patient and provide as much care as possible to avoid:

  • large brown spots
  • mushy leaves
  • holes in leaves

What Are The Tank Requirements To Prevent Java Fern Holes In Its Leaves?

The tank is usually the first place we should look as the possible reasons why your java fern has holes in its leaves.

  • Average Growth Of Full Size Java Fern: 13.5 inches
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons or more
  • Water Temperature: 68-82°F
  • pH Balance: 6.0-7.5
  • Alkalinity (carbonate hardness): 3-8 dKH

While most plants thrive on carbon dioxide, java fern does well without it.

Is A Java Fern Easy to Keep Healthy?

There is no doubt that holes in the leaves of your java fern is not a good sign. We must take into account that the java fern itself is a delicate aquatic plant. They are pleasant looking and shouldn’t require much maintenance in adequate conditions.

You can lace them around the gravel or decorations as well as rocks or driftwood. If you move them around or replant them, expect their growth to slow down and stop for a while. They are a finnicky and delicate plant with a mood that doesn’t like to be moved.

In time, the java fern will restore itself to grow in new locations and the leaves themselves can grow healthy without holes again in the future. This process may take weeks.

Should I Bury The Java Fern In Substrate?

If you bury the java fern in substrate it will attach itself there for the time being. The fern is able to absorb much of the nutrients and debris in the substrate so be careful with this. Overabsorption leads to your java fern slowly dying.

Noticing holes at this point will be a common sign that this isn’t the best place for the java fern. Choose to attach it to rock, decorations or wood instead and see if this improves your concerns about holes in its leaves.

How Should I Attach My Java Fern To Rocks Or Wood?

You can use:

  • threads
  • zip ties

When using threads, keep in mind that they will dissolve eventually. You can the roots of the java fern with thread long enough for the roots to finally wrap itself around the rocks or wood. Once they dissolve, the roots should already be firmly attached on their own.

Zip ties are more secure and will not dissolve. This is a better method to make sure the roots are firmly attached naturally with their roots wrapped around the rocks or wood. Then you can remove the zip ties.

The roots must be healthy and attached well to promote healthy growth and happy leaves.

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Where Should I Place My Java Fern?

Java fern enjoy mild to moderate light. Try to avoid placing them in the front of the tank. It is recommended to place java fern in the middle or back of the aquarium.

The plants will continue to bloom and may block your fish or other decorations from showing themselves rendering the act of keeping them in your tank pointless if you can never see them.

Your java fern becomes a home to some of your marine life. Sometimes the holes are not aesthetically pleasing, but constant pruning reduces the size of this plant and removes the shelter that your fish may find comforting.

Is The Lighting Causing The Holes In My Java Fern’s Leaves?

A java fern doesn’t like intense light. The light itself can cause the harm you are trying to avoid.

  • large brown spots
  • transparent spots
  • holes in leaves
  • mushy leaves

Try to keep the lighting down to 1.5 watts of light per gallon of water. A 10 gallon tank could have a dim light of about 10.5 watts. Smaller lights that are soft and fluorescent work better to reduce light damage.

Java fern survives well in water that is brackish. The salinity levels have to kept low because it’s a freshwater plant. Keep salinity down to 1.009 or less. The brackish water also reduces the light that could cause the holes in the leaves.

Do Fish Eat Java Fern Leaves and Cause Holes?

This is not the most common reason why there are holes in your java fern. The main reason is because the java fern itself has a bitter taste that most fish do not like to nibble on. Snails tend to not discriminate as much and will find their way to enjoy some pieces.

Some herbivores may go for a bite or two, but a java fern is not a preferred plant to offer nutrients for fish requiring plant matter to survive. The holes would be smaller and not a cause for concern. If you are noticing many larger holes, the fish (or snails) are not to blame.

What Do Black and Brown Spots Mean On My Java Fern?

A healthy java fern will have green leaves and black lines running through it as veins providing it with nutrients. Iron helps keep the leaves green and healthy. An iron deficiency will stunt the growth of your java fern or cause holes in the leaves.

  • Black spots = Nitrogen Deficiency
  • Small Brown Spots = Spores that will become plantlets. 
  • Large Brown Spots = Java Fern Melt

If the leaves of your java fern are too black, they are receiving too much iron. Adjust accordingly with the nutrients you are delivering to your java fern through liquid fertilizer or other means.

What Are The Tips To Prevent Holes In Java Fern Leaves?

  1. If you notice holes, prune the leaves.
  2. If you see plantlets, cut them and replant them.
  3. Use liquid fertilizer to add more iron to the leaves.
  4. Keep the lighting dim or a moderate levels.
  5. Plant the java fern in the middle or back of the tank.
  6. Make sure water parameters are correct for java fern to thrive.
  7. The roots should attach themselves to rocks, wood or decorations and not substrate.
  8. Change the water in the tank 10-25% every two weeks at a minimum to remove debris, waste and excess nutrients.

Frequently Asked Questions:

My Java Fern Has Black Lines Through The Leaves. Will They Become Holes?

The black lines on your java fern are not a cause for concern. They will not turn into holes. Consider the black lines to be veins that run through the leaves, bringing it nutrients. Black bumps are also common and not alarming.

What Is Java Fern Melt?

Java fern melt happen after the leaves develop more and more brown spots that increase in size. The leaves start to get mushy and eventually they will rot. Increase nutrients with liquid fertilizer or decrease nutrients by making sure the roots are not planted in substrate.

Does Algae Cause Java Fern Leaves To Rot?

Algae that is blue-green can attach itself or grow on the leaves of your java fern. They are a bacteria that becomes a thin film on the leaves and feels slimy. This is a particular type of algae that can be peeled off the fern. Increase nutrients to prevent this type of algae growth on the java fern leaves.

Should I Turn Off The Lights?

Before we turn the lights off this article, let’s see if a little darkness might help out your java fern. Take two to three days off with no light and observe the leaves of your java fern. We’re looking for more vibrant green colors to appear. Restore the lights to a dim or moderate level after this short blackout.

We hope the information in this article helps your java fern continue to recover and thrive.