Microsorum pteropus ‘Windelov’ also known as Leptochilus pteropus is one of the many varieties of Java fern. I picked up a pot from Pro Shrimp in an order that also included Alternanthera reineckii ‘Mini’. Developed by Tropica, the ‘Windelov’ version I received was grown by Aquadip.
The ‘Windelov’ arrived totally overgrown and just a touch ratty on the ends in places as if it had been waiting for a sale for a long time. I don’t mind actually, and the pot separated out into a nice variety of sizes and forms of plantets. Java fern is a rhizomatous plant where a thick lateral ‘stem’ sprouts leaves growing upwards and roots growing downwards. Although there are many terrestrial plants that grow with rhizomes underground, the conventional wisdom in the aquarium trade is that rhizomes must never be buried in substrate or they will rot and kill the plant. Accordingly, best practice is to attach the rhizome to a component of hardscape, usually rock or driftwood, either by tying it on with thread/line, or more simply by ‘supergluing’ it on using a cyanoacrylate-based adhesive. It is also possible to wedge the rhizome into a convenient crack in the hardscape where eventually the roots will naturally bind the plant on.
Java fern as midground aquarium centrepiece
For the Fireplace Aquarium, I went with two ‘Windelov’ rhizomes superglued to a thin piece of slate. This makes a nice portable format that can be repositioned if needed. The Java fern does not need any soil to grow, which conveniently overcomes one of the design shortcomings of the biOrb used to make the Fireplace Aquarium: the circular support structure for the bubble tube means there is necessarily a very shallow patch of soil in the very middle of the tank. Plants that need a lot of substrate can’t work there, but the slate-mounted ‘Windelov’ fits in that space perfectly!
I saved the largest and best of the ‘Windelov’ rhizomes for the Shrimphaus. This piece easily wedged underneath and wrapped around the central slate support column. Even in the high-algae environment of the first version Shrimphaus a ‘Windelov’ specimen had managed to hold its own with some success so I’m optimistic about this fresh new replacement ‘Windelov’.
Java fern emersed growth experiment
Since I had a few extra pieces of the ‘Windelov’ I decided to set up an emersed-growth experiment. One piece got wedged under the river on the left and essentially the leaves float on the surface of the water. Another piece got superglued to a small slate chip and set into the river. With one piece I simply placed it up against the back wall of the river and weighted it down in place with a ceramic plant ring (you get one of these ‘for free’ every time you buy a potted aquarium plant). Finally, one piece I planted in leca. If I’m honest, except for that first one, I don’t expect any of the Java ferns with leaves emersed in the air to survive – our low-humidity living room is a pretty tough gig for a plant that can grow underwater – so far only Anubias gracilis has managed to make a bit of a go of it.