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Aquatic Plant - African Water Fern

African water fern, also known as bolbitis heudeotii, creeping fern and congo fern, is native to subtropical and tropical Africa. It is becoming more and more popular among aquarists as its dark green leaves look so elegant and mysterious.

African water fern is an aquatic polypody fern growing submerged in rivers and streams, attached to rocks or wood by the threadlike rootlets extending from its rhizomes. It has dark green, pinnate leaves 15–40 cm long and 15–25 cm broad. It grows submerged. The water in its native habitat is fast-moving over sandy or rocky bottoms, very clean, not very hard and slightly acidic. The roots cling to rocks and the sandy beds.


Key Points-

Based on its growing environment in nature, we may therefore conclude some key points to grow African water fern well in your tank.

Point 1- Attach them onto a piece of driftwood or porous stone

African water fern doesn’t like its roots(rhizomes) buried in the substrate as that makes it unable to “breath” . Use a fishing line or rubber band, or cotton thread to attach it onto a piece of driftwood or porous stone. The African Water Fern’s attachments are very fragile, so handle them with care. It will attach best to soft wood and will even make it hard to saw apart.

Point 2- Place them in the tank that with currents or medium water movement

Like its native habitat, where it is fast-moving over sandy or rocky bottoms, African water fern prefers to grow in a tank that with currents or medium water movement. You may adjust the height of the outlet of the filter to ensure that the ferns are placed near the outlet or in the current.

I hadn't noticed this point before, and just put it in the corner of the fish tank, and gradually I found that they grew very slowly and later some algae started spreading onto its leaves. The algae blocked the leaves to absorb the light energy, therefore it grows slower again.

Point 3- What to deal with the algae on the leaves of African water fern?
Cut off those ”damaged” leaves as soon as you find any algae growing there. As long as there is no algae growing on the stems and rhizomes, this plant is still savable. Check if this plant is placed in an environment that with currents, if not, adjust the outlet of your filter to ensure that enough currents blow towards the leaves. Any kind of ferns doesn't need too much fertilizer as with the same amount of fertilizer, algae always grow faster than African water ferns. As long as you do all above, the plant will flourish again in about two months.
Point 4- Control the temperature and add CO2 for better growth
As it originates from a stream a river, so it usually doesn’t require too much light, and prefer a slightly lower temperature (20-28 Celsius Degree/ 68-80 Fahrenheit Degree). With Co2 injected, it is easier to maintain a slightly acid PH level and also promote its growth a lot. Without Co2, it may be still alive but it will grow slowly and dwarf, therefore, it is easy to cause algae problems again.

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