A Guide to the Best Aquarium Moss for Beginners and Experts

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When I first started aquarium keeping, I was very resistant to using aquarium moss.

To me, it didn’t make any sense to put something in the tank that would cover up the gravel.

The more I learned about aquarium moss and all its uses, the more intrigued I became.

Today, I use them in just about every tank I own.

3 Reasons Why I Love Aquarium Mosses

#1. They can be anchored at all levels of the tank

Live aquarium plants must be either anchored in the gravel or left floating.

You can anchor mosses to items that reach well into the middle of the tank.

#2. Fast growing mosses compete well with algae

Got an algae trouble spot where you can’t anchor a plant?

Chances are you can get one or more species of aquarium moss to thrive there and compete for the nitrates and light algae thrive on.

#3. Can be arranged in many shapes

From fluffy trees to cave overhangs, you can create endless shapes with aquarium moss.

All you need is some twine and a good pair of scissors.

best aquarium moss in a fish tank

How to Take Care of Aquarium Mosses

Aquarium mosses, regardless of the species, are fairly easy to care for as long as you keep the following basics in mind:

Pay Attention to Water Chemistry

As with other aquatic creatures, the mosses available for home aquariums originate in freshwaters all over the world.

They can be very sensitive to pH, hardness, and other water conditions.

Maintain an Ideal Water Temperature

Live plants, most freshwater aquatic animals, and mosses are unable to control their body temperature.

If you do not maintain the tank within the optimal range for the species, these creatures will die. 

Provide Optimal Lighting

Even though most aquarium mosses will thrive in a wide range of lighting conditions, too much or too little can pose problems for some species.

Making sure each moss species has optimal lighting will help reduce algae problems and also make it easier to propagate the moss.

Use the Right Anchor and Substrate

While many mosses will anchor themselves into suitable substrate, others may need to be tied in place with fishing line.

Knowing which mosses need driftwood or other materials will also ensure the moss gets the right foundation for good growth.

Place With Suitable Tankmates

Let’s say you cycle a tank and a slow growing moss is thriving. Then you decide to add a species of fish that love to snack on moss.

Needless to say, that species of moss won’t be in your tank for very long. Picking tank mates that match growth rate is every bit as important as choosing ones that are compatible in terms of water chemistry.

Keep Mosses Trimmed

Fast growing mosses can become unkept looking very quickly. They can also turn brown in the center or develop diseases because the main growing areas no longer get enough light and nutrients.

If enough moss dies off, it can create an ammonia surge. Pruning is very important for keeping an attractive tank as well as a healthy and safe one. 

8 Best Mosses for Beginner and Advanced Aquarium Keepers

peacock moss
  • Appearance: Produces emerald colored fern-like leaves. It will quickly grow into a gorgeous bush and then open up to look like a peacock’s tail. 
  • Hardness: Will do fine in soft and hard water
  • pH: 5.8 to 7.5
  • Temperature: 77 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lighting: Bright
  • Rate of Growth: Moderate. Needs CO2 for rapid growth.
  • Anchoring Needs: Anchor to driftwood or other materials

Peacock Moss is one of the most attractive mosses you can choose for your freshwater aquarium. It is perfect for most egg laying fish as well as shrimp. You can use it in breeding tanks as well as community fish tanks.

I give Peacock Moss a 5/5 rating because it is attractive and you can easily control the growth rate. It is also easy to care and will thrive in a wide range of water chemistries.

Java moss
  • Appearance: This is a brilliant green moss that grows in feathery filaments. It can be anchored to upright driftwood to create trees, left to sprawl over cave entrances, or create a moss wall. 
  • Hardness: Both soft and hard water
  • pH: 6 to 8
  • Temperature: 57 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lighting: Will do fine in both low light and bright light
  • Rate of Growth: Fast
  • Anchoring Needs: Must be anchored to driftwood or other substrate.

Java Moss has a longstanding reputation for being easy to care for and a prolific grower in just about any aquarium. It is fine for shrimp tanks as well as tanks where you want to anchor moss to create trees or other effects.

I give Java Moss a 4/5 because it is very prolific. You may need to trim it on a regular basis to keep it from getting out of control.

Other than that, it is an ideal for beginner and advanced aquarium keepers alike.

GREAT CHOICE FOR SOFT WATER TANKS

#3. Weeping Moss (Vesicularia ferriei)

weeping moss
  • Appearance: Produces long, bright green strands and branches that have drop-like leaves on them. Overall, it is a graceful, yet robust moss. Brilliant green moss that will drape downward in filaments. 
  • Hardness: soft water
  • pH: 5.5 to 8
  • Temperature: 72 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lighting: Will grow fine in both low and bright light conditions
  • Rate of Growth: Fast
  • Anchoring Needs: Requires anchoring for optimal growth to gravel, rocks, or driftwood

If you are looking for a moss that will create an overhangs in front of caves, this moss will suit your needs. It is an ideal moss for shrimp tanks, and also community tanks with fish that like to have hiding places.

Although weeping moss is an attractive aquatic addition, it does require CO2 for good health. I give it a rating of 4/5 for this reason, and also because it is not as versatile as other mosses in terms of water chemistry. 

Weeping moss can grow very fast under the right conditions. It must be trimmed often, as it easily falls prey to both algae and rotting.

Taiwan Moss
  • Appearance: Bright green moss that will grow into dense clusters and overhangs.
  • Hardness: Soft water only
  • pH: 5 – 8 
  • Temperature: 60 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lighting: Does best in bright light
  • Rate of Growth: Slow growing. Requires both fertilizer and CO2, but will not grow faster with them.
  • Anchoring Needs: Needs to be anchored to driftwood 

Taiwan Moss will do fine in tanks with fish that do not snack on plants or algae. Since it requires a significant amount of light, it may also fail to thrive in tanks where you are using tannin rich water.

Even though Taiwan Moss is an attractive and hearty plant, I give it a 3 out of 5 because it does not grow very fast. That being said, if you have a tank that is relatively free of algae, this is one of the easiest mosses to care for because it requires little to no trimming.

Mainam Christmas Moss
  • Appearance: Light to medium green moss that makes stems and leaves that look a little like evergreen bushes. 
  • Hardness: Both soft and hard water
  • pH: 5.5 to 8.0
  • Temperature: 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lighting: Needs bright lights
  • Rate of Growth: Moderate even with use of CO2 and Fertilizer
  • Anchoring Needs: Can be left free floating or anchored to a surface.

Many people enjoy adding Christmas Moss to their aquariums because it has a different texture. While it is fairly easy to care for, the need for fertilizer and CO2 can be problematic for some fish and shrimp that cannot tolerate rapid pH changes caused by these additives.

Christmas Moss is able to tolerate cooler water than several other mosses. As such, it might do Ok with goldfish and other cold water fish. Just be aware that goldfish and others in the carp family may decide to snack on it.

I give Christmas Moss a 3 out of 5 because it needs because of the need for additives. It also combines the need for bright light with a medium growth rate. You are likely to have algae buildups on the moss and not be able to get rid of it by cutting the plant back.

PELLIA MOSS
  • Appearance: Bright green moss that grows in compact bushes. If you leave it free floating, it will sink to the bottom and attach to substrate on its own.
  • Hardness: Both hard and soft
  • pH: 5 – 8
  • Temperature: 40 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lighting: Will grow in low and bright light
  • Rate of Growth: Slow to medium. Requires CO2
  • Anchoring Needs: Can float freely or be anchored to substrate such as a piece of driftwood.

Although Pellia Moss is a somewhat carefree plant, it is also very brittle. This moss will do well in tanks with slower moving fish, as well as ones that won’t pick at it.

I give Pellia Moss a rating of 3 out of 5 because it has the benefit of growing in a wide range of water chemistries and light levels.

Because it can be damaged easily, however, it is not suitable as a main cover in tanks with boisterous fish or other creatures.

Nevertheless, it is a pretty plant that I often use as an accent.

willow moss
  • Appearance: If you are looking for a moss that changes color and has a lot of character, Willow Moss will be an ideal choice. 
  • Hardness: Hard and soft water
  • pH: 5.0 to 7.5
  • Temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit in summer; 50 to 53 degrees Fahrenheit in winter.
  • Lighting: Dappled
  • Rate of Growth: Slow to medium
  • Anchoring Needs: Can be free floating or tied to substrate.

Willow Moss is one of the few aquatic plants that goes dormant for several months before resuming growth.

During the winter months, you will need to remove it from the tank and place it in a location where the temperatures stay in the winter reference range listed above.

Since Willow Moss does not always grow fast, even in its growing season, it is very susceptible to algae.

While it is a very attractive plant, I give it a rating of 2.5 out of 5 for this reason. It is a good choice for taking on a challenge and learning new aquarium plant care skills.

ATTRACTIVE BUT TRICKY

#8. Star Moss (Tortula Ruralis)

  • Appearance: Produces sharp, light green leaves arranged around a center stalk. When submerged under water, the leaves open outward producing a star-like shape.
  • Hardness: Soft and hard
  • pH: 6 to 7.5
  • Temperature: 73 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lighting: Medium to bright
  • Rate of Growth: Slow
  • Anchoring Needs: Best when anchored in sand or gravel.

This plant is not native to the water, although it can survive in a wet environment. If you do submerge the plant completely, it will only live for about 3 months.

Star Moss is ideal for shallow water tanks with land built up so they some of it can grow above water. It is good in any tank where the fish are not inclined to snack on plants or dig them up.

I give Star Moss a rating of 2 out of 5 because it only lives for a short time completely submerged. It is also a slow grower, which can be problematic if you have a lot of algae in the tank or have fish that like to eat plants.

Aquatic mosses are an attractive and useful addition to any aquarium. Some can be trimmed like land based topiary bushes, while others are stunning in their natural form. Regardless of the mosses you choose, rest assured that fish and other aquatic habitants are sure to enjoy hiding, nesting, and playing among them.

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