Willow Moss – How to Grow and Care for Fontinalis Antipyretica

Willow moss (Fontinalis antipyretica) is an effective freshwater moss plant very commonly planted in aquariums for plenty of reasons. Just like many other aquarium mosses, it decorates the aquarium while providing hiding places, oxygen, and a surface for laying eggs. So, how do you grow and care for willow moss in a fish tank?

You can attach willow moss onto driftwood or other substrate using an elastic thread or just let it grow and float in a freshwater tank. It prefers a temperature range of 59°F to 82°F, a pH level of 7.5-8, and medium to low light. Willow moss does not require fertilizer and CO2 to thrive.

Willow moss does well in cold water, thus, making it ideal for cool water aquarium fish such as goldfish. The moss is a highly adaptable plant and can spread in still or flowing water. Therefore, you can grow willow moss in ponds and freshwater aquariums.

Willow moss profile overview

Willow Moss

Willow moss is a water moss plant thriving in several marine structures or substrates. This type of freshwater moss belongs to the fontinalaceae family. It derives the name from “willow moss” due to its resemblance to a willow tree.

Willow moss is mostly found in Europe, Africa, North America, and Asia. It resembles other mosses such as Java moss but its oval leaves and firm, spinely stems can get up to 0.25 inches and 24 inches in length, respectively.

Below is a willow moss profile overview:

Common name(s)Willow Moss; Greater Water Moss; Common Water Moss; Anti fever Fontinalis Moss
Scientific nameFontinalis Antipyretica
Height24 inches
Growth rateMedium
Placement in AquariumForeground or midground.
ColorVarious shades of green
Temperature59℉- 82℉
LightMedium to low light
Water-typeFreshwater; coldwater; slightly acidic.

How to grow willow moss in your aquarium

There are various ways to establish willow moss underwater. When you are out to buy willow moss, it is essential to, first and foremost, ensure that it is healthy and not infected. Remember to clean and disinfect the plant before placing it in your aquarium.

Strap it onto substrate

A simple technique for growing willow moss in your aquarium is to use an elastic thread to strap the moss to a substrate you will place under the water. For instance, tie willow moss to stone or a piece of wood and set it in your aquarium. 

The moss will spread and affix rapidly to other rock and substrate surfaces. Once the willow moss plant is firmly established on the surface of your tank, remove the thread, and it will flourish all by itself.

Floating willow moss

Another technique to grow willow moss into your aquarium is to let it opt for its own position by allowing it to stay afloat on top of the water. It will, in due course, find a surface to affix itself to.

Bryophytes such as willow moss reproduce by spores. Therefore, it reproduces and covers more surfaces faster than other aquatic plants. A newly grown willow moss will take one or two weeks to grip firmly and spread inside your fish tank.

To propagate more Fontinalis antipyretica, cut healthy parts from the primary willow moss plant and introduce them to water until they are ready for the aquarium. Removing the moss pieces will not harm the plant. It is the most favorable method of harvesting and growing the willow moss plant. 

To grow willow moss in an aquarium, follow the two tips I’ve recommended above. Tie the moss to a substrate using an elastic thread and remove the thread once the moss is established. Or, leave it on your aquarium’s water surface, and it will find its way.

Nonetheless, willow moss has more designated leaves and happens to be in various shades of green color. The moss is more acquainted with rapidly flowing rivers and springs, but it can thrive in calm water. It sprouts fully underneath the water and does not blossom.

Willow moss care

The moss is ideal for starters in the aquarium world. Fontinalis antipyretica proliferates by itself and does not require much attentiveness or care. It can also grow solitary through stolons. You can get willow moss at your local aquatic nursery or from a companion who is also growing the willow moss plant.

Here are the best ways to care for willow moss:


Willow moss thrives in both still and moving water. It is a freshwater bryophyte, so if your aquarium is saline, willow moss is not your ideal moss. The water should also be comfortable to mildly chilly. 

In other words, willow moss flourishes in average to cold temperatures, hence a cold water plant. Avoid leaving willow moss out of water for long periods. Otherwise, the plant will discolor and wither away.


The ideal water pH for willow moss should be slightly acidic. It is more healthy and beautiful at pH levels of 7.5-8. However, this foreground and midground aquarium plant can endure some moments of drying out; but I wouldn’t recommend you leave it without care to that point.

Although the plant can survive significant pH changes, never go below 5.5 or higher than 8. Excess acidity can lower nutrients for the plant and raise toxic elements such as manganese and aluminum in the aquarium. 

Light requirements 

Willow moss likes to inhabit shallow riverbeds in its native environment. Therefore, it prefers medium to low light intensity in aquariums. You can use artificial aquarium lights to grow this plant. I’d recommend the Hygger Clip On Adjustable Fish Tank Light for this.

Bright lighting such as sunlight can warm your aquarium and make it uncomfortable for willow moss. While the plant can handle some bright lighting, it will do best in partial shade.

Tank placement

Willow moss stays completely immersed in water. You can place it anywhere inside your fish tank. Place your fish tank in a quiet and dimly lit place that gets some light. 

Partial light allows willow moss to pull its way horizontally, making a pleasant, lush carpet inside your tank. Regardless of your choice, the willow moss will pleasantly find its place and consolidate it.

Place the tank in the southeast direction of your living room at home. A reception area is nice if you want your aquarium in the office.


Sand, wood, rocks, dirt, and gravel are all acceptable substrates for willow moss. The substrates help willow moss affix to your predetermined position. First, arrange the substrates the way you’d like the moss to carpet them. 

Use an elastic thread to tie willow moss to any substrate and position it inside your fish tank. These substrates also give willow moss nutrients to thrive upon. Thus, substrates are essential for caring for willow moss in an aquarium.

Water Temperature                                          

One of the amazing facts about willow moss is that it prefers to keep up with lower temperatures compared to other mosses. The optimal temperature to grow willow moss is between 59°F and 82°F. Before introducing it to the aquarium, ensure your aquarium inhabitants like cold water.

Some cold water fish you can keep in an aquarium and grow willow moss include cherry shrimp, clown killifish, celestial pearl danio, and sunset variatus platyfish. 

Fertilizer and CO₂

Willow moss do not require fertilizer and CO₂ to grow robust. Even though fertilizers and CO₂ are not much needed, their application is still essential. Injecting CO₂ in tanks has an enormous gain, as mosses can increase and be healthier when CO₂ is easily accessible. 

With adequate fertilizer and CO₂, willow moss grows faster. However, fertilizers and CO₂ accumulation in your fish tank can cause toxicity and harm your fish. Therefore, instead of using them, let your willow moss grow and survive on the nutrients it gets from the substrate.

Common problems

It is with no doubt that willow moss can still grow in higher temperatures, but they will not be as healthy, and their color might turn from green to tinged yellow.  Willow moss is also at risk of bacterial and algal infestation, which is why most growers fail at keeping the moss healthy.

Benefits of willow moss for aquariums

Here are some benefits of willow moss for your aquarium:


Willow moss will unquestionably add an attractive aesthetic to your house or office aquarium. It spreads into a soft and lush green carpet that’s good to see. Place your willow moss and aquarium next to the reception in your office. At home, it is more attractive in the living room.

Improves aquarium water quality

Variations in water chemistry such as dissolved nitrates and carbon dioxide can kill your fish. Growing willow moss in your aquarium soaks nitrates and other nutrients out of the water, leading to enhanced and refined water quality. 

Improved oxygen circulation in the aquarium

Another essential advantage of willow moss is its very good oxygenating plant. It assists with adding the quantity of oxygen in the water by letting out oxygen through photosynthesis. The immersed leaves of oxygenating plants generate oxygen throughout the day, contributing to an ecological balance in your aquarium.

Willow moss absorbs heavy metals from the aquarium

In addition, studies have found that willow moss is beneficial for soaking up heavy metals like cadmium and zinc. These heavy metals can cause stunted growth in fish and reduce their survival. 

It provides a safe breeding ground for fish

Adding willow moss to a fish tank provides safety to the eggs laid by your fish. The eggs land safely on the moss and are concealed until they hatch. Moreover, the willow moss contains microorganisms in its leaves and branches that act as food for the hatched fry.  

Therefore, willow moss gives an essential habitat and safety for fish eggs, fish fry, and adult fish. Other financial underwater microorganisms also benefit massively from willow moss.

There are many willow moss varieties. They resemble so closely that differentiating between them can be challenging to starters.

Other common varieties of mosses to grow in your aquarium include

  • Flame moss (Taxiphyllum sp)
  • Taiwan moss (Taxiphyllum alternans)
  • Anchor moss (Vesicularia sp Anchor moss)
  • Christmas moss (Vesicularia montagnei)
  • Weeping moss (Vesicularia ferriei) 
  • Sheet moss (Hypnum cuppresirome)

To propagate more Fontinalis antipyretica, cut healthy parts from the primary willow moss plant and introduce them to water until they are ready for the aquarium. Removing the moss pieces will not harm the plant. 

The propagation is the most effective method of harvesting and growing the willow moss plant. The easy way to grow willow moss in your aquarium is to use an elastic thread to strap the moss to a substrate you will place under the water. For instance, tie willow moss to stone or a piece of wood and set it in your aquarium.

To grow healthy willow moss and get the most benefit from the plant, ensure yours is a freshwater aquarium with coldwater fish. Keep temperatures for the aquarium willow moss between 59°F and 82°F; pH levels between 7.5 to 8; and place the fish tank in a partially lit area. 


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