Fissidens Fontanus: Gorgeous, Hassle-Free Aquatic Plant

Alison Page

Alison Page


Fissidens Fontanus

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Fissidens fontanus is a relatively newly-discovered aquatic plant that’s native to the US and is taking the hobby by storm; being gorgeous to look at, incredibly easy to grow, and hassle-free to care for once it’s taken root.

If you want to bring a whole new dimension to your fish tank, keep reading to learn everything you need about the fabulous, feathery beauty of the Fissidens fontanus plant!

Fissidens Fontanus – Overview

Fissidens Fontanus Info
Scientific NameFissidens fontanus
Common NamePhoenix moss, Fountain Pocket Moss, Water Pocket moss
OriginNorth America
Ease of GrowingBeginner-friendly, easy
AquascapeAttach to stones, rocks, wood, walls, etc.
Height1 to 2 inches
pH5.0 to 8.0
Temperature59 to 77°F
Growth RateSlow
PropagationTake cuttings and fix them to suitable surfaces
Light RequirementDim light or partial shade
CO2CO2 is not necessary but can increase the plant's growth rate and prevent algae growth

What Is Fissidens Fontanus?

Fissidens fontanus is also known as Phoenix moss, Water Pocket moss, and Fountain Pocket moss. This beautiful freshwater aquarium moss is a feathery green, low-growing plant that you can attach to pieces of stone, rocks, driftwood, twisted roots, and your favorite aquarium decorations.

The plant can be trained to grow into a large mat, which provides an ideal refuge for fish fry and shrimplets and creates a wonderful grazing surface for shrimp and foraging fish.

Phoenix moss is native to North America and is one of around 400 species of plants that belong to the Fissidentaceae family, and it’s also one of the largest varieties. The plant takes its Latin name from its fountain-like appearance, with sprouts of new growth bursting from the plant’s center and randomly taking different directions.

This easy-to-grow plant grows on rocks, driftwood, and your favorite tank decorations, and its slow-growing habit makes it very low maintenance and ideal for beginners.

Phoenix Moss Care Guide

The most important thing to know about growing Phoenix moss is that the plant must have clean water to prevent algae from colonizing the leaves and suffocating the plant.

Of course, you should carry out partial water changes and filter maintenance as part of your regular weekly aquarium care routine, so the water cleanliness in your tank should be fine for this plant.


Unlike many aquarium plants, Fissidens fontanus can grow well under low light levels. In fact, if your tank lighting is too bright, the plant will fail to thrive, so regular fish tank LED light is usually fine.

However, if the moss starts to fail, you might need to provide it with shade by planting it underneath taller growing plants or choosing a spot that’s sheltered by your tank decorations.


All fish tanks need a suitable filter system that provides a GPH (gallons per hour) flow rate of at least four times the tank’s total volume. That ensures efficient water circulation through the filter media, where beneficial bacteria can process the organic waste matter in the water.

Phoenix moss needs clean water to thrive, so an efficient filtration system and regular water changes are essential for the plant’s health. However, this is a delicate plant that doesn’t appreciate too much current, especially while it’s becoming established, and for that reason, you need to be careful that the water flow is buffered or redirected away from your Fissidens fontanus plants.

Water Parameters

Phoenix moss is a tropical species that does best in water temperatures between 59 to 77°F.

The water pH should ideally be between 5.0 and 8.0, with a moderately hard water hardness of 2 to 15 dGH.

Growth Habit

Phoenix moss grows very slowly, although if the environment you provide is perfect for the species, the plant will grow faster and larger.

This low-growing plant only reaches around an inch or so in height, although it does spread to form a large clump if left untrimmed. The plant’s leaves are long, narrow, and quite sharp, growing to a couple of millimeters in length.


Fissidens fontanus benefits from CO2 supplementation, which will boost its growth, although it’s not necessary for this plant species. This is the ultimate low-maintenance plant that doesn’t need fertilizer either, provided you keep your tank well-maintained.

How To Propagate Phoenix Moss

In the wild environment, Phoenix moss uses spore reproduction to spread. The plant’s spores form in a seed case called “sporangia,” which eventually ripens and cracks, releasing the spores that fall onto the parent plant, where they develop. Those fresh shoots constantly replace the old ones, eventually creating a thick mossy carpet over whatever surface the moss is attached to.

In your fish tank, you can propagate Phoenix moss by taking one plant and trimming it into smaller bunches using a pair of sharp aquascaping scissors. To create a new moss colony, you only need to tie small bunches of your clippings together and fix them to one location. The plant will begin to grow and attach itself to the surface within a couple of days.

Tank Mates

You can grow Fissidens fontanus in most tropical, freshwater community aquarium setups with suitable tank mates.

When it comes to invertebrates, all species of dwarf aquarium shrimp love this plant for the shelter and shade it provides and spend hours foraging on its surface for scraps of food. You can keep small snails in tanks with Phoenix moss, provided you don’t choose species that are known to be plant eaters.

However, I wouldn’t keep freshwater crabs and crayfish with Phoenix moss, as they can be incredibly destructive, cutting and ripping the fragile leaves of this slow-growing plant to pieces and inflicting damage that will take months to repair.

Most small fish species get along fine with this plant, although I would personally steer clear of fish such as goldfish that are renowned diggers and plant eaters, and large cichlids like Oscars are best avoided for the same reasons.

How To Use Fissidens Fontanus in Your Aquarium

Fissidens fontanus

You can grow Phoenix moss as a single plant specimen or together with other aquatic plants with similar environmental requirements in a nano tank or large aquarium.

Once you’ve attached a small bunch of the moss to your desired surface, it will quickly become established and grow to form its natural, beautiful fountain shape in around a month.

I’ve always found that Phoenix moss prefers a location near the tank’s center rather than in the corners since the plant’s fountain shape makes it difficult for it to grow along the edges. That said, if you plant your entire tank with Fissidens fontanus as a carpet plant, you can grow it around the perimeter quite well.

Create a Wall

This versatile plant can be grown on a mesh net to create a moss wall or spectacular backdrop in your aquarium.

To do that, fix moss bunches at equal distances from each other across the mesh and secure them with lengths of cotton thread. The plant will spread within a couple of months, quickly fixing itself to the mesh.

If you decide to use a mesh net, be very careful that no gaps could allow fish or inverts to get behind the “wall” and become trapped there. To prevent accidents, ensure the mesh is flush against the back of the tank glass by making it long enough to be buried in the substrate and tall enough to protrude above the waterline.

One effective method of keeping the mesh in place is to use suction cups to securely hold the mesh to the viewing panes so that the moss wall doesn’t become adrift and fall into the tank as it grows and gets heavier.

Grow a Carpet

You can grow Phoenix moss as a carpet plant by dividing one plant into smaller pieces and tying them together with cotton thread so that they stay attached while they become established. Leave gaps between the tiny bunches of plants to allow for growth and spread, and use small stones to weigh the plants down so that they don’t float away.

Grow Phoenix Moss Emersed In A Terrarium

If you keep a terrarium or paludarium, Fissidens fontanus is a good fit. This plant is native to North America and is found in some parts of Europe, where it grows in lakes up to 60 feet deep. However, sometimes you can find the plant growing above the water.

If you keep the humidity levels high so the plant doesn’t dry out, you can grow Phoenix moss in a terrarium or paludarium fixed to rocks or driftwood.


Although it’s very easy to grow, a couple of things can go wrong when you’re growing Phoenix moss.


In tanks where organic matter, leftover food, and the like settles on the Phoenix moss plant, algae colonies sometimes grow on the plant’s leaves.

That problem can be solved by adding a few algae eaters to your tank, such as shrimp or Siamese Algae eaters that will pick the algae from the plant’s leaves without damaging them.

Leaves Turning Brown

Fissidens fontanus is sensitive to fluctuations in light and temperature, and it will turn brown if exposed to too much heat and light. So, keep conditions in your tank stable and within the plant’s preferred parameters, and it should do fine.


These days, you can buy Phoenix moss in most good fish stores, some pet shops that carry aquarium supplies, and online directly from growers. However, since this plant is not as popular as Christmas moss or Java moss, you might have to phone around a few locations before you find a supplier.

Prices vary, depending on the plant’s size and if it comes already fixed to decorative items. However, you can usually buy a plant for around $10.

Fissidens Nobilis vs. Fissidens Fontanus

You might notice Fissidens nobilis occasionally advertised for sale in your local fish store. So, how does this plant compare with Phoenix moss?

Both these species of Fissidens are relatively easy to care for and grow in a tropical freshwater tank if given the optimum conditions, and they both spread when left to their own devices. However, Fissidens nobilis is regarded as quite a rare species, and it comes from Southeast Asia rather than the USA.

Like Fissidens fontanus, you can grow Fissidens nobilis on aquarium decorations, rocks, and wood or as a striking background plant on mesh or netting. This plant will thrive in most freshwater tanks, although it generally does better when grown in a larger aquarium because of its larger, shaggier habit.

You can grow Fissidens nobilis around the edges of your tank, and it propagates via rhizome division. The plant grows on any surface you put it on and needs next to no maintenance or trimming, reaching around 4 inches tall at its highest.

In comparison, Fissidens fontanus comes from North America and is lower growing, so it can be used as a carpet plant or used to create a flowing fountain-like clump, making a fantastic focal point in your tank.

Both species are relatively slow to grow and enjoy similar tank conditions and water parameters, and both retail at a similar price point.


In this section of our guide, we answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about Fissidens Fontanus and its care.

Q: Does Fissidens moss need CO2?

A: Although Fissidens moss doesn’t actually need CO2 to grow, supplementation will definitely boost the plant’s growth and spread, and without it, the plant will become highly susceptible to algae growth.

For that reason, we recommend providing additional CO2 for this plant.

Q: Can Phoenix moss grow emersed?

A: Phoenix moss can be grown emersed, although you must keep high levels of humidity in the tank to prevent the plant from drying out.

Q: How do you grow Fissidens nobilis?

A: Fissidens nobilis is not often seen in the aquarium trade, which is a shame, as it’s a beautiful plant that can be grown attached to stones, rocks, wood, and any fish tank decoration of your choice.

Q: Is Fissidens a moss?

A: Fissidens is a gorgeous feathery species of aquatic moss that’s incredibly easy to grow in a well-maintained tank.

Q: How do you attach Fissidens fontanus?

A: Once fixed to a rock or other decoration, Fissidens quickly attach themselves. Start by pushing a piece of moss into a crevice in the rock or tie it to a decoration using twine or cotton, and the plant will do the rest!

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide to the care of Fissendens Fontanus. If you did, please hit the share button above to spread the word about this amazing aquarium plant!

Phoenix moss is a low-growing tropical, freshwater aquatic plant that’s popular for its low maintenance and versatility. You can grow this plant as a carpet plant, on netting to cover your glass and create a beautiful backdrop, or on any tank decoration of your choice.

Shrimp and tiny fish love the shade, shelter, and foraging opportunities provided by this delightful fountain-shaped moss species, and the plant requires no CO2 or nutrient supplementation to thrive.

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