Phoenix Moss in a tank: care and cultivation tips

Phoenix Moss (Fissidens fontanus) got its Latin name due to the fact that its appearance resembles a frozen fountain – the plant grows from the center in many different directions like a streaming fountain. With the help of this moss you can create spots that will definitely attract spectators attention to your aquascape.

Habitat in the wild

Fissidens fontanus is a plant from Fissidentaceae family. Fissidens genus numbers up to 400 kinds and it is considered as one of the largest among mosses. Fissidens is translated as a ‘split beard’. Despite all the variety of the moss kinds available, Fissidens Fontanus is the most often used one.

The moss habitat is in North America, but it has become popular among aquascaping fans all over the world. This kind of Fissidens is an aquatic one and that’s why it grows well.

It has rhizoids that strongly stick to a substrate and you don’t have to knit the moss up to the substrate all the time. The moss got the name in Taiwan and this is a trade name.


Phoenix moss has branches up to 1 inch (2,5 cm) long. Leaf blades are narrow, elongated and sharpened. On the stem all the leaves are located in sequence. Phoenix moss can be considered as a large aquarium moss. Its leaf is up to 2 mm long.

Such a large leaf can’t be eaten by siamese algae eater, which is a famous moss eater; that’s why you can successfully keep them both in one tank.

Due to its small size moss grows from the center in various directions. Even from the tiniest branch you put in a tank you will get the whole bushy hillock in a month.

Phoenix moss always grows as a round shaped hillock regardless of the way you cut it, so there is no way to change the way it grows. No matter how you plant or cut it, the moss will still tend to have round shape just because this is the way it grows.

However, the good thing is that you can move this hillock from one spot of the tank to another without damaging the plant.

Difficulties in keeping

The moss easily sticks to any substrate using its rhizoids: this can be stones, snags and even plastic net. It will do for tanks with low illumination level and without CO2 supply, but it grows slowly provided with such conditions.

It is important to maintain the tank water clean to prevent algae growing in the moss bushes. In a tank with strong lighting and CO2 supply the moss growth rate is sufficiently higher.

Keeping in a tank

Scientific NameFissidens fontanus
Common namesphoenix moss, fissiden moss,
Native ToNorth America
Lighting NeedsLow
Growth rateSlow
Temperature Required65 – 77 °F (18.3 – 25 °C)
pH Level5.0 – 7.5
Care LevelEasy
Placement in TankAnywhere

As most of mosses Phoenix can grow in a tank with low lighting level and actually almost without additional CO2 fertilizers supply or micro- and macro-fertilizers.

Also like other moss kinds this one is demanding in terms of water cleanness. Algae may start to grow due to suspended matter that settles on the moss leaves.

This is why in tanks with phoenix moss you may often encounter cherry shrimps, for which organic remnants are perfect food supply.

Filtration is a must in this case, since it not only purifies water, but also it creates water flow which is necessary for the moss. Without filtration the plant itself starts to absorb rot off organics as a sponge.

The water flow shouldn’t be strong. Moderate water movement should be present all over the tank volume preventing formation of quiescent areas.

Optimal tank water temperature may vary from 65 – 77 °F at KH 4-14° and pH 5.0 – 7.5. Strong illumination and CO2 supply intensify the moss growth rate. The plant prefers clean water, that’s why filtration is a must.

Application in aquascaping

Phoenix looks perfectly in a standard aquarium with fishes and it naturally fits into small nano tanks. It is used either as a monoculture or together with other moss kinds and tank plants.

Fluffy hillocks can be put somewhere on top, they are used to decorate stones, snags, to fill cavities or even aquatic gardens can be made from them. Phoenix moss can stick to any surface.

To fix it on the net place all the moss brunches at equal distance from each other and tie them with a thread in increments of 3-4 mm.

In 1.5 months the whole net will be covered with vegetation. It is not necessary to use sea-line to fix Phoenix moss, since this kind of moss grows fast and till the thread rots it will already strongly stick to the substrate.

Even if you just leave one brunch of the moss on a stone or a snag in a tank, in a few month it will grow into a dark-green round-shaped hillock with rather specific structure.

When decorating a tank it’s better to put moss closer to focus points and not in the tank corners, since it will inevitably draw spectators attention to itself even if other moss kinds are also present in a tank.

There is an exception in case when almost all the tank is planted with Phoenix moss, which looks incredible as well.


In the wild Phoenix moss uses spore reproduction. Its spores are formed in a special seed case called sporangia. When sporangia ripens and cracks the spores get directly onto a parent plant where they further develop.

It turns out that fresh shoots constantly replace the old ones and the green carpet stays thick and bright green.

In a tank you can cultivate moss by simply cutting it into pieces. Small moss bunches are tied with a thread or sea-line and they are fixed to a net.

In a few days moss starts to stick to the net on its own gradually covering all the surface.

About author: Sergey Schulz

Sergey is a founder and author of He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood. His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), with Echinodorus and freshwater angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.