Growing Taxiphyllum & Vesicularia Moss Terrestrially

Growing Tax & Ves Moss

Two of my personal favorite moss species for dart frog vivariums are Taxiphyllum and Vesicularia. Commonly known as ‘Java’ and ‘Christmas’ moss, these attractive mosses are most often used in aquaria, however, they are also fantastic candidates for use as terrestrial ground cover. Aquatically these mosses can produce bushy, fern-like growth, and be used in various applications such as carpet, branch, or rock cover. They act very similarly when grown terrestrially, but differ slightly in appearance. They are fairly undemanding, do not require overly bright lighting solutions, and can get a long just fine on low nutrient substrates. Given appropriate conditions, and a successful transition period, both Taxiphyllum and Vesicularia will thrive emersed or terrestrially just as well as they do submersed.

Chapter Terrestrially
This simply means growing on land, rather than in water.

Taxiphyllum species will grow outwards with a more wispy appearance and attach to almost any surface it comes in contact with. It will easily spread across wood, rock, along with many other natural and artificial substrates.

Vesicularia species will grow more densely and mat-like; an excellent choice for a carpeting moss. It can be a slower grower than Taxiphyllum, but also holds moisture longer due to it’s dense growth.

Taxi Vesi Side by Side

When growing terrestrially, it is important to keep the RH [relative humidity] above 70% to prevent the moss from drying out. Frequent misting will greatly benefit the moss while it transitions from aquatic to terrestrial. It is not uncommon for it to take 3 to 4 weeks before the moss really begins to take off. If your moss came from a terrestrial cutting, or was previously growing terrestrially, the transition is much faster, and new growth should appear relatively quickly.

Both Taxiphyllum and Vesicularia will also spread throughout the vivarium via spores when grown terrestrially. This will not often begin until upwards of a month or two from the time it is planted, but once settled in, both species are hardy and prolific.

Taxi Spore Growth

Chapter emersed
This would refer to growing moss on waterfalls, shallow pools, or on self-watering backgrounds, where the base of the moss is always kept wet. Growth patterns of mosses grown this way will vary depending on how wet the moss is, but you can expect that it will look most like its submersed form below the water line, and less leggy above the water line.

When growing emersed, the transitional period is greatly reduced, and new growth can begin to appear in as little as 1 week. This is still true for mosses that were previously being grown terrestrially, and have been switched to emersed, or submersed. Once growth starts, it will usually continue at a steady pace, and the moss will attach to nearly any surface as it spreads. When grown in waterfalls, spillways, or other forms of running water, the moss’ growth will tend to follow the water and keep itself submersed, so if you intend for it to grow on the banks, you may have more success pinning the moss to the bank and allowing it to droop into the water where it can ‘wick’ the water up onto the bank and keep itself thoroughly hyrated. In shallow pools, stagnant, or very slow moving water, the moss will breach the surface and begin to grow out of the water in all directions. If the water is shallow enough, the moss will show terrestrial type growth right away.

Chapter Sourcing Moss
Because of the incredible popularity of ‘Java’ and ‘Christmas’ moss in the aquarium trade, it is very easy to access. Almost every aquarium store that carries live plants will have at least one of these moss species in stock. Many hobbyists already have this moss in their collection, whether it is being kept aquatically or terrestrially, which means that local forums and other classifieds sites are also a great place to look. Although it is usually easiest to find in its aquatic form, you can also find it for sale in its terrestrial form thanks to Tropica. Tropica’s 1-2-Grow! line of plants are conveniently lab grown in jelly making them “guaranteed to be free from snails, algae and pesticides” which is always fantastic. What is more fantastic is that several sub species of Taxiphyllum and Vesicularia moss are among the line.


This simple review on the terrestrial and emersed growth of these two moss species may seem very succinct, but in actual fact they are easy mosses to work with in vivaria. I have often found hobbyists struggle to try and find tropical mosses appropriate for home vivaria, when in actual fact, their local aquarium store has exactly what they need right under their nose! Hopefully this article has helped you find the moss you were looking for, and given you the confidence to plants some in your vivarium.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below

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  • […] Java moss There is some quick reading on Java (Taxiphyllum) and Christmas moss here: Growing Taxiphyllum & Vesicularia Moss Terrestrially I use both in my vivs and it does a fantastic job of carpeting or creating little […]