Main Reasons for the Spiky Moss Dying

Spiky moss or Taxiphyllum Spiky is one of the fast-growing aquarium moss varieties globally, which are safe for nearly every aquarium tank.

With its bright green spike-shaped leaves, Spiky moss bears a close resemblance to Christmas moss, hence the reason it’s also fondly known as the older brother of Christmas moss.

Main Reasons for the Spiky Moss Dying
Main Reasons for the Spiky Moss Dying

These beautiful moss growths create a scenic yet safe natural environment for many fish, fish fry, and even shrimp and other aquatic animals.

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However, they also do require a decent level of maintenance in the long-run, for there are a few reasons why these clumped growths can die rapidly.

How can I identify when my Spiky Moss is dying?

Dying or melting Spiky moss can be identified directly by the browning of its leaves.

Although the appearance of the moss cluster will appear as normal, careful observation will highlight a slightly wilted look in the leaves along with the brown and dying leaves.

Why is my Spiky Moss dying?

Spiky moss is highly sensitive to its surroundings, and the reasons for its death could be either one or a combination of the following factors.

Too little or too much light

Short lighting periods of less than 8 hours can stunt the growth of your Spiky moss, gradually leading to its death, as there is insufficient photosynthesis being carried out to produce food for the moss to grow.

Meanwhile, longer periods of lighting can promote algae growth in the aquarium. Algae thrive immensely in high levels of lighting and can outgrow your Spiky moss in a short period, engulfing the aquarium tank and killing your Spiky moss eventually.

This results in the algae absorbing all the nutrients in the water leaving poor growth conditions for your Spiky moss along with the lack of light.

Drastic changes in temperature

Spiky moss undergoes a process of melting when exposed to drastic temperature changes. This is indicative of the browning of leaves and the wilting of the plant due to the shock it undergoes.

Quite often, if you see your Spiky moss plant browning, it could be that the tank is heating up due to direct sunlight or due to your light source being too close to the tank, or it could be because of a drop in the tank’s temperature because of natural seasonal changes.

Lack of nutrients

Similar to all plants, Spiky moss too requires nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates to grow. Although the absence of these nutrients will not kill your moss immediately, it can stunt the growth and make it weak, making it susceptible to die when facing any other sudden changes.

Water changes

Stagnant water is more likely to have higher levels of impurities and algae that are not helpful in the optimal growth of Spiky moss.

While massive algae growths can overpower Spiky moss, impure water can create a toxic environment with higher levels of toxins, leaving your Spiky moss plants to rot.

Too frequent water changes can also melt your Spiky moss if the conditions of the tank are not maintained at a constant level.

This can include varying pH levels, changes in water temperature with frequent water changes, and changes in nutrient levels, all of which have the potential to shock your Spiky moss plant, killing it in the process.

High algae growths

Algae are similar to Spiky moss in their feeding methods. They thrive in long hours of lighting, absorbing nutrients from the water.

With its ability to reproduce quickly, algae can soon outnumber your Spiky moss, and absorb most, if not all of the nutrients in the water.

This combined with the murkiness of the water, or algal growths happening on the Spiky moss plants themselves, can kill your Spiky moss by preventing its access to light and stopping any further photosynthesizing.

Fish being fed insufficiently

As simple as it may sound, under-feeding the fish in your aquarium can make them opt for other food in the aquarium. This includes taking a few bites out of your Spiky moss. Such behavior also extends to other small animals like shrimp and snails in your aquarium.

Death and rotting of lower layers

Since Spiky moss grows in layers, it’s difficult to spot the dead or decaying bottom layers most often. Even more so if the Spiky moss is fully grown and is on the aquarium bed.

These rotting layers can then pollute and affect the balance of the water, ultimately affecting the whole tank and killing the moss if there are no periodic water changes or proper maintenance.

Does Spiky Moss turn brown before dying?

Yes. The leaves of Spiky moss start turning brown at the start. If not attended to immediately, it will continue to wilt and ultimately die.

How to protect and keep Spiky Moss from dying?

Maintenance is key in protecting Spiky moss from dying. You can follow the following steps to ensure your Spiky moss lives long in your aquarium.

Maintain proper lighting:

Ensure you maintain lighting periods of 8 to 10 hours. This window is ideal to limit algae growths and encourages ideal levels of photosynthesis for Spiky moss to grow.

Maintain proper temperature:

Place your aquarium away from direct sunlight to avoid heating the tank. If your source of light is an incandescent bulb, maintain a proper distance between your tank and the bulb to prevent heating up of the tank.

Using a non-incandescent bulb will be ideal to provide proper lighting and minimize heat production.

Provide fertilizer

Even though Spiky moss grows well without any added fertilizer, adding it to your aquarium will make sure your Spiky moss is healthier, making it sturdy to face any sudden changes.

Maintain constant water conditions

Make frequent periodic changes to the water in your aquarium. However, remember to maintain the conditions such as the pH levels, nutrients, and temperature of the water constant throughout as much as possible.

Tank and plant maintenance

Constant vigilance is a must when maintaining an aquarium. Keeping a sharp lookout for any algae growths and any dying plants in your aquarium goes a long distance.

Cutting off any dying leaves of Spiky moss and tidying the moss cluster will help prevent any leaves from rotting in the water, thereby keeping the Spiky moss cluster safe from any toxins that could develop.

Feeding your fish

Feeding your fish, fish fry, and shrimp timely and sufficiently will help maintain your Spiky moss healthy. Timely feeding will help prevent the fish from feeding on the moss, therefore, helping the moss to grow healthy.

Is dead Spiky Moss bad for aquarium tanks?

Dead plants in the tank are harmful to any aquarium, and Spiky moss is no exception.

Dead Spiky moss contaminates the aquarium when water when rotting and decaying and thereby can imbalance the pH levels and balance of the water by releasing toxic gasses and substances.

This can be harmful to the aquarium overall if the water is not cleaned immediately.

Is dead Spiky Moss harmful to other plants in my aquarium?

Dead Spiky moss plants shouldn’t be left in your aquarium.

This is because they produce gasses such as ammonia, resulting in an imbalance in the water conditions of the aquarium. Such gasses at high levels are bad for all plants in the tank as well as for the fish as well.

Do fish eat dead Spiky Moss?

No, they don’t. However, your aquatic snails will.

What happens if fish eat dead Spiky Moss?

Dead Spiky moss produces gasses such as ammonia, which is toxic to fish, especially if eaten. In case your fish feed on dead and rotting Spiky moss in considerable quantities, it can potentially make your fish sick, or even dead.

Will algae grow faster if dead Spiky Moss remains in my aquarium tank?

To an extent, yes, it will.

Dead Spiky moss in your aquarium leaves the nutrients in the water unabsorbed. These nutrients will then be absorbed by algae, increasing their growth rate.

Can dead Spiky Moss come back to life?

Yes! If identified at an early stage, a dying Spiky moss plant can be saved from fully deteriorating!

However, if most of the plant is dead, it’s advisable to remove it from the tank, and either grow a new cutting or let the dying Spiky moss recover in a separate quarantine tank before re-introducing it to the original aquarium tank.

Remedies to recover dying Spiky Moss

The easiest way to recover a dying Spiky moss plant is to first identify the reason it’s dying.

For this, you can maintain a simple checklist (as shown below), to make this identification process much faster and simpler!


  • Light intensity
  • Changes in the temperature maintained
  • If fertilizer is provided or not
  • Any changes in the source and type of water used in the last water change
  • Changes in pH levels
  • Rotting of lower layers of the Spiky moss bed
  • Insufficient feeding of fish
  • Other factors (not all cuttings grow, damaged plants during delivery, seasonal changes such as a cutting planted during the winter season may not thrive well, etc.)

For the recovery process of such a dying Spiky moss plant, you could either treat it within the aquarium itself or transfer it to a separate tank till it grows back healthy.

If treated in the same tank, you can begin by cutting off the dead leaves and add in a small amount of fertilizer to the tank. This should be done alongside adjusting any changes in the factors that were identified in the checklist.

If treated in a separate tank, you could create an aquarium tank with the same conditions as the original tank and carry out the same process as above.

How to remove dead Spiky Moss from my tank

Removing dead Spiky moss from the tank can be done with the help of a pair of scissors and tweezers.

Simply cut off the dead Spiky moss leaves from the cluster and remove them from the tank with the help of the tweezers. If the whole cluster is dying, however, you can use your tweezers to simply uproot the whole plant, or just remove it by hand.


Many factors need to be maintained constantly in growing Spiky moss plants in an aquarium. A sudden change to any of these factors can affect the growth rate and health of the moss plant.

So, make sure to take early steps to maintain a constant healthy environment by using our checklist and enjoy the sight of healthy Spiky moss in your aquarium!

By Uswatta Liyanage

Hello. I'm Uswatta Liyanage from Galle, Sri Lanka. I am the founder of this website. Since my childhood I'm an aqua plant lover and I have professionally learned more about aqua plants. So I created this site for share my knowledge and experience with all of you. Now you can refer my site and feel free to contact me if any inquiry.