Willow Moss Ultimate Guide On Planting, Maintains, And Care

Have you read about willow moss in some magazine or article and its unique features attracted you to plant it? Some must have observed it in a glass tank during a visit to a friend’s or relative’s house. This bryophyte works perfectly in an underwater environment and has been successful in gaining immense fame among other carpet mosses.

However, it is important not to rush everything in excitement once the delivery person arrives and just decorate it with land features in a way that seems right at that moment.

In this post, I have tried to cover all the aspects which will help you gain sufficient knowledge about willow moss, its plantation, and care.

Table of Contents

Willow Moss Ultimate Guide
Willow Moss Ultimate Guide

About Willow Moss

Common And Scientific Names:

Willow Moss is also termed common water moss and greater water moss since it survives in deep aquatic levels and stays submerged. This organism is a part of the class Bryopsida and its scientific name is Fontinalis antipyretica. There are more than 11,000 species of this class in the world.

In Latin, antipyretica means fire stopper. It got this term since it was used as fireproof material between house boundaries and chimneys in numerous Nordic regions.

Origin And Growth:

Willow moss develops and populates in fresh waters and is particularly known for non-flowering moss. There are two main ways this species grows: the spread and protrusion of plant parts that are detached, and via stolons. Stolons grow structures called rhizoids after the plant reproduces through them.

It is rare for this species of moss to propagate via spores since it does not produce sporangia in normal conditions. The growth rate of willow moss is medium.


Freshwaters such as rivers and lakes are best-suited and perfect for willow moss spread and development. You will find it in both lentic and lotic lakes, that is, still and moving water bodies.

In addition, the continents where it is readily found include Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. In the regions, one might come across this bryophyte while walking along a riverside or forest track where it is attached to the rocks and stones or is a part of debris in the dense vegetation.


The ideal temperature conditions or optimum temperature for willow moss is normal to low temperature (around 68° Fahrenheit), which allows its best growth and healthy development.


The levels of acidity and alkalinity are extremely important factors when it comes to the survival of aquatic plants. Common water moss shows excellent growth in acidic pH of 5-6. However, some tend to develop above acidic waters of 7-9 pH.


Fortunately, those who want to grow willow moss in their aquariums and gardeners do not need to do much effort in this case since it can survive in multiple environmental conditions including broad ranges for pH and temperature, and thus requires less care.

Appearance Of Willow Moss:-

Willow moss is compared with willow trees when it comes to its visuals. Moreover, it shows a close resemblance with java moss as well. It is larger, with some prominent features that help distinguish it from other types of mosses. The maximum height it can reach is approximately 15cm or 6 inches.

These include larger and bigger leaves in dark green color, thick branches, and strong stems. The typical dark green shade is due to the more contact and absorbance of the sunlight. On the other hand, the color is lighter if willow moss has been growing in partial shade.

Is Willow Moss Good For Aquariums?

Willow moss is extremely good for aquariums which not only enhances the visual of these inside closures but also provides several benefits for the animal species that you add to the water. First, it can grow well in only half exposure to light.

Moreover, it releases enough oxygen into the water that fish and amphibians consume. Furthermore, it is a wonderful way to keep the water clean from pollutants, nitrates, and heavy metals and habitat for several organisms. Not only this, it can easily tolerate variable water conditions due to its hardiness and ability to survive in a wider range of conditions.

Also, willow moss is a rich nutrient source for aquatic fauna such as hatched fry. It is because this plant is home to several microorganisms which live in the branches and leaves of moss.

Tank Requirements To Plant Willow Moss

Before you place willow moss at a preferred location in your tank, there are some key pointers and requirements you need to consider while planting this vegetation. Following are some major aspects one should take care of.

Nature Of Water:

First, the water should be clean and filtered. The pH of the water should be more than 5 and less than 8 since this is the optimum parameter and condition where willow moss grows the best way.


Willow moss requires low-temperature water since it thrives well in cold environments, unlike many other kinds of moss. The temperature inside the tank should be in the range of 59-82° Fahrenheit.

Extent Of Light:

This kind of moss can easily grow in less light exposure. So, you do not need to worry much about a sufficient source of light in this case.

Carbon Dioxide:

Some kinds of willow moss sold by the sellers or markets show fast and prominent exponential growth when you add sufficient carbon dioxide through injections. Thus, those who want to achieve rapid moss growth should arrange for this supply of gas.

Enclosure Type:

Another essential factor to consider is the kind of enclosure in which you are putting willow moss. The best enclosures are those which contain less substrate and terrain as this species especially needs water-based surroundings.

Some great options when it comes to the tanks include aquariums, riparians, and aquariums. Paludariums are partially based on dry land and partially on water. They are perfect for keeping various animal and plant species and also contribute to the aesthetic appeal.

Riparians include land features like aquariums, but they are in a lesser proportion. They appear just like the river banks with some plant parts emerging from the water surface. This property makes them ideal for the development of willow moss.

Aquariums generally include minimal substrate and rocks with the major percentage covered by water. Some tanks contain no such features. The environment inside the aquarium also makes it an excellent enclosure for willow moss.

Tips To Maintain Willow Moss

Following are some helpful tips and instructions that will allow you to maintain the willow moss in an enclosure properly:

  • Using clean and filtered water
  • Maintaining the recommended temperature range
  • Ensuring no drastic changes occur
  • Ensuring minimal chance of water evaporation
  • Monitoring willow moss development regularly
  • Maintaining the pH in the recommended range

Tips To Care And Cultivation Of Willow Moss

Dividing The Willow Moss:

The essential and initial stage when you bring willow moss to your home is its cultivation and propagation. Here, the efficient method to do it is to divide the moss parts, which involves separating the culture into multiple pieces. It is considered to be safe since it does not damage the moss.


Once you separate the plant parts, place them in the desired spots in the tank. Allow it to make a complete connection with the land and surroundings and wait for it to grow after tying it with driftwood or stone.

After the branches creep into the different areas in the water, only then you should try trimming the unwanted parts. This growth is an appreciable indication of success. One can also break the parts and then repeat the procedure.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Planting Willow Moss In My Aquarium

Every plant addition in a forest or aquatic ecosystem has its impact on the fauna and Fiona of that world. This aspect includes both plus points and some adverse effects.

Similarly, the plantation of willow moss in an aquarium involves some advantages and disadvantages that one should be aware of before performing this activity.


  • Willow Moss As Oxygenator:

There are numerous advantages of having a willow plant in a tank or pond. It is an excellent source of oxygen from which fish and other aquatic life get benefits. The photosynthesis releases this gas into the water directly which is ideal for the animals, particularly those who live at depth.

  • Willow Moss As Cleaning Agent:

Willow moss is ideal for removing harmful heavy metals from aquariums, notably zinc and cadmium. By absorbing these toxic elements, it not only cleans the water but also creates a perfect environment for the normal growth and development of animals.

Willow moss is also known for its cleaning properties when it comes to algal growth. It prevents the bad algae from spreading and consuming a lot of oxygen from the water in the tanks. Moreover, it also helps you in maintaining the aquariums in good condition.

  • Willow Moss As Animal Habitat:

The branches and leaves of willow moss act as a protection for larvae and eggs of fish and frogs. Mature fish and shrimp also tend to stay on willow moss parts.

Several invertebrates that survive underwater such as stoneflies, caddisfly, mayfly larvae, and nymphs find shelter in the plant’s parts that are underneath.

In addition, chironomid larvae tend to travel and stay under the large willow moss leaves. Other animals that select willow moss as their habitat include dragonfly larvae, newts, and damselfly where the adult of these animals lay eggs.

  • Low Maintenance And Care:

Since willow moss is a hard freshwater plant, it does not need you to spare several hours every week to keep a check on its growth and condition. It can survive long due to its attribute of staying in both flowing and still water bodies.

In ponds, it will generally cling to the substrate such as sand and gravel and driftwood. It also forms clumps that float at a slow pace in calm aquarium water, which makes it an attractive option for pond keepers and gardeners.


  • Possibly Results In Increased Population:

Since willow moss is a great site where fish, invertebrates, and other life can store their eggs and larvae find shelter, there is a potential for an increase in the number of animal species when the moss spreads to cover more gravel or some other dry feature. It can be problematic to keep a check on tank life particularly if its size is small.

Common Problems (Difficulties) Of Planting Willow Moss In Aquarium Tanks

  • Challenge Of Maintaining Low Temperature:

One should keep a stable environment which includes controlling and maintaining the aquarium temperature. Sometimes, it can be hard for the owners who reside in areas known for experiencing warm climates for most of the year to arrange for the water to be at optimum temperature.

  • Easy Propagation:

Even though willow moss does not tend to occupy most of the areas, it can spread from the smallest fragments when the branches break from some parts and settle to the bottom. Therefore, it might get difficult for the aquarium owners to manage if moss occupies most of the space, particularly in case the dimensions of the water tank or vivarium are smaller.

  • Similar Plants To Willow Moss

Some moss types go well with willow moss and enhance the look of aquariums and ponds to the next level while contributing to the diversity. If one can maintain them, I highly suggest adding one of these with willow moss due to the way these plants coexist with each other.

Moreover, if you are having difficulty finding willow moss, it is great to look for these alternatives. Some of the best options for this are as follows

  • Java moss
  • Peat moss or sphagnum moss
  • Contains or Ceratophyllum demersum
  • Mood moss or Dicranum scoparium

Does Willow Moss Have Roots And Stems?

Some of the major parts of willow moss are its leaves and stem system. However, it does not have any root structure like other mosses and has thin structures called rhizoids This green plant with a greyish tone has a thick stem from which several branches protrude. These stems are long and are covered with moss from the start to the tip.

How Do I Prune Willow Moss?

It is essential to prune the willow moss in any enclosure to remove the shabby and dead plant parts such as branches and leaves. Not only does trimming let you keep the appearance of moss beautiful, but also promotes regrowth in those areas.

Look for the leaves that are turning yellow or some other shade other than green and cut them. Similarly, perform this task for branches as well. Also, cut the parts that have grown excessively to the desired length. In case the considerable portion of willow moss is looking old or not doing well, you should detach it entirely and replace it with a fresh piece.

Suitable Tankmates For Willow Moss

It is extremely important to get familiar with the organisms that can coexist well with the greater or willow moss in an aquatic ecosystem so that no species dominates others and life forms a symbiotic relationship with the moss.

Plants Suitable For Willow Moss

Fortunately, there are several animal and plant species that you can choose from while decorating your tank or vivarium. The plants that are suitable tankmates for willow moss include peat moss, cocktails, and mood moss.

Animals Suitable For Willow Moss:

Similarly, numerous fish which love cold waters and freshwater tanks are perfect for adding to the willow moss tanks. Some examples include goldfish and cichlid.

You can also keep amphibians in the enclosure such as frogs and newts, which come under the category of salamanders (amphibians that have tails). Crustaceans such as shrimp fry are also an ideal addition to the aquariums.

Unsuitable Tankmates For Willow Moss

The selection of flora and fauna for growing them in a tank environment can not be successful until one has a goal of achieving a balanced and self-sustaining system.

While looking for the invertebrates, mollusks, and fish, it is better to get some idea about their eating habits. For instance, the snail species that can consume willow moss sometime in their life can be considered unsuitable for willow moss.

Similarly, in the case of plants or adding a green cover to the tank, it is good to select those kinds which do not show rapid growth since it might take more proportion of nutrients and other necessary sources for growth. Also, the fast-growing moss can make it challenging for one to trim and remove unwanted parts of this moss and willow moss.

Is Willow Moss Invasive?

Willow moss is an aquatic plant that is not considered to be toxic and invasive, which makes it a great selection for keeping in ponds and aquariums. It does not reproduce and spread aggressively unlike some aquatic vegetation that overtakes the spots.

The possibility to propagate is through the broken pieces of branches and other parts that travel through the water and settle on nearby areas.

Since the willow moss is not poisonous, it is considered secure and safe for the creatures such as fish and amphibians inside the freshwater bodies and personal ponds.

Where Can I Find Willow Moss?

Purchasing From Online Sites:

In case you want to try adding willow moss to your collection, you can easily find it from different sources since it is a common species in plant nurseries and is usually available worldwide. You can look for it on popular online shopping websites where a lot of sellers are available to assist customers by offering quality and native willow moss.

Requesting Local Nurseries And Stores:

Moreover, one can also contact the local nursery to request the type of willow mass according to preference. Another option is to get this plant for your pond or aquarium through a reliable and known aquarium store or market.

Is Willow Moss Good For Terrarium?

Willow moss, unlike mood moss or Dicranum, should not be added to the terrariums. It is because this moss has a specific requirement of remaining fully submerged in the tank water and shows redundant and abnormal growth in water deficiency.

When it comes to the terrariums, they are ideal for the delicate plants which need careful watering while protecting some plant parts from coming in contact with water since these plants do not like fully aquatic-based surroundings.

Moreover, most terrariums do not have a system to retain water inside the enclosure which can be dangerous for willow moss. Another aspect that makes them unsuitable for this plant is that the open terrariums allow easy evaporation of moisture from vegetation, which does not help at all in the case of this moss.

Why Is Willow Moss So More Expensive?

Willow moss is generally sold in portions according to the weights that customers want. It might be available at high prices due to three main reasons: its increasing popularity among tank and pond owners, its suitability in several setups, and its ability to withstand a wide range of parameter changes.

Some stores also might add more cost tags to this moss in the regions it is rare such as Australia, which makes it valuable as well. It needs more effort to collect the moss and arrange it for the targeted community.

How Long Does Willow Moss Live?

Willow moss can stay healthy in fresh water for several years since it is perennial until it receives adequate light and other factors favor its survival. It is perennial which means it will continue to grow for more than 24 months.

Why Does My Willow Moss Smell Bad?

Will moss might smell due to some reasons, among which some might need you to take any action while some might be normal and go away after some time.

Smell After Purchase:

It is common to notice a unique yet familiar earthy odor which is due to the presence of fresh moss once you remove it from the packaging as it arrives. It usually goes away within 7-8 days.


There is a possibility that an unpleasant smell that spreads across the tank or pond is due to the rotting of the stem system or branches. There can be some underlying cause that results in damaging the vegetation. I suggest contacting the moss supply service or some expert in case you cannot figure out the reason yourself.

Inadequate Exposure To Light:

Willow moss does not need maximum lighting and can grow in some light to the fullest. However, it still requires some of it which is an important source for its healthy features. There is a possibility that a particular area might not be receiving enough light, which can result in decay and a pungent smell.

Is Willow Moss Good For Ponds?

Benefits Of Willow Moss Addition In Ponds:

One can grow oxygenating willow moss in ponds. Several moss supplies are particularly excellent for flowing pond waters where you can keep beautiful fish as well.

Furthermore, fish, invertebrates, and amphibians in the pond also love the addition of greater water moss, attractive since willow moss is an excellent addition to the pond ecosystem.


However, it is not a good option in case you are looking for some ornamental plant. It is because willow moss does not appear on the water’s surface and remains submerged. In clear water, though, one can see the leaves and stems through the water.

Fun Facts About Willow Moss

There are some interesting facts about willow moss that one needs to know to completely get familiar with this epiphyte.

Willow moss can show amazing performance even in harsh conditions such as less water, partial contact with the sunlight or beam from the bulb, and basic pH.

Another worth-the-mention point regarding willow moss is that it can thrive well in any kind of freshwater, be it the moving water waves or somewhat calm and standing water.

Willow Moss Vs. Java Moss

A majority of people confuse java moss with willow moss due to a striking similarity between the appearances of the two. However, the leaves of willow moss are a bit larger than that of java moss and they are greener as well.

In addition, the whole willow moss plant is larger than the other one with more branch and stem width as compared to java moss, which appears thinner.

Willow Moss – Best Guide

Final Thoughts

Willow moss is an excellent choice for different vivariums and adds vibrant eye-catching color to them along with other organisms. With proper care and methods of cultivation, you will be able to enjoy its look for a long period. Here’s hoping that you have found this guide regarding its characteristics and maintenance benefits.

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.