Peacock Fern (selaginella willdenowii) is a species of spikemoss also known as Willdenow’s spikemoss due to its iridescent blue leaves. Although referred to as a fern, it is not really a fern but rather a moss. Although this plant is not a true aquatic plant, it can be submerged in water for a period of time but it may eventually die. However, some people have reported it doing very well for over 6 months fully submerged in an aquarium. Recommended for terrarium tanks where it can be kept moist and away from direct sunlight.
The blue iridescence (why its called Peacock) is produced by thin-film interference produced by a thin layer of cells with lamellar structure in the upper cuticle of leaves. It is suggested that this adaptation reduces the effect of strong sun beams filtering through the canopy that would otherwise damage shade-adapted species. The plant appears brilliant blue from a certain angle but when light is reflected from another vantage point, it appears to change to purple then as the light changes it can almost appear brown. Then when there is little light or none at all, the plant is a dark green.
Use the following are steps to help you grow a healthy peacock fern in your freshwater aquarium, the back garden or wherever an individual deems fit:
- Identify a spot in the tank that has some shade most of the day. In this case, there should be other taller plants with very wide canopy that will keep the fern sheltered and not get direct lighting.
- As an aquarium plant, the tank should not be placed next to a window sill; instead place the tank in the house where there is no direct sunlight.
- Ensure the substrate is fine and free from stones or any other substances that may inhibit its growth (plastic or metals).
Add fertilizer into the substrate. One teaspoonful is just enough. Pour some more substrate onto the fertilizer so that the young plant is not placed directly onto the fertilizer.
- Gently place the young peacock fern into a space that is dug out inside the tank.
- Cover the roots and stem with fine substrate and press just a little bit to help it obtain stability.
- To help the plant maintain a healthy outlook, it is important to add top-dressing fertilizer once every two weeks. While doing this, ensure the fertilizer does not come into contact with the plant stem.
Place of origin: America
Maximum height: 12 – 20 cm It grows wide instead of high, spreading along the substrate, barely getting beyond 20cm high.
Growth rate: Medium
Lighting: Needs a little bit of shade but may sometimes be exposed to aquarium LED light to help it grow healthy.
Position range: Foreground to Background
Substrate: Fine grained sand
Propagation: Rhizome Division
Temperature range: 20 – 28°C