Water Sprite is one of the easiest stem plants to grow in an aquarium. Whether grown traditionally as a rooted plant, or as a floating specimen, Water Sprite will quickly grow and fill your aquarium with lush green, fern-like foliage.
Water Sprite can be grown either as a background, mid-ground, or foreground plant, and just trimmed accordingly to be kept at the desired size.
Overview of Water Sprite
Water Sprite is an extremely hardy species of aquatic plant that has been grown in the aquarium hobby for many, many years. The bright green, fern-like foliage of Water Sprite fills any area in the aquarium with a block of color.
Water Sprite is often confused with Water Wisteria, which is a separate, but similar-looking plant. Both plants offer similar colors, leaf shapes, and growing habits.
Fish breeders in particular rave about Water Sprite. The way the fine foliage fills the spaces in the aquarium provides an almost unlimited number of hiding places and line of sight blocks, helping increase the number of baby fish that survive being predated by other fish in the tank.
The dark green colors of the Water Sprites stems contrast beautifully against the lighter color of the foliage, and the plant often grows into a pleasing bundle of stems, leaves, and roots.
Water Sprite Characteristics
|Common Name:||Water Sprite, Water Fern, and Indian Fern|
|Scientific Name:||Ceratopteris thalictroides|
|Origins:||Many tropical regions|
|Tank Location:||Midground or background|
|Temperature:||68°F – 82°F (20°C – 27.5°C)|
|Maximum Height:||12″ (30cm)|
|Minimum Tank Size:||10-gallons (38 liters)|
Water Sprite General Description
Water Sprite is a fast-growing plant that reaches up to around 12″ (30cm) in the aquarium. It boasts bright green fern-like leaves that create the most fantastic shapes and contrasts in the water. The dark green stems of Water Sprite grow tall, but not necessarily straight, and the foliage reaches out in all directions.
This plant is loved by aquascapers and fish breeders alike, and it has been on the top sellers’ list for many years.
Water Sprite is an undemanding plant that grows almost no matter what the light, substrate, CO2 levels or fertilizer regime. In my own fish room, I had some Water Sprite floating in a bucket in the corner of the room for 2 months, and I swear it double in size over that period.
Water Sprite is not too bothered about water temperature, pH, or whether or not the water is soft or hard. It essentially grows well in any and every situation.
Ideal Tank Conditions for Water Sprite
As mentioned above, Water Sprite is not a fussy plant. It will basically grow where ever you put it. There is however one element that does bother Water Sprite, and that is flow. Water Sprite does not like growing in areas where water flow is high. In fact, in my experience, if the flow is too high although the plant won’t die, it will certainly fail to thrive.
In an ideal world, Water Sprite wants its water to be around 68°F to 82°F (20°C to 27.5°C) although I have grown it in a tank filled with baby Fancy Goldfish, and the water temperature was around 64°F. It still grew well.
Water Sprite will grow no matter what aquarium light you provide for it. Most of my tanks with Water Sprite growing in them run the Aquasky light which is made by Fluval, but I also have it in tanks with regular low-energy CFL bulbs.
When it comes to the substrate, again Water Sprite is not fussy at all. I have grown it in sand, gravel, Stratum, and even crushed lava rock. As mentioned above, Water sprite can also be grown as a floating planting, clearly meaning the plant has no substrate at all to sink its roots into.
Water Sprite Maintenance
Given the speed with which Water Sprite grows, it can sometimes require a lot of maintenance in the form of trimming. Left untrimmed, Water Sprite will quickly become a mass of stems, leaves, and roots. This plant can grow at a rate of up to 1″ (2.5cm) a week in ideal conditions.
Fortunately, trimming Water Sprite could not be easier. Simply take a sharp pair of scissors and cut the stem, ideally just above a leaf. Whatever height you want the Water Sprite to be, just cut it at that point.
After trimming, Water Sprite will usually throw two stems up from the point it was cut at. This is ideal when growing it as a dense bush. Any pieces that are trimmed off the main plant can be carefully pushed into the gravel where they will usually set down new roots and become a new plant.
Fertilizing Water Sprite
Although I have described Water Sprite as hardy and fast-growing, to get the best out of your Water Sprite you definitely want to add aquarium fertilizer to your tank.
Water Sprite takes the majority of the nutrients it consumes in through its leaves and stems. As such, using liquid fertilizer is best. I have had really good success using Easy Green which was developed by Cory at Aquarium Co-op. Easy Green has been designed to make fertilizing aquariums simple.
Depending on the size of your tank, a couple of squirts of Easy Green once a week will make a real difference to how well Water Sprite looks and grows in your tank.
Propagating Water Sprite
When it comes to propagating Water Sprite, I am not sure it could be any easier. It is the fact Water Sprite is so easy to propagate that I think it makes one of the best plants fish keepers can grow and then sell for a profit.
Cut the stem of the Water Sprite, ideally just above a leaf.
Gently push the new stem into the substrate, taking care not to damage it as you push it in.
Leave it alone and it will grow. It really is that simple.
Making sure your new Water Sprite cuttings have a fairly decent light and adding fertilizer each week will speed up the rooting and growing process, but essentially, Water Sprite is a plant that wants to grow.
Growing Water Sprite as a Floating Plant
As I mention above, Water Sprite can be grown either as a rooted plant or a floating plant. I breed a lot of livebearers like Mollies and Guppies, and placing a floating bunch of Water Sprite in each of their breeding tanks makes a real difference to the number of babies that survive.
It is probably fair to say 2 or 3 times as many Guppy babies survive when I have floating Water Sprite compared to when I don’t.
I will be honest, when Water Sprite is grown as a floating plant, it does become a bit of a tangled mess. There will be a mass of stems, leaves, and roots (which will grow out of just about every inch of a floating stem). I would never suggest using Water Sprite as a floating plant in a carefully aquascaped tank, but in a breeding tank, it is ideal.
To Grow Water Sprite as a floating plant, just drop one or more stems into the aquarium or indoor pond, and leave it alone. It will quickly start to multiply in size.
What Other Plants Can Be Grown With Water Sprite
Because of Water Sprites’ boisterous, fast-growing nature, you wouldn’t want to grow it with any plants that could be easily shaded out. It is not one to grow alongside a carpeting plant like Monte Carlo or Dwarf Baby Tears.
There are however many other plants that grow really well alongside Water Sprite. I have always found the leaf shape of Amazon Swords contrasting beautifully against the lace-like leaves of Water Sprite.
Another plant I have found looks stunning when close to Water Sprite is Java Fern. Java Fern does not grow directly in the substrate, but rather should be attached to rocks or wood where it will anchor itself over time. The long, dark green, slightly crinkled leaves of the Java Fern look superb against the bright green Water Sprite.
Essentially, choosing any plant with a contrasting leaf shape to the lace-like Water Sprite will create a winning combination.
What Fish Can Live with Water Sprite?
Water Sprite works really well in any community aquarium. I have found it works well in tanks with Tetras, Barbs, Rasboras, and Gouramis. Below I have listed some of the fish I currently keep in my fish room with Water Sprite;
I would avoid any fish that might eat the Water Sprite as it really does not like to be nibbled. Common Goldfish and Fancy Goldfish will quickly eat Water Sprite, as will many of the South American Cichlids. African Cichlids should also be avoided.
Benefits of Growing Water Sprite
As aquarium plants grow, they absorb nutrients. Often in our aquariums, those nutrients are in the form of ammonia and nitrates from fish waste. Water Sprite grows fast, and as a result, has a high demand for nutrients. Growing Water Sprite can help reduce Ammonia and Nitrate levels in our aquariums, making the water safer and cleaner for the fish.
The bushy nature of Water Sprite also means that as it grows it creates lots of places for baby fish to hide from hungry adults. In fact, it also provides a line of sight block for females wanting to get away from amorous males and allows fish that are being bullied to get away from the bully fish.
There are very few downsides to growing Water Sprite in a community aquarium.
Where to Buy Water Sprite?
Water Sprite is one of those plants that are available in almost every local fish store that has at least a basic selection of plants. In fact, I am not sure I have ever been into a local fish store where they didn’t sell Water Sprite.
If you don’t have a local fish store, I would recommend you try WetPlants.com. They have an excellent selection of plants and I have always found their customers service to be first class. Alternatively, you can check out the price of Water Sprite on Amazon.com.
Water Sprite is a hardy, versatile, and fast-growing plant that has many uses in the aquarium. Whether you want to use it to fill a space at the back of your tank, provide cover for your baby fish, or as a way to reduce nitrate levels in your aquarium, Water Sprite is probably the plant to fit the bill.
If you are new to growing aquarium plants, give Water Sprite a go. You will undoubtedly do well with it, and it might even be a gateway to aquascaping your aquariums.