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Home > Fish > Water Sprite Aquarium Plant: Care & Growing Guide

Water Sprite Aquarium Plant: Care & Growing Guide

Water sprite in the aquarium

Water Sprite is a widespread aquatic plant found on nearly every continent globally. It prefers warmer places, hence its use in tropical fish tanks. Interestingly, it’s typically found in less-than-ideal conditions, which makes sense given its segue into aquariums. It’s a forgiving plant—Water Sprite can grow quickly if you provide the optimal environment.

Water Sprite is a freshwater species and one of least concern, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). It prefers the partially shaded swamps, marshes, and rice paddies of its native habitat. As you may expect, habitat affects its growth rate and tolerance. Nevertheless, it’s an attractive plant that can provide welcome cover to fish that need a place to hide.


Useful Information About Water Sprite

Family Name:  Pteridaceae
Common Name:  Water Sprite, Water Hornfern, Indian fern
Origin: Australia, Asia, Central America, South America, Africa, and introduced in Hawaii and Romania1
Color:  Pale green to deep green
Size:  Up to 13 inches
Growth Rate:  Medium
Care Level:  Easy
Lighting:  Moderate
Water Conditions:  pH 6.0 – 7.5, GH 30 – 60 ppm, KH 40 – 80 ppm
Placement:   Floating or in the substrate
Propagation:  Adventitious plantlets and rhizomes

Water Sprite Appearance

You’ll find Water Sprite used primarily as a background plant because of its height and density. It’ll provide an attractive backdrop of dense, green vegetation. That’s fitting, given its preference for moderate-light conditions. Its foliage is delicate, which adds to its beauty in slow to moderately-moving currents.

Water Sprite quickly fills in a space, creating a bushy appearance if it has what it needs. Luckily, it is a hardy plant. You can also use it as a floating plant to provide cover or put it in the substrate to anchor it. It has fleshy stalks and dainty leaves that allow light to filter through it readily, creating interesting shadows in your tank.

Water Sprite is a fern and, thus, will not produce blooms. However, that doesn’t detract from its appearance at all. You will find the stems are a darker green than the leaves. This is not unexpected, given the thickness of the stems. The stalks and leaves will also interweave as they grow, creating a denser mat. Its growth pattern is upward, making it a good choice for tall tanks.

Where to Find It

Water Sprite grows in wetlands of all types in the wild. It also lives in ponds and lakes in its native lands. The plant is something of an opportunist, too. It will take advantage of other water sources, such as flooded croplands. It’s a popular species, so you won’t have any trouble finding it at your local aquarium shop.


General Care

If plants had personalities, we’d describe Water Sprite as an easy-going species. You can put it wherever you want some cover or color, whether floating or placed in the middle or back of your aquarium. It’ll handle being placed anywhere like a champ. We’d recommend not putting it near any intakes or directly underneath the flow of a power filter because of its delicate foliage.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Water Sprite does best in temperatures between 68–82℉, the range for most tropical fish. The other necessary water parameters are also in the middle of the road, with pH ranging between 6.0 and 7.5. We alluded to its size already. That means you should stick to tanks of at least 10 gallons or more. A thriving plant will quickly overwhelm anything smaller.

The conditions in which Water Sprite lives in the wild tend to stay reasonably stable. We’d suggest providing a similar environment in your tank. However, you’re likely doing that already since your fish would undoubtedly prefer the same thing.

Water Sprite does best with moderate light to support its growth and perhaps compensate for the shading that floating plants provide. Your plants will also benefit from adding fertilizer to the water once a month to encourage lush foliage and healthy roots.

Yellowing or browning leaves are often a red flag for a nutrient deficiency, particularly iron. You can add a micronutrient solution to your tank. If you notice these symptoms. Plants usually respond well if you catch it early. It’s most likely to occur in acidic water conditions.

Planting Tips

The roots of Water Sprite are delicate. You should handle the roots carefully if you plan to put the plant in the substrate. Make sure to cover them completely to avoid damage. While this species does well with tropical fish, it’s not a good choice with more destructive ones, such as goldfish or cichlids. The plant probably won’t survive the digging behaviors from either fish.


The 5 Benefits of Having Water Sprite in Your Aquariu

1. Cover for Fry and Smaller Fish

One of the best uses for live plants in a tank is to provide cover for the fish that need it. Water Sprite fulfills this role well with its density and the shading it creates. If you have live-bearing fish, such as mollies, they will find refuge in the foliage of Water Sprite.

2. Easy Care

Water Sprite is an excellent choice for beginners because it doesn’t demand much. The water conditions it needs aren’t out of line with what most tropical fish prefer. As long as they’re happy, your plants will grow and thrive, too.

3. Algae Inhibitor

Water Sprite is a relatively large aquatic plant. It has a moderate growth rate. However, it will also consume much of the nitrates in the water. That will leave little food for other unwanted plants, such as algae, to grow. It will also improve its quality in the long run by keeping this compound under control.

4. Versatile Plant

We’ve mentioned the various ways you can use Water Sprite. The versatility makes it a decent value for the price. It is one of the most popular plants for this reason. It’s also affordable because it propagates easily. You may find that buying one is enough to cover all your plant needs.

5. Hardy

We mentioned how easy it is to grow Water Sprite. It’s also a hardy plant that tolerates less-than-ideal conditions. That’s another benefit for those new to the hobby. It’s a species that will survive a beginner’s journey on their learning curve.


Concerns About Water Sprite

We’ve mentioned one concern about Water Sprite earlier, namely, its thick growth. You may find that you must trim it occasionally to keep it under control. You should only use aquarium scissors for this task. They’ll give you better control and allow you to sculpt the foliage for a more attractive growth pattern.

We also discussed how the foliage intertwines as it grows. That will create dense mats over time. We suggest monitoring this growth and trimming it as necessary. Bear in mind that it can affect future plans you may have for decorating your tank.


Final Thoughts

Water Sprite is an attractive addition to any tropical aquarium. It is easy to care for while providing benefits for you and your fish. It’ll create a beautiful background over time, giving your tank a natural look that replicates the habitat of the species living in it. The versatility of Water Sprite is another valid point in its favor. Whatever you need in an aquatic plant, you’ll find it with this one.

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Featured Image Credit: Cheng Wei, Shutterstock

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