If you’ve ever considered growing plants in your freshwater aquarium, you have likely found yourself overwhelmed by the task. There are so many plants to choose from – how can you possibly be expected to make a decision?
Add to that worries about how to care for plants or how to make them stand out best in your aquarium, and you’re left with quite a daunting endeavor. However, we’re here to make things easier for you by telling you the easiest freshwater plant you can grow.
Ready to learn more? Continue reading to find out why the water sprite plant is the one you need to cultivate in your freshwater tank.
Benefits Of The Water Sprite Plant
This common freshwater plant is a popular choice for so many reasons. Not only does it have bright, vibrantly colored blades that make it stand out no matter where it is planted in your tank, but it’s also easy to care for.
This plant can be cultivated as a floating or planted species, making it adaptable for any kind of freshwater community. It can provide shade for your fish or give them a place to hide when they are feeling threatened. It can even serve as a location for your fish to lay their eggs!
If you already have freshwater plants growing in your aquarium, not to worry – these plants are easily adaptable with other species of plants. For example, growing the water sprite plant with the anacharis plant is easy, as the roots of the water sprite will wrap around the anacharis to create a gorgeous aesthetic – and to produce a myriad of benefits to both.
Hailing from the family Pteridaceae, these plants are bright green in color. They will make your tank look both healthy and lush, adding a unique appearance to your freshwater tank. They have a very short germination period, making them easy to grow in most cases.
Adding a water sprite plant can also help in that it gives your tank some shade. If you have shy fish or those that like to be kept in partial darkness, this plant is the one to choose. It can also help keep algae at bay and to prevent the buildup of harmful toxins in the water.
Less cleaning and a more gorgeous fish tank? What’s not to love?
What Does The Water Sprite Plant Look Like?
This plant is one of the greenest you will find. While the stem tends to be a bit darker in color than he leaves, it is nevertheless a verdant species that will go well with the other plants you might already have growing in your tank.
This plant produces a central stem that produces leaves branching out in a pattern like fingers. It can easily become a massive tangle of roots, leaves, and stems if you cultivate it as a floating plant, growing to just over a foot in length.
The water sprite plant is closely related to a terrestrial fern. As a result, the leaves look a lot like those that you might find on a fern. The leaves fan out from the stem, creating interesting whorls and patterns as they overlap and the plant grows larger.
This plant can easily grow outside the limits of the tank – it will not be dwarfed by the size of the tank you have! Instead, the leaves of this plant will extend on outward, producing long roots that will be used to root into the ground or to float freely.
What Should I Look For When Buying A Water Sprite Plant?
When you are purchasing your plant, you should be aware of several signs of overall health in a plant. It should have a long, sturdy system of roots. This indicates health and will make it easier to transplant your water sprite plant.
In addition, the water sprite plant should have green leaves and stems. A plant that is any color besides this is likely not healthy, particularly if it is yellow or brown. A plant that is brown or yellow has usually been exposed to importer tank conditions, or it is dying. This especially true if the discoloration is in the leaves as opposed to the stem.
This plant is sold by many names, including Indian Fern and Water Fern. Therefore, you will want to know exactly what to look (and ask) for when you head to the fish store. Only buy plants that are green and can support their own weight when standing upright. A nice green color is a good indicator of whether the plant is healthy.
If the leaves have changed color or are filled with holes, cuts, tears, or growths, you should avoid buying the plant. If, on the other hand, the stems are somewhat darker in color, the plant is probably okay to buy. The plant should also have lots of long, sturdy roots.
You can usually find a water sprite plant at most fish stores. You can also order one online. These plants range in price, costing anywhere between a few dollars and ten dollars at the most. The difference in price is usually related to the health and age of the plant, with established plants costing you more money at the store.
Caring For A Water Sprite Plant
Caring for a water sprite plant is extremely easy, which is why so many people choose to adopt one in their freshwater tanks. These plants are found naturally in swamps and wetlands, making them opportunistic species that will take root wherever they can. They are fast growing, so are typically found in waters that are somewhat deep.
These waters will have minimal movement, instead staying almost stagnant. This low water movement makes the leaves of the water sprite plant stand out nicely against the water. They are typically found in areas with lots of light.
When you are setting up your tank in preparation for growing a water sprite plant, try to keep the plants away from the direct water flow. You don’t need to stop all aeration and flow in your tank entirely, but you do want to make sure your plants aren’t exposed to a heavy current. This can damage the leaves of your delicate water sprite plant.
Otherwise, these fish are relatively hardy. They can tolerate most water conditions just fine, as long as they are healthy and established. You can keep them in tanks with temperatures ranging from 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, as well as both medium to high amounts of light. They prefer low water movement, as mentioned.
As with all other plant and fish species you may be keeping in your freshwater tank, water sprite plants benefit from regular tank cleanings. This will help provide your fish with the nutrients they need without overwhelming them with the buildup of harmful chemicals in the water.
When you clean your tank each week, be sure to check your plant and inspect it thoroughly for any damages. You should make sure the leaves are a healthy shade of green and that they did not sustain any damage, either on their own or as a result of hungry, nibbling fish. Check your roots, too, as you want to make sure these are healthy and plentiful.
The main thing you will need to pay attention to in caring for your plant is in its size. This plant can rapidly outgrow the space in which you have planted it. You may need to trim some outer stems from time to time. When you do this, make sure you do not cut or damage the main stem, as this can injure the plant and cause it to die. Instead, cut any stems that aren’t the ones protruding directly out of the roots
When you cut stems, remove them from the tank. You can place them in a new tank if you’d like, but keep in mind that cut stems will begin to form new roots and will grow into a new plant.
Water sprite plants grow rapidly, and so you may find that you need to supplement with additional nutrients to match. Water sprite plants are known for causing nutritional deficits in the tanks in which they are planted because they consume so much phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. You can add powdered or liquid supplements to help your plants thrive – without harming your other plants – but make sure these supplements are safe for the fish that you have in your tank, too.
How To Grow Water Sprites
When you first introduce your water sprite plant to the tank, you will be faced with a decision. Do you want to plant or float your water sprite plant? While each of these methods has its own advantages, you need to think about the environment of your tank as well as the fish you have living in it.
While floating plants add a ton of color at the top of your tank, they also tend to develop large leaves. This means you will need to cut and prune them more often. Growing a water sprite plant as a floating plant can therefore be beneficial if you are hoping to provide a feeding and hiding spot for small creatures like shrimp.
Floating plants can also be beneficial in that they create shade. Many other aquatic plants require shade to thrive, as do some fish. If you’ve noticed that you struggle with algal buildup in the tank – or perhaps if you have an active algae bloom – you might want to consider growing water sprite as a floating plant.
That being said, many people also choose to plant water sprites. This allows you to decide exactly where you want the plant to go, a benefit if you already have a lot of other plants growing in your tank. When you select a location for your plant, make sure you give it plenty of room to grow without becoming overcrowded or overcrowding your other plants.
Again, think about your specific goals when you are trying to decide whether to plant or float your water sprite. This will vary depending on your exact needs and tank set up.
If you decide to plant your water sprite, begin with three inches of sand or gravel substrate. Dig a small trench and place your plant’s roots inside of the hole. Cover them completely and pack some substrate around the base of the stem – you want very little of the stem showing.
While sand or gravel substrates work best for this plant, you can get away with using other kinds of substrate, too. However, you will want to make sure whatever substrate you choose nutrient-rich and healthy.
Consider planting your water sprite plant toward the back of your tank. It provides an excellent middle- or rear- backdrop. However, you want to avoid planting it in direct water flow to prevent damage to the leaves.
Propagating Water Sprite Plants
If you’re interested in propagating a water sprite plant, take comfort in knowing that this is something that can easily be done at home. They reproduce rapidly when exposed to the proper conditions.
Water sprite plants reproduce through what is known as adventitious shoots. They will form small pieces of the plant that will break off and plant themselves in the substrate or water column. You don’t actually have to do anything to help them along, either!
This is great if you want to fill your tank quickly with these plants. However, if you don’t want your plant to reproduce because your tank is becoming overcrowded, you can prevent this by simply removing the platelets.
Water sprite can also reproduce is a portion of the stem is cut off and has enough leaves. This can cause it to grow its own roots and become its own plant. You can encourage this by making sure the cuttings are several inches apart and have lots of leaves.
If you’re interested in propagating your water sprite plant, just remember how much space you actually have. Because these plants grow so quickly, they can easily overtake your tank. Remember that your plant only has a limited amount of resources, including nutrients and carbon dioxide, so a small tank will become overcrowded quite quickly.
Best Fish For Water Sprite Plants
The water sprite plant can thrive in most community tanks. Just about any kind of fish, invertebrate, or other plant will thrive when cultivated or raised with a water sprite plant. However, the fish that will do best with this plant are those that appreciate the shade that it provides.
Shy, peaceful fish like cherry barbs will do best when housed with a water sprite plant. You can also house community fish like platies, mollies, killifish, guppies, tetras, and most catfish with this plant. You can even house shrimp with a water sprite plant, as the plant produces fine leaves to hide food particles for the shrimp to eat.
You will want to avoid keeping this plant with hungry fish like goldfish or cichlids. Both of these species are known to eat the leaves of the water sprite plant, so you’ll have very little plant left when they are finished. The same rule applies to snails. That being said, this plant can be grown easily with other plants like hornwort, anacharis, or java fern.