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Water Sprite Plant Care Guide For Aquariums

Water Sprite Plant Care Guide For Aquariums

Water sprite is a gorgeous leafy aquatic plant that’s appreciated for its dense foliage. If you’re a beginner aquarist who wants to get into plants, this is a good one. So, what kind of maintenance should you expect?

Water sprite is an easy-to-maintain aquarium plant that grows quickly. It likes warmer waters and a relatively neutral pH level. Water sprite also likes plenty of light, as its dense leaves are used for photosynthesis. It can grow in a tank of almost any size, and it’s perfect for breeding fish.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about water sprite and how to care for it in your aquarium to ensure your plant stays healthy for many years to come.

What Is Water Sprite?

Water sprite, scientifically known as Ceratopteris thalictroides, is a fast-growing aquatic plant species perfect for freshwater aquariums. It’s also referred to as Indian fern, water hornfern, and oriental water fern. It’s native to tropical regions around the world and is occasionally even eaten.

Thanks to its abundance and ability to thrive in any warm environment, it makes for a perfect beginner plant. It’s fast-growing and capable of absorbing a ton of nutrients in your aquarium.

Water sprite is native to tropical parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. 

It’s a very popular plant among aquarists and is often used to promote fish breeding. This is because it provides hiding places for fish that like to spawn in covered areas.

Water sprite also has numerous benefits for your aquarium, promoting water quality and habitat for microorganisms that newly hatched fry like to feed on.

Water Sprite Appearance

Water sprite leaves look spongy, but they’re not particularly thick. The plant’s color is a lush, vibrant green — the more nutrients it can absorb, the greener it becomes.

The leaves are divided into smaller leaflets, which have further subsegments, giving the plant its airy look. 

Depending on your particular water sprite, the leaves can range from round and oval to long and spikey.

Water Sprite Size & Growth

The plant tends to be bushy, but it can also grow quite tall. Its height ranges from just 2 inches (5 cm) to well over 20 inches (50 cm).

The plant tends to look bushy because it grows incredibly quickly. Moreover, the new leaves sometimes outcompete the adult leaves for nutrients, causing them to die off. This results in a compact, dense look.

Water sprite can potentially spread out throughout your aquarium, covering the whole area as it grows.

So, it’s important to regularly trim the plant to keep it tamed. But if you don’t mind it taking over half your aquarium, let it keep growing!

Tank Setup

Water sprite can survive in a wide range of conditions and environments. But there are some things factors that you should know about to ensure your plant thrives.

Tank Placement

This plant can do well planted in a substrate or as a floating plant. Depending on how often you prune it and what you’re trying to achieve, it can be a large, dense midground or background plant, or a smaller foreground plant.

Unsurprisingly, you can also float the Indian fern. If you opt to float it, be ready to deal with the dense and lengthy roots that will sprout out to ensure the plant gets all the nutrients it needs.

Tank Size

Water sprite can grow in a tank of any size. Like most plants, they like a little bit of extra room and will grow as large as you let them.

The optimal tank should be at least 10 gallons (38 l) large to ensure your water sprite has enough space to reach its maximum potential. 

Water Temperature

Water sprite can survive in temperatures ranging from as low as 64 °F (18 °C), but it flourishes in 72 °F to 82 °F (22 °C to 28 °C). The maximum temperature it can handle is around 95 °F (35 °C).

As you might have guessed, it’s a tropical plant that loves warm bodies of water. So, make sure to keep your tank within its optimal range to support its growth and health.

Water Flow

Water sprite likes a little bit of water flow, especially if you’re floating it. 

However, it doesn’t like strong currents as they can damage its delicate leaves.

Try to position your water sprite in a spot in your tank that gets moderate water flow to ensure it keeps getting all the nutrients it needs.


Water sprite isn’t too sensitive to the pH level in your tank. However, its optimal range is anywhere between 6.5 to 7 pH. It likes slightly acidic to neutral conditions. So, if your main goal is to grow the plant quickly, aim for something within the range.


Water sprite doesn’t need a CO2 injection to thrive.

But, like with most plants, it can benefit from a bit of CO2 combined with plenty of light to help it with photosynthesis.


Ensuring your water sprite receives plenty of light should be a top priority. It enjoys full-spectrum LED aquarium lights and will grow pretty well with them set in place.

It can still grow in low-light environments, but the process will be much slower.


Water sprite prefers nutrient-rich substrates like aquarium soil or equivalent. A substrate ensures that your plant will receive all the nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy in a vast range of environments.


Like most aquatic plants, water sprite needs regular maintenance to keep looking its healthiest. 

Remove any yellow or dying leaves using a clean pair of scissors and keep the leaves debris-free. Just be gentle, as the leaves are pretty delicate.

Water Sprite Benefits

Water sprite is an excellent plant for fish breeders because it gives them lots of shelter thanks to its dense foliage. The leaves protect eggs and fry, which increases their breeding and survival rates. It’s the perfect plant for breeding fish and shrimp. Check out this video for a more detailed explanation as to why:

Aside from that, water sprite is a pretty plant to look at. It adds a vibrant green to your aquarium, creating a more relaxing atmosphere.

Being an aquatic plant, it’s great at providing oxygen and filtering water. Water sprite is nutrient-hungry, so it’ll soak up any excess nutrients like nitrates, phosphates, and ammonia. It’s a win-win situation for both your fish and your water sprite.

It’s also believed that these combined effects of water sprite lead to a reduction in fish’s stress levels.

Water Sprite Care

Make sure to keep the water temperature in its optimal range, which is 72 °F to 82 °F (22 °C to 28 °C), and keep the pH somewhat neutral, between 6.5 to 7 pH.

Water sprite needs regular pruning, as it grows quite fast. Be sure to remove dead and dying leaves every couple of weeks to keep it looking its best.

Adding CO2 often isn’t necessary, but if you find that your water sprite isn’t growing as fast as it should, you can add some CO2.

Ensure the plant gets plenty f light using a 3-5 W full-spectrum LED light.

You should also use a liquid fertilizer or root tabs, as water sprite is nutrient-hungry. On that topic, you should change the water regularly to make sure it gets fresh minerals.

How To Plant Water Sprite 

Water sprite produces lots of adventitious plantlets from the main plant. This makes it a perfect candidate for propagation.

Regardless of how many water sprite you have, the general steps are the same.

First, prepare the plant for planting. Separate the individual stems. Be slow and gentle so as not to damage the roots and leaves.

Here’s how to plant it in substrate:

  1. Get nutrient-rich substrate or root tabs.
  2. Create a small hole in the substrate using your index finger.
  3. Place the root into the hole.
  4. Cover the root with substrate and gently press down to secure it in place.

If you opt to float the plant, just place it down in the water. It’ll quickly develop dense roots that will allow it to absorb nutrients and also provide shade for your fish.

Do Water Sprite Need Root Tabs?

Water sprite needs root tabs if you’re not using a nutrient-rich substrate. 

You can tell that your water sprite needs root tabs when the leaves aren’t a vibrant green or, worse, start turning yellow.

If you’re using nutrient-rich substrate and your plant is otherwise healthy, you don’t need to use root tabs.

Should Water Sprite Be Floated or Planted?

Water sprite thrives both when planted and floated. If you want to create some shade for your tank inhabitants, you should float it. The roots will create thick foliage, much like the leaves, so they’ll still allow plants to breed.

However, planting water sprite is still a better choice if you want to breed as many fish as possible. The foliage protects eggs, making it an essential part of the process.


Pruning water sprite is easy. The plant loves to grow quickly, so you’ll have to prune it once or twice a month at least. Here’s how:

  1. Check the plant for decaying leaves or damaged portions.
  2. Get your sharpest scissors and disinfect them.
  3. Trim the decaying parts, making sure you get as close to the base stem as possible.
  4. If your plant is growing too quickly, prune the stems to your desired length.

Propagation & Care

Water sprite readily propagates, thanks to its abundant plantlets. It’s one of the best plants to learn how to propagate, so don’t worry if you’re a beginner. You’re unlikely to kill your water sprite.

Here’s how to propagate it:

  1. Identify the plantlets. They look like smaller versions of the main plant.
  2. Use a sharp pair of clean scissors to remove the plantlet.
  3. If you’re floating the plantlet, simply let it float on the surface of your aquarium. If you’re planting it, create a small hole in the substrate and place the plantlet in it.

How To Clean Water Sprite 

Water sprite needs regular cleaning to ensure it stays looking healthy and more aesthetically pleasing.

To clean your water sprite, you can use a clean pair of tweezers or your fingers to remove any large bits of debris and algae.

You should also change your tank water regularly and filter it properly to make sure the water stays clear.

Common Issues & Prevention

The main issue with water sprite is that it absorbs a lot of nutrients. This is problematic if you have other plants in the aquarium fighting for nutrients.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, use plenty of root tabs and change the substrate regularly.

Another issue is that it grows very quickly and can overcrowd the aquarium. The easiest way to prevent this is to simply prune the plant regularly to keep its size in check.

Water Sprite Tank Mates

Water sprite provides dense foliage and shelter to fish, so it’s a perfect choice if you have community fish like rasboras, livebearers, barbs, dwarf cichlids, and others. 

It’s also great with shrimp and snails

Since the plant grows quickly, it won’t be a problem if its tank mates nibble on it a bit. Just be sure to check whether they’ve uprooted the plant regularly.

Is Water Sprite The Right Plant For Your Tank?

Water sprite grows like crazy, so it is perfect for beginners. It’s very forgiving and can jump back easily if it starts to die.

Likewise, if you want to breed fish, growing a large and healthy water sprite should be your top priority, as it provides plenty of shelter for young fry.

What To Look for When Buying Water Sprite 

Make sure that the water sprite is a lush green color and doesn’t have any yellow or brown bits. Inspect the main stalk to see if there’s any damage. 

Check if there are any pests or signs of diseases on the leaves. If possible, buy water sprite in person.

Water Sprite FAQs

Is Water Sprite Easy To Grow?

Water sprite is extremely easy to grow, as it can thrive in most environments with sufficient nutrients and light. It’s tolerant to a variety of parameters in water and can coexist with most species.

Can Water Sprite Grow in Hard Water?

Water sprite can grow in hard water. Although it prefers moderately hard or even soft water, it can tolerate hard water. It loves minerals from hard water, so it may even benefit the plant.

What Is Water Sprite Good For?

Water sprite is great for breeding fish, as its thick leaves provide a place for the fish to spawn. It’s also good for reducing stress in fish, and it’s easy to propagate.

Wrapping Up

Water sprite is an excellent first plant for any aquarist, thanks to its growth potential. Moreover, it can live in tough water conditions. 

Whether you choose to plant them in the substrate or let them float freely, these versatile plants can thrive in various positions within your tank. 

Regular pruning and maintenance, such as removing dead or decaying leaves, will help keep them healthy and aesthetically pleasing. With a little attention and care, these plants can add a refreshing touch to your aquarium, creating a lush and vibrant aquatic environment.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...