How to Care for Your Water Sprite – A Complete Guide

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If you’ve just brought home a water sprite or are thinking of having one, you may be wondering how to care for it. With the proper knowledge and equipment, caring for your water sprite is simple! There are so many different types of aquarium plants available today that choosing the right one for your aquascape can be a bit daunting. Water Sprite is an great option for many aquarists both experienced and new to the hobby.

If you’re looking for a delicately textured floating, mid-or background plant, Water Sprite might be just the plant for you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about growing and caring for the Water Sprite.

A Brief Overview Of The Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

These fast-growing aquatic plants are adaptable to a wide range of water parameters and are so versatile that they can be grown in many different ways in your aquascape. Water Sprite is a great plant for freshwater aquascapes and is safe to grow with most fish and shrimps.

Scientific NameCeratopteris thalictroides
Common NamesWater Sprite, Indian Water Fern, Oriental Water Fern, Water Stag-horn Fern, Water Hornfern
FamilyPteridaceae
OriginTropical regions, including Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, India, East Africa, and Central America
Skill LevelEasy
LightingModerate 30-80 PAR (umols)
Tank PlacementMidground, Background, Floating
Flow RateLow
Temperature Range72-82°F
Height5.0 – 8.4
Growth RateFast
Feed TypeColumn and Root Feeder
Co2 RequirementNo

Origins And Habitat

The Water Sprite plant is a beautiful aquatic plant that can be found growing in and around freshwater bodies in tropical regions across the globe. Water Sprite plants occur in Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, India, East Africa, and Central America.

Ceratopteris thalictroides is an adaptable species that grows naturally in a wide range of different habitats. It can be found in fresh or stagnant, standing water, marsh habitats, or gently flowing streams and grow emersed or submersed in sunny or partially shaded positions.

What Does Water Sprite Look Like?

Water Sprite in Aquarium

Water Sprite is a beautiful green species for aquascapes that looks a lot in appearance like terrestrial ferns do. This fern takes different forms depending on how it is grown in the fish tank and what kind of lighting it gets. Ceratopteris thalictroides grow from a short rhizome and their foliage varies from vibrant light to deep dark green.

Plants that are allowed to float in the fish tank will take on a more spreading, flattened appearance. This floating plant also developed a large interesting white, hanging root system. 

Indian Fern plants that are grown rooted in the substrate have broad, pale leaves arranged in a rosette from a single stem. Interestingly, these plants have two different types of fine leaves. Both smaller sterile leaves and larger fertile leaves can be found on the same plant. 

In very shallow aquariums, rooted Water Sprite plants will happily grow up and out of the tank water if left to grow to their full size of about 15 inches tall.

Placement And Lighting

Water sprite is a really versatile and useful species that can be used in a number of different ways in the aquascape. In the planted aquarium, the fine leaves work well to soften and break up harsh lines.

Depending on the size of your aquarium, this plant could make a great midground or background plant. In smaller aquariums, these water ferns grow tall enough as rooted specimens to create a beautiful, finely textured backdrop to your aquascape. 

In larger aquariums, Water Sprite makes a great mid-ground plant that can be rooted or attached to a hardscape feature like rocks or driftwood. When grown this way with good light, Water Sprites can be very effective at hiding the base of taller stem plants in the background. 

Another popular option is to allow this plant to float at the water’s surface. Bear in mind of course that floating Water Sprite plants will shade out the plants rooted below it, so be sure to grow only low light species under your floating plant. 

Wherever you plant your Water Sprite, make sure it has access to at least moderate plant light to ensure vibrant color and a healthy growth rate. Rooted plants will need stronger light than floated plants because they are further from the light source.

What Are Good Water Sprite Tank Mates (Fish)?

Good Tank Mates

Neon tetra

The Water Sprite plant is great for community tanks and will work well with most fish and invertebrate species. Nano fish species, fry, and freshwater shrimp will appreciate the safety and shelter provided by the dense foliage of this plant.

Water Sprite works equally well in species-only aquariums, as long as the freshwater fish you keep isn’t herbivore or prone to digging through the substrate.

Floating Water Sprite plants can develop really cool root systems that trap food particles and detritus in the water column, making a great place for shrimps and small fish to forage.  

Fish Species To Avoid

Avoid keeping plant-eating freshwater fish like goldfish, Buenos Aires Tetras, and some cichlids with Water Sprite as they tend to feed on this plant.

Feeding Water Sprite (Fertilization)

Water Sprite grows fast and vigorously and does not require much feeding if rooted in a nutrient rich plant substrate. Water Sprite plants also take nutrients from the water column and are great at soaking up excess nutrients from fish food and waste. This property makes water sprite a really helpful plant for maintaining stable water parameters and preventing algae blooms.

How Much And How Often To Feed

Since Water Sprite does not necessarily need to be on a strict feeding schedule, the timing and amount of fertilizer you use will probably be more dependent on the needs of other species you might be keeping in your planted tank.

It is best to feed your plants regularly to maintain stable water parameters. Of course, it is difficult to know exactly what your plant’s nutrient requirements are without measuring so it is best to test regularly.

The best way to determine the right feeding schedule for your plants is with caution and through a process of trial and testing. Feed your plants daily or every second day and dial the amount of aquarium fertilizer in to where water parameters stay as stable as possible.

Water Sprite Care

Being a fast-growing plant, Water Sprite will need to be pruned from time to time. This is especially true under strong light and when they are taking a lot of nutrients from the water. Below is a quick video from Tropica that provides a handling and growth care video on the plant.

Use a sharp pair of aquascaping scissors to remove minor stems, rather than trimming individual leaves, because any damaged leaves or stems left attached to the plant could turn brown and rot. Be careful never to pull on a rooted Water Sprite plant or damage its primary stem as this could hurt the whole plant.

Planted Tank Parameters

Water Sprite grows well across a wide range of tank parameters. Water temperatures between 72°F and 84°F are ideal and this plant will do fine in both hard and soft water. KH values of 3-8 are ideal for this plant.

They also grow well in pretty much any pH value that you’re likely to find in an aquarium. That being said, it has been noted that water Sprite grows best in slightly acidic to neutral water.

Maintaining parameters

To maintain stable water parameters in your planted fish tank, be sure to set your lighting on a timer to provide a regular and consistent light schedule. Always stock your tank appropriately and be careful not to overfeed your fish and animals.

Use a heater to maintain a stable water temperature and a filter that provides effective mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. From time to time, you will need to rinse out your filtration media or replace the cartridges in your filter.

When rinsing out your filter media, be sure to use water that you have collected from your tank during a water change. By doing this you will avoid killing the beneficial bacteria that colonize your filter with the harsh chemicals found in most tap water.

Water Quality

Good water quality and tank conditions are the cornerstone of all thriving planted aquariums, and by far the most important piece of equipment for maintaining the water quality in your planted fish tank is your filter.

Filtration

As good as Water Sprite is at absorbing excess nutrients in the water, you’ll still want good filtration in your aquarium to maintain a healthy system. These plants have fine, delicate leaves that do break apart from time to time. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use a filter with a prefilter sponge on its intake to prevent plant material from being sucked in.

Flow

Water Sprite is not adapted to life in fast-flowing water. Use a slow to moderate water flow in your aquarium to maintain healthy plants. In aquariums with higher flow rates, position these plants away from the outflow of the filter, or grow them behind a hardscape feature that blocks out the current. 

Aquarium Maintenance

Testing Tank Conditions

Before introducing a new plant to your fish tank, be sure to test the conditions of the water. This way you will know if the parameters in your planted tank are suitable for the species you want to grow. You will need an aquarium test kit to do this at home. 

The most important water conditions for you to keep an eye on are the levels of Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, pH, general hardness, and carbonate hardness in the water. It’s a good idea to get into a routine of testing your tank water conditions every week before you perform a water change.

How To Set Up Your Aquarium Tank for Water Sprite

Water Sprite is a very versatile aquatic plant and will easily adapt to most setups. If you plan on growing this as a rooted plant, provide at least 2 inches of substrate to allow your plant to develop a strong root system.

Rooted Water Sprites do not have any particular substrate requirements and can be grown in sand or gravel. In the right conditions, Water Sprite has a pretty fast growth rate in the planted tank.

This reason, coupled with the species potential height of about 15 inches, means you should grow this species in tanks of at least 10 gallons. In smaller tanks, Water Sprite can quickly take over your aquascape.

How To Propagate Water Sprite

Water Sprite is a very easy plant to propagate. Healthy, mature plants will form miniature daughter plantlets on the edges of their leaves. In time, the little Water Sprite plantlet will break free and will grow as a floating plant or attach itself to the substrate in your aquarium. 

These little plantlets can be pulled from the leaves and planted in the gravel or sand once they have established their own root system. You can also attach these young plants to a hardscape feature like driftwood or rock using nylon or even super glue. The video above by gmluv illustrates the daughter leaves.

Another easy way to propagate new Water Sprite plants is to simply cut off a secondary stem from the mother plant that has healthy leaves on it. Allow this cutting to float freely in the tank and it will often develop its own healthy root system pretty quickly.

Health And Disease

Water Sprite tends to be a fast-growing, vigorous species that has few problems in the planted tank. There are always things that can go wrong, however, especially in smaller freshwater tanks. The successful aquarist is always alert to possible problems by keeping a close lookout for changes in their plants.

Signs Of Health in Water Sprite 

Healthy Water Sprite plants will have vibrant green foliage and stems and a well-developed root system. Plants grown in pots should be able to grow and support themselves without bending over under their own weight.

Signs Of Ill Health

Different mineral deficiencies affect how these plants grow and often show up as characteristic discoloration and damage to the leaves of the Water Sprite. Look out for yellowing or browning of the usually green leaves. The appearance of rotting leaves and roots are also clues that signal poor health in this plant

Common Water Sprite Health Issues And Treatment

The most important needs for all aquarium plants are light, nutrients, and carbon dioxide. If you have too much, or not enough of any of these things, you could start to pick up problems with your plants. Fortunately, Water Sprite is a hardy plant that isn’t too picky about aquarium parameters. 

Nevertheless, there are a few important points to remember about caring for your plants. A common problem when growing these plants in the substrate is not providing enough light and planting the roots too deeply. The crown of the plant should always be above the level of the substrate. 

Another common problem with aquarium plants is an excess of nutrients like phosphates in the water. This can cause a build-up of algae in the tank and on your plants. To prevent this, make sure not to overfeed your fish and get into the habit of doing partial water changes on a weekly basis.

Plant Pests

Plant eating snails can really take their toll on this plant. If you do keep snails, be sure to keep them well-fed for your best chance at protecting your plant. Snails and other pests are often introduced to your aquarium accidentally on new plants. 

The best way to prevent this is to give new plants a good wash and a dip before introducing them to your aquascape. Start by removing any dead or unhealthy-looking leaves from the plant with a sharp pair of scissors. Inspect the plant for any snails and remove them. 

Dipping your Water Sprite plants briefly in a very mild solution of bleach (20 parts water to 1 part bleach) is a great way of killing off parasites and unwanted organisms before introducing them to your aquarium. Plants should be dipped for a period of not more than 2 minutes and then washed and rinsed thoroughly before planting out.

Where To Buy Water Sprite

These plants can often be found at local aquarium stores or bought from an online fish store. Personally, my recommendation is to purchase from Buceplant if purchasing online. They also still Tropica tissue grown aquarium plants, which is a great way to prevent introducing pests into your aquarium.

Water Sprite

Readily available and easy to grow. This fast growing plant will soak up nutrients and thrive in low light

Click For Best Price Buy On Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Water Sprite low light?

Water Sprite has moderate light requirements. Although Water Sprites will survive in low-light tanks, they tend to grow much better in medium light conditions. In low light, these plants tend to grow a bit tall and thin, unlike the dense, compact, and deep green plants you get under good light.

Where Can I get Water Sprite?

Water Sprite is a common aquarium plant that you can pick up at many pet stores. A great place to order your plants online is from BucePlant.com. 

Does the Water Sprite need Co2?

You can easily grow Water Sprites in low-tech setups but they will grow faster and look better if given good light and Co2. Plant growth is accelerated with Co2, but plant thrives without Co2 injection.

Is Water Sprite a good floating plant?

Yes, Water Sprite is a great floating plant that develops an interesting root system. These plants will do better if allowed to float in lower light setups. 

Closing Thoughts

Have you ever considered adding water sprite into your aquarium? If not, it’s time to give this versatile plant a shot. Water Sprite offers great benefits for the fish in your tank and is low maintenance too! You can find these plants at any local pet store or online retailer. It’s hardy enough that there are no special care requirements, so if you’re new to keeping an aquarium, don’t be afraid of trying out something new like water sprite!

Leave us a comment below on what type of aquatic life you have and how much success with your current setup has been had with other types of plants such as moss balls or java ferns! We’d love to hear from you and learn more about what kind of setups you have.

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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