The water sprite is undoubtedly the floating king of the aqua scaping world. The high availability and dynamic living conditions make this aquatic to semiaquatic species well suited for any water tank.

Moreover, everything from plantation to propagation screams parent-friendly. Even for a beginner, it is effortless to maintain. It may be utilized as both a floating and submerged plant with roots in the substrate.

Water sprite is a highly polymorphic fern species, comprising roughly 12 lookalikes in the same genus.

If you are looking into reducing the nutrient load of your fish tank, it is highly suggestive to get them among your fish pets.

Here is the nitty-gritty of handling this green water sprite plant.


Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Ceratopteristhalictroides
Other Names Water fern, water horn fern, water sprite, Indian fern, Oriental water fern, Sumatra fern
Family Pteridaceae
Origin Pantropical Pacific Region
Height/Size 10-35 cm
Aquarium Type Versatile but preferably fresh water
Genus Ceratopteris
Group Fern
Care level Easy

Aquaculture Summary

When it comes to the water sprite, there are many interesting facts and care points that one should know.

Initially, the parent might be concerned about the emergence of the floating water sprite outside of the tank but worry not. There are ways to maintain that while letting the profuse grow within your space.

Not only is it a great plant mate for all the happy fins in your tank, but it also has excellent economic, culinary, and biological use, which makes them extremely multi-faceted.

It is vital to learn that there are two ways of integrating them in your tank – you either let it float or plant it into your substrate. We will be learning about this further in the article.

Early Age – The History, Origin and Natural Habitat

Being native to the Pacific region, the water sprites are found mostly near water creeks, paddy fields, brackish waterways, swamps, marshes, wet rock edges of the waterfalls and ponds, indicating they are an aquatic and semi-aquatic genus.

They belong to the Mozambique geographical region and have a flooded grassland habitat with an annual life cycle.

Hence, they are effortless to get your hands on.

Notably, they have alterations of generation. Hence, there is a prominent population of hybrid origin with spore viability and odd meiotic pairing common in California, southern Texas, and some parts of South Florida.

Interesting Fact: They were first published on May 1, 1753. They are classified as an old-world species since they were discovered in the 18th century.

How does the Water Sprite Look?

The floating monarch has the following distinguishing characteristics, which make them stand apart.

  • The Ceratopteris thalictroides come in copious sizes but usually have a size range of 10 to 35 cm, which can exceed, making them a perfect fit for the community and home aquariums.
  • While paying attention to detail, lookout for light, spongy and air-filled stripes on the plant, which has a diameter between 3mm-15mm and height of the range 4-60 cm
  •  Their color is within the pale green and brown spectrum.
  •  Look out for dormant buds that overlap the dark scales on the plant.
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Author Note: It is best to opt for the water sprites that is on the greener end of the spectrum as the browner plants are matured.

Growth Rate

The growth of a new water sprite occurs from the notches that happen very quickly. So, keep your trimmers and scissors ready.

Now, it is necessary to understand that the growth cycle of the water sprite is steadfast, and it is done and dusted within 30 days.

There is a possibility that the growth range may differ depending on the external environment and water parameters. A humid habitat will render a faster growth compared to a drier condition.

Benefits – Within and Outside the Tank

Below are some exceptional uses that make them a great addition within and outside your tank.

Used for Edible Purposes

The young frond can be consumed as a raw or cooked vegetable rich in nutrients. For edible purposes, utilize the young leaves that haven’t curled. They make a great addition to your hearty salads.

They are so popularly consumed as a vegetable that they are considered a luxury vegetable in Asia and other parts of Vietnam.

Be sure to look out for the concentration of carcinogenic chemicals before consuming them.

Medicinal Benefits

Feel free to use water sprite based medicines for your well-being.

Enzymes such as Alkaloids, Arbutin, and Tannin make them useful medicine for skin complaints.

Tribal people in the Indian subcontinent use the paste of its leaves along with turmeric to cure wounds and skin diseases.

Moreover, it is also used in China in the form of an ointment to stop bleeding.

Benefits for the Tank

  • Easy to Maintain
    Water sprites are one of the most popular tank additions. It is because of their flexibility and adaptability to a wide variety of tank conditions. Easy is pleasing, so their maintenance level makes them a great option.
  • Presentation
    They are considered the most ornamental plant that adds a tropical aesthetic. They mimic the natural habitat of many species.
  • Rendering Security
    Moreover, they are a great hiding place for the fry and smaller species. This makes them feel protected and safe, reducing any potential diseases caused by stress.
  • Comply to Breeding Purposes
    Not only does this give a safe hiding place, but it is an excellent breeding plant for species such as shrimps and small tetras.

Water Sprite Care

Planting Them in an Aquarium

While you can get a professional to install the plant in your tank, you will have an opportunity to become a better aqua parent on learning how to do it.

Let us learn how to install the water sprite in your tank.

*Disclaimer: It barely takes minutes.

Now, water sprite can be installed in two ways, as discussed earlier-

By simply allowing them to float on the tank’s surface.

If you have an open tank, it’s a great addition. All you have to do in this case is gently place it on the surface of your tank, leaving the stem and roots alone.

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Incorporating it into the substrate

Place the water sprite in a soil-based substrate, preferably damp, and push it down slightly (not more than 7 cm). Feel free to surround it with more ornamental plants and driftwood.

How Does the Propagation Happen?

Like any other fern, growth and propagation in the water sprites are unique and much faster than their growth.

Notably, the growth of new plants takes place in front of the existing ones, making them adventitious.

Each frond is capable of generating a new daughter plant directly. After a while, the old frond will die and automatically separate from the new frond.

After a period, you will notice the formation of new spores and bubil on the plant’s leaves.

Please note if you leave any part of the leaf in the floating water, it will lead to the growth of new plantlets.    

How to Groom and Trim?

Grooming and trimming are essential aspects of maintaining a water plant, particularly if it is a water sprite – a floating aquarium plant. They grow at a considerable pace; therefore, pruning at regular intervals is indispensable.

This plant parent’s primary concern is when the plants grow out of the tank, making it look unkempt.

No requirement of fancy snipping tools is needed. A sharp pair of scissors will work just fine.

It’s crucial to wait for the fern to emerge from the plant before carefully separating from it. Make sure the roots encased in the substrate aren’t cut. This can hamper their growth.


Fertilization is a basic necessity for many plants, but not for all. Many low-maintenance plants don’t require fertilization, water sprites being one of them.

Since it is a fern, the water renders its necessary nutrients, keeping the plant alive and healthy. There is no crucial requirement to root tabs.

Although, the use of natural fertilizers will be a suitable option.

Is this Plant Problem -Causing?

While the water sprites pose no threat to humans or fish, the parent may encounter some difficulties along the way. To mitigate them, it is necessary to have a thorough understanding.

Effects on the Fish

There is a possibility of an alteration in the architecture of the water supply with the integration of water sprites, which may become a blockage for freshwater fishes. Hence, it is best to layout some research before integrating them.

Effects on the Human

Some ferns can contain chemicals such as carcinogens and thiaminase. This can be hazardous if it is being ingested by a human. It is necessary to ensure water sprite doesn’t possess those chemicals, and the best way to mitigate it is by cooking them. Thiaminase dies when it is cooked.

Browning on the Leaves

One of the most common and prominent problems you will face while nurturing the green is the formation of brown algae on the leaves, and they die out the water sprite.

Expert Tip: If in the case of algae formation, tweak the lighting. Reduction in the brightness and longevity of the lighting can halt the formation.

Tank Recommendations

Quick Tank Facts
Minimum Size 29 Gallons
Water Temperature 22˚C to 22˚C
CO2 Need Can benefit from it
Water Hardness 0-30 dGH
pH Level 5 to 9 PH
Placement Background, Mid plant, surface, and substrate

Ideal Tank Size

The size is a matter of consideration when the water sprite is rooted inside the substrate.

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Given that they proliferate, it is necessary to render ample size for them to grow properly.

A 29-gallon tank is highly recommended for its consistent growth.


The habitat of the water sprites suggests that they spurt from soil that is swamped in nature.

Although there is no primary requirement of inclusion of substrate, one can model the natural habitat of the water sprite with swampy soil.

Quick Note: Think about adding a substrate only if you are opting for a plant that roots from the tank’s base.

The Optimal Lighting

As we have learned earlier, the formation of algae on the water sprite is directly related to the lighting conditions of the tank.

The water sprite grows faster when subjected to more powerful lighting.

Since any floating plant steals lighting and nutrients from other plants, ensure a good amount of illumination.

Although, the lighting can range from low light to high light.

Water Parameters

Place your water sprite in almost any water condition, and you will witness them blooming and growing. This is one of the best traits of this genus.

With high tolerance and versatility, keep the following water parameters in mind.

  • Maintain the PH between 5-9 PH. This indicates that water sprites can be comfortable in both – acidic and neutral water.
  • The optimal temperature can range between 20-22 degrees C. Although; they have shown a tolerance within the range of 18-30 degrees C.
  •  The carbonate hardness is an important factor to consider and shouldn’t be more than 30 degrees dGH.
  • It is best to place water sprites in a slow-moving current.
  • Providing a sufficient amount of CO2 is beneficial for the plant.


The fishes make a home out of every aqua plant in the tank. Hence, complying with their needs is crucial.

Not only do they use water plants as their hiding spots, but they also assist a great deal in inbreeding and are considered nutrition magnets.

It is helpful to understand the types of fishes that work well with water sprites. Any kind of community fish works just fine. To be more intricate, stated below are the fishes that will happily swim around the plant:

Given that water wisteria and water sprites are very similar, feel free to incorporate them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any fishes that must be avoided?

It is best to avoid gregarious fishes such as cichlids as they are prone to damaging the plant.

Are water sprites a good filter replacement?

Not for the long run, but when a new tank is set up, integrating a water sprite helps maintain the nutrients and optimal water quality.

Can water sprites help in integrating fishes with different temperaments?

Absolutely. If you have to place a shy Guppy and a social tetra in the same tank, placing a water sprite mitigates any form of potential stress in the tank.

In the End – Are they a Good Choice?

This is a no-brainer. Water sprites are one of the best additions to the tank, and not only do they elevate the aesthetic of the plant but also protect the fry.

They flourish in livebearer tanks.

The multipurpose plant is easy on the pockets and the environment of the tank.

Gaining a little knowledge about this floating green makes the tank life a thousand times easier.

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

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