It’s easy to get the two aquatic plants mixed up “water sprite” and “water wisteria.” The look and growth patterns of these two plants are similar; for example, they both have long, slender stems and leaves and can reach considerable heights.
There are, however, features that allow them to be easily distinguished from one another. Find out what sets apart these two common water plants so you can make an informed decision.
What to know About the Water Sprite and Water Wisteria
Here’re a general comparison table to help you quickly identify these two plants:
|Water Sprite||Water Wisteria|
|Appearance||Fine and thin leaves and stems Bright green||Round and hardy look Bright green|
|Size||Up to 13 ½ inches – 16 inches||Up to 20 inches|
|Growth habit||Bushy, dense, and evasive Rapid growth rate||Narrow, not very bushy Rapid growth rate|
|Flower||No flower||Can grow flower above the waterline|
The first misunderstanding is that these two plants are of the same species although they are not. Water sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) is an Indian water fern.
Meanwhile, Water Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis), belongs to the acanthus family. It can be found in Malaysia, Thailand, India, and Bhutan, among other places.
The water sprite and the water wisteria are two plants that are very similar in their beautiful and vivid appearance as they are both bright green plants. However, they have a few important differences as well.
Water sprite – This plant has thin leaves and stems, notably thinner than Water Wisteria. It will look much finer and more delicate.
Water Wisteria – The leaf on this plant looks quite similar, yet a tad rounder with pointed tips. Furthermore, its stems are thicker.
Furthermore, when permitted to grow above the waterline in your fish tank, only Wisteria can produce blossoms.
Water sprites can grow up to 30-40cm (12 – 16 inches), and leaves are about 2-3mm in diameter. Water wisteria can grow taller than 550 cm (20 inches), and leaves are 3-5mm in diameter when cared for in good conditions.
Water sprite grows a bit faster than water wisteria, making it a better choice for beginners who want to see results soon. However, this also means that a water sprite is more likely to outgrow its habitat if not watched closely. Besides, they are very bushy.
Water wisteria likewise has a high growth rate, yet is less messy as it is more thin and less bushy.
Both plants are rooted on substrates (like soil or rocks) which cover the roots with no support from any other material like plastic mesh. They do not require any additional nutrients because they can take up all the necessary nutrients from the water.
On the other hand, plants require extra support when they grow out of their container because their stem bud on top and roots below will weaken gradually if not supported by any materials. (But in this case, the substrate is considered as one.)
How to Care for These Plants
Both plants need moderate lighting to survive, but water sprites can tolerate more light than water wisteria. Too much light will cause the leaves of water wisteria to turn yellow and eventually die off.
Water sprite is a heavy feeder and benefits from being fertilized regularly. Water wisteria is a bit more delicate in this regard and can be easily burned by too much fertilizer. Both plants need iron supplements to maintain their deep green coloration.
Water sprite can be propagated by dividing the plant or by taking cuttings. The cuttings need to be planted immediately or kept in water for a few days before being placed in soil.
Water wisteria can also be propagated by dividing the plant, but this is easiest done when it has just started growing actively again after going dormant in winter
Water sprite is the preferred choice for many aquarists who want a lush green foliage accent in their tank. It also makes an excellent live plant to be used as fish food.
The delicate leaves are often eaten by some smaller species of fish, while larger fish such as cichlids will also eat back into them to destroy and weaken the plant structure so they can more easily attack each other without fear of injury from the sharp leaves.
Water wisteria is more commonly used as just a backdrop or minor accent in an aquarium because its slower growth rate means it takes longer to achieve the desired look. It can also be used as fish food but is not as popular for this purpose as water sprite.
Both water sprite and water wisteria are popular choices for aquarists who want to add some green foliage to their tank. They are both easy to care for, although water sprite is generally considered the easier of the two.
Water sprite is a heavy feeder and benefits from being fertilized regularly, while water wisteria is a bit more delicate in this regard and can be easily burned by too much fertilizer. Both plants need iron supplements to maintain their deep green coloration.
Water sprite and water wisteria are similar in appearance but can be distinguished from each other. If you’re new to aquatic gardening and have your heart set on a lush green background for your tank, water sprite may be a better choice for you.
I grew up with a fish tank in my house, and my parents would take me to the local aquarium every chance they got. This passion led me to start NationalparkAquarium.org, which I use to share my love and passion.