Water Sprite: Care, Growth Rate, Propagation & More

Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) is a fast-growing fern species of aquatic plants. This plant has become very famous in the aquarium hobby for its hardy nature and ease of care. They are often available in pet stores and are relatively cheap plants to purchase. Their unique leaf patterns and beautiful green colors make them an easy sell in any pet store. 

Depending on the area you live in you might see Water sprites being labeled as Indian fern, water fern, water hornfern, and oriental waterfern.

In this article, you will learn all the key information you need to properly care for the Water Sprite Plant as well as a few tips and tricks to make them look more beautiful and healthy. So keep reading!


Water Sprite is a large semi-aquatic plant that can grow in and out of water. When this plant is out of the water it develops large thick and spongy leaves that look very different from the leaves it grows in the water. 

They grow naturally in tropical regions all around the world. They can be found in natively growing Southeast Asia, India, the Philippines, Northern Australia, Africa, and some regions of America. 

Because of its size, this plant is an ideal plant for the midground or background of your tank. If you plant the water sprite in the foreground of your tank it will soon grow very large and will block the view of the tank. So it is recommended to have them in the background or midground if you are willing to do more trimming and pruning. 

They can grow planted in the substrate or float in the water. But they seem to feed heavenly of their roots so it is best to have them planted in the substrate. 

Water Sprite is both easy to care for and a stunning plant that you can own. Regardless of your plant-keeping skills, this plant will find its way to adapt to your tank and will grow beautiful lush green leaves. Leaving them untrimmed will give you a dense aquatic jungle that you and your fish can enjoy. 


Water Sprite Plant
Young Water Sprite Under Strong Lighting

Water Sprite is made of three main components, the leaves, stem, and roots. Leaves are probably the most eye-catching part of this plant. Depending on the lighting conditions of your tank the leaves might look slightly different than what we have here in the pictures. 

Water Sprite develops bright green leaves that complement the slightly darker stems of this plant. The leaves grow around a cylinder-shaped thick stem that can grow quite large. The Leaves will divide into several needle-shaped branches that make this plant look very unique. 

If the plant reaches the surface of the tank it will continue to grow out of the water and the leaves that grow out of water look very different than the ones in the water. In the water, leaves are thin and narrow but out of the water, it grows thick and bold leaves that look nothing like the leaves in the water. 

Because this plant is mainly a root feeder type of plant, you will need to make sure roots are well developed and have a good substrate. If you see roots are brownish or showing signs of rotting it’s a clear sign that the Water Sprite is suffering and might die. Healthy roots should look bright white and be very long.

Size & Growth Rate

Water Sprite grows tall and can grow up to 10 – 15 inches in height. This plant is also a fast-growing species of aquatic plant. Compared to other fern plants the Water Sprite grows more like a weed than a fern. 

The size and growth rate of this plant depend on the conditions they get in your tank. The amount of light and the availability of nutrients are the key factors in the growth rate, size, and pattern this plant grows. 

When the light is strong enough this plant will spread out and create more stems and when light levels are slightly low they will grow tall. Pruning leaves will also encourage the Water Sprite to grow more densely. We will discuss more on this later in this guide. 

Water Sprite Care

The Water Sprite plant is a super easy plant to care for. This plant is a fast-growing species of ferns so you will need to prune it quite more than other aquatic plants. This plant will grow faster in the presence of strong light and enough nutrients. 

Fortunately pruning this plant is easy and the plant will continue to grow without showing any signs of distress after each trim. To prune and trim this plant you will need a sharp pair of aquascaping scissors to prevent unintentional damage to the stems. 

We have seen some pinch the plant and cut a stem off. This is probably the worst way of removing unwanted stems or pruning a plant. When you don’t use sharp scissors or cut the stems by hand the mining stem may continue to rot and die. So it is important to cut the plant with a sharp object to damage as few cells as possible.

Tank Size

Water Sprite is the perfect background plant for medium to large tanks. However, they can also grow in smaller tanks if you are willing to put in the work and trim them regularly. You can keep this plant in thanks as small as 10 gallons. However, we recommend having them in tanks that are at least 20 gallons and are tall.

The smaller the tank is the more work it is for you to maintain the plant. Water Sprites will grow tall and bushy so they can easily take over a small tank. Since this plant can grow in and out of the water the size of the tank does not matter that much for the plant. It’s just a lot more work for you if you want to keep them in a 10-gallon tank. 

Water Sprite Plant

Water Conditions 

Water Sprites are hardy species of aquatic plants. They can live in most tank environments that aquarists have for their fish. When they get a decent source of light, they will grow very fast and beautiful. 

While Water Sprites can live in a wide range of water parameters, we recommend having them in the following range of water parameters:

  • Temperature: 68 – 80 Degrees Fahrenheit 
  • PH: 5.5 – 7.5
  • TDS: 40 – 250 PPM

CO2 Requirement

Water Sprites can live in a tank without CO2 injections. This plant is very hardy and will grow with a minimum amount of carbon dioxide in a tank. 

However, under good lighting injecting CO2 in the tank will help Water Sprites to grow faster and develop better coloration. 


Water Sprite will thrive under medium to high light conditions. The brighter your tank is the more natural and fast this plant will grow. However, it can also survive under low light conditions but it will have a slow growth rate and it will look very dull and unhealthy. 

A 6700k full spectrum light is the ideal type of light for this plant. If your tank is smaller you might be okay with a 40000k-50000k light as well. The light should be on for at least 6 hours per day. 


Water Sprites are hardy plants that can grow with or without substrate. However, they will grow much better in the substrate. So when picking substrate make sure to get a well-planted substrate so your water sprite plant can get all its nutrients and grow fast and strong.

Planting & Placement

Water Sprite grows tall so it needs to be in the midground or background of the tank. Depending on the size and type of aquascape you are planning to have you can have this plant in many places in your tank. They will grow tall and bushy which will give your tank a lush jungle vibe. 

You can use this plant to hide heaters, filter intake, and other equipment that look unpleasant in the tank. You can also leave water sprites to float on the surface of the tank to create shade in your tank if you have sensitive plants or fish. 

Water Sprite Propagating

Propagating Water Sprite is very easy and simple. The ideal way of propagating this plant is to reuse the pruned and trimmed stems. Once your plant reaches its full size or when it reaches the surface you can start trimming the plant and let the new cuttings grow and become new plants.  

The plant itself will also produce tiny daughter plants that will grow and break off the main plant and will grow to become new plants. Once they break off the mother plant they will float to the surface until they find a place to anchor themselves in place and grow. If you have a surface skimmer or strong canister filter these tiny cuttings might not survive. 

Maintenance & Fertilization

Maintaining Water Sprite is all about keeping it in shape and trimmed. This plant is super hardy and is not demanding at all. As long as they get enough light and nutrition they will continue to thrive. 

When trimming this plant, make sure to leave a few inches with a good number of leaves on it so it can grow and regenerate fast. Cutting stems too close to the roots may cause the stem to melt and die.

Sometimes the Sprite’s leaves might get yellowish and start to die. If this ever happens to your plants you should first check if all the tank parameters are fine. If everything is in the ideal range the yellow leaves might be a result of low nutrients in the tank. If you have your water sprite planted in a substrate you can add a root tab to the substrate near the roots of the plant so it can get all the nutrients it needs. 

Make sure to not add too much fertilizer to your tank as it can easily cause algae to bloom in your tank. Algae can cause plants to suffer and look ugly. Finding the right fertilizer and lighting balance in your tank should be a priority.

Tank Mates

Water Sprites are hardy species and can live with most types of aquarium fish and other inhabitants. They can also be a great plant for shrimp tanks as most aquarium shrimps prefer to live in a well-planted tank. 

Here are our top choices of tank mates for Water Sprite:

Benefits of Water Sprite

An aquarium is a small ecosystem that needs all the natural components that a balanced ecosystem has. Like in the wild, plants in your tank will help you have cleaner and more balanced water parameters. This makes life much easier and healthier for your fish in the tank. So you should not look at the plants as beautiful objects that make your tank more appealing to viewers. They are an important part of a healthy ecosystem.

Since Water Sprite is a fast-growing species it will absorb the fish waste and other toxins much faster. This will result in cleaner water for your fish. At the same time, because this plant grows bushy, it can provide hiding spaces for small fish. Stress is the main cause of many diseases and sudden fish deaths so having this plant can save your fish. 

Water Sprite Plant


Water Sprite is one of the most popular aquatic plants that is used in many aquascapes. This plant can create a lush green jungle in your tank. Its ease of care and hardiness makes them a great beginner-friendly plant that most aquarists can easily keep in their tanks. We hope the information in this article answers all the questions you had. If you still have questions about Water Sprites you can reach out to us by email and we will happily help.