Scientific name: Ceratopteris thalictroides
Common name: Watersprite
Geographic location: Tropics worldwide
Light: Low (1.5WPG) to High (3WPG+)
Growth: Very Fast
Watersprite is one of the easiest aquarium plants to grow, once it becomes established. It can grow both as a floating plant or rooted in the substrate. If grown floating, it will grow rapidly and spread to cover the entire surface. However, unlike other floating plants, it's easy to get rid of or thin out. It's very easy to spread as it grows tiny plantlets on exisitng leaves that can be separated and planted or floated, and any broken leaves that float to the surface will sprout and grow. It's often used in its floating role as a nutrient sponge for tanks that have just been set up or are having algae issues. Adding some to a tank will quickly outcompete most algae.
When grown in the substrate, watersprite will quickly grow to the surface. It grows like a fern; all the leaves emerge from the base and unfurl upwards. For this reason, it can take up a lot of space in an aquarium. It also can grow up to 30 inches tall, so it will quickly reach the surface of most tanks. Light is rarely an issue, as it can grow with less than 1.5 WPG, albiet slowly.
Trimming watersprite and keeping it under control is probably the most difficult part of growing this plant. It can't really be trimmed per se. If you cut off a leaf, a larger one will just grow back in its place. Instead, it's better to remove the entire plant, cut off a few leaves and let them float and sprout roots. Then, plant these smaller plants where the old plant used to be.
CO2 and fertilizers are rarely needed for healthy growth, but adding them will increase growth rates substantially. Unfortunately, certain snails love to eat watersprite, however these snails also eat all kinds of other aquarium plants and shouldn't be kept in a planted aquarium if possible. Most common planted tank snails will not eat watersprite, nor any other plant.
Its versatility, utility, and ease of care make watersprite an ideal plant for the beginner or for a planted aquarium that has just been set up. Be prepared to be giving away baby plants left and right though!
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