How to Grow Water Wisteria in a Fish Tank

By Jecinta Muturi @aquariawise

Water Wisteria—Is it Easy to Grow; Is it a Low Light Plant

Hygrophila difformis, commonly known as water wisteria is a popular aquarium plant of the acanthus family. It is native to marshy habitats on the Indian subcontinent including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal.

Water wisteria is quite easy to grow and should not cause you a lot of hassle even when you are a new planted aquarium owner.. It is also hardy, and although in the wild it grows during the rainy season, in a home aquarium it will grow all year round.

The plant grow best in a good light in nutrient-rich water and substrate, plus it benefits from additional CO₂ and can be propagated from cuttings.

Even so, wisteria will not only grow under high light but also in low-light, low-tech conditions. Even in tiny 10-gallon fish tanks.

Also, it provides your aquarium with bright green colors and will grow either as a stem or a carpet species.

Ideally, start your water wisteria in a 10-gallon tank (or more) with soft to moderately hard water, a temperature anywhere between 70°F and 82°F and a ph of 6.5 to 7.5.

Water Wisteria Overview

How to Grow and Care for Water Wisteria in Your Aquarium

Water wisteria is easy to grow and as such it is a very popular plant for a tropical aquarium. It grows best in moderate to high light within a nutrient-rich substrate and water.

Plus your wisteria will benefit from CO₂ and fertilizer addition in case your aquarium is low on nutrients from fish waste.

Regarding your tank conditions, it is important that you replicate a tropical environment akin to what the plants are accustomed to in the wild.

As mentioned, water wisteria is found in the Indian subcontinent where the climate is largely warm and humid, with the rainy season starting Southwest and spreading North and East from May through June.

Usually, the temperature remains warm, which is what you should aim to attain in your aquarium. Moreover, if you plan on maintaining your water wisteria with fish, tropical species that don’t have an appetite for plant matter are your safest bet.

The plant can be grown either floating or rooted in a substrate, mainly in shallow water.

Water wisteria is a relatively small aquatic species and mostly grows to a maximum height of 20 inches and 10 inches wide, though in low-light, low-tech conditions, the plant grows considerably narrower leaves and is generally smaller in size.

Given this average size, plant wisteria as a mid-ground or background plant or use it to make carpets in the tank. Water wisteria can also be floated on the water surface.

The leaves should be bright green, forming narrow protrusions along their length, but can take different forms depending on the conditions in your aquarium.

The stem grows slightly darker and sturdy to help support the weight of the relatively large leaves, and thin white roots mostly buried beneath the surface to anchor the plant in place.

Ideally, stems should be planted in a sandy substrate to mimic the plant’s natural habitat, but fine gravel is suitable too.

Besides, you can use a double layer of substrate with a sandy base below for roots to anchor and get the needed nutrition, then add a gravel layer on top to improve your fish tank aesthetics.

Some aquarist opt for home-made DIY substrates that are better constituted, with superior gain for the plants.

Most aquarium lights are fine for growing water wisteria as long as they’ll support photosynthesis and your plant is not shaded. Probably, LED full spectrum grow-lights are a little more effective than other lightings, closely followed by T5 lights which are also appropriate.

How to Plant Water Wisteria

Propagation of water wisteria is done through stem or leaf cuttings near the base of the narrow plant. The cuttings will then develop their own roots and grow into new plants.

If you keep cutting and replanting, newly developed plants will create a bushy effect, then you can leave the plants to propagate on their own and cover the aquarium.

Since the plants grow in rich sandy patches in the wild, you’ll require a nutrient-rich substrate, with iron-fertilizer added regularly.

Provide a moderate amount of lighting of at least 2 to 3 watts per gallon of full-spectrum (5000-7000K) light. CO₂ fertilization every once in a while is recommended.

When planting your cuttings in a substrate, remove any leaves from the bottom 1 to 2 inches of the stem to allow new roots to form in the last node on the plantlets.

Plus make sure plants are not kept too densely planted or they will compete with each other. Start with just a few cutting spaced a couple of inches apart, and only propagate more stems later if you have extra space.

How Do You Keep Water Wisteria Floating?

Other than planting water wisteria in the substate, you can also float your plant on the water surface. This is done either temporarily before your plant develops enough roots to anchor in the substrate or permanently for cover.

Overall, floating the plant is not hard, and simply placing it on the water surface is enough to grow.

Roots will come out at random places, plus since your plant will be closer to the light source, it will grow quite rapidly. Which means you may need to start trimming it sooner than if it were planted in the substrate.

Also, float your plant in a way it will take up nutrients from the water via its floating roots, especially if you have fish in the aquarium and your plant is depending on their waste for nutrition.

This way your plant won’t need extra fertilization, but NPK and micronutrients are important if you notice your plant is stunted or changing color.

Ideally, floating wisteria plants should have their leaves turned upright and the roots hanging in the water, which is also useful when you need to provide cover for fry and surface fish.

One other thing to note is floating water wisteria can be an Iron, Magnesium and Phosphate hog, so be ready to add these nutrients if you notice your plant is dying.

That said, water wisteria can grow explosively in excess light and fertilization much like a weed, so be careful with the amounts available for the plant.

A good rule of thumb is to dose your plant once a week with a teaspoon of fertilizer in a low nutrient setting, but if your tank is heavily stocked with fish, dose the plants once every month.

Water Wisteria Carpet

If you want a carpet effect from your wisteria plant, grow your stems on their side and root them in place. Only the roots facing upwards should grow and create the carpet layer.

Even so, it good to note that while water wisteria can form a good carpet in a fish tank, the plant leaves are too large and the space between needles is far too long, plus the plant gets sort of tall.

Anubias nana stays small and you can use nylon netting to anchor Java moss to the substrate, which means both of this plants can make better carpets that water wisteria.

That said, to successfully use water wisteria as a carpet plant, make sure it has long roots along its stem that anchor in different parts of the substrate causing the wisteria to crawl across the bottom.

Start your plant sideways and trim to keep it from shooting right up.

Placing the plant sideways will also ensure that leaves only grow on one side of the stem for a carpet effect and in a very short time.

Water Wisteria Care and Maintanance

Water wisteria is one of the fastest-growing aquarium plants, so perhaps the biggest issue you’ll have to deal with is keeping its size down.

Water Wisteria Trimming

You can keep the size of your plant in check by trimming back the stems once they start to take over valuable space from your fishes.

Usually, it’s advisable to trim new growths before they develop into new plants as opposed to cutting the mother plant. However, if your mature plant is too big, its ok to cut part of the shoots to keep new growth from sprouting.

Moreover, make sure you keep trimmed parts out of your tank to keep them from falling in the substrate and gradually grow into new plants. Plant debris left floating in the water can develop into unwanted plants as well.

Because water wisteria grows rapidly and uses up a lot of nutrients, you can also control it by reducing the amounts available in your fish tank. You can do this by either adding other fast-growing plants or perform regular water changes to remove nitrate which otherwise helps wisteria to grow.

Water Wisteria Tank Conditions

Water wisteria is hardy and thrives in many conditions even without CO₂ supplementation. However, for the best look, ensure your aquarium conditions simulate those in the plant’s world habitat.

A nutrient-rich substrate is paramount or at least fertilize your fish tank with root tabs.

The plant particularly needs a lot of nitrate, phosphate, magnesium, and Iron for healthy development. Iron deficiency is especially noticeable in leaves which turn pale and yellowish.

In the instance your plant leaves lose their color, remove the dead or discolored parts to prevent whatever is ailing them from spreading, and help the plant focus nutrients on the healthy leaves and stems.

You aquarium water should be soft to moderately hard and the ph stable around neutral. A range anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5 is good enough, while a temperature between 75°F and 82°F is considered optimal.

Water Wisteria Propagation

Propagating water wisteria is quite easy considering all you need to do is cut young parts of the stem and start them in a nutrient-rich substrate.

Also, the plant naturally grows to a point where parts of the old-growth start to fall off and develop into new plants. This is especially evident when trimming mature plants.

Usually, it best to harvest plants that have reached full size by extracting top portions that are 5 inches or so from the stem.

Its easier to start them in the substrate, but at times you may need to float new stems in the water until they develop enough roots that will anchor the plant in the sand. Ideally, your new stems should be strong enough to withstand the water flow and any boisterous fish in the tank.

You should consider floating plants bought from the store before growing them as well since most come rotten or immature roots that need to be cut off for new once to develop.

Water Wisteria Tankmates

Water wisteria is compatible with most fish, but its fine leaves also mean that most large fish will damage the plant if kept together. The case is the same when kept with boisterous fish or species that feed on live plants.

Consequently, the best tankmates for wisteria are small fish that don’t feed on aquatic plants.

You can keep this plant with other live plant species as long as there are enough nutrients in your fish tank and it’s not too densely planted.

Avoid overlapping plants to keep them from competing for nutrients which often result in many stunted and dead plants.

Also, stay away from cichlids like Oscars that dig the substrate and goldfish, rainbowfish and silver dollars.

Goldfish will devour water wisteria in a matter of hours and leave nothing but a stem sticking out of the sand.

Ideal tank mates include betta, Cherry Barb, Corydoras Catfish, Danios, Dwarf Gourami, Guppies, Mollies, Rasboras, Swordtails, and Tetras.

That’s all.

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