The Definitive Water Wisteria Guide: Everything You Need To Know

If you have a tank full of fish that love large-leaved plants then the Water Wisteria is the perfect addition.

This plant is loved for its rapid growth and showy appearance.

It truly stands out in the foreground of the tank and will be a wonderful shade of green.

Not only is this plant beautiful but it is beneficial too. It will add a bit of extra oxygen to your tank and increase the overall water quality.

There are so many things that you can do with this excellent aquarium plant.

In this article we cover everything you need to know about planting, growing, and caring for the Water Wisteria…

Water Wisteria Tank Setup

Water Wisteria 101

Water Wisteria

The Water Wisteria, Hygrophila difformis, is an aquatic plant from the family Acanthaceae.

Their common name is a reference to the terrestrial wisteria plant, unfortunately though they do not produce the same vibrant purple flowers.

The Wisteria aquarium plant grows in the wild near the surface of small pools in swamps and marshes.

In aquariums this plant is most commonly used as a foreground or background accent. They can also be used as a carpet, or floated along the surface of the tank for a more natural look. This plant is popular with beginners because it is very hardy and grows quickly.

In a large aquarium they can grow up to 20 inches tall!

Their wide leaves provide plenty of shelter for fish that need a good place to hide out. They also provide spawning and breeding ground, as well as supplementary food for veggie loving fish.


  • Water Wisteria makes an attractive centerpiece for a freshwater aquascape and there are many different ways to design and shape it.
  • The wide leaves of this plant offer plenty of shelter to fish that hide in shady spots.
  • This large leafed plant is especially good at oxygenating the surrounding water and improving water quality.
  • Fish and invertebrates that like to eat greens can munch on this plant’s leaves to supplement their diet.

Water Wisteria Appearance

The Water Wisteria can be used as the centerpiece in any aquarium.

Adding it to your tank helps create the appearance of a natural freshwater habitat (especially when it is floated along the surface).

The plant resembles an underwater fern with grass green leaves and dark green stems. If you look closely, you can see their pale veins on their leaves.

The leaves will be slightly darker green in a lower light environment.

If you want to bring out their best colors then moderate to high light is needed.

Interestingly, not every plant will look exactly the same.

The shape of the leaves is determined by their genetics. Some specimens have leaves that make them look like bracken ferns or Water Sprites. Others may have wide, club-like leaves that resemble oak shrubs. Others still may have long and thin leaves.

Size and Growth Rate

The size of your Water Wisteria will depend on several key things: tank temperature, tank size, light intensity, and which fertilizer you use.

A higher light intensity and temperature will make your plant grow faster.

How fast does Water Wisteria grow?

On average this plant’s growth rate is around 2-3 inches per week.

In larger aquariums (50+ gallons) this plant will grow to around 20 inches tall and their leaves will be about 10 inches wide. Whereas in a smaller tank this plant should grow to 12-15 inches tall.

Water Sprite Vs Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria is often confused with Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides).

While Water Sprite looks very similar to Water Wisteria and has a similar growth rate, there are several major differences between these two plants.

The Water Sprite is smaller, thinner, and more wiry. It makes a very poor choice for a carpet plant and is usually only used in the background or along the sides of the tank. Not only can Water Sprite grow in low light, but it can grow in temperatures as low as 68°F. In contrast, the Water Wisteria must have at least moderate light and a temperature of at least 70°F.

You should use Water Sprite in place of Water Wisteria if you are keeping a temperate biotope or prefer low light aquarium plants.

Different Uses and Placement Ideas

Water Wisteria Aquarium Plant

This plant is most commonly kept in the background where it can tower over the other plants in the tank.

If you let it grow taller than your other plants it creates a beautiful layering effect. A long row of background plants can form a hedge when trimmed down to size.

Water Wisteria can also be planted in the foreground. Here it can be used as a small shrub or fern. Foreground plants can also be grown in thickets or clusters.

While it is not generally considered a carpet plant, it can still be grown as a carpet along the bottom of the tank. To do this you will want to trim the plant and keep it at the bottom levels, instead of allowing it to grow towards the surface. If you want a better carpet plant then consider Java Moss.

Finally, the plant can be floated.

Simply float it along the surface and it will continue to grow on its own. As the light hits the plant it will grow long and thick (even when unattached to the substrate).

Water Wisteria Care Guide

Fish Swimming In Water Wisteria

The Water Wisteria is not a difficult plant to keep but their rapid growth rate can be a little overwhelming for beginners.

The good news is that you can control how quickly they go by controlling its environment. It can be quite easy to manage if it is given the proper growing conditions.

Let’s start by looking at the tank requirements first.

Tank Requirements

This plant grows in temperatures between 70-85°F.

Just remember that the higher the water temperature, the faster this plant will grow.

You should keep a basic pH between 6.5-7.5 and a hardness between 2-15 dGH. Your water should be very clean and the tank should be free of excess algae. Adding a little bit of CO2 to the water will help the plant grow faster.

As for the substrate, you can use sand or fine grains. Just make sure they are soft enough to avoid damaging the roots and are enriched with fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and iron.

Light Requirements

While Water Wisteria can survive in low light, it is not specifically a low light plant. In low light conditions this plant will be dull, flimsy and grow slowly.

To keep this plant looking their very best and brightest you should keep it in moderate-high light intensity. If you place this plant in a spot where the most light reaches then it will grow very thick and leafy and show its most vibrant colors.

The general rule is to use about 75 watts of light for every 25 gallons of water in your tank. So with a 50 gallon tank you would need 150 watts of light.

If you are looking for a similar plant that can grow in a low light environment then you are better off choosing the Water Sprite.

How To Plant

There are several different ways to plant the Water Wisteria.

The most straightforward way is to set the stems of the plant in the foreground or background of the tank and anchor them down with twine or fishing wire. As the plants take root they should grow upwards towards the surface of your tank. You can remove the wire or twine once they reach their maximum height (~15 inches).

You should plant them in a spot where it will not be shaded out by your other plants, and where there is plenty of room for it to grow.

To create a carpet you need to lay the stems down on their sides before you place them in the substrate.

Again you should use fishing wire to root Wisteria in water until the roots start to take hold.

The leaves and shoots should be sticking upwards out of the sand. When they take root, the plants will grow along the bottom of the tank and form a leafy carpet that your fish can take shelter in.

You can also float the plants along the surface of the water (which is probably the easiest way). When placed in an especially well lit spot, the leaves and roots will grow longer over time.

Care and Maintenance

This is not an aquarium plant that you can set and forget.

This plant will quickly become a nuisance without proper maintenance.

Their size and quick growth rate means that it can overwhelm an aquarium in a matter of weeks. It will continue to grow no matter the size of your tank. The only way you can prevent this is by trimming.

Trimming should be done at the base of the stems on the upper layers of the plant. When you notice that the old leaves are shading out new growth it is time to trim them back.

To trim this plant you will need to grasp the leaves by the base of the stem and use hedge clippers or pruning shears to cut. You should trim back any growth that extends 5 or more inches out from the base. You should also cut off any leaves that show signs of browning or rot.

In addition to trimming you will need to keep the plant well fertilized.

Water Wisteria turns yellow if it does not get the nutrients it needs. Make sure to choose a fertilizer rich in iron, nitrogen and phosphate. If you add CO2 to the water column, be aware that this can lower your water quality as it accumulates. It is safer to use a nitrate fertilizer placed directly into the substrate.

Compatibility and Tank Mates

The Water Wisteria can be kept with just about any tropical freshwater fish.

They will love the shelter that this shady plant gives them.

Nano fish such as Tetras, Rasboras and Cory catfish will appreciate the security that their huge leaves provide.

Other bottom dwellers like the Kuhli Loach and Yoyo Loach will eagerly make their homes in the thickets of this plant. So will Rainbow Shark.

Colorful Bettas, Guppies, and small Gouramis will look absolutely vibrant when shown up against this plant’s green leaves.

You can even use it to house some of the most popular invertebrates such as Cherry Shrimp and Assassin Snails.

Invertebrates that like to munch on leaves should be avoided. This rules out Nerite and Mystery Snails.

You should also avoid keeping the Water Wisteria with particularly rambunctious fish that tend to uproot plants. Silver Dollars, Rainbowfish, and other plant munching fish should also be avoided. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a good plant for a Goldfish tank either.

A few Goldfish can destroy this plant very easily once they get to chomping on the leaves and stems.

Water Wisteria Propagation

Water Wisteria is very easy to propagate.

When you trim your plant down you can use the cuttings to grow entirely new plants.

In the wild the plant naturally reproduces when petioles fall off and grow on their own.

Within an aquarium you can simply take a cutting and bury the stems in the substrate and anchor them down with fishing wire until they take root.

Once they reach the desired size you can cut away the wire and shape the plant to your liking.

It can be a little more difficult to create a carpet by using cuttings. But if you want to try it then you can plant them with the stems laying on their sides.

You can also float the cuttings along the surface of the tank and watch them grow.

When it is time to trim these new plants down, you can use these cuttings for new plants. This means that you will always have a fresh supply of new Water Wisteria.

5 Common Problems With Water Wisteria

Water Wisteria Is Not Growing

If your plant is not growing then it is likely that their roots are not well anchored or have been disturbed by your fish.

To fix this you can anchor the roots down with rope or fishing wire. Poor lighting is another reason for no growth. If this is the problem then adjust your lighting system or place your plants in an area where they can receive more light.

Taking Over The Tank

This is by far the most common problem with Water Wisteria.

It is very easy to underestimate their growth rate and they can quickly start to take over your tank.

In a smaller aquarium this plant needs weekly pruning to stop it from outgrowing the tank. You should trim the leaves down if they have grown out 5 inches from the base, or when the plant begins to look lanky and unshapely.

Leaves Turning Yellow Or Brown

Over time the leaves of your Water Wisteria will turn yellow or brown as they die off naturally.

However this can sometimes happen if the plant is not receiving enough iron or enough nitrates. Make sure that you are using a high quality fertilizer with an even balance of iron, phosphate and nitrates.

Leaves Are Dull Or Pale Colored

The colors of the leaves will depend on how much light the plant gets.

In a low light environment they will be very dull and pale.

If you want your plant to be brighter then try replanting dull looking plants in an area of the tank where they will receive more light. If this does not work then it means the lighting system itself is the problem, so you should try using a more powerful bulb.

Water Wisteria Is Covered In Algae

The same fertilizers that feed your plant also feed the algae that grows naturally in your aquarium.

When algae overgrows it makes your plant look unattractive. To keep algae at bay you should keep your tank very clean and flush out any excess CO2 and other nutrients by performing a partial (25%) water change every 2 weeks.

Should You Add Water Wisteria To Your Aquarium?

The Water Wisteria is a beautiful and hardy plant.

Lots of fishkeepers use to to liven up their freshwater aquarium.

It has lots of aquascaping potential and can be cut in shaped into just about any design you like.

This plant also provides excellent shelter for fish that enjoy the shade, as well as safe breeding ground for leaf spawners. It can even be a tasty snack for veggie loving fish.

If you need a vibrant decoration to make your tank stand out then this plant may be just what you are looking for.

Let us know why you want to keep Water Wisteria in the comments section below…