You are at The Krib ->Plants ->Plants! [E-mail]

Water Sprite


  1. Water wisteria question
    by (Oleg Kiselev) (Tue, 28 Jun 1994)
  2. Water wisteria question
    by (Elaine Thompson) (1 Jul 1994)
  3. Re:Ceratopteris thalictroides
    by krombhol-at-felix.TECLink.Net (Paul Krombholz) (Sat, 2 Mar 1996)
  4. Water Sprite
    by Earle Hamilton <> (Tue, 23 Jul 1996)
  5. Re:Ceratopteris thalictroides
    by (Paul Krombholz) (Thu, 24 Apr 1997)
  6. To get rid of blue green algae
    by "Mark Pan" <mmenace/> (Tue, 27 Jan 1998)
  7. Ceratopteris varieties (my 2 cents worth)
    by krombhol/ (Paul Krombholz) (Fri, 27 Mar 1998)
  8. Water sprite questions
    by krandall/ (Tue, 24 Mar 1998)
  9. Ceratopteris thalictroides and siliquosa
    by Karl Schoeler <krsfert/> (Thu, 26 Mar 1998)
  10. Water Sprite
    by Deansliger <Deansliger/> (Mon, 23 Mar 1998)
  11. Ceratopteris
    by Neil Frank <nfrank/> (Fri, 27 Mar 1998)
  12. water sprire in low light
    by Neil Frank <nfrank/> (Fri, 18 Sep 1998)
  13. Ceratopteris
    by Karen Randall <krandall/> (Wed, 17 May 2000)
  14. Re:Water sprite
    by krombhol/ (Paul Krombholz) (Sat, 19 Aug 2000)

Water wisteria question

by (Oleg Kiselev)
Date: Tue, 28 Jun 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In article <2umrnl$>,
Erik Olson (e-mail) wrote:
>Actually, you are confusing two different plants.  Wisteria, or
>_Hygrophila difformis_, is one species.  I'd guess you could grow it
>floating, though I've always rooted mine.  Water Sprite, according to
>the Rataj book, actually is two different species: _Certatoperis
>pteroides_ is the "floating water sprite", and _C. thalicroides_ is
>the non-floating plant.  No idea if this info is still valid.

Let's step back even further.  Hygro. difformis is a flowering bog plant,
which has the watersprite-like leaves below the waterline and peppermint-like
crinkled leaves above water.  It flowers above the waterline.

Watersprite is a fern.  Whatever its species, I have grown the same
watersprite strain as a floating plant and as a rooted one.  Note that watersprite has 3 different leaf shapes.  The leaves grown above water are very
narrow, fleshy and darker green.

Oleg Kiselev at home			...use the header to find the path

Water wisteria question

by (Elaine Thompson)
Date: 1 Jul 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

> There is only one type of Wisteria - Hygrophila Difformis which is a rooted
> stem plant with leaves that resemble water sprite - Ceratopteris
> Thalictroides 
> 	Water Sprite can be floating or planted. It will form
> adventitious young plants at the leaf margins which will break off. If
> planted these will then float to the surface.
Since I am the one who asked the original question, I thought I'd post a
little of my new wisdom.  I now have both Hygrophilia difformis and
Ceratopteris thalictroides in my tank since I bought the Hygrophilia first.
 The folks at the store incorrectly told me it was water sprite
(Ceratoperis).  These plants do look similar, but to tell them apart at the
store so that you don't make the same mistake that I did, Hygrophilia has
opposite leaves and Ceratopis has alternate.
Elaine Thompson                  "Two roads diverged in a wood and I,
Johns Hopkins Univ.               I took the one less travelled by,   And it has made all the difference."
                                                --Robert Frost

Re:Ceratopteris thalictroides

by krombhol-at-felix.TECLink.Net (Paul Krombholz)
Date: Sat, 2 Mar 1996

>Olga,, wrote Fri, 1 Mar 1996:

>I have a question about my Ceratopteris thalictroides (hereafter "CT")
>plant. I started with one CT potted plant and now have 3 -- two medium
>sized and one very large. The large one, the original, has become a
>wonderful "stag-horn" type plant -- large, thick stems with a lovely
>branching structure with points, nothing that looks like a leaf. One of the
>smaller ones has wide leaves and the other has the fine leaves, as the
>original plant used to have.
>What's going on here? Is the "stag-horn" look the way CT develops as it
>ages? Does it have something to do with light, or iron? Another thing --
>when I had less iron in the water the stems would seem to rot -- they
>turned black and disentegrated -- but they would hang on by a thread and
>the leaves would not be affected. When I added more iron this happened to a
>much lesser degree. Is this normal for CT?
Ceratopteris thalictroides has broad leaves when small, but as the plant
gets bigger, the leaves become divided more and more, until they have no
flat leaf surface left at all. Even small plants whose leaves are out of
the water will produce narrow, much divided leaves.   My experience with
this plant has been that it gets too big for almost any tank, and the
leaves push up above the water level. I agree with what Stephen Pushak said
in digest # 293 about the difficulty of trimming it.  I suppose it might be
possible to cut off so many of the leaves that the base starts putting out
smaller ones.  An alternative is to replace too-large plants with smaller
plants that form on the older leaves.

This business of the older leaves dying near their attachments to the base
doesn't sound like iron deficiency.  My guess is that the improvement in
that condition was caused by something other than adding iron.

Paul Krombholz                  Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS  39174
In sunny, soon-to-be-hot Mississippi

Water Sprite

by Earle Hamilton <>
Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996

I grow lots of water sprite because it grows fast, looks good and is a 
good plants to jump start plant tanks.  I have two tanks that are 30" 
tall.  Got these after noticing that many plants keep right on growing 
and would have gone taller but I'm vertically impaired with a short reach 
to boot and anything more than 30" means the snorkel gear comes out.  

At any rate, the water sprite will in time grow right out the top and 
when I pull these monster plants to throw them away the plant is 
typically 24-30 tall with 8 inches of root.  

Re:Ceratopteris thalictroides

by (Paul Krombholz)
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 1997

>Dionigi Maladorno wrote, Thursday, Apr. 24:

..........<snipped>................ I recently noticed that one of
>the plants has generated an emerged branch that looks quite different:
>instead of the expected broad, fringed leafs, it has thick (round
>section), narrow and pointy, almost needle-like leaves (it's hard to
>explain in writing how they look). Is there anyone that can explain to
>me what is the reason for this change? The other water sprite plants
>nearby are perfectly "normal".
These leaves are aeral leaves that are also going to produce spores.  They
are normal.  Since the plant is so easy to propagate vegitatively, there is
no need, other than scientific interest, to try to propagate the spores.

Paul Krombholz                  Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS  39174
In pleasant, sunny, Jackson, Mississippi

To get rid of blue green algae

by "Mark Pan" <mmenace/>
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 1998
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria.freshwater.plants

>Although water sprite will consume nutrients including phosphate
>rather quickly, it does not release oxygen into the tank but rather
>into the air. I've had BG algae and water sprite co-exist in a tank.
>Ditto with any floating plant. You may wish to try H. polysperma
>and water circulation at a later date.
>Dave Whittaker

You're completely right there David. 
However, C.Thalictroides (water sprite, so that's the common name) can be
grown rather successfully submersed. When it is submersed, the leaves take
on a rather attractive pinnate appearance. They also do push out roots at
the internodes. It does need a great deal of light though, but once it
starts bubbling oxygen, its a sight to match Riccia Fluitans grown

Good luck Etsuko ;-)

Ceratopteris varieties (my 2 cents worth)

by krombhol/ (Paul Krombholz)
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998

I have seen four distinct types of Ceratopteris in my wanderings.  The most
common one  and the olderst in the trade is the one called thalictroides in
the older books.  Its younger leaves have a lot of leaf area and are lobed,
rather than finely divided.  When the leaves get over 6 inches long they
begin to become more finely divided.  Occasionally another species or
variety shows up whose leaves always stay lobed like oak leaves, even when
quite large.  This, in the older books has been called cornuta.  There is
another variety whose leaves are more finely divided than thalictroides.
Even the very small leaves, less than an inch long are divided into narrow
branches.  This is called siliquosa in Rataj & Horeman.  More recently I
once saw in my local fish store a form that has even more finely divided
leaves, where the divisions are almost thread-like and look superficilly
like leaves of Cabomba, with "fans" of narrow divisions coming from common
points.  I kind of wish I had got my hands on that variety, but I didn't
have the time or the place to get it set up.

The naming of these types is hopelessly confused in the books.  What I knew
as cornuta, Rataj and Muhlberg call pteroides.  Kasselmann calls pteroides
a form with finely divided aerial leaves that have swollen petioles like in
water hyacinth leaves.   She says it does not grow well in tanks and is
rare in the aquarium trade.  What I knew as thalictroides, Muhlberg calls
cornuta.  Kasselmann doesn't show it.  What I knew as silliquosa, Muhlberg
and Kasselmann call thalictroides.  Kasselmann shows a form I have never
seen before as cornuta.  Its leaves are divided more than I ever saw for
the 'old' cornuta, but less than in the 'old' thalictroides.

To straighten this mess out, we need pictures of all these species or
varieties at different sizes from small plants to large.

Paul Krombholz, in warm, windy central Mississippi.  

Water sprite questions

by krandall/
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998

Karl Schoeler wrote:

>Actually there are at least four plants which are called water sprite by=

>many people. They are: Ceratopteris pteroides, Ceratopteris thalictroide=
>Ceratopteris siliquosa, and Hygrophila difformis.  =

>C. pteroides seems to do best on the surface, While the other three will=
>well either planted or left floating.  However, if planted C. thalictroi=
>and C. siliqousa become very large.  I say large because they have the
>capability to be both tall and wide.  One specimen can cover a third of =
>75gal aquarium.
>Other names used for these plants include Indian Fern amd Water Wisteria=
>The Rataj Aquarium Plants atlas has an excellent picture of Hygrophila
>difformis on page 116.  Pages  122-127 show decent pictures of the other=

>three.  My personal favorite is C. siliquosa.  This fine-leafed plant
>grows rapidly enough to harvest 30 to 40 young plants in a 75gal in less=

>than a month.  Although it is not generally available in the industry,
>I have seen it come in with plant shipments from Singapore.
>There was confusion at one time that C. thalictroides and C siliquosa we=
>the same plants grown under different conditions.  Having raised all fou=
>in identical conditions it is obvious they were correctly identified in
>the Rataj/Horeman atlas.

David Soh wrote:

>They are two forms of the same plant. I am definite because I bought min=
>in the wide leaf form, then I weighed them down and planted them in the
>substrate. Eventually, they formed new leaves of the narrow kind. =

>Any responses from other list members ??

I've got to side with Karl on this one, although let's take H. difformis
out of the group... that's simply a mistake, as H. difformis (also known =
Water Wisteria) is a flowering plant, not a fern and is not even remotely=

related to the other three.

I won't go so far as to positively identify the 3 "Water Sprites" in the
hobby at the species level, but there are, without questions at least 3
different Ceratopteris sp. available in the hobby. Rataj's break down is =
pteroides, C. thalictroides and C. siliquosa.  Baensch identifies 3
overlapping species as C. pteridioides, C. cornuta and C. thalictroides.
Kasselmann has them as C. cornuta, C. Pteridoides and C thalictroides.

I _will_ tell you what the 3 types I've worked with look like.  _None_ ha=
been as broad leafed as that shown as C. pteroides in Rataj, and as C.
pteridioides in Baensch.  It is my understanding that this plant does _no=
do well planted and submerged... that it is a true floater.  Anyone with
personal experience on this plant?  The photo of this plant in the
Kasselmann book shows emersed growth, so is not representative of what we=

usually see in the aquarium.

The plant shown and C. thalicroides(sic) on page 123 in Rataj, and as C.
cornuta in Baensch, we sell at our club auctions as "Broad Leafed Water
Sprite".  The plant shown as C. thalictroides in Baensch and Kasselmann,
and as C. thalicroides(sic) on pg. 120 in Rataj we sell as "Fine Leaf Wat=
Sprite".  =

The third type is one I found about a year ago languishing in a corner of=
grower's greenhouse without a name.  Claus Cristensen was with me at the
time, and says they have this plant in commercial production in Europe.
His belief was that it was a form of C. thalictroides, but it is
_definitely_ different than the plant usual seen with that name.  It is
_much_ more finely divided than what we call "fine leaf" around here.
Might it be the planted Rataj calls C. Siliquosa?  If so, it is still muc=
more finely divided than the plant he shows under that name on page 127.
To differentiate it from the other forms available in this area, we have
started calling it "Thread Leaf Water Sprite".  Whatever it is, it is IMO=

the prettiest of the available types.

While it is true that _all_ Ceratopteris sp. are quite variable in form
depending on growing conditions, there are still several distinct types
(species?) that can easily be differentiated if grown side-by-side.

Karen Randall
Aquatic Gardeners Association

Ceratopteris thalictroides and siliquosa

by Karl Schoeler <krsfert/>
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998

To Bob and Jean and all,

A few years ago I wrote an article on the Genus Ceratopteris.
In that article I scoffed at those who thought C. thalictroides
and C. siliquosa were different species.  I exclaimed that they
were the same plant grown under different conditions!

Now I have to eat my words.  I have been raising what I believe
to be C. siliquosa for about a year.  I have sold perhaps 3-400
young plants from the original two that I received from Singapore.

The fern-like leaves are dramatically different from my C.
thalictroides, and they are raised in the same water, same light,
same CO2, same fertilization.

Anyone wishing to try some please email and I'll send you one
as long as you pay the postage.(Believe me, one is all you need!)

Now I'd like to be able to distinguish between C. pteriodes and
C. cornuta. (In the flesh!)

Karl Schoeler

Water Sprite

by Deansliger <Deansliger/>
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 1998

Bob --

What it sounds like you have is two different plants that have been growing
under different conditions prior to your purchase -- assuming they are the
same species, give them six months in an aquarium and they'll both be floating
and virtually identical.

There are currently four recognized species of "Water Sprite," Ceratopteris
spp.  The most commonly available are Ceratopteris thalictroides and C.
cornuta.  C. cornuta is the most commonly available; it's mislabeled as C.
thalictroides in the Rataj book (pages 120 and 123) -- TFH Publications even
extended the error by omitting the middle "t."  Ceratopteris thalictroides
looks like curly Italian parsley (if you squint); it's mislabed in the Rataj
book (page 127) under an old name, "C. siliquosa."  

Of the other two species, C. pteroides is occasionally found in the hobby,
usually at club auctions.  The fronds of C. pteroides are wide and splayed
out, hardly divided at all, and usually grow larger than a man's hand.
Ceratopteris richardii is somewhat similar in appearance to C. cornuta, but
it's an annual species and very difficult to maintain in an artificial
situation.  C. richardii has, though, been (successfully?) introduced to
southern Louisiana.
Like Riccia, which has a similar life cycle, Ceratopteris species grow in
areas of fluctuating water levels.  During dry periods they take root in the
substrate -- this is when they develop sori and sexually propagate -- but when
inundated with water the old plants usually die, releasing the plantlets on
the fronds to float away with the current.   Remember this as you try to keep
those plants rooted in the gravel! ;-)

Dean Sliger


by Neil Frank <nfrank/>
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998
To: Aquatic-Plants/

Karen wrote

>I _will_ tell you what the 3 types I've worked with look like.  _None_ have
been as broad leafed as that shown as C. pteroides in Rataj, and as C.
>pteridioides in Baensch.  It is my understanding that this plant does _not_
do well planted and submerged... that it is a true floater.  Anyone with
>personal experience on this plant?

I have had the "broad" leaf Ceratopterus which looks a little like the
picture on p. 122 of Rataj. It's leaves get very large and are quite
fleshy. I never grew this plant in the substrate and can't comment on
whether or not it does well there. As I recall, the stems are so firm, that
they would break if one tried to bend them in order to get it planted. It
might be interesting to see what would happen if one merely put the roots
under the substrate in shallow water, weighted them down to keep the plant
from trying to float up, and then gradually raising the water level to see
what would happen. I no longer have it.... it got too large for my taste...
As far as I know, it is still commonly available among the members of the
Potamic Valley Aquarium Society (DC-VA).

I have the "variety" of Ceratopterus that Rataj calls thalicroides on page
120 and 123. Both are shown planted. Page 123 is a floater recently placed
in the substrate. Page 120 shows what it turns into.

>The photo of this plant in the Kasselmann book shows emersed growth, so is
not representative of what we usually see in the aquarium.

This picture is what my plants look like when it is allowed to grow in an
open aquarium. There you can get both floating and emersed leaves.

water sprire in low light

by Neil Frank <nfrank/>
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998

>From: "D. Gama Higgs" <>

>>Water sprite in low light?? really?? I've never been able to grow them
>>in anything but really high lighting.
>I have no problems whatsoever with water sprite. I use it on my
experiments in breeding Anabantids as a floating anchor for nests and it
never stops appearing and growing everywhere in all my 15 tanks. Sometimes
its behaviour resembles more like a weed than anything else.
>My tanks are fluorescent lit with 1,3 W/G and water parameters are
1º<GH<3º and  6,5<pH<6.9. As for nutrients 0,9 ml/G of Fe liquid compound
every 11 days.

I can grow water sprite in low light or high light, but find that it is
easier to grow in soft/acid conditions. A cavaet is that I only grow it in
"low tech" tanks and have not attempted to overcome the "barriers" of
alkaline condition by providing the water sprite with extra nutrients.
Recently, I added some crushed coral to the overflow outside filter. Some
of the plants immediately benefited from the higher Ca levels (e.g.
Cryptocoryne affinis and aponogefolia, but the floating water sprite is
languishing. It turned a pale yellow and is barely growing. Before, I would
have to pull it out monthly by the bucketful. The main source of nutrients
is fish,fish food and occasional water changes. This used to be ALL the WS
needed. Obviously some water column nutrients are lacking (Mg, K, maybe
even Fe). My crypts are happy, so I don't care (they are probably getting
some of their nutrients from the substrate. When I get to it, I will add
Mg, K or Fe and see what happens. 

Neil Frank

BTW, the Sep-Oct issue of TAG is in the mail.


by Karen Randall <krandall/>
Date: Wed, 17 May 2000

Klaus Haber wrote:

>The ceratopteris is planted in the
>ground and growing well. 10 to 15 days after creating a new leave, it's self
>get fouling about 10 cm over ground and later, the leave will swim up to the
>watersurface and grows bigger and bigger. This process runs continously with
>all the leaves. To my opinion, Ceratopteris is generally a swimming-plant
>and the time staying in the ground is only a meanstage in order to prepare
>the leaves to swim at the watersurface. Does this theory meet Your
>experience too? I would be glad to hear Your comment

Hi Klaus, first I want to say that your English is just fine!  Welcome to
the group.  

As far as C. thalictroides is concerned, some varieties are happier
completely submerses (under water) than others.  The very fine leafed one,
known in older literature as siliquosa is probably the best for long term
submersion.  The wider leafed ones do exactly what you describe fairly
quickly.  Actually though, their goal, I think, is to get aerial (above
water) leaves.  If the tank is shallow and uncovered, they will happily
remain planted in the bottom, and grow large enough that a large portion of
the plant is growing above the water surface.  Grown in this manner, thay
can get really enormous.  

The only species that I know of that will not tolerate long term submersion
at all is C. pteridoides from S. America.  That one, as far as I know only
grows either floating, or rooted in the mud with its leaves above the surface.


Re:Water sprite

by krombhol/ (Paul Krombholz)
Date: Sat, 19 Aug 2000

Bob Olesen wrote:
I ask:
When we speak of "Water sprite" are we referring to Hygrophila difformis,
Ceratopteris thalicroides or perhaps something else entirely? Mr. Purchase
makes a good point in this regard.....

Gee, I never knew that the name, water sprite, was used for anything else
than Ceratopteris.  Do 'they' use it for Hygrophila difformis, formerly
known as  Synnema triflorum, , Ruellia triflora, Cardanthera triflora and
water wisteria, also?  Bummer!

I meant Ceratopteris, probably C. thalictrioides, but I have doubts about
how satisfactorily the naming of the Ceratopteris varieties or species has
been worked out.  I have seen four varieties or species: (1) the
"oak-leaved" one that has rather thick fleshy leaves that remain broad and
only lobed, even when, say, six inches long.  This is C. cornuta.
Kasselmann shows a picture of it with leaves that are much more divided
(compound pinnate) than I have ever seen.  The plant she shows is closer to
the three other varieties. that are usually lumped under C. thalictroides.
The one that has been in the aquarium trade the longest has the least
divided leaves.  small leaves, around an inch long, are only lobed.  This
could be called the broad leaved form.  There are two narrow-leaved forms
that I have seen, and that I presently have.  These both have their leaves
more finely divided, even the small leaves.  One fine leaved variety has
rather blunt tips to the leaves, and the other has much more narrow,
pointed tips.  Of the three varieties, it is the most graceful because the
leaves have a slight spiral as they branch, but, like all three varieties,
it quickly gets too big for most tanks and has to be severely pruned back.

Paul Krombholz, in hot, dry, central Mississippi

Up to Plants! <- Plants <- The Krib This page was last updated 18 February 2002