Keeping live plants in your aquarium not only adds a beautiful, natural look, but they’re great for your fish too. Plants provide shelter for shy fish and fry and help to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated. But some tropical aquatic plants are easier to look after than others, so it’s essential to make the right choice to save yourself problems in the long-term.
Water wisteria is an easy-care plant that’s a good choice for beginners. The species is readily available in most fish stores, it’s pretty straightforward to propagate, and you can grow water wisteria as a stem, mid-ground, or carpet plant too.
In this guide, we take a look at how to care for water wisteria, including propagation tips and information on the water conditions that the plant needs to make it thrive.
Water wisteria has the scientific name, Hydrophila difformis. This is a tropical freshwater plant that belongs to the Acanthaceae family and is native to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaya, and Bhutan.
Water wisteria has bright green leaves that form wavy, narrow protrusions, and the leaves can change their shape, according to changing environmental conditions. The stems are firm and of a slightly darker shade than the leaves, growing to a height of around 20 inches and a width of up to 10 inches. The plant’s roots are thin and white, anchoring the plant to the substrate.
The plant can grow vigorously if given the right conditions, which can cause issues if it is allowed to spread unchecked, blocking out the light from other plants and fish. Some varieties of water wisteria can be grown as carpet plants, while others are more useful for growing as background specimens.
Wisteria Hygrophila difformis is a popular plant, so it’s readily available from most aquatic supplies stores and online.
When choosing plants, look for strong specimens that are in good condition, as these have the best chance of survival. Look for plants that have long, abundant roots. If the roots are weak, the plants won’t be strong enough to hold themselves up or gather nutrients. Plants must stand upright and be able to support their own weight without drooping.
Healthy water wisteria is bright green, and its colors are consistent throughout the whole plant. If some of the leaves or stems are brown or yellowish, that’s an indication that the plant is in poor condition.
You can expect to pay around $5 to $10 for a bunch of healthy water wisteria. There’s no need to go overboard when buying this plant, as Hygrophila difformis is very easy to propagate at home if you need more specimens.
Water wisteria care and maintenance
In this part of our guide, we explain how to care for water wisteria Hygrophila difformis to make sure that your plants thrive and grow vigorously.
Water wisteria is native to the warm, tropical waters around India, where it grows in shallow water with lots of bright sunlight. In the aquarium, the plant requires a temperature of between 74° and 82° Fahrenheit. Although the plant will survive at temperatures lower than that, its growth rate will be drastically slowed.
In nature, the plant buries its roots in the sandy substrate, which is generally slightly acidic or slightly alkaline. As an aquarium plant, wisteria needs a pH range of between 6.5 and 7.5 and water hardness of 2 to 15° dCH. Extremes of pH and water hardness should be avoided, as both can cause the plant’s health to suffer, and it may not survive.
This plant species needs very bright light to thrive in an aquarium setting, ideally 75 watts per 25 gallons, especially if you want to use water wisteria as a carpet plant.
The tank size can be as small as just 10 gallons, although you will need to trim the plant periodically to prevent it from taking over the aquarium. Fine gravel or sandy substrate replicates water wisteria’s natural growing conditions and is ideal for a stem plant.
You can grow the wisteria aquarium plant as a mid-ground, carpet, or background plant, depending on the size of your tank and the effect you want to create.
Planting water wisteria
Choosing the correct substrate is crucial if you want to grow water wisteria successfully. Sandy or fine gravel substrates are the best options, as they provide a medium that the plant’s delicate roots can move through easily. That’s crucial, as the roots need to be able to spread and gather nutrients.
Plant these aquarium plants where they have good access to lots of bright light so that they can use photosynthesis efficiently. Space stems a couple of inches apart so that they don’t crowd each other as they grow.
If you want to create the carpet effect, put these aquarium plants horizontally and root them into place. The upward-facing leaves will grow to create a beautiful, vivid green covering across the bottom of your tank.
Trimming water wisteria
Water wisteria is a fast-growing plant that does require regular pruning and trimming to control its growth and spread. Use a pair of high-quality, specialist aquascaping scissors so that you don’t tear the stems. To prune the plant, simply trim the stems down to the size you want. Take care to remove all trimmings from the tank, or they will fall onto the substrate and gradually put down roots, eventually growing into new plants.
Thanks to its speed of growth, water wisteria tends to cause a nutrient deficiency that can affect other plants growing in the tank. For that reason, you’ll need to add a liquid nutrient supplement to boost plant growth. However, take care that you don’t inadvertently cause algae to grow in the tank, as well as your plants.
Propagation of water wisteria
Propagation of water wisteria is very straightforward in the aquarium and in nature.
In the wild environment, the plants continue to grow until they reach a point where pieces begin to break off naturally. Those plantlets then develop into brand-new plants. When propagating water wisteria in your home tank, you use the same basic principle. When the plant has grown to its mature height, simply cut off the top five inches or so of the stem. Plant your cuttings elsewhere in the substrate, and they will quickly begin to send out new roots as they develop into a new plant.
When choosing cuttings to propagate, make sure that they have plenty of leaves so that the new plant can photosynthesize.
Water wisteria can be kept with other plant species provided that you don’t plant your tank too densely. Overcrowding usually causes plants to die off, so always make sure that you allow each specimen plenty of space to grow.
Most fish species can live in a tank planted with water wisteria, although there are a few that will nibble on the plant’s leaves. Fish to be avoided in a tank that contains water wisteria include goldfish that will eat the leaves and dig out the roots of the plant, silver dollars, and rainbowfish. Most cichlids are fine in a planted tank, as are bettas, Corydoras catfish, Danios, Dwarf gouramis, guppies, mollies, Cherry barbs, rasboras, and tetras.
Although all species of shrimp are fine in a planted tank, almost all snails will destroy your plants, with the exception of the Assassin snail that’s less likely to do so.
Most tropical fish tanks make a good home for water wisteria. These plants are a hardy species that can be added to pretty much any aquarium that doesn’t contain snails or fish that tend to attack vegetation. As long as you don’t have very extreme water parameters or a cold water tank, water wisteria should do well, provided that the aquarium is very brightly lit.
These versatile plants can be grown in any part of the tank, including as a carpet plant. The popularity of the species and ease of propagation means that the plants are readily available and inexpensive to buy. That and the plant’s fast growth rate means that you only need to buy one or two stems to start with.