There is something special about keeping real plants in your tank. Sure, plastic plants are easier to maintain, but they look fake and don’t add much to your tank. Choosing live plants, such as water wisteria, on the other hand, makes all the difference!
Water wisteria is one of the first plants I have added to my tank, and as it’s such an effortless plant, I am certainly not the only one.
This plant is easy to care for, grows rather fast (some might even say too fast!), and looks amazing! What more could you wish for?
If growing water wisteria is something you are thinking about, this is the article for you! I’ll share everything I’ve learned about this plant, its care, and propagation tips.
What Is Water Wisteria?
Water wisteria (hygrophila difformis) is a popular freshwater aquarium plant from the Acanthaceae family. It originates from the Indian subcontinent. More precisely, you can find it in places such as India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
Despite what its name might suggest, it is in no way connected to the true wisteria plant you can find on land.
Today, you can find water wisteria in aquarium shops in most areas of the world. Not just that, but it has invaded many bodies of water in the US and Europe.
This plant is rather affordable and very easy to keep while being rather effective. All of this has quickly made it one of the most popular freshwater plants in the aquarist hobby.
Water Wisteria Appearance
Water wisteria is a bright green plant that grows in tall, fairly narrow bushes. It can reach a height of 20 inches, and it can easily spread up to 10 inches across.
The appearance of the plant can greatly vary depending on whether you’re having emersed-grown or submerged-grown plants.
Plants that have grown above the water surface tend to be thicker, as they can absorb carbon dioxide from the air. On the other hand, plants that grow on the bottom of the tank tend to be thinner, especially near the bottom where there’s not much light.
The leaves of emersed wisteria look just like strawberry leaves. They are oval-shaped, with visible, grooved veins, and jagged edges. They rarely grow to be bigger than 1.5 inches, but this might vary depending on the conditions.
However, if you buy a wisteria that was grown outside of the water, it will have to drop its leaves and grow new ones that look much more delicate.
These leaves are feathery and much longer. In fact, they can reach 4 inches in length! This gives wisteria a bushy appearance.
The conversion process can last anywhere between a few weeks and a few months, so don’t be scared if your wisteria doesn’t look like you think it should for a while after you’ve bought it.
Water wisteria is one of the most common aquarium plants that flower. It produces gorgeous purple, lilac, or violet flowers with white accents. These flowers bloom above the water line and are shaped like a snapdragon.
Water Wisteria Vs Water Sprite
Water wisteria has a similar appearance to another popular plant, water sprite. Because of this, the two are easily mistaken for each other.
However, they are not the same plant and there are a few rather important differences between them.
Here’s how you can tell the two apart:
Another thing that you have to keep in mind is that water wisteria and water sprite have their own requirements. As such, they are not suitable for the same tank mates.
This is something you really need to keep in mind when deciding on a new plant for your aquarium – or on deciding what fish to add to a newly planted tank and at what moment.
Not just that, but due to its fast growth rate, water sprite can be a true menace inside your tank! In a matter of months, if not weeks, it can take over your entire tank!
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t get a water sprite plant. On the contrary – it can make your tank stand out even more than water wisteria, especially if you know how to deal with its fast growth.
I am simply sharing words of caution, as many novice fish keepers don’t realize just how much harm they can make to their tank if they pick the wrong plant.
How to Plant Water Wisteria
When you buy water wisteria, it will likely come inside a small plastic pot. You need to take it out of the pot, then plant the base of the plant as deeply into the substrate as possible.
Keep plants separated by 1-2 inches, so they can spread as they grow.
Also, if you have fish that love to dig in the substrate, such as the kribensis cichlid, protect the base of the plant with rocks or decoration.
Keep in mind that water wisteria isn’t a plant that will start growing the moment you plant it. Quite the opposite – it will likely stagnate for a few days, if not even weeks, until it starts growing.
It usually takes around a month for a water wisteria to reach its full size. This is when you can start optimizing it to suit your needs and aesthetics.
However, there are two more options you might want to learn about.
Water Wisteria Carpet
I have grown most of my wisteria plants as a carpet, as I found the plant to be beautiful and easier to control this way.
All you need to do is to plant your wisteria sideways. This will make it grow over the substrate, just like a carpet.
However, you need to be careful with this, as you might end up planting the wisteria upside down..
A fun thing that happened once was that I found out my wisteria leaves had turned white overnight. I have spent hours checking my water parameters and wondering what I have done wrong.
Turns out that I have planted the wisteria upside down by accident! The white I was seeing was actually the underside of the leaves.
While this sounds funny, it’s actually really easy to mistakenly plant a young wisteria on the wrong side. A plant might even become uprooted and flip all of a sudden!
Don’t panic if the same happens to you. This is really easy to fix. Simply take the plant out of the substrate and plant it the right way.
Water Wisteria Floating
If you’ve seen water wisteria floating on top of the tank and now wonder if this is the same plant as the one you see rooted, don’t worry. This isn’t a misunderstanding. You can float water wisteria just like you can root it.
The biggest issue with floating your water wisteria is that this can limit the amount of light that enters the tank.
This is perfectly fine for some fish and shrimp, such as cherry shrimp or tetras. Others, however, will be stressed out and confused.
As such, you need to plan carefully if you wish to float your water wisteria. Either you combine it with animals that don’t mind the lack of light, or you provide additional light to your aquarium.
Because of this, most fishkeepers, myself included, aren’t too fond of keeping wisterias as a floating plant.
Water Wisteria Care
You cannot just add plants to your tank and hope for the best.
…Okay, in the case of water wisteria, you probably can. This plant can survive so many various conditions it’s highly unlikely to die in any freshwater tank!
However, you need to know how to provide it with optimal conditions that will help it to grow.
Not just that, but you also need to know how not to make the conditions too ideal. This could lead to overgrowth, and this probably isn’t something you’d like.
Here’s what you need to do for your water wisteria to thrive:
Water wisteria can grow in most water parameters, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do all you can to provide it with the conditions that resemble its natural habitat.
First and foremost, the plant prefers warm but not hot water. Ideal temperatures are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can withstand a few degrees higher and lower.
The required pH is the same as for most freshwater animals, so you won’t have too much hassle with this. Make sure the pH is as close to neutral as possible, and your wisteria will be delighted!
Keep in mind that, as it is one of the fastest growing aquarium plants, water wisteria can lead to an increase of pH levels. The more the plant grows, the more CO2 it takes. This can disrupt the water parameters so much that the plant can end up harmed.
Of course, the only way this might happen is if you forget about the plant entirely. I have had my wisteria grow so much that it overtook my entire tank, and still the difference in pH levels was barely noticeable.
Still, you might want to learn some methods for lowering the aquarium’s pH levels, just to stay on the safe side.
The biggest concern is the water hardness. Water wisteria hates hard water! In fact, if you were considering buying a water softener, this might be the right moment to get one.
You don’t really need to have a water softener, unless you are struggling with hard water as it is, but it certainly wouldn’t harm you to have one.
To sum it up, the required water parameters are:
|70°F – 85°F
|6.5 – 7.5
|3 to 8 KH
Due to the size of this plant, it’s not suitable for nano tanks or small tanks. It can grow really quickly, and this plant isn’t small.
As such, it is advised to keep water wisterias in tanks that have a capacity of 10 gallons or more.
Otherwise, the plant might overgrow the tank too quickly and cause chaos for other tank inhabitants and plants.
If you’re planning on having a floated wisteria, then the substrate isn’t important.
However, if you want to root your plant, you need to think carefully about the right type of substrate. In fact, the improper substrate might result in your water wisteria turning yellow.
While wisteria might be able to grow in any type of substrate if water parameters are proper, it will thrive on gravel or sandy substrate.
The most vital part of caring for any freshwater plant is considering the nutrients. In fact, when thinking about supplementation, you should also think about other plants that share the same tank as wisteria.
Since wisteria can grow really fast, it needs lots of nutrients. Fortunately, though, most of these nutrients are already present in the tank.
If the only plant you have in your tank is water wisteria, you likely won’t need to provide it with additional nutrients. A few signs that supplementation might be necessary include:
- If you notice your water wisteria turning brown.
- Your wisteria isn’t growing.
- The wisteria has become pale in color.
However, if you keep other plants together with wisteria, supplementation is necessary.
This is because wisterias have the tendency to absorb all the nutrients in the tank, leaving nothing for the rest of the plants.
Propagating water wisteria is really easy, especially when the plant starts growing rapidly. In fact, I would advise you to cut it as often as possible to keep it from blocking the sunlight and growing too much.
The best option is to cut off the top half of the plant stem. You can simply replant these trimmings, and you’ll get a new wisteria plant.
However, if you do this, you might notice that the bottom parts of the plant have become too ‘leggy’ due to the lack of light. What I do is replace these thinned parts with the top parts I have just cutted. This will ensure your plant looks fresh and is under control.
Is Water Wisteria Invasive?
I have briefly touched on the fact that water wisteria can be found in nature in many areas of the world outside of its natural habitat. This leads to the question – Is water wisteria invasive?
We consider plants or animals ‘invasive’ if they have become so widespread or if they are reproducing so fast that they are ruining the eco-balance of a natural habitat.
In most areas of the world, yes, water wisteria is considered an invasive plant.
In its natural habitat in the Indian subcontinent, water wisteria grows so fast that it can lead to death of other species that live in the same habitat.
As such, authorities in India, Bhutan and Bangladesh are attempting to remove water wisteria in areas where it has grown too much.
However, my guess is that you’re in the US, just like I am, so I’ll focus on local authorities.
Water wisteria is slowly becoming a common sight in rivers and lakes in the US. This is the result of irresponsible aquarists and shops who have tossed the plant in the wild, not considering how this might affect the local ecosystem.
While water wisteria hasn’t had the chance to grow and spread as much as in the Indian subcontinent, it is considered a non-native plant in the US. This means that it is treated as a weed and has to be destroyed when found in nature.
However, it isn’t illegal to own the plant itself. You simply shouldn’t toss it outside and introduce it to natural bodies of water.
Water Wisteria Growth Rate
The main reason why water wisteria is considered invasive is its high growth rate. This is something you yourself can observe inside your tank, especially if you’ve provided it with proper conditions.
During its growth phase, water wisteria can grow 2 to 3 inches per week! If this doesn’t sound like a lot, let’s put it this way:
Water wisteria can grow around ⅕ of an inch or more than 25 millimeters per hour!
Now, this is a fast-growing plant if I’ve ever seen one!
What Breeds You Can Keep with Water Wisteria?
Water wisteria is not a poisonous plant, and you can keep it with most freshwater fish and shrimps that don’t eat live plants.
Some unsuitable species include silver dollars, goldfish, common plecos, oscars, and most snail species. These fish will ruin your plant in no time!
However, I personally like to combine my wisteria with a small number of plant-eaters. This will help keep the plant under control.
With this in mind, as long as you make proper calculations about the number of herbivorous animals inside your tank, any fish might be a good match for wisteria!
The Bottom Line
There are many benefits to planting water wisteria in your tank. This is a gorgeous-looking plant that grows quickly and that can reward you with a flower from time to time!
However, you need to be careful with it, as it can grow rapidly and take over the entirety of your tank. Your fish probably aren’t going to be too fond of this!
If you can control the wisteria’s growth and keep it trimmed, this plant will give your tank the appearance of a beautiful, tropical river or a lake!
Just keep in mind that it’s illegal to throw out water wisteria in bodies of water in most areas. This is an invasive plant that shouldn’t be found in nature, at least not in the US or EU.
Enjoy your aquatic plants in a responsible way that is safe for the environment.
You know that calming feeling of tranquility and thrill while looking at a gorgeous, perfectly functioning tank? That’s why I became an aquarist.
To make a very long story short, I’m Noah, and I’ve started this site aiming to share the most helpful advice on creating thriving habitats for fish and underwater animals.