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FAQs on Water Sprites, Ceratopteris

Related Articles: Water Sprites, Ceratopteris

Watersprite in an aquarium growing in as a floating plant.

Too long roots on water sprite   12/3/11
I ordered water sprite from an online pond business, as no lfs sells water sprite anywhere. It is the easiest plant and the hardest to obtain. Anyway I got three and they are about 24 inches long each
, but that is because the root is about 10 inches long.  The plants are floating in a 20 gallon long and I was wondering if it is ok to trim off about 6 inches of that long root or does it need to stay that way. I guess I am just scared of making any mistakes
Thank you!!
<No problem in trimming Ceratopteris roots, as long as the plants are healthy. Bob Fenner>

Ceratopteris vs. Poeciliidae and Pterophyllum 12/2/11
Hate to be bothering you again, but yet another question. Do freshwater angel fish eat water sprite??
<Not normally. But they might peck at if from time to time if there's flake food hidden there.>
Also I was wondering if guppies do, not that I keep them together with angels, but since guppies are herbivores like platies, I believe, would they go after the water sprite?? Thank you!!!
<Neither Guppies nor Platies should eat Water Sprite to any serious extent.
Guppies and Platies will peck at algae, that's all.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Water sprite and lighting 12/1/11
I was wondering how much light Water Sprite needs to stay alive in a 20 gallon long or a 29 gallon tall?? Can it survive with the typical long florescent bulb that is 6500K and 20 watt bulbs you get at the hardware store or does it need much more than that? Thank You!!
<Hello Judy. Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) is not fussy. While it enjoys bright light, it will grow, albeit more slowly, under mediocre lighting. So give it a whirl and see what happens. You should be okay. And yes, generic fluorescent tubes are fine, provided the wattage and colour temperature suits. 6500 K is more than adequate for plants. By the way, incandescent light bulbs are utterly useless in aquaria, providing unwanted heat more than anything else. So if you can, replace with much more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs instead, which are actually pretty good in small tanks with water depths less than 25 cm/10 inches. Cheers, Neale.>

Ceratopteris cornuta, avail.    8/23/11
I had this plant in my aquariums 30 years ago and thanks to your site I was able to identify it. But I have not been able to find it for sale on any of the websites or local pet stores. Can you help me locate an on-line source for this plant?
Thank you,
<Hmm'¦ yes, this species is only patchy in distribution, for some inexplicable reason. In the US the species Ceratopteris thalictroides is commonly the "Water Sprite" though other names, such as Indian Fern or Floating Fern are common too. Whether or not Ceratopteris thalictroides and Ceratopteris cornuta are the same plant, or different names used (incorrectly) by the trade for the same plant is unclear to me. Cheers, Neale.>

"Fish Help" re: unexpected livebearer fry; traps; feeding; Ceratopteris   8/15/11
Hey there Jacquie here again. Just a little update. The molly that was pregnant with the platy aborted the pregnancy (as u said) and the platy has not bugged her since. But oddly no other male has either. Now to the cool news I finally had some success! I put my pregnant Dalmatian Mollie into a newly set up 30 gallon tank (I used water from the other tanks so the cycling would go easier) and sure enough she had her babies after a couple weeks! I was out when she started so she ate a lot of them and a lot of them were still born but when all was said and done I have 7 happy healthy babies! Any suggestions to keep them that way? And also I was thinking of making a Plexiglas (sp?) partition with a lot of small holes in it so I can put a pregnant momma fish in it and keep her away from the babies. Would that be safe for the tank? I figured that would be better than those little birthing nets that they sell at the pet store. Don't know if u can see it but here is one of the little ones swimming around the heavily planted bottom.
<Greetings. There are two ways to handle unexpected fry with the aim of keeping as many alive as possible. The first is to add bunches of floating plants. By preference, fry hide at the top of the tank. Floating plants providing hiding spaces for the crucial first 2-3 weeks needed to get big enough to avoid being eaten. Something like Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides, sometimes called Water Sprite) is the ideal but at a pinch common "Elodea" (the cheap pondweed sold for use in goldfish aquaria) will work almost as well. The downside to "Elodea" is that is usually doesn't do well in tropical aquaria because it needs intense lighting to survive at high temperatures. Indian Fern is more difficult to get hold of, but it is
infinitely more easy to grow.
The second approach is to corral the fry into a breeding trap, again for the first 2-3 weeks. Breeding traps work extremely well used this way, and in fact I have one in use right now for some newly hatched Oryzias melastigma. Breeding traps have the positive side of being good for allowing you to spot feed the fry without overfeeding the adults, and you can use finely powdered baby fish food in the trap (Hikari First Bites is excellent) 3-4 times per day while offering the adults their usual 1-2 meals of regular-sized flake. The downside to breeding traps is they're unsightly and awkward to install in some tanks. Even if you use a breeding trap, it's wise adding some floating plants too, as these provide cover for the newborn fry and you'll find you're able to rescue far more fry this way compared to just using a trap on its own and hoping some fry survive long enough for you to see them. Floating plants like Ceratopteris also provide shelter for the pregnant females away from annoying or aggressive tankmates. Note: do not put the pregnant female in the breeding trap. Most traps are too small for this to be safe, and the stress can cause real harm
to them, including causing miscarriages. Far better to use the traps for the fry, as/when you find them. Cheers, Neale.>

Silver / Tri Colour Sharks, losses (It's a mystery! RMF?)     7/30/09
Hello Crew,
Having a problem with our Bala Sharks. We have lost two of them in the last three weeks.
<Oh dear!>
Symptoms : Starts with cloudy eyes, this seems to spread backwards and looks almost like a fungus spreading. The fins, particularly the Pectoral and Dorsal start to look as though there is some sort of 'fin
rot'. The fish seems fine but stops eating 'enthusiastically' although it does still eat. After a period of approx 6 weeks the fish is found swimming upside down and dies soon after.
<Hmm... putting aside the obvious -- old age -- if it's the same species of fish getting damaged, infected, and then dying, there's two obvious explanations. One is that there's a species specific virus (or equivalent)
in your tank. This isn't likely though, and the classic cases, like Neon Tetra Disease and Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus are well known and easily recognised. The more likely explanation is that something has changed in the tank, perhaps environmental, perhaps social, that means this particular species of fish no longer "works" in this tank.>
Aquarium : 2000 Litres approx (7ftx3ftx3ft), 3mm Dorset Pea natural gravel
Filtration : 2 Eheim Pro III 2180's
Heating : Hydor under gravel 2 * 300w (supported by integral heaters in filters but filter heaters are rarely required)
Circulation : 2 Hydor Koralia 4's, 1 Seio M2600
Water Stats : Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20, pH 6.5, water is relatively hard, temperature 27 Deg C Min, 28 Deg C Max. water changes are carried out fortnightly and calculated to keep nitrates below 25ppm so it
can vary in amount. Water changes are carried out using Tetra AquaSafe and a 'Python', gravel is vac'd at same time.
<All sounds fine.>
Stock : 18 Clown Loach ranging from 4 to 8 inches in length, 2 Red Tail Tinfoils 8 inches, 1 Sailfin Plec 14 inches, 2 Silver Dollars 6 inches, 4 Black Widow Tetra, none of these are showing any signs of any problem
whatsoever, there are no plants, there is a large amount of 'bog wood' shelter and places to hide type holes. There are now 5 Bala Sharks (were 7) ranging from 6 to 11 inches.
<How old are these fish? They do live for around 10+ years, but if they're substantially older than 10 years, you may simply be seeing normal mortality.>
Feeding : Principle is JBL Novo Bel but once weekly add frozen 'shrimp' and 'bloodworm', additional variation provided by JBL Novo Tab.
Feeding is monitored and if the feeding is less than enthusiastic the next day will be a 'fasting' day.
<I would class Balantiocheilos melanopterus as being a "heavy" feeder, so one factor is whether they're getting sufficient food. Make sure your specimens have nicely rounded bellies, and when viewed from the front, the profile on the flanks is slightly convex rather than concave.>
Things that I have tried
1 : Increase the vitamin uptake of the fish incase it was a dietary deficiency using JBL Atvitol for a 4 week period. - effect none.
2 : Treat individual fish in hospital tank using JBL Ektol at recommended dosage and period. - effect dead within 24 hours.
3 : Treat entire aquarium using JBL Ektol at recommended dosage and period - effect none except dead filters, never again.
<Have never used JBL Ektol so can't comment on its efficacy/safety either way. Will make the usual statement that carbon neutralised such medications and should be removed before use. Can't think why your filters crashed; do review dosing, usage.>
4 : Treat entire aquarium using eSHa 2000 at recommended dosage and frequency - effect another dead Bala shark.
<I do use eSHa 2000, and find it to be very reliable, even with catfish and pufferfish.>
I now have another shark showing the cloudy eye and am out of ideas, I cannot keep throwing chemicals at this, it is damn expensive to treat 2000 litres, no other fish show any signs of problems.
Best regards,
<There's no obvious reason from the data here why your Bala Sharks aren't doing well. So would suggest taking another approach: is there anything that might have stressed/be stressing them? They are nervous fish, and when alarmed, sometimes throw themselves into the glass or at the hood. Clown Loaches and Silver Dollars should be fine, but the Red-tail Tinfoil Barb, Barbonymus altus, is a big, boisterous fish that tends to be rather restless. Similarly, Black Widows can be nippy, though this varies, and sometimes they're utterly harmless (but mine never were...). I'd also consider age, how much you're feeding them, and whether there's anything outside the tank, like banging or paint fumes, that might be stressing these fish. Cheers, Neale.>
<<Is mysterious to me as well... What would just affect the Balas... I would default to serial water change-outs, the addition of some hardy, palatable floating plant material (to cut down light, give the fishes something to chew...) and use a goodly amount of activated carbon (bagged, in an area of water flow)... BobF>>

Re: Silver / Tri Colour Sharks (It's a mystery! RMF?) -- 07/30/09
Would not argue with this at all. In fact if you're anywhere near Berkhamsted, you're free to come pick up a couple clumps of Ceratopteris from me! I seem to be throwing out bucketfuls ever couple of weeks. But seriously, Bob's point is sound. Many of my fish eat the stuff, and it certainly makes nervous fish -- hujeta gar, red-tail pufferfish -- much less skittish, and much more settled than otherwise. Really, I'd class Ceratopteris as almost as useful as heaters and filters!
Cheers, Neale
<Yowzah! I swear Neale and I are two individuals! Perhaps characters would have a better, more accurate connotation. Cheers! BobF>

Re: Silver / Tri Colour Sharks (It's a mystery! RMF?) -- 07/30/09
Funny boy! Yes, I'm a recent convert to Ceratopteris. Not sure how I'd live without the stuff now. I think pet shops should give a leaf or two away with every fish! I started off with a few fragments, and now I have tonnes in every tank, and even some in the pond.
<C. thalictroides is one of my all time... olde... faves>
My Ameca splendens seem to eat nothing else. They refuse flake food entirely when they have the stuff.
Cheers, Neale
<And you, BobF>

Water Sprites, and planted tank algae control  4/16/09
I have a question about water sprites. I currently have a 46 gallon bowfront with discus. They are doing great and have amazing coloration, but I'm having some brown algae problems. I'm assuming it's diatom algae.
<Very likely, if the stuff is a slippery or greasy brown-yellow film on the inside of the glass.>
Feedings usually consist of flakes, pellets, or frozen foods that are fed twice a day and they eat all the food they are given. I use deionization to filter the source water which comes from a well, and use Kent Discus
Essential to replace minerals. The tank pH is around 6.4 with ammonia 0 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm, and nitrates about 20 - 30 ppm, and phosphate is 0 ppm.
I do about 20 gallon water change every week. I've read that water sprites take in nutrients with their leaves due to poor root systems.
<May well be true. Can't imagine it matters either way.>
Is this true and will a heavy water sprite populations help with my algae and nitrates?
<Floating plants generally can help, provided they're growing rapidly.
Personally, I find Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigata) much, much better in this regard; it grows at an astonishing rate even under moderate lighting. It has long roots that produce a wonderfully shady habitat that
fish enjoy. It's also very pretty, and it's low-lying leaves don't get scalded by the lights in most hoods. By contrast, I've never found Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) either easy to establish or particularly fast growing. I have tanks containing both species, and the Amazon Frogbit grows at least ten times faster! I can remove clumps of the stuff weekly, and yes, my tanks are essentially algae-free. I wipe the glass down maybe once every 2-3 months.>
I read that water sprites make for a good floating plant. I was planning on using them for a floating plant with 96 watts of 6700K CF lighting. I know discus do not like bright lighting. So I was hoping the floating water
sprites would give shading to my discus as well as help starve the algae of nutrients and help with nitrates. Thank you for your time and great advise I always receive from your crew.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Water Sprite problems   2/5/08 Dear Crew, I bought 2 sprigs of Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides) about 5 weeks ago. Initially it was doing well, producing strong green violins and opening into large fronds. However, the last week I have noticed that the growth seems very weak. The new violins are small and white. The older material is producing lots of offshoots and has taken on a wilty, almost melty appearance. I take it the plant is not doing well and is trying to put off pups to survive. I have the plants floating (they were rooted in the gravel at the LFS) in a 10G tank lit with 2 10W compact fluorescent bulbs. The inhabitants are 9 Glowlight Tetras which I feed tropical flakes once a day 5 times a week and freeze-dried bloodworms once a week. My pH is around 7.6 and I keep the temperature at 79F. I do not have CO2 injection or add any fertilizers. From what I understand this should be taking over my tank. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Evan <Hello Evan. On paper at least things sound good, but the "watts per gallon" rule doesn't actually hold with very small tanks or very big tanks. It only really works for medium-sized tanks in the 40-50 gallon size range. This will sound counterintuitive I know, but tanks as small as 10 gallons actually need a huge amount of light to get rapid plant growth or to cultivate bright-light species. If you're wondering, you need about 70-100 watts of light over a 10 gallon tank to get solid plant growth with light-hungry species! It's all to do with the surface area of the tank and the depth of the tank, which don't scale precisely with the volume of the tanks sold to aquarists (in other words, a 10 gallon tank isn't a scaled-down version of a 55 gallon tank, but a completely different shape. In fact it is a tank with a proportionally smaller surface area that the 55 gallon tank, but proportionally greater depth. This isn't to say you *can't* grow plants in very small tanks -- you can. It's just that some degree of trial and error seems to come into play, where you have to experiment with various species to see what works in your particular tank. From personal experience, things like Java fern, Anubias, Cryptocorynes, and so on work brilliantly in small tanks and can be used to make nice planted tanks. This is likely one of your issues. The other issue will be fertilisation: plants need fertiliser, either added to the water or put into the substrate. Ceratopteris does best as a floating plant, so the liquid fertilisers are the way to go. You could try this to see if it helps, but if that doesn't, I'd suggest just trying some other plants, preferably ones tolerant of low-light conditions. Cheers, Neale.>

Referencing your website (specifically Ceratopteris article)  2/28/07 Greetings, <Hi there> I was looking into referencing certain specific points from your Ceratopteris article titled Water Sprites, Ceratopteris apparently, found in the Aquarium Gardner series. I would greatly appreciate any information as to how to properly reference the page in question, as there doesn't seem to be a date or much specific information of any kind. Much appreciated! Ian K <Mmm, was generated by me... about five years back. Cite by the URL: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/ceratopteris.htm Bob Fenner>

Ceratopteris Purchases (in PA) Dear WetWebMedia folks: <cheers> I have searched, unsuccessfully so far, for an aquarium store where I can purchase some water sprite.  None of the stores in my area of PA carry it because they consider it a nuisance plant in aquaria.   <what part of PA are you from? In in Pittsburgh.. have seen Elmer's Aquarium Monroeville carry it almost weekly. Also what of That Fish Place in Lancaster? There are also the aquarium societies in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that have tons of it at their monthly meetings> I lost the crop of it that I had many years ago and would like to replace it. Thanks, Mike Case <this will not be tough to find Mike... at worst, do a keyword search of the genus on Google.com with the word "purchase"... and you will find a vendor. Anthony>

Watersprite Hello Bob : I found this site when I used the Google search engine. I typed in " Ceratopteris cornutus" Years ago I used this specie of WS. Now all I can find is a watersprite called "Ceratopteris Thalictroides" Is this type of WS available from you and if not can you lead me to it. We live in Florida now. Please reply. Respectfully, Charlie <cheers, Charlie... neither Bob nor Wet Web Media have anything to sell to the public. We are volunteers and in the information/content/photography biz. To find the plant that you seek let me suggest that you browse the various suppliers on our links page of WetWebMedia.com or continue keyword searches with the scientific name. There are so many plant suppliers online that I suspect you will find a source within minutes. Best regards, Anthony>

Lighting Howdy Bob, Just another question on lighting arrangements...On my 120g 48x24x24 tank which I will eventually set-up, I have see-sawed with questions about lighting. For keeping a variety of corals, I want to eventually setup my tank with sufficient lighting to help them thrive. I currently have a CSL PC 4x96wt ABS fixture, I really don't want to deal with MH lights now or in the future for a number of reasons.  <I hear you...> My idea, if I want to increase light intensity, is to add a 2 bulb VHO fixture with one actinic and one regular bulb to the top of my tank. Will these lights together provide sufficient light to grow a wide variety of corals? <Yes, a very viable plan... some of the higher intensity corals might have to be placed higher up in the water column, no big deal> Does the fact that most of the top of my aquarium will be covered create a problem as far as overheating or poor oxygenation?  <Not covered in the way of air circulation I hope/trust... and do your best to not have to have anything between your lighting and the water surface (fixtures, fittings disallowing metal contamination...> By the way, your advice on throwing in some water sprite and covering my PC in my FW aquarium has really dented my algae problems, thank you. Dave <Ah good to hear back on... Ceratopteris works wonders. Bob Fenner>

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