How to Care For Water Wisteria (Hygrophila Difformis).

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How to Care for Water Wisteria. (Hygrophila.difformis).

Water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) is a very popular aquarium plant in the hobby because of its lacy leaves, bright green color, and rapid growth. It is relatively easy to care for but it can easily melt and lose its leaves once you buy it. Learn our top tips and tricks to plant your new wisteria and get past the melting phase. Then, propagate it to grow new plants.


What is Water Wisteria and how can it be used?

The aquatic stem plant can grow to a height of 20 inches (51 cm) or 10 inches (25 cm) in countries between India and Thailand. (Below 20 inches, light may have difficulty reaching the base of the Wisteria, and the bottom leaves might become thinner. Many people use this bushy species as a background plant in their fish tanks, but you can also plant it in the foreground or midground if you want to cut it shorter. It is a fast-growing species that can consume nitrogen waste compounds in water to outcompete algae growth. If you don’t provide enough light or liquid fertilizer, the plant will tell you by melting away from starvation.

Why does my new water wisteria not look like the pictures online?

Wisteria is a live aquatic plant that is commonly grown in commercial plants farms. The leaves and stems are taken out of the water, and the roots are kept in the water. This is a method for growing plants faster and larger, with no pests or algae. Emersed-grown plants, or plants that have been grown above the water surface, generally have thicker stems and larger leaves that can absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Wisteria produces emersed foliage that looks like strawberry leaves. It has a oval shape of approximately 1.5 inches (4 cm) and grooved veins. The edges are slightly jagged.

Wisteria leaves emersed-grown

Once you place the wisteria in your fish tank, it must drop its old, emersed leaves and grow new, submersed leaves (or leaves that are grown completely underwater) that are capable of drawing carbon dioxide and other nutrients from the water. Submerged leaves tend to be thinner, more delicate and narrower than emersed growth. Wisteria has submerged leaves that are very different from the emersed ones. This can be confusing, but it is actually the same species, which changes its leaf appearance to adapt to new environments. When grown underwater, wisteria produces bright green, feathery leaves that can reach up to 4 inches (10cm) in length. Its bushy appearance can be used to add an interesting visual texture to planted tanks and is perfect for hiding fish fry or shrimp.

Submerged-grown wisteria leaves (on right)

What are the differences between water wisteria, water, and water, sprite, and how do they look? Wisteria and water, both Ceratopteris.thalictroides, have delicate, lacy, similar leaves. However, when compared side by side, water, sprite has more needle-like, thinner leaves. Water wisteria is a stem plant that can produce long branches all along the stem, whereas water sprite is a fern species that creates new shoots from a central point at the base of the plant.

Submersed-grown water sprite

How to plant water wisteria

1. Take out the stems from your rubber band and wrap the bundle or rock wool in a plastic pot. 2. Trim any stems or leaves that were damaged during transportation. 3. Use your fingers or tweezers to push the stem’s base into the substrate or gravel as deep as you can. 4. Plant each stem separately approximately 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) apart so they have room to develop roots and become anchored.

If you have fish that like to dig in the substrate, protect the newly planted stems by surrounding the patch of wisteria with a ring of rocks, wood, or other decorations. You can also grow wisteria as a floating plant. It simply rises to surface water and forms lots of hanging roots along its horizontal stem.

Planting water wisteria in the gravel with tweezers

Why is my New Wisteria Plant Dying

Expect the wisteria to look beautiful for the first few days once it has been planted. After the first week, the emersed leaves will begin to turn yellow, and then brown, particularly near the bottom of their stems. Once the leaves are brown, you can remove the leaves if you wish to avoid having excess rotting organics in your aquarium. If the wisteria has a low level of light and/or nutrients, it may turn brown and melt. Replant the green, healthy parts of the wisteria by removing the soggy stems. Then add more lighting or fertilizer as needed.

Emersed-grown leaves at the base of the stem tend to brown and melt off first.

How to Convert Wisteria From Emersed to Submersed Growth

The conversion phase can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on the fish tank’s light, nutrient, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. It may take up to a month for submerged leaves to appear in a low-tech tank that has dimming lighting and no CO2 injection. For faster results, you can use moderate to high lighting. The wisteria should be placed directly under the sunlight. Also, provide lots of nutrients in the water column using an all-in-one liquid fertilizer, and add a mineral supplement if you have soft water with low amounts of GH. Although CO2 injection is not necessary, it will significantly reduce the conversion time as it provides more building blocks that the wisteria can use.

Plant the wisteria in a substrate and don’t move it. It will stop growing for a time if you move it around. Then, it will adjust to the new place and grow again. Make sure that your stems don’t grow out of water too much. They may develop more emersed than submerged leaves. If you are having trouble getting your wisteria to convert, try floating some stems where they can collect more light and CO2 at the water surface. After they have grown enough roots to be able to plant in the substrate, you can replant them. Keep the water parameters, lighting, fertilizer, and water quality stable as wisteria can easily melt in volatile environments.

At Aquarium Co-Op, we strive to source submersed-grown wisteria to jump start the conversion process and save you the hassle.

How to Propagate Water Wisteria

Once the plant is established, it will start to grow at a rate that is 0.5-3 in (1-8 cm) per daily. To prevent it from blocking all the light and outcompeting other plants, cut off the top half of the stems and replant the trimmings to propagate the wisteria. The stem’s bottom half can be left in place and it will eventually sprout new leaves. However, if the bottom half is too “leggy” and lost most of its leaves during conversion or from lack of light, many people choose to remove it and plant the top half of the stem in its place. If the wisteria is floating, don’t let it cover more than 50% of the water surface, or else it may shade out other plants and cause stagnant, oxygen-deprived water.

The emersed lower leaves have developed holes and growth of algae, while the new submerged leaves at the tips are bright and healthy. Once several inches of submerged leaves have grown, you can trim off the healthy tips and plant them again to replace the emersed-grown portions.