Hygrophila Difformis in Aquarium | 11 Things You Must Know |

Hygrophila difformis, or Water wisteria, is a luscious plant that requires minimum care. Only a few freshwater plants can thrive on low lights, and this is one of them.

Its decorative look is what aquarists love for this plant besides ease of care.

Hygrophila difformis is an easy, decorative, and low-light aquatic plant yet is undemanding in the aquarium trade. So, if you fancy exotic species, this can be your next pick.

This guide has covered everything you need to know from appearance, distribution, Aquarium care needs, propagation, tank mates, diseases, to everything else you get into your mind about Hygrophila Difformis.

What is Hygrophila difformis?

They are freshwater aquatic plants that belong to the Acanthaceae family.

This plant originates from South Asia, specifically from India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.

Naturally grows only in the rainy season; this is a large aquatic plant suitable for large aquariums.

Furthermore, this plant is a stem plant and needs a substrate to grow.

How to identify?

They are large submerged aquarium plants that reach 20-30cm tall and 6-12cm wide. 

The tall stems are covered with bright green color feathery leaves, but this shape can change according to environmental conditions as it is a heterophylly plant.

The plant will thrive in bright light conditions in vibrant green color but will do just fine in low light conditions.

Is Hygrophila difformis easy to grow?

Yes. Although some aquarists insist it’s difficult to care for, this plant will thrive without much care and complicated nutrient doses when given optimum water conditions.

As they are stem plants, they need proper substrate attache. 

Furthermore, propagation of this plant is also easy as you can regrow even a small floating piece of leaf of Hygrophila difformis without much hassle.

Distribution & natural habitat

Hygrophila difformis natural habitats are in swampy waters in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

Although it is a stem plant, It may grow both emersed and submerged but need a continual flow of water to thrive.

One look care guide

Scientific nameHygrophila difformis
Common nameWater Wisteria
Care levelEasy
Reef compatibleNo
Native toSouth Asia
TypeFreshwater Plant
Color Green
Tank sizeLarge Tanks
Preferred temperature70 – 82F
Other water parameters
pH level – 6.5 and 7.5
Water Hardness – 2-8KH
Preferred salinityNo salinity
Size20-30cm tall
6-12cm wide
Growth rate2-3 inches per week
LightingMedium Lighting
PositionBackground Plant
PropagationPlant cuttings

Hygrophila difformis care

They grow best with good light and nutrient-rich water and benefit from CO2 injection.

However, none of them are required for this plant to grow. But, this plant needs tropical water conditions in order to grow in aquariums.

Light demand

Hygrophila difformis prefer medium to high light conditions but can grow in low light conditions. This plant needs 10 to 12 hours of lighting per day.

When you provide high light conditions in your aquarium, it encourages cyanobacteria and algae growth naturally.

But, when you grow H. difformis, the chances reduce because the plant absorbs excess nutrients in the water, leaving fewer nutrients for these microorganisms.

Thus, bacteria and algae die because of the lack of nutrition before harming the aquarium life.

If you provide low light conditions, the plant will absorb more oxygen from the water, causing oxygen depletion.

So, if you choose to provide low light, be prepared to provide enough oxygen to the aquarium.

Fertilizers & substrates 

H.difformis do not require fertilizers to thrive. It instead absorbs excess nutrients from the water, cleaning the water for fish.

However, if you want this plant to grow faster, you can supplement it with fertilizers.

water wisteria absorb nutrients from the water, not through its roots. So, this plant can literally grow on any substrate.

You can grow this plant on soil, sand, or gravel. However, it prefers sand anyway. 

Can Hygrophila difformis grow on sand?

Yes. it actually prefer sand over other substrates as it is easier for the root system to attach itself to sand in no time.

CO2

water wisteria doesn’t necessarily need CO2 but will benefit if you inject CO2. CO2 helps the plant to grow faster.

Water quality 

Since water wiateria is a tropical plant, it needs tropical water conditions to thrive.

The optimum water temperature is between 70 and 82F, and the pH level is between 6.5 and 7.5.

The water hardness should be around 2 to 8KH. Further, this plant prefers still waters, so minimal water movement inside the aquarium is recommended.

Temperature

The ideal water temperature for water wisteria is about 70 – 82F. However,it can tolerate slightly warmer conditions.

Placement

You can grow water wisteria either submerged or emersed. And also, you can let the plant float on the water surface.

Either way, this plant will grow but, the best placement is submerged. The leaf shape when grown submerged is prettier than the emersed version.

Further, the plant growth rate is fast when planted in the substrate.

Can you float Hygrophila difformis

Yes. As we said above, you can float it without any problems. But, it won’t grow as fast as when submerged.

However, when you float water wisteria, the plant will not mind the water movement as it does when submerged.

How to keep Hygrophila difformis alive?

Keeping H.difformis alive is pretty straightforward. If given ideal water conditions and light, this plant will multiply without much care, to a certain point that it becomes a nuisance.

So, frequent trimming is required when growing this plant in your aquarium.

How fast do these aquatic plants grow?

If you put an emersed water wisteria into the aquarium as a submerged plant, it will go through a phase of leaf loss in the first few weeks.

Mostly this is because it is transforming into the underwater version and will grow even better than before.

Once it starts to grow, it will grow about 2 to 3 inches per week. Of course, if you supplement the plant with liquid fertilizers and CO2, this growth rate will multiply.

How to trim this aquarium plant

You can trim the plant with a scissor and trim it however you want. This plant is considered a weed and is very hardy.

So, whatever part you cut from the plant, it will grow back. Even a tiny leaf can grow back to a plant.

So, do not be afraid to trim the plant to get your desired shape. But, be sure to remove trimmings off the tank because they may clog your filter.

Does Hygrophila difformis need CO2?

water wisteria does not require CO2 to thrive. But, it will benefit from CO2 if you supplement with CO2 injection. This will help the plant to grow faster.

How do you propagate these aquarium plants?

The best substrate to propagate water wisteria is gravel. In gravel, the mother plant produces plantlets, while in the sand, it does not.

You can divide these plantlets and grow them as individual plants. However, this plant can regrow when you cut any part of the plant and place them in a substrate.

Can H. difformis grow out of water?

No. H.difformis is a freshwater plant. It requires even a thin layer of water to grow.

Hygrophila difformis

Hygrophila difformis tankmates 

Aquarium Fish

water wisteria is one of the few aquarium plants that can resist avid plant-eaters like goldfish and koi.

It is a rapidly growing plant that can outgrow fish’s eating rate. So, you can grow this plant with any fish you like.

Plants

Water wisteria is perfect as a background plant. Any foreground or midground plant will fit with this plant.

However, as they absorb most nutrients of the water because of their fast growth rate, you may have to supply fertilizers for the other plant types to thrive.

Other organisms

Water wisteria provides excellent shelter and hiding places for fish fry and shrimplets.

Keeping shrimps and snails can be a great asset as they help you clean the aquarium by eating this plant’s trimmings and debris.

Diseases, common problems and treatment

Unlike many other plants, water wisteria has relatively few problems.

Rapid Growth

Water wisteria is an invasive species. It has a fast growth rate that can be useful in many cases.

But, the same can be a problem when you have to trim off the plants. The trimming may clog the filters and make the tank dirty.

Additionally, the plant may cause other plants to suffocate and die by out-competing them for nutrients.

But, this problem can be remedied by frequent water changes, adding more fertilizers to the water, or trimming the fast-growing plant.

Plant Debris

Just like any other organic matter, water wisteria plant leaves die and decompose.

This won’t be much of an issue if you’ve got debris-eating species such as shrimps and snails.

If not, this debris can be a problem by polluting the water and by making your tank unattractive.

Clogging the Filter

As the plant grows, it sheds, and decomposing matter arises. Further, it needs frequently trimming to keep the shape.

These decomposing matters and trimmings will clog your filter, no matter the filter type you use.

Therefore, you will have to do regular maintenance of your filter.

Leaves Losing Color

As this plant absorbs lots of nutrients from the water and grows fast, at some point, it will face a nutrition shortage.

This will cause its leaves to turn into pale colors. If you experience this change in your plant, you can fix it simply by adding liquid fertilizers to the aquarium.

How to attach  Hygrophila difformis to driftwood/rocks/plastic/fabric

You should attach water wisteria to the substrate as it needs a substrate to attach its roots into.

If you attach this plant to driftwood, rocks, plastic, or fabric, you will have to glue the plant or connect it with a thread.

Since this plant absorbs nutrients from the water, it will continue to grow, but as time goes by, your attachment may not be enough for this plant to hold onto because of the faster growth rate.

Therefore, we recommend planting it directly into the substrate.

Why Hygrophila difformis turning brown?

If your water wisteria plant is turning brown, it is because your plant is lacking light and/or nutrients.

In this case, cut off the brown parts and replant the healthy green parts back. Add some liquid fertilizers and provide more light, and then the plant will turn back to normal.

Hygrophila difformis

How do you take care of a Hygrophila difformis?

Taking care of water wisteria is pretty straightforward. Plant the plant in the substrate of your choice, provide adequate light (low light will do fine) and some fertilizers (if you don’t have any fish, shrimps, or snails).

Can you float water wisteria?

Yes. You can float water wisteria, but it will have a slow growth rate.

How do you prun water wisteria?

You can prun water wisteria with a scissor and a net. Cut the overgrown parts with the scissor and take out the prunings with your net.

Be sure to remove all the pruned parts as leaves also tend to regrow as a new plant.

The plant-like to grow tall, but frequent pruning can stop them from growing taller than nesecery.

Conclusion

H.difformis is a perfect and popular plant for shrimp tanks as well as for goldfish tanks. It is aesthetically pleasing and grows fast without much care.

This plant can grow in low lights and does not require complicated fertilizer and CO2 supplementations, making it perfect for beginners.

Although the rapid growth rate can be a hassle, this plant has numerous benefits for the tank and its life.

So, we recommend keeping one of these plants in your aquarium.

Credit to: Blake’s Aquatics
Read Next: How To Grow Peace Lily In Aquarium? | 14 Things You Must Know |
About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.