Creating a carpeted tank is one of the most common goals, and for good reason—it’s a beautiful style to achieve in an aquarium. The pearling effect and vivid green perfectly accents many styles of Aquascaping used today.
However, it can be tricky to do, especially if you aren’t experienced with optimizing plant conditions like CO2, light, and fertilizers. Give yourself some patience, the right knowledge, and some time, and you’ll have that beautiful green carpet.
There are a few great resources like this one online.
First, let’s take a look at the types of plants that are best suited for what we’re trying to do:
Choose Your Plant
Certain types of plants will naturally tend to create the ‘carpet’ effect. These plants require certain types of lighting conditions, and you’ll need to make sure they’re met properly in order to encourage proper growth.
Here are a few of the most common species:
Cuba (Hemianthus callitrichoides)
Cuba is one of the smallest aquarium plants in the world. Its grows over the bottom of the tank with tiny round leaves, and—like most carpeting plants—it spreads rapidly when separated and planted in clumps with a grid-like pattern.
Glosso (Glossostigma elatinoides)
Glosso is another small plant that’s perfect for carpeting. It is a difficult plant; you’ll need a significant amount of light to keep it from simply growing upward. It also prefers softer water, and CO2 helps it grow at an optimal rate.
Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis Parvula)
Dwarf Hairgrass looks beautiful in a carpeted tank. It looks particularly appealing when it’s being trimmed, as many YouTube videos show. It does, however, need CO2 to grow at an optimal rate.
If given the correct conditions, it’s not uncommon for your carpet to require trimming every two weeks.
If you’re looking for the optimal results, it’s best for the plant to be split and planted in a grid pattern. When you start planting, split the plant into small portion and space them apart to give them space and opportunity to grow in a grid pattern.
If you’re efficient, it’s possible to get quite a few plantlets from one pot.
Here’s an example of the grid-like pattern that works quite well:
Remember, while spacing the plantlets in a grid pattern will increase the speed at which your carpet grows in, the more pots you use to initially plant your carpet, the faster it’ll be filled in. I’ve had good results from InvertObsession on Amazon.
Because you’ll be planting such a small plantlet, many common substrates are too coarse to properly hold the plant down. It’s most effective to use a powder-type substrate like Tahitian Moon Sand or ADA Amazonia mixed with a nutrient-rich substrate, like CaribSea Eco-Complete or Flourite.
No matter what type of substrate you get, make sure to mix the nutrient substrate with the powder-type to prevent root constriction that may occur in a fine-powder substrate.
Otherwise, the fine powder may constrict the roots of certain plants, preventing them from growing properly.
Here’s a list of great combinations for substrates:
- Tahitian Moon Sand and CaribSea Eco-Complete
- ADA Amazonia and Flourite
- Power Sand Special and ADA Africana
When you start your carpet, it’s important to actively monitor the parameters of your water, as well as visually checking for growth and signs of browning and melting that may signal a needed change in lighting or water conditions.
To keep your carpet growing compactly as it should, you’ll need to trim it occasionally, depending on your growth rate. For optimal conditions, you’re looking at trimming your carpet at least once every 10 days. If you’re not providing CO2 (which you should be, for the best results), you’ll probably only need to trim it once every three to four weeks.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can get aquascaping tools. I’ve had good results with these from Green Leaf Aquariums: Aquascaping and Maintenance Tools
If your budget allows, we’ve also seen significantly improved results from dosing with additives like ADA Brighty, which helps accelerate root and plant growth. This is just an option, and carpets will grow quite well without it! If you do, you’ll probably want to use the other steps in the ADA process (step 2 and 3 and 3 and 12 months, respectively.)
What have you experienced?
Have you had success doing a particular technique in your tanks? What type of substrates grow best for you? Join the conversation for more information.
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