The Aquarium Guide

Create a Carpet in Your Planted Tank

carpeting plant for planted tank

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, a Carpeting Plant for Planted Tanks

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.

  • Light: Medium-High
  • Growth Rate: Medium
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Temperature: 64-82 Degrees Farenheight (18-28 degrees Celsius)

Glosso Carpeting Plant

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.

  • Light: Medium-High
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Temperature: 59-78 Degrees Farenheight (15-26 degrees Celsius)

Dwarf Hairgrass Carpeting Plant

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.

  • Light: Medium-High
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Temperature: 50-82 Degrees Farenheight (10-28 degrees Celsius)

Planting Techniques

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.

Substrate Considerations

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.

Root Compression

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:

Maintenance

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.

Trimming

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

Dosing

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.

If you enjoyed this article, help us out and Like Us on Facebook for more updates.

UPDATE: To celebrate our opening, we’re giving away a full set of Aquascaping Tools to an AquariumGuide Reader! You can find more information on our Facebook Page.

PS: Check out our infographic on carpeted planted tank.

27 thoughts on “Create a Carpet in Your Planted Tank

  1. Hello
    I am trying to make my first planted tank. I really want to try to have a nice carpeted tank eventually. I am a college student so trying to find a cheap substrate. I was thinking about trying organic miracle grow with a sand top. What are you considerations on this? thanks

  2. I just started my new planted aquarium, proper substrate and proper requirements and lighting. Im trying to carpet with dwarf hairgrass, any advice

    1. Hi Nate,

      One advice that I can give is to give it a good trim to stimulate horizontal growth after a few days. This way, your DH will not only grow upward towards the light but also horizontally which is the ultimate aim for getting a carpet effect.

      Hope that helps and do share your result. =)

  3. Hello,
    I want to start a low tech planted aquarium and want to know what’s a good hardy carpet plant to have.

  4. Hi, I have a 20 gallon long tank 12″ high. I have the finnex planted plus 24/7, seachem flourish, but no co2. What carpet do you suggest?

  5. Hi I am Akshay. I want to make carpet grass in my 3 by 1 feet aquarium ; but as I am doing job & nobody is at home cannot do it by dry method. Pl. Suggest something. I am going to use Monte Carlo ADA AMAZONIA

    1. Hi Akshay,

      You don’t have to be around all day to do the dry start method (DSM). It’s ok to leave it for a few hours when you are at work. Just that when you are back from work, remember to open the lit and let fresh air in for at least 20 mins. Hope that helps and do share your tank with us once it is ready. =)

      1. Right now I have added ADA Super 4 at base then; ADA power sand & ADA AMAZONIA mix layer + fluval stratum 2kg + ADA AMAZONIA SAND about 7 used from 9L bag and Kept the sand filled with water above layer 2 cm with stones & Wood arranged. I have used 2 Fluval 39W T5 Tubelights. So please help which carpet will be easy to use & best for Discuss. Also want low maintenance.

      2. But Can I try using Cuba ? .
        Even after I allow fresh air to pass for 20 mins; shall I just spray water on the plants to make them moist ?

  6. Hello ,

    I have started HC Cuba emersed setup. Planning to moving this to my 2 ft tank once I have enough in quantity. I have a 2 T5 lighting and Platinum soil as substrate. Can it survive without CO 2 ?Even I dont want it to grow much after I submerse it.

    1. Hi Patrick,

      Most plants can thrive on a sand substrate. In fact, smaller plants will do well as its roots wont get cut by the bigger size gravel. The important factor are lights and nutrients. =) Anyway, here are some suggestions: dwarf hairgrass, potamogeton gayi, smaller cryptocyornes.

  7. What carpet plant should I try, I have a 55gallon t top, with two 30″ fluorescent fixtures and a double incandescent on the side and a 16 meter 5050 led strips,skinny aubias Nana, a beta and 20 goldfish, and a nerite snail can and five fake plants, 6 decor and substrate is pebbles, and two big logs, what can I do?

    1. Hi Paulie,

      It sounds like your tank is overloaded with the 20 goldfish that you have.

      Anyway, it is hard to have a carpeted tank with pebbles as your substrate as it will not be able to hold the plants down.

      Plus, your goldfish will have a go at it even before your carpet can grow.

  8. Hi!

    Thank you for providing such a great website with super useful and practical advice.

    I have a betta currently in a 1gallon bowl (it was given to me as a gift like that.) I already bought a 3gallon tank yesterday and have put in it substrate and trying to grow java moss. .. I really want to transfer my betta into the new tank asap, as it’s winter here and I can’t heat the small bowl (and I can tell my fish is not happy and not eating). But, the guy at the aquarium shop told me I need to cycle the tank for two weeks before I can put the fish in. Is this because of the toxins that the substrate and growing plants emit? And if so, can you advise a way that I can test the water for appropriate levels?

  9. Hi there,

    I’ve got the new Fluval Spec V, with brighter light (7,000K LED), and would like to grow a carpet for a shrimp habitat. I’ve got Seachem Flourite black sand for my substrate. Any recommendations on a carpet plant would be appreciated! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *