The 10 Best Carpet Plants for Your Aquarium | Some are Easy!

Carpet plants are a must for planted aquariums. While they only fill the foreground of your tank, these plant types help create a complete environment for your pet. In a sense, they are the lawn of your tank. Other plants can grow from these carpet species, and oxygen and filtering properties are added to your water as well.

You do not want to miss out on finding the best carpet plant for your tank! In this guide, I’ll show you some of the best options on the market. Choosing a good carpet plant is important for the health and look of your tank. You want a species that fits with your needs as well as your fish.

Many carpet plants will require high-intensity light, other plants will not need much maintenance but can grow rapidly. I’ll introduce you to the best carpet plant that can be grown in your tank. I’ll also teach you how to care for these plants throughout the rest of this post.

Top Carpet Plants To Consider:

  1. Hemianthus Callitrichoides
  2. Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata)
  3. Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’
  4. Micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis)
  5. Glossostigma Elatinoides
  6. Java moss
  7. Echinodorus tenellus
  8. Dwarf four leaf clover (Marsilea hirsuta)
  9. Dwarf Hairgrass
  10. Giant baby tears (Micranthemum umbrosum)

How You Can Grow Carpeted Aquarium Plants

Carpet plants create the perfect aquarium aesthetic. They are not bold and tall like other plants, but they make your tank look amazing if you grow them right. To get this effect, you need to take proper care or your aquatic carpet plant.

One of the first things you want to do is purchase a decent substrate. Larger coarse substrates should be avoided for the most part. Instead, pick out a suitable substrate, fine gravel is one option you can go with. But I would personally recommend using an aquasoil. This will help root your carpet plants the best while also giving them the right nutrition. 

Thicker substrate makes is more difficult for your plant to root down, so don’t overlook this aspect of planting. You will make it a lot easier to start growing your carpet plant with a finer substrate.

Once you figure out what you are planting your carpet in, you should start looking at lighting systems. Not all plants require the same lighting, but most carpet plants will need a high quantity of light to thrive.

8 to 10 hours of daily light exposure is a typical requirement for most carpet plants. If you stick to this routine for a few weeks your plants will settle better into your tank. Light is essential for all plants but it is crucially important for carpet plants. It helps them maintain their wavy lush look.

Still, even if you are planning on creating a thick carpet, don’t skip out on trimming your greenery. Any plant can grow out of control, and you want to maintain a well-groomed look. Some slow-growing plant times can be trimmed less, but all plants need to be pruned to stay healthily rooted in an aquarium.

Trimming your plants will often also promote horizontal growth, which is essential to create a carpet-effect.

Again, care, in general, depends on the species of carpet plant you choose. Some carpet plants will be easier and hard to grow. But there is a range of plants on this list for more experienced tank owners, and beginners.

1. Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides)

DBT on the left

Hemianthus callitrichoides, also known as Dwarf Baby Tears, is an elegant carpet plant. It is the perfect breeding ground for fish. And grows thickly in aquariums under the right conditions. The thickness of this dwarf plant will keep fish eggs safe and hidden.

Originating for Cuba, this miniature plant can be a little difficult to grow. So I would not recommend this plant for anyone new to tank plants. But if you can handle the maintenance of this flora. The denseness of this carpet plant is ideal for small fish who want to nest and rest.

Hemianthus plants will require intense lighting. Make sure to install a powerful LED system. Aside from this, the Dwarf Baby Tears will also need specific temperature requirements. Do not let your tank water go over 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, your plant could wilt.

Really, the Hemianthus isn’t the hardest plant on this list to care for, but you still need to maintain it to a high degree. Fertilizer is a must for this plant, as well as, CO2 injections!

2. Dwarf Sagittaria (Sagittaria subulata)

Dwarf Sagittaria is a more forgiving carpet species. If you are new to planted tanks or carpet plants, this is a good plant option to start with. The care for this species is not complicated. Sagittaria is generally pretty sturdy in almost any water condition. Temperature and pH can fall within a wide range as well.

But as long as you give this plant the right amount of light and a good fertilizer it will thrive in your water. Dwarf Sagittaria actually prefers lower lighting settings. It grows better this way, but if you want a short plant you can put more light on it. You won’t necessarily need CO2 for this plant, but you can add some in for better looking visuals.

Sometimes, if the plants does not get enough light, it can suddenly grow tall. If this happens, it’s best to move it to the mid/background. It can reach up to a foot (30 cm).

3. Micranthemum ‘Monte Carlo’

Micranthemum is a newer carpet plant that is gaining some traction in the fish keeping world. It has rounder leaves and has a different look than some other carpet plants. Really these are not too hard to grow.

CO2 is recommended for the Monte Carlo, and you want to give it a good amount of light. It can grow in low light but prefers more moderate amounts of illumination. And water temperature should be around 68-72 degrees for optimal results!

Still, even if you go a little outside these water conditions this plant will grow. It adapts well to most light and Ph but should be trimmed every now and then.

4. Micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis)

Micro Swords are another great foreground plant for your aquarium. These Brazilian plants are one of the best-looking carpets for tanks and are quite popular.

However, know that the micro sword has an abundance of care needs. In particular, it needs high lighting to thrive. You’ll want a high tech LED light to keep this plant satisfied. Tank temperature should also be measured and heated to seventy to eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t go outside of this range or your plant will die.

In addition, get a good substrate, and make sure to put plenty of fertilizer in it. CO2 should also be injected as well, or your plant won’t grow too well.

Overall, this is not an easy carpet plant to care for but following these instructions will help. Don’t forget to trim your Micro Sword. And keep your water clean with regular changes and a good filter.

5. Glossostigma Elatinoides

Glossostiga Elatinoides is a plant found in the Oceanic Region. This is a bog species that are used to very specific water conditions. So this is definitely a harder species to care for. In its natural habitat, this carpet plant has rich sources of nutrients. It is harder to replicate these conditions in a tank, but it is possible.

You’ll need to give the Glossostigma plenty of light or it will wilt. As you can guess, CO2 and fertilizer is a must! So make sure plenty is available in your substrate and water column. You can keep your bundles of Glossostigma close, but place them at least a centimeter apart from one another so they can grow out and fill your tank.

6. Java moss

Java moss is perhaps the best-known carpet plant on this list. This plant species is versatile and extremely hardy. It also looks amazing in any type of tank setup. Overall, this is a great plant choice for beginners and more experienced tank owners.

The best thing about Java Moss is that it is almost impossible to mess up planting this carpet. It does not die easily and will adapt to any type of tank conditions! You don’t even have to use a substrate to root this plant. It can actually grow on driftwood and some rocks. If you want you can even let this plant just float around in your water, but it won’t be much of a carpet that way.

Java moss does grow fast. Do not let this plant get out of hand and take all the nutrients and oxygen out of your tank. Trim this plant often. And don’t let any of your trimmings float in the tank because they will cause more moss to grow.

Some fish might like overgrowth and will eat this plant. This flora can actually be a nice extra snack for your pet. But if you are worried about overgrowth cut your plant with precision. You shouldn’t be trimming it constantly. This will actually make matters worse.  Your moss will grow back with a vengeance.

In short, Java Moss looks great but should be pruned lightly. Still, this is pretty low on the maintenance side in comparison to most plants!

There aren’t any specific temperatures or pH levels to follow. Pretty much, you want to keep your tank clean and change the water when you can. Again, Java Moss can live in almost any climate. The moss is not too picky about lighting either. So no matter what setup you have your plant should grow well.

7. Echinodorus tenellus

Echinodorus tenellus is the next plant on the list. This is also popularly known as the Pygmy chain sword. This is a dwarf Pygmy with high care requirements. It has coarse long grass that can look wild at times, but overall this is a nice thick carpeting option for aquariums.

This plant does well in large aquariums but can grow well in a Nano tank environment. Just know that this plant grows extremely fast, so you will need to trim it often.

In addition to this, make sure you get a substrate with plenty of fertilizer. CO2 should be put in any tank with this plant as well. The light should also be ample and high in intensity!

8. Dwarf four leaf clover (Marsilea hirsuta)

Dwarf four leaf clover plants are native to Africa and warmer areas of Asia. This is a tropical carpet plant that can be floated but looks beautiful planted and fully submerged. Depending on how you grow this plant, growth outcomes will vary highly.

If you are looking to keep this plant as a carpet, make sure to give it high volumes of light. Your plant won’t die if it is given low light. In fact, it will actually lengthen up to the top of your tank and form and grow long leaves and pads. This is not an undesirable result, but your plant will no longer keep its carpet-like appearance. So keep this in mind.

I’ve found this Youtube video that can show you what this plant looks like:

CO2 is not required for your Clover plant, but I would recommend using it if you want your plant to look as healthy as possible. Fertilizer should be put in with your four leaf clover plant as well. In terms of climate, the Clover has a pretty big range, between 68-84 degrees. Your water can’t be cold, but it doesn’t have to fit a very specific temperature. So this makes it easier to manage.

On the whole, this is a pretty easy plant to care for. Just stick to the requirements I have listed and you should have lush carpet in no time!

9. Dwarf Hairgrass

The Dwarf Hairgrass is another plant I would recommend for beginners. Anyone starting a planted tank can definitely grow this carpet plant, as long as you add CO2 to the tank. It tolerates any number of temperatures and waters. Different light levels can also be used on this plant.

But know that if you place the Hairgrass in intense light it grows rapidly and will even stop the growth of other plants. So you want to use light strategically in your tank. If you have a bigger aquarium, more light won’t be bad. But if you have a smaller setup consider using lower amounts of light.

Fertilizer can be used on this plant, but I wouldn’t go overboard with this.  You want a strong and healthy plant but you don’t want to trim it constantly. This carpet gets pretty thick and tall. CO2 is a must for this plant.

In terms of planting, substrate is a good option for the Hairgrass, fine sand should work for this greenery. Just keep the plants around an inch apart as you start planting them. On the whole, though, this is a highly adaptable carpet plant that will withstand many water conditions. And if you have a saltwater aquarium, you can also grow this plant in it!

10. Giant baby tears (Micranthemum umbrosum)

The last plant on the list is the Micranthemum umbrosum. It is also known as the Giant baby tears. As you can guess, this plant is related to dwarf tears. But they do have some key differences to look out for. Mostly, this has to do with shape. The Giant tears tend to have a rounder more circular leaf. While the smaller dwarf tears look more like raindrops and are more miniature. 

Aside from the shape and size differences, nothing really differentiates these plants. They require almost the same exact care. However, Giant baby tears can be a little easier to grow than dwarf tears. So consider this as you make a choice between these two similar plants.

Just to briefly remind you, the substrate should be fine-grained and CO2 should be used on your bigger plant. The temperature needs to stay within the same range as the dwarf tear. So a climate of under 75 degrees should be maintained.

However, unlike baby tears, you will not have to cut this carpet plant nearly as much. Giant baby tears are thick, but it does not grow as wildly as dwarf baby grass. So you might have an easier time with this specific species!

Troubleshooting your Carpet Plants

If you are having issues with your carpet plant, there could be a few things preventing proper flora growth. Again, you want to have the best substrate for your carpet plant. If you fail to have proper rooting material for your plant, it won’t grow right!

Usually, large chunks of rock are not ideal for this plant type. So make sure that the base you are using to grow your carpet is the correct fit for your tank. And if you have a fine substrate and are still struggling to grow your plant, try adding fertilizer.

Carpet plants need fertilizer to thrive. You can use liquid fertilizer, or get a substrate that has fertilizer injected into it already. Just make sure to replenish this nutritional source for your plant. Fertilizer gets used up and needs to be replaced over time.

But you not only need fertilizer for carpeted plants. CO2 is another important component of carpet plant growth. Most beginners and some experienced plant owners overlook this product. While some carpet plants won’t need CO2 added to your tank, most will! So if your plant looks brown or is not growing much try injecting pressurized CO2 into your aquarium.

This is a great video:

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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