Java moss is arguably one of the easiest carpeting plants to grow and also one of the most adaptable. Java moss will happily grow on just about any surface, whether it is gravel, rock, driftwood, or even a resin aquarium ornament. Java moss also grows under a wide range of light intensities and with or without fertilizers, making it a great first plant for a new aquarist.
To achieve a carpet with Java moss, keep it trimmed short to encourage horizontal growth.
If you are looking for an easy carpeting plant that more accurately represents a grassy field, Dwarf Hairgrass is an excellent option. Similarly to Java Moss, Dwarf Hairgrass is robust and will grow under a wide range of conditions, making it a great choice for novice aquarists. Dwarf Hairgrass also makes an excellent carpet for shrimp aquariums, providing deep dense cover where young shrimp can forage and grow with little risk of being eaten by other aquarium inhabitants. It can grow up to 6 inches tall, so trimming is necessary if looking to achieve a short carpet.
Another excellent option for beginners, Saggitaria Subulata [also called Dwarf Sag] is a grassy plant with a broader leaf than Dwarf Hairgrass and growing a little shorter at roughly 5 inches in height. It is an airy plant with more space between the leaves than other carpeting options, making it a great cover for smaller fish species and bottom feeders as it still provides access to the substrate. It is easily grown in just about any aquarium under a wide variety of light, fertilization and CO2 conditions. Dwarf Sag compliments Jungle Vallisneria beautifully and looks fantastic in aquascapes that utilize driftwood as its primary hardscape.
Dwarf Baby Tears Glossostigma H.C.
A staple amongst Iwagumi-style aquascapers, Dwarf Baby Tears [also called DBT, and HC] is a fantastic carpeting plant with tiny leaves that grows short, compact and dense. It is one of the best options for smaller aquariums, as its tiny leaf size helps create the illusion that the aquascape is much larger in photos than it truly is. DBT can be a more challenging plant, however; it thrives in high light systems with fertilization and injected CO2.
Very similar to DBT but with slightly larger leaves, Glossostigma Elatinoides is another popular choice for carpeting Iwagumi-style aquascapes. It can be more effective in larger aquariums looking to achieve a low, compact, dense carpet and can spread quickly under the right conditions. It is considered to be a more difficult plant, requiring high light, fertilization and CO2 to thrive. Once established it is a robust plant, but can decline if lighting, CO2, or fertilization are not maintained.
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