It's no secret that Dwarf Hairgrass creates beautiful carpets. The problem is making them expand horizontally instead of just growing towards the light. Here's the lowdown on how to make this plant start creating that lush, thick carpet across the bottom of your tank.
Eleocharis parvula—more commonly called Dwarf Hairgrass—is one of the most popular carpeting plants in the aquarium hobby (If you are looking at buying Dwarf Hairgrass then you can check out our top pick here). It's relatively easy to grow, and it's extremely appealing when done correctly. If you're thinking about Dwarf Hairgrass for your aquascape, let's talk about some of the specifics about the plant, and the optimal conditions for it to grow quickly and healthy.
|Aquatic Arts Dwarf Hairgrass||Our Top Pick||9.5/10|
|Tall Hairgrass||Excellent Background Plant||9.2/10|
|Dwarf Hairgrass Foreground Carpet||Easy To Grow / Low Maintenance||8.9/10|
Growing Eleocharis Parvula
You've probably heard some horror stories of people planting a few pots of this, only to find that it quickly dies off, and you're back at square one—a bare substrate.
I can tell you from experience: it's almost always their water and substrate conditions, not anything to do with the species. It's not the most demanding plant you'll have in your tank, and if given the right conditions, it'll explode with lush, green growth (we have had good success using this one).
Step 1: Optimal Conditions
Here are the optimal conditions you'll want to strive for in your aquarium:
- Water Conditions: 70-83° F @ pH 6.5-7.5 (4-8 KH) (for more on pH levels you can check out our guide here).
- Lighting: Moderate to High
- Nutrients/Ferts: Nutrient-Heavy substrate with Fert dosing
- CO2: Not required, but best for optimal growth
While Dwarf Hairgrass grows in a variety of conditions, these are the optimal conditions for the fastest growth & healthiest carpet. If you're looking for the fastest, most healthy growth, it's also important to get a few other things right:
This plant thrives in a nutrient-rich substrate. While it's not critical to its success, you'll have the best results in your tank with a good substrate. (This applies to all sorts of plants, including Dwarf Hairgrass.) We've tried quite a few substrates at Aquascape Addiction, and in our opinion, there are two front-runners: CaribSea Eco-Complete and the ADA Aquasoil. You can only get ADA directly from a distributor, but Eco-Complete is available via Amazon.
If you're going to have a carpet in your planted tank, especially a Dwarf Hairgrass carpet, you'll probably want to use some sort of CO2 system. Whether that's DIY or pressurized is up to your budget, but I've seen both work quite well for carpets. If you're deciding what type of CO2 you'll be using, we've had good results with the Fluval CO2 kits.
Not only is this vital for Dwarf Hairgrass, it's also pretty much a required for healthy planted tanks. Getting as much CO2 and nutrients to the Hairgrass is vital to get that explosive growth for the carpet. As a bonus, this also keeps your carpet (and substrate) clean, as well as hindering algae growth in between the hairgrass.
Step 2: Planting Technique
Planting Dwarf Hairgrass is similar to planting any other type of carpeting plant: you'll need to clean the plant after you receive it, separate it into smaller clumps, and plant in a gridlike pattern. This ensures that you aren't getting any detrimental hitchhikers on the plant, as well as prepping it to cover the substrate as quickly as possible.
Planting Dwarf Hairgrass:
Here is a quick summary of how to plant dwarf hairgrass the right way;
- Take the plant out of the pot (if applicable).
- Separate the clump into smaller chunks with ~10-15 blades each
- Use a set of planting tweezers to insert each clump deep into the substrate (roughly 1/3 of the plant should be in the substrate.)
- After a few days, give it a good trim to stimulate horizontal growth.
- Ensure optimal conditions for the next 3-4 weeks.
These steps will put you on the path towards a fully carpeted substrate in 3-4 weeks for most tanks. For larger tanks, consider ordering a few more pots to ensure fast, healthy growth.
Maintaining Dwarf Hairgrass Carpets
If this is your first carpet, you're probably finding out that they can be a little tricky to clean. If you have Otos, your tank inhabitants are likely doing the lion's share of the work, but you'll still need to give it a once-over with a siphon every week or so.
The key to a great DHG carpet is consistent, even trimming. Left alone, Dwarf Hairgrass grows vertically, not horizontally. That's why it's important to continually trim the plant quite often to stimulate horizontal growth, forcing the growth outwards, not upwards (getting a good aquascape toolkit like this one can help). This is even more true if you're using CO2: Dwarf Hairgrass has explosive growth in CO2 and high light. However, I wouldn't suggest this for beginners; that's also a very easy way to have algae take over your tank.
It's also a good idea to keep a fish net around when you trim this stuff: it gets VERY messy. Get as much of the trimmings out as possible, but what's left will simply rot away, so don't stress about it.
If you're using CO2, medium lighting, and consistent Fert dosing, you'll want to trim your hairgrass at least once a week. (Here is our guide on Trimming Aquarium Plants). With lower lighting or no CO2, it grow significantly slower, so you can get away with trimming maybe once every two weeks or so.
Buying Eleocharis Parvula
As with all aquatic plants, shipping is bad for plant health. That's not to say that you shouldn't order online, but you should be sure that you're using a reputable seller. Before we started growing our own plants, we had good results from ordering from Amazon.
Have you ever grown Dwarf Hairgrass? Got any suggestions or tips for getting the best growth out of it? Let us know in the comments below!