The Best Low Light Aquarium Carpet Plants That Are Easy To Grow [Guide For Beginners]
The Best Low Light Aquarium Carpet Plants That Are Easy To Grow [Guide For Beginners]
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When done right, aquarium carpet plants can make any aquarium look amazing. Unlike most plants, they grow horizontally, covering the bottom of a tank. This often creates a great foreground effect in aquariums, allowing for fish to stand out making their color pop.
Picking out the right carpet plant for your aquarium is certainly tough, especially when trying to select the right plants for beginners. Additionally, your Aquarium Lighting will affect every plant differently, with some plants thriving in low-light situations better than others.
Ultimately, there are a good variety of plants, grasses, and mosses that will do the trick in low-light aquariums.
Here, we’ll list a few of the most popular low-light aquarium carpet plant examples that get the job done!
S Repens works well as a carpeting plant that beginners can handle. The occasional addition of nutrients is basically all that’s required. A little iron and CO2 go a long way.
Another benefit that S. repens brings is the fact that it looks a lot different from most carpeting plants. It’s light green, low, bushy nature, make it a great foreground plant that carpets thickly. Additionally, it has the ability to enhance oxygen levels in aquariums, as well as balance out tanks that are too nitrate-heavy, making it an effective tank maintenance plant.
It is often compared to Hygrophila. However, one of the main differences is how stocky and bushy the S. repens is. It’s leaves, more specifically, are much smaller than that of the Hygrophila. This is especially the case when comparing aquarium grown versions of each plant.
Maintenance often includes the pruning of the tallest shoots. This gives you the chance to both maintain the height of an S. repens, and to replant these shoots to further spread your carpet.
Dwarf sag is one of the most durable, hardy plants in the aquarium trade. It carpets nicely and thrives in low light. In fact, low light will actually help promote growth.
Dwarf Sagittaria is often recommended to folks who are new to the hobby. So you can probably guess by now, that it’d be hard to fail when introducing dwarf Sagittaria to your low-light aquarium.
Dwarf Sagittaria has been described as a “bulletproof” plant, that has even been seen to survive in freezing or frosty conditions. It’s famously non-demanding about the temperature of a tank, although most aquarists keep it at around 72-82° Fahrenheit. It even has the ability to do well in non-nutritious substrate, although this, of course, is not recommended.
For the most part, dwarf Sagittaria is found in the background of aquariums, due to its height and lengthy leaf structure.
Growth Rate: Moderate. In a nutrition rich environment, the pygmy chain sword will carpet better and grow quicker. High-end fertilizers are a plus. Max Height: 6in Light Demand: Low-Moderate C02: None
Pygmy chain swords are known for their dense carpeting. They propagate by sending out runners horizontally, allowing for efficient, natural carpeting.
Pygmy chain swords also give you options as to how to plant them. Partial submersion is okay with them. Your traditional full submersion planting will also work.
Pygmy chain swords are known for being very leafy, and this is because their petioles (the stalk between the stem and leaf) are virtually non-existent. Unlike the hardier dwarf Sagittaria, pygmy chain swords require a healthy substrate that is brimming with nutrients.
Needle Spikerush or Dwarf Hairgrass produces long leaves that appear similar to grass in structure. It is native to the Americas, and some places in Europe and Asia. Although it is found in Australia, botanists generally agree that it existed there as a non-native, introduced plant species.
It spreads through the use of runners and covers distance well. Typically, it’s used in the foreground of an aquarium, and can be partially submerged. They do best in a well-fertilized substrate, that is soft in texture.
As it grows, the plant forms small flowers that are commonly described as being spike-like. These occur near the stem tips and are usually only a tad over 4 cm in diameter.
Naturally, the Needle Spikerush is a wetlands plant often found in bogs, and aquarium conditions that seek to emulate this are highly favored. This usually means that it will do best in aquariums with a high carbon dioxide content.
Marsilea Hirsuta is one of the best Australian carpeting plants available. It’s runner-based propagation technique, allows it to carpet a tank over, in a fairly short amount of time.
This growth, through the spread of runners, is known for being extremely dense and efficient. As it matures, some brown leaves do have the tendency to appear, so this may be something to keep in mind if the color is a major factor with your carpet. These brown leaves are often mistaken as being dead leaves, which is not the case.
It’s not lacking in the looks department either, with leaves that somewhat resemble four-leaf clovers. Realizing that it’s leaf design will change over time.
They will often morph into the form of single leaves or three-lobed leaves. You will typically see these plants in the foreground of aquariums, with perhaps longer, leafier, aquarium grass-like plants or vertical non-creepers in the background.
Pellia Liverwort is another slow-growing plant that grows in a horizontal, carpeting style. It is native to East Asia and enjoys low-light.
Making use of organic fertilizers that increase nitrogen levels, will amplify the growth of Pellia Liverworts. Outside of aquariums, this plant is almost always found in nitrogen-rich, human-inhabited locations. Aquarium conditions that mimic humid, subtropical environments, are usually perfect for this carpet plant.
Although it’s often grown above the surface, it is seen frequently underwater, due to weight. Unlike most plants, it does not contain leaves, stems, branches or roots of any kind. This is because of having a thallus, which serves as a body, and actually makes it somewhat similar to a fungus or algae.
In terms of looks, this gives it a robust, bunchy style. Like other sinkers, it will need to be tied to something, in order for a healthy carpet to then grow. You can also safely tuck it underneath an object, such as a piece of driftwood.
Dwarf Spikerush stays nice and low as it grows, allowing for somewhat maintenance-free carpeting. Aquarists often keep it bunched together in the foreground of a tank, with little space between each plant.
It grows from the parent out, through the use of runners. It’s seen in aquariums of all sizes, but one of the main things they usually all have in common is low lighting.
The Pogostemon Helferi is a small Thai plant that is low growing, with curly bright green leaves that look like stars. It is often found in riverbeds, and Thai people refer to it as “Dao Noi” which translates to “Little Star”.
As with many carpeting plants, lower lighting levels will cause it to grow taller, so regular pruning will most likely be necessary.
It’s considered a very durable, hardy plant, especially as it’s natural Thai weather conditions are somewhat unstable. But with that said, acidic tank conditions are usually preferred by the Pogostemon Helferi.
In addition to normal substrate planting, it can also be tied to and then grown from objects, such as rocks.
Riccia Fluitans, also known as floating Cystalwort, is being used as a carpeting plant more and more frequently in aquariums. Although it’s naturally a floating liverwort, it will grow underwater when completely submerged, and aquarists can tie it to objects so that it then grows as a mat.
Outside of aquariums, it is often found on the top of ponds, forming thick green mossy mats. These often serve as a great hiding place for young fish. Be sure to manage the hair algae in your aquarium, or it can easily destroy a carpet of Riccia Fluitans.
At the surface, Riccia Fluitans usually doesn’t compete well with other plants, but if used as a carpet it does fine. You can always add some duckweeds on top, to further accent the visuals in your low light carpet aquarium.
The Utricularia Graminifolia is an Asian bladderwort plant. Naturally, it will be found partially submerged in marshy locations. But like Riccia Fluitans, it can be tied to objects underwater, and then be used to carpet an aquarium.
In appearance it’s very grassy, leading to a less dense, but fitting carpet. It’s definitely one of the best choices for aquarists looking for a lawn-like carpet.
Unlike most plants on this list, it is carnivorous. It mostly feeds upon insects and is definitely not the type of carpeting plant that can be simply left to grow. It has moderate CO2 needs, and “Utricularia” is the name given for the plants many trapping locations.
Growth Rate: Slow Max Height: 8in Light Demand: Low C02: Small amounts of CO2 can be helpful
In the interest of avoiding confusion, the Helanthium Tenellum has also been known as “Echinodorus Tenellus”. It is a very easy foreground grow, and is a flowering plant native to the United States. Other than using some nutrient-rich fertilizers, this plant is known for being relatively foolproof.
As it matures, the Helanthium Tenellum will change in appearance dramatically. This is seen for the most part in the petiole, which will go from hard to find to up to 4 centimeters in length as the plant grows.
They eventually become longer than the leaves themselves. The curved stem on the plant has the potential to grow up to 8 inches in length.
Does A Planted Aquarium Need A Filter?
When you have a lot of plants in your aquarium it helps keep the water clean. However, there are so many reasons why using a filter in your planted tank would still be recommended.
For example, even if you use some very basic canister filter media it will provide a little added benefit to the overall water quality in your tank. Better filtration, in the end, promotes better plant growth overall.
Final Thoughts On Low Light Carpet Plants
Carpeting an aquarium can be a fun process. There are several factors to keep in mind as you go about your carpeting. Although this isn’t true for every plant, generally, carpeting plants tend to grow taller under low-lighting conditions.
This is because they are essentially reaching for their source of nutrition, resulting in a thinner, less bushy carpet. So, with that said, if a bushy thick carpet is what you’re after, you may have to make adjustments in your aquarium depending on the plant.
Having a nutrient-filled substrate is another important factor. It’s easy to underestimate how much nutrition a carpeting plant draws from the substrate. Substrates such as garden soil, for example, will often serve as the perfect nutritional base to grow a complete carpet.
Lastly, trimming will help you achieve that next-level carpet. By trimming some of the taller stems and then replanting them, you can easily thicken up your carpet, and in the process level your carpet out to give it a better appearance. By lopping off some of the taller stems, it also encourages a plant to adapt horizontally in the future.
With all of this in mind, you should be well on your way to providing your aquarium with beautiful carpeting!
Want more info?
Watch and learn how to plant and grow aquarium carpet plants.
Jack Dempsey has over 20 years of experience with freshwater aquariums, his goal is to help beginners avoid the biggest mistakes when getting started. If you find something helpful please share it on your favourite social network. If you need help with anything send Jack a question.