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How To Plant Carpet Seeds In An Aquarium – The Ultimate Guide

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How To Plant Carpet Seeds In An Aquarium – The Ultimate Guide

Are you wondering how to plant carpet seeds in an aquarium?

Whether you’re the creative type or a minimalist, attempting to grow a carpet from seed for your aquarium will be a challenging yet rewarding adventure.

Learning how to plant carpet seeds in an aquarium is a project that’s nowhere near as unachievable as most aquarists make it out to be. It is true that you should first try to manage a planted tank and get acquainted with some aquatic plant basics.

Use this guide and arm yourself with a generous amount of patience, and you’ll end up with a pearly vibrant-green tank lawn that few artificial aquascaping styles can replicate!

So how do you grow a carpet from seed? This post will go over all the details you need to know.

What Are The Best Kinds Of Aquarium Plants That Form Carpets?

starting seeds in an aquarium
Cuba aquatic plant in freshwater aquarium. Hemianthus callitrichoides.

Let’s start with identifying the most popular aquarium plants that tend to form carpets.

The types of aquatic plants that naturally tend to create the “carpet” effect are usually small, forming a dense structure when planted in clumps and in a grid-like pattern. 

Here’s a list of the best types of aquarium carpet-plants you can grow from seeds:

Growing dwarf hairgrass from seeds will reward you with a stunning aqua-carpet. Give it the right conditions for growth, and you will end up having to trim it every two weeks.

Once established, a dwarf hairgrass carpeted tank looks its best right after trimming, and requires a constant input of CO2 to maintain its vivid appearance.

Riccia, or “crystalwort”, is a slightly different type of carpet-forming aquatic plant. It has the ability to grow attached to rocks and driftwood. You can create a diversity of aquascaping designs by taking advantage of this fact.

You can also omit the rocks and include a mesh pad for the riccia to grab onto. Be sure to secure the mesh using a fishing line.

  • Cuba (Hemianthus callitrichoides)

Cuba will grow on the bottom of your aquarium in clusters of minuscule, round leaves. By separating the clusters, you can push it to spread like wildfire and get a lush, dense tank carpet as a result.

It is one of the smallest aquarium-friendly plants in the world. 

Java moss (also called “Christmas moss” or “Willow moss”) is the least needy type of aquarium plant seeds you can plant.

Although not the typical carpet plant, java moss can mimic the carpeted tank effect with minimal effort. It can also pass as algae or moss if you want to experiment with it in other aquascaping projects.

  • Glosso (Glossostigma elatinoides)

Glosso is one of the more difficult aquarium plants to grow from seeds, but if you’re willing to fulfill its list of non-negotiable needs, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to maintain.

Its small size makes it ideal for carpeting aquarium bottoms, and its demands usually revolve around getting sufficient light, softer water, and plenty of CO2. 

How To Plant Carpet Seeds In An Aquarium

planting seeds in an established aquarium
Amano shrimp on java moss in a planted aquarium.

If you’ve managed or set-up a planted tank before, you know that planting aquatic plants in your aquarium is a bit like painting a landscape. All the elements should be arranged in a coherent order.

In the world of aquascaping, the shorter plants will be positioned in the front of the tank, while the taller ones will be planted in the back. It’s all about the view!

There are two main ways you can go about planting carpet seeds:

  • By sowing your aquarium, plant seeds in a container that mimics a seedbed, and then transferring the seedlings into your tank. You can go ahead with the transfer once the seedlings’ roots have grown to a considerable length;
  • By planting carpet seeds in an aquarium substrate, directly in the tank where you plan to grow and maintain the carpet. Once your seedlings start to germinate (after typically 7-15 days), you can reposition them in a grid-like pattern and wait for them to become well-rooted. The next step will be to fill your tank up with water.

Let’s explore how to plant carpet seeds in a new tank:

Step 1. Test your aquarium carpet plants’ seeds.

Depending on where you’ve bought your aquarium plant seeds online, you might go through some trial and error to find a viable batch of seeds.

In order to save yourself the heartache (and money!), test a sample batch of seeds on the recommended type of substrate for the species you want to grow. You can do this anywhere else, other than a tank.

During this step, you can also test out how much water your carpet seeds require. Although carpet plant seeds grow aerobically without water, you might find a type that requires significantly more water than other plant species.

This testing phase will save you money, especially if you have several failed attempts. The nutrient-rich substrate needed for growing carpet plants from seeds will cost you a pretty penny.

Step 2. Plant the carpet seeds in a grid pattern.

Sprinkle the seeds over moist aquatic soil/substrate, trying not to cover any of the seeds with soil. Try your best to follow a grid-pattern, and avoid overcrowding seeds in any one spot.

Step 3. Add moisture and provide good lighting while waiting for your carpet seeds to germinate.

Expose your germinating carpet plant seeds to a generous amount of light, and spray the seedlings with a mist of water daily. Avoid adding so much water that puddles start to form.

After a week, you will typically find that your carpet plant seeds have germinated, and their roots measure 1 to 2 centimeters.

Don’t fill your aquarium up with water just yet!

Step 4. Evaluate whether you can move forward with the amount of well-rooted seedlings you have.

How do you know if you’ve been successful at growing seedlings from your aquarium carpet plants’ seeds?

Within 5 to 6 days, you will see small green patches in about 10% of the planted surface. Another good sign is if at least 75% of your seeds have germinated within 14 days since getting planted.

Step 5. Transfer the seedlings to their final position.

If your seed-germinating ratio looks good (above 75%), it’s time to move your seedlings to the ideal position for maximum spread and growth of your aqua-carpet.

Use gentle-touch and/or aquascaping tools when transplanting your seedlings. Due to their size, carpet plants are particularly fragile, and any amount of damage will negatively impact them.

The ideal planting technique for carpet plant seedlings is to space them apart and allow them sufficient space to grow in a dense and rich grid pattern.

Having room to grow and spread will actually speed up the rate at which your tank’s carpet grows.
It will get filled in in no time!

Step 6. Fill the tank up with water.

Moment of truth!

Fill your aquarium with only about 5 centimeters of water after planting your germinated seedlings. Practice your patience, and allow your carpet plant to sit with this minimum amount of water at first.

This low water level makes it easier for you to see how the plant progresses, and it gives the roots of your carpet plant seedlings a chance to further develop their root system.

Your seedlings may get uprooted during that initial water filling stage. You can just use your aquascaping tools to replant them gently into the substrate.

Once your carpet has a fully developed root structure, you can fill up your tank and introduce fish. Try to avoid introducing fish species that are avid plant-eaters at this stage.

Step 7. Wait for your carpet plant to reach maturity.

Aquarium carpet plant seeds will germinate in 7 to 15 days, but full growth will take up to a couple of months, depending on the carpet plants’ species.

You can help your carpet plant reach its full potential quicker by creating the ideal tank conditions needed for its growth. Adequate lighting, carbon dioxide, and fertilizers are the top 3 priorities.

Final step: Maintenance!

How To Maintain Carpet Plants

aquarium carpet plants for beginners

When you reach this stage, you will already be emotionally invested in giving your plant carpet the best care. Anything for that gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing green view!

Monitor the tank’s water parameters

Keep an eye on your carpet plants and look for growth (or lack of it!), and signs of browning or melting.
Your carpet plant’s visual appearance will tell you when you need to change lighting or water conditions.

Aim to stay within these ranges:

pH levelBetween 5-8pH for most carpet plants
Water hardness9-13dH for Riccia, Java Moss & Hairgrass
4-8dH for Glosso
1-20dH for Cuba
Temperature50-82°F – Hairgrass

59-86°F – Riccia

64-82°F – Cuba

59-83°F – Java Moss

59-78°F – Glosso

Trim your aquarium’s lush lawn

Trimming your aquarium’s carpet plants might seem counterintuitive, but a good trim will stimulate the horizontal growth you’re aiming for. This will allow the carpet to grow as compactly as possible.

Depending on your carpet plants’ species’ growth rate, you’ll need to trim it at least once every 10 days. Get yourself a set of aquascaping tools, and you’re guaranteed to find it a very relaxing activity that you end up looking forward to!

If you choose to grow your plant carpet seedlings in a tank without introducing carbon dioxide, you won’t need to trim the carpet as often. A slower growth rate will allow you to go up to 4 weeks before needing to do some trimming.

Water circulation and carbon dioxide regulation

Add elements that stimulate water circulation in your tank’s setup if you want to maintain the vibrant and uniform look of a healthy aqua-carpet.

Water needs to be circulated to the lower areas of the tank in order to ensure adequate distribution of carbon dioxide and nutrients.

The carpet will reward you with constant growth!

Consider dosing/fertilizing your tank’s plant carpet

Let’s make one thing clear from the get-go: plant carpets will grow and thrive even without fertilization.

Dosing/fertilizing is a bonus step you can take to help accelerate root and plant growth. If fertilizer tabs or liquid fertilizers fit into your aquascaping budget, go for it!

Avoid using liquid fertilizers in the first 5-6 weeks of your carpet plants’ seedlings’ lifecycle.

If you’re doing everything else right and notice a lack of growth, you can then resort to dosing.

Keep in mind that too much fertilizer can practically melt these tiny, fragile plants.

Provide sufficient lighting

Plan to offer your tank’s plant carpet an average of 6 hours/day of bright lighting, for at least 3 to 4 weeks after planting the seedlings.

Keep the tank relatively well-lit from that point on as well.

Don’t overcrowd the aquarium with plants or fish

Too many fish or a tank overloaded with plants will keep your carpet in the shade and jeopardize its health and development.

Practice general tank hygiene

Common-sense aquarium maintenance rules apply to carpeted tanks, including the occasional gravel cleaning session. Gentle touch: try not to uproot any of your carpet plants’ seedlings!

Be sure to remove the trimmed pieces of carpet at the end of each trim. The trimmings float to the surface, so you can easily scoop them up with a net.

Neglecting this step can have a negative impact on the tank’s water conditions.

Pros And Cons Of Having A Carpet Plant In Your Aquarium

planting seeds in an established aquarium
Close up of Glossostigma elatinoides

Let’s just say that the pros vs. cons on the matter of plant carpeted aquariums are purely subjective!

Pros

  • The mesmerizing aesthetics that come with an aquarium plant carpet

An aquatic carpet’s intense green pigmentation and naturally dense and compact structure will work wonders on your aquascape design.

It over-delivers on aesthetics and totally makes up for the efforts you put into growing a plant carpet from seeds, to seedlings, to a mature lush aquatic lawn.

Growing a plant carpet from scratch for your tank also comes with some serious bragging rights! This achievement is among the few triumphs that any aquarist can appreciate, novices and experts alike.

You’re essentially aquascaping an underwater sanctuary where nature’s beauty is always on full display. Add suitable lights and active fish to the mix, and you’ll get to see a graceful exhibit of aquatic beauty unravel daily!

  • Carpet plants are among the select few aquatic plants you can grow from seeds

Most aquatic plant species that you can find for sale online don’t usually have seeds. They get propagated through rhizomes and cuttings.

  • A plant carpet will have a positive impact on your tank’s water conditions

Like most aquatic plants, a plant carpet will oxygenate a tank’s water and aid in naturally eliminating nitrates and phosphates.

  • A carpeted aquarium makes for an ideal quarantine breeding tank

As a compact structure of small and typically fine aquatic plants, plant carpets make a great habitat element for breeding egg-laying fish.

During spawning, the female can scatter its eggs across the entirety of the tank’s bottom and have the eggs land safely in the perfect spot for fertilization.

You can set-up a designated breeding tank with a carpeted bottom. Just make sure to adjust water conditions to those needed for breeding and spawning. Remove the parent from this aquarium once they’re done mating.

A dense plant carpet will give juvenile fish and baby shrimp plenty of room to explore and hide in while waiting to be transferred.

  • A plant carpet can serve as a snack for some tank inhabitants when in a pinch

Fry (baby fish!), tropical fish, and invertebrates will harmlessly nibble on your tank’s carpet.

Cons

The cons are hardly worth mentioning since they’re mostly linked to the planting/germinating process:

  • Plant munching fish species can uproot even mature carpet plants;
  • Dead carpet plant seeds (that didn’t germinate) can trigger a fungal infection and determine worm growth;
  • The trial & error of growing aquarium carpet plants from seeds can be a costly affair.

What Kind Of Substrate/Soil Do You Need To Grow Carpet Plants From Seeds?

How To Plant Carpet seeds in an aquarium

Given their size, carpet plant seedlings need a powder-like substrate, which also needs to be enriched with nutrient-rich substrate.

Commonly used substrates for planted tanks tend to be way too coarse for the carpet plant seedling to be able to grab-onto. There’s no way your seedlings could establish a compact and secure root system in those types of substrates.

Here’s how you decide what substrate to choose for your carpeted tank:

  • If carpet plants are the only type of aquatic plant species in the aquarium

Mix & match between a powder substrate and a nutrient-rich substrate.

  • If carpet plants share the tank with a variety of other plants

Avoid using a ratio of more than 50% fine powder substrate, as that can lead to root compression, which negatively impacts the growth and development of certain aquatic plants. 

See the table below on types of substrates you can use:

Powder SubstratesNutrient-Rich Substrates
ADA AmazoniaPower Sand Special
ADA AfricanaFlourite
Tahitian Moon SandCarbiSea Eco-Complete
Natural Moonlight Sand

Ideal Tank Conditions For Carpet Plants (pH, Water Temperature, Nutrition, etc.)

how to plant carpet seeds in an aquarium with water

Aside from knowing how to plant carpet seeds in an aquarium, it’s important to know how to maintain the ideal tank conditions for your growing plants.

If it’s your first time growing an aquatic plant from seeds, give yourself plenty of room for error. Monitoring and tweaking water and habitat conditions can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced aquarists.

Patience, the right guidance, and time will help you grow that superb vividly green carpet

Keep this list of optimum tank conditions on hand for future reference:

  • pH – between 5-8 pH for most carpet plant seeds;
  • Water hardness – can vary greatly (9-13dH for Riccia, Java Moss & Hairgrass, 4-8dH for Glosso, and 1-20dH for Cuba);
  • Nutrition – CarbiSea Eco-Complete, Flourite, Power Sand Special;
  • Carbon dioxide regulation – a CO2 regulator and a CO2 diffuser and cylinder.

 

DifficultyLightingGrowth speedCarbon DioxideTemperature
Dwarf HairgrassMediumLowFast<14Mg/L50-82°F
RicciaHardMedium-BrightMedium14Mg/L59-86°F
CubaHardMedium-BrightMedium15-25Mg/L64-82°F
Java MossEasyLowFast<14Mg/L59-83°F
GlossoHardMedium-BrightFast59-78°F

Conclusion – How To Plant Carpet Seeds In An Aquarium

As you can see, there are a lot of details involved with planting carpet seeds in an aquarium. However, this guide should cover everything you need to know.

Watch a successful attempt to grow a plant carpet from seeds:

We hope this guide has helped you!