Dwarf Hairgrass for Carpeting: Planting, Growing, and Caring Guide

dwarf hairgrass care guide

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Dwarf hairgrass is a well-known aquatic plant among aquarists due to many reasons. From the appearance to its traits and benefits, everything is appealing.

The hair-like shape, which is why it’s called hair grass, and the bright green coloring will give your tank a nice fresh aesthetic look. Since it is a carpet plant, the dwarf grass hair will make your aquarium look like a green field!

Besides its stunning display, hair grass is also hardy and pretty easy to care for. The plant is fast-growing, adaptable, and durable. Novice and advanced aquarists won’t be in trouble for planting the hair grass.

In addition, it will help maintain your aquarium to be in good condition. The dwarf hair grass helps the water keep oxygenated, reduces pollution, and makes a great landscape and hiding space for your tank inhabitants.

If you’re curious to find out more about dwarf hair grass, keep reading the post. We will discuss how to plant the hair grass to the common issues regarding it. Stay tuned!

Species Summary

Scientific NameEleocharis sp. (Eleocharis acicularis, Eleocharis parvula)
FamilyCyperaceae
Care LevelEasy to Medium
Growth RateFast
Sizeup to 6 inches (15 cm)
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature50-85°F
pH6.5-7.5
Water Hardness2-10 dKH
LightingModerate
SubstrateSoft substrate
PlacementForeground, Carpet
PropagationRunners
CO2Recommended

Dwarf Hairgrass Origin

Nowadays, we may only see nicely trimmed dwarf hairgrass that is planted in house tanks. But of course, they grow in the wild as well.

The Eleocharis parvula is widely spread all across the globe. Its growing area range from North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Although it grows almost in every corner of the world, the hairgrass can’t be encountered in Africa.

Fun fact: the dwarf hairgrass that is commonly sold in stores is not Eleocharis parvula. Experts have decided that the popular hairgrass that is farm-growth nowadays is actually Eleocharis pusilla. The plant originates from Australia and New Zealand.

In nature, dwarf hairgrass can live in fresh or brackish water. You can find it in shallow water with slow to moderate currents such as marshes, swamps, slow-flowing rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

Benefits of Dwarf Hairgrass

This carpet plant is versatile and beneficial for both the aquarium and the other living species. Below are some of the benefits the dwarf hairgrass provides.

  1. It helps to oxygenate the water in your tank. Like many other plants, the dwarf hairgrass needs CO2 to live and grow. It will then take the CO2 in the water and release O2, keeping the water well-oxygenated.
  2. Dwarf hairgrass helps to reduce and control the nitrate level in the water. It uses the harmful chemicals for fertilizer which is a win-win for the plant and the fish.
  3. The hairgrass acts as a shelter and breeding ground for the fish or other species. Bottom-dwellers fish and the fry will gladly hide in the grass. On top of that, the hairgrass can also be a perfect spot for egg scatterers to breed and for juvenile fish and shrimp to feed on.
  4. It removes and absorbs toxins and pollutants in the water. Besides, the roots of the grass’ can dissolve anaerobic gas pockets that form in the substrate.
  5. Last but not least, the dwarf hairgrass has a great appearance and stunning lush green color. It can be a good base for your aquascape and will complement other plants and decorations beautifully.

Types of Dwarf Hairgrass

There are various types of dwarf hairgrass. Even though most of them look similar and often get mislabelled for one another, there are some differences between each type.

  1. Eleocharis acicularis: grows taller and straighter than E. parvula. It can reach a height of 6 inches. This species also has slightly thicker leaf blades.
  2. E. parvula: looks similar to E. acicularis, but it is shorter in terms of height. This species grows up to 3 to 4 inches tall and has sword-like leaves.
  3. E. acicularis ‘mini’: this species grows smaller than E. pusillis (which is around parvula’s height). It is suitable for nano tanks.
  4. Eleocharis ‘belem’: another mini species of dwarf hairgrass. It can only develop until reaching the height of 1.5 inches, and the blades are more curled.
  5. E. vivipara: one of the species on the taller side of the family. Other names of this type are umbrella hairgrass and sprouting spikerush. This type of hairgrass can grow up to 7.8 to 9.8 inches.
  6. E. montevidensis: this type is perhaps the tallest one in the genus. It is also known as giant hairgrass since it can grow almost 2 feet tall.

Size and Appearance

Dwarf hairgrass looks pretty much just like grass on a lawn and its name. It has bright green color and thin hair-like blades. It is called dwarf due to its small size, which varies from 1 to 6 inches tall. It all depends on its species.

dwarf hairgrass seed

As for the roots, it’s thin and has white coloration. The roots grow under the substrate and will form a dense mat after the hairgrass is planted.

Over time, you may notice that the tips of the blades turn brown. Don’t panic! It’s pretty normal for the dwarf hairgrass. That’s why you need to trim them regularly.

Dwarf Hairgrass Care

It’s not difficult to care for the dwarf hairgrass. Still, there are a few requirements you need to provide them if you want to support their well-being. Here we have everything the hairgrass needs that may help you.

Tank Size

The dwarf hairgrass is a hardy plant that can thrive in various tank sizes. You can plant them in nano tanks or a large aquascape. However, it’s recommended to house them in at least a 10-gallon (approx. 40 liters) tank. A smaller tank than 10-gallon will make the plant harder to maintain.

In addition, a shallow tank is ideal for dwarf grass to thrive. It lets them get more and stronger lights. Taller tanks make it harder for the light to penetrate to the bottom.

Lighting

This aquatic plant requires a moderate to a high level of lighting to thrive. The dwarf hairgrass loves so much bright light. You can’t let other plants block the access to light. Otherwise, the hairgrass won’t be able to photosynthesize.

Lower lighting will make it grow taller. On the other hand, a higher level of lighting makes it grows horizontally, which helps to create the carpet look.

Lights in the aquarium need to have a 5000 to 7000K in terms of color temperature. Note that lighting fixture differs for different aquarium sizes. You may have to do some research before deciding which lighting model to get.

Regardless of the tank size, the dwarf hairgrass still requires bright light to grow. You can achieve it with LED lights and turn it on for 8 to 10 hours every day.

Filtration

It’s better to create some currents in the water when housing the dwarf hairgrass. It helps to refresh the CO2 and nutrients regularly.

 If you grow the dwarf hairgrass in a full aquascape, 5 to 10 times turnover is needed. You may consider getting high-quality canister filters to ensure your plant’s optimum living condition.

Heater

The dwarf hairgrass mainly grows in water with tropical temperatures. If the water in your tank happens to be cold, the plant may not be able to survive. Therefore, using a heater to keep the water warm will promote the hairgrass living quality.

CO2 Supply

Injecting CO2 for the dwarf hairgrass is not essential, but there’s definitely a difference in terms of growth. Without carbon dioxide supply, you will need to wait longer for the carpet to establish.

If you provide CO2 for the hairgrass, you can do 1 to 3 bubbles per second (30 ppm). You can get a CO2 regulator that’s synchronized with the aquarium’s lighting timer to achieve this.

Water Parameters

The hairgrass is hardy and able to tolerate a wide range of water conditions. It can survive and thrive at a water temperature of 50 to 85°F. However, the ideal temperature for the plant to live optimally is around 72 to 79°F.

As for the hardness, soft to hard water ranging from 2-10 dKH is tolerable. Lastly, a pH ranging between 6.5 to 7.5 is best for the plant to grow. It can’t survive in extremely acidic or alkaline water, so always monitor the pH level.

Fertilizer

This plant benefits from the use of liquid fertilizer or root tabs. It helps to boost the plant’s growth and create a lush carpet look.

Propagation

The way the dwarf hairgrass propagate is through runners. If you’re unfamiliar with what runners are, it is a growth that occurs from the base of the stem and grows sideways of the plant.

Unlike other aquarium plants where you need to clip and replant them to help them propagate, you don’t really need to do anything with the dwarf hairgrass. This plant is good at propagating itself. The runners will send out new plants as they’re spreading through the substrate.

The dwarf hairgrass grows pretty rapidly, so if you see them grow rather slowly, you need to adjust some things. You may need to give them supplement to support their nutrient needs and more CO2 supply. You can also increase the temperature slightly to help stimulate growth.

how to plant dwarf hairgrass
Newly planted dwarf hairgrass

How to Plant Dwarf Hairgrass

Unlike the care and propagation, the planting process may require you some skills and efforts. But don’t worry, it’s still doable even if you’re new to the hobby. We will guide you on how to plant the dwarf hairgrass successfully, step-by-step.

  1. Split the hairgrass clump into 4 to 6 blades. Planting the whole clump will guarantee a slower growth of the hairgrass. The center is also likely to die if you don’t divide the hairgrass into smaller parts.
  2. Trim the existing roots. It encourages new roots to grow and helps spread the carpet quicker.
  3. Use plant tweezers to grab the hairgrass’ roots. Using stainless steel plant tweezers is recommended to avoid damages when planting. It’s also easier to use a tweezer than using bare fingers.
  4. Place each portion ½ or 1 inch apart from one another. This aims to avoid overcrowding and stimulate the growth of the runners.
  5. Push the hairgrass gently into the substrate. Give the plant a little force to get in with your tweezers while holding it at a 45-degree angle.
  6. Pull the tweezer out when the hairgrass is 1/3 deep. Before actually pulling the tweezer out, make sure to shake it a bit. Shaking the tweezer helps the roots to fit themselves in the substrate. Besides, it also helps you to pull out the tweezer safely without uprooting the grass blades.

Those are the steps to cultivate the dwarf hairgrass. But before you jump into that, make sure to provide a compatible substrate for the plant.

The best kind of substrates is the soft ones. It facilitates the plant’s growth and health. Some recommendations are sand, dirt with fine gravel on top, stratum, and flourite.

Fine substrates make it easier for the hairgrass to root itself, which prevents them from being detached from the substrate.

Maintenance

One of the dwarf hairgrass’ best qualities is that it is relatively easy to maintain. It’s pretty effortless for your side to keep them neat.

The essential part of its maintenance is trimming. When you feel like the hairgrass has grown a bit too tall for your liking, you need to cut the tips of the blades. Trimming the dwarf hairgrass regularly gives some benefits to the plant.

First, it ensures that the plant gets sufficient water circulation around its base. Second, it encourages the plant to grow horizontally rather than vertically. This helps to create a clean-looking green carpet inside your tank.

To give the hairgrass a haircut, you can use angled scissors. Having a net by your hand is also advisable to scoop out the trimmed blades from the water column. The trimmings are likely to clog your filter if you leave them floating around.

Another thing you can do is plucking out some plants to thin them out when the carpet seems to be too dense. The reason is similar to trimming the plant. For one, it ensures the hairgrass gets sufficient water circulation. Second, it also guarantees that there are enough nutrients for all plants and keeps them healthy.

In addition, you also need to check on the lighting, CO2 levels, and fertilizer regularly. Too much lighting and carbon dioxide can lead to an algae breakout. If so, reducing the time of light exposure to the plant is one of the solutions. You can also introduce some algae eaters to the community.

Tip: You can trim the dwarf hairgrass a bit more if they grow awfully slow. Cut the grass around 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the substrate. You will soon notice significant growth.

Tank Mates

There are many choices of tankmates species that you can choose from. Many species can co-exist with the dwarf hairgrass, either it is plants or aquatic animals. The only condition is probably they need to share the same water parameters requirement as the hairgrass.

Even though the dwarf hairgrass goes well with many fish, there are also some species you need to keep away from the hairgrass. You will find out which species they are below.

Compatible tank mates

Dwarf hairgrass is compatible with many other plants as well as fish and other species. Its stringy blades seem to be unappealing for most fish to nibble on.

If you plan to aquascape and house the hairgrass with other plants, keep an eye on the density. An environment with too crowded plants will make the plants fight for resources. A plant will then outcompete the others, and you will see some of them dying.

Generally, small to medium-sized peaceful fish can be housed together with the hairgrass since they are less likely to rip the plant off. That includes Tetras, Pencilfish, Guppies, Mollies, and Harlequin Rasbora, to name a few.

Bottom dwellers such as Otocinclus catfish, Corydoras, Bumblebee Catfish, Pygmy Cory catfish, and Khuli Loaches will love having the grass as shelter. However, some of them are also diggers.

The possibilities are they will hate the tank condition or dig the substrate forcefully, which means ripping the plant off. If you have one of those fish before the hairgrass, you can leave some space unvegetated for them to dig.

Tankmates for the dwarf hairgrass are not only limited to fish. Some shrimp and snail species also do not harm the plant, and therefore can make great tank mates.

There are actually numerous species of shrimp that are suitable with the dwarf hairgrass. But to name a few, they are Cherry shrimp, Ghost shrimp, Snowball shrimp, Vampire shrimp, and Blue Velvet shrimp.

As for snails, many freshwater snails can be housed with the hairgrass. That includes Assassin snail, Ramshorn snail, Malaysian Trumpet snail, Nerite snail, and Spixi snail.

Species to avoid

Fish species to avoid are ones with a larger size, boisterous, and aggressive diggers. These types of fish will absolutely tear the hairgrass apart before you know it.

Good examples of these fish are Oscars, Goldfish, Jack Dempsey, and Rainbows. They will not hesitate to uproot plants to search for food.

In addition to the fish, most types of crayfish and freshwater crabs are also not compatible for co-existing with the dwarf hairgrass. They are known to cut and uproot plants for them to eat.

Common Issues

Although dwarf hairgrass is sturdy and easy to care for, it doesn’t mean that the plant is free of problems. This aquatic plant doesn’t demand much, but if it catches some diseases, you still need to do something to cure them. Here are some potential issues that might occur on dwarf hairgrass that you need to be aware of.

Algae

Algae growth is a common problem in the aquarium environment. The algae type that mostly targets the dwarf hairgrass is hair algae. Emerged hair algae is a sign of poor water quality or unbalanced nutrients, lighting, and carbon dioxide.

Luckily, there are some solutions to control the excessive algae that might suffocate your plant.

You need to perform regular water changes, adjust the lighting and CO2 level, or even putting in some algae-eater species.

Melting

Another common issue that happens to aquatic plants is melting. Melting may occur if the plant was first grown above the water. It will then take them some time to adjust to living completely submersed.

But don’t worry when you see some of the blades turn yellow or brown. You can pluck the yellow or brown parts off, and soon you will see some newly grown foliage.

Discoloration

Discoloration usually happens if the plant is lacking nutrition. When that occurs, you can notice some blades developing yellow or brown patches.

unhealthy dwarf hairgrass
Unhealthy dwarf hairgrass – image by www.ukaps.org

Yellow spots are a sign that your plant has iron deficiency, while brown color means that it lacks macronutrients.

To fix the condition, you need to provide supplements that are rich in iron and macronutrients. Make sure to give them only within the right amount.

Not carpeting or slow growth

A carpet plant is supposed to cover and carpet the ground. Also, the dwarf hairgrass is a rather fast-growing plant that can quickly form a carpet.

But if the growth seems stunted, there are a few factors that might cause the issue.

First, the hairgrass may not be carpeting due to the imbalance of nutrients, CO2, and lighting. The slow growth can also be caused by improper planting, or they are just developing slowly.

If it’s the latter, you can simply trim the tip and wait for them to grow. During this time, the hairgrass is still developing its roots.

However, if it’s the first, you will have to make some adjustments to the lighting, nutrients, and carbon dioxide you provide them.

Should you plant Dwarf Hairgrass?

The dwarf hairgrass is one of the best aquatic plants you can get out there. It is sturdy, adaptable, and low-maintenance. Not to mention its vibrant color that can brighten up your aquarium set.

If you’re looking for a plant to keep in your tank, you can try getting one of the dwarf hairgrass. It’s easy to care for, which makes it suitable for every aquarist, beginner or advanced.

The plant also provides many benefits for your tank. It removes the pollutants and keeps the water well-oxygenated, to name a few. So, are you interested in planting it?

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