Top 10 Starter Aquarium Carpet Plants Every Beginner Should Know


Top 10 Starter Aquarium Carpet Plants Every Beginner Should Know

Have you ever daydreamed of a beautiful underwater paradise? Chances are, it has a floor covered in the greens of aquarium carpet plants. A little analogy for you: if gardens have their perfectly mowed lawns, fish tanks have their own bright green carpets!

Carpet plants aren't just any plants, though. These specific types of aquatic plants are designed to grow horizontally across the substrate, forming dense green foliage at the bottom of your tank. And while carpet plants are a treat for the eyes, they're also hard workers, offering tiny aquatic creatures a cozy hiding spot and helping the water stay fresh and full of oxygen.

Now, if you're stepping into the world of fish tanks for the first time, the dream of that green thick carpet might seem a bit out of reach. But fret not! Armed with the right guidance and a few handy tools, you're closer than you think to crafting your own lush aquatic carpet.

But remember, not all green is the same shade of easy. Different types have different needs. That's why in this article, we're diving deep to explore 10 of the best carpet plants, helping you understand just how easy or tricky each one might be to grow.

Ready to create your underwater lawn? Dive in!

What are Carpet Plants and How Do They Benefit Your Home Aquarium?

Before anything else, what exactly is a carpet plant?

Essentially, they are specific types of aquarium plants tailored to grow low and wide across the aquarium's substrate. They expand horizontally, forming a dense green "carpet" that blankets the tank's floor. It's this growth that gives them their name and makes them a favorite for so many aquarium lovers.

Unlike larger plants that might grow tall and dominate the background or mid-ground of an aquarium, carpet plants stay close to the substrate, making them perfect for the foreground.

Entering the world of the aquatic carpet plant, you must know they don't just sit there looking pretty!

They breathe life into the water literally like little oxygen pumps for your fish. Moreover, these carpeting plants double as a hideout not only for your little tank inhabitants but also as a spawning ground for your fish eggs.

Now, got some playful fish that love digging? No worries! The roots of these carpeting plants are like nature's anchors, keeping everything in place. And did you know? Carpet plants grow with the aid of harmful ammonia and nitrites in your tank. Talk about a win-win!

So, while they give your tank that picture-perfect look, they also work hard to keep your tank thriving and vibrant.

Factors to Consider for Beginners

Factors to consider when growing carpet plants

Growing them, however, can be a journey. While some carpet plants are perfect for beginners, requiring minimal care and low lighting, others might need a bit more attention.

For those new to aquariums, opting for a hardy plant can simplify the experience. Their ease of growing and resilience makes them an excellent choice for those still getting familiar with the basics of carpet plant care.

Factors influencing their growth include light intensity, carbon dioxide levels, and the quality of the substrate. With the right balance and care, these aquarium plants spread beautifully, creating that desired lush green base.

Growth Rate

One of the first things beginners need to weigh is the growth rate of the carpet plant species they're eyeing. There are both slow and fast-growing varieties available.

Plants with slow growth rate like java moss or dwarf baby tears might be more manageable for a newbie since they don't require frequent plant trimmings. However, they may test your patience as you wait for that full aquarium carpet to form.

In contrast, fast-growing plants can quickly create a dense carpet but might demand more frequent maintenance to keep them in check.

Substrate Needs

Substrate Needs (ADA Aquasoil)

Carpet plants thrive by spreading through their roots, and the kind of substrate you choose can make or break your desired planted tank.

Thicker substrates, like big gravel pieces, can be a real challenge for their tiny roots. They may not spread out well, and sometimes, they struggle to get a good hold. Not to mention, larger gravel can create gaps, making it tough for the roots to reach the essential nutrients they're hungry for.

That being said, you may opt for finer substrates, such as sand or specialized soils designed for planted tanks. These substrates act like a soft bed where your plants can thrive. In such an environment, roots have the advantage of spreading and weaving through with ease, ensuring they're securely anchored.

And remember those nutrients they are hungry for? Well, finer substrates such as the ADA aqua soil distribute the nutrients nice and even, thanks to the close-knit grains and particles. It's like making sure every corner of a garden bed is perfectly watered and fertilized.

So, if visions of lush green carpets are dancing in your head, remember that laying the right foundation with the best substrate can be a game-changer!

Light Requirements

Light Requirements (Hygger Led Light)

In your journey to set up a planted aquarium, you'll quickly realize that lighting for your aquarium holds a significance akin to sunlight for garden plants. Just as every plant in your backyard has its specific sunlight needs, so do carpet plants underwater.

Carpet plants, positioned at the base of the tank, naturally get the least amount of light compared to plants situated higher up. This makes their light requirements even more critical.

But don't worry! While some carpet plants thrive in high-light conditions like the baby tears, others like the four-leaf clover prefer the calmness of low-light conditions.

Talking about lighting should not be all about intensity, though. Duration matters just as much.

Most carpet plants are at their best when they get 8 to 12 hours of daily light. But, and this is a big but, overexposure to light can be an open invitation for algae growth, which isn't a welcome guest in aquariums.

And are we forgetting the recent tilt towards LED lights in aquarium setups? Of course, not!

LEDs are energy-efficient, provide a comprehensive light spectrum, and importantly, they don't raise the temperature of your aquarium, ensuring the water remains comfortable for your aquatic friends.

But hey, if a traditional bulb suits your fish tank better, don't shy away! After all, it's all about what makes your underwater world shine the brightest.

Carbon Dioxide Requirements

Dive a little deeper into the world of aquatic plants, and you'll see how important carbon dioxide is to their world. Just like plants on dry land, underwater greens rely heavily on photosynthesis, and CO2 is a key ingredient in this process.

Many aquarium carpet plants can thrive without added CO2, especially if your fish tank is well-stocked, as fish contribute to carbon dioxide levels. That's right, your fishy friends do more than just swim around looking pretty – they contribute to the tank's CO2 balance, too!

However, certain carpet plant species are a tad more particular. These species thirst for more and will benefit significantly from CO2 injections, leading to denser, more vibrant growth. For this, setting up a pressurized CO2 system can be a game-changer.


Fertilizer (Liquid Fertilizer)

Carpet plants draw their nutrients from the water and the substrate. Unfortunately, these nutrients get used up and need to be replaced, and that's where fertilizers come in.

Regular dosing of fertilizer must be on your to-do list if you want your carpet plant to have that lush look. But while it is essential, you must ensure that you don't overdose your plants.

Too little fertilizer and your plants might starve but overdo it, and you risk algae outbreaks or even harm to your fish.

For your fertilizer maintenance, two common types of fertilizer are raved about in the aquarium trade:

  • Liquid fertilizer
  • Root tabs

Liquid fertilizers are added directly to the water, while root tabs are placed in the substrate, providing a direct nutrient source to the plant roots.

The best part? Today's market is brimming with nutrient-rich substrates, making carpet maintenance smoother than ever before. For instance, aquasoil, like the ADA Aquasoil, is designed to contain the micro- and macronutrients your plant needs.


Planting your carpet plants is one thing; maintaining them is another. These vibrant underwater greens, much like the plants in our gardens, need consistent care to remain lush and thriving.

One of the fundamental routines in carpeting plant care is trimming. It's not just about aesthetics – though it does keep your underwater carpet looking neat. Trimming is essential because it allows light exposure to reach every nook and cranny of your tank. By frequently trimming, you promote horizontal growth, ensuring they spread across the substrate rather than rising upwards,

And then there's the unwelcome guest: algae. Left unchecked, algae can overtake your beautiful green carpet. It's vital to monitor these regularly as they compete with your carpet plants for nutrients. Reducing light intensity or adjusting nutrient levels for your fish are some of the ways you can prevent this unwelcomed guest.

And as mentioned, fertilizers are the meals for your carpet plants. As they absorb nutrients from their environment, it's essential to replenish these with the right fertilizers, be it liquid forms added directly to the water or root tabs buried in the substrate.

Top 10 Easy Carpet Plants to Grow

The foundation of a thriving underwater paradise is selecting the right aquarium carpet plant. But with so many options out there, how do you choose?

Well, fear not because we're here to guide you! Here's a roundup of the top 10 easy carpet plants to kickstart your aquatic adventure.

1. Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis parvula)


  • Scientific Name: Eleocharis parvula
  • Common Name: Dwarf Hairgrass
  • Origin: Widely distributed globally, from North America to Europe to Asia.
  • Care Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Lighting: Moderate to High
  • CO2: Required

Dwarf Hairgrass, known scientifically as Eleocharis parvula, is often recommended for beginners due to its resilience and ease of growth.

This plant features thin, grass-like strands that use photosynthesis and produce intense light green leaves, especially under aquarium lights.

With medium to high light, Dwarf Hairgrass carpet will flourish and reach up to 4 inches in just a few months, creating a lush thick carpet.

But while it prefers moderate to high lighting, Dwarf Hairgrass can survive in lower light conditions, though its growth may be less dense and slower.

Temperature-wise, Dwarf Hairgrass is flexible, doing well in a range from 50-83°F. The injection of carbon dioxide can also significantly boost its growth, making the blades rise faster and denser.

When it comes to water flow, it's best to keep it low to moderate, ensuring that the delicate blades aren't pushed around too much.

2. Monte Carlo (Micranthemum tweediei)


  • Scientific Name: Micranthemum tweediei
  • Common Name: Monte Carlo
  • Origin: South America
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Lighting: Medium light
  • CO2 Requirement: Beneficial but not mandatory

Dive into the world of aquarium carpet plants, and you'll most likely bump against Monte Carlo, also referred to as the "New Large Pearl Grass".

Originating from the regions of South America, Monte Carlo, scientifically referred to as Micranthemum tweediei, has fast become a famous carpet plant in the aquascaping community. Its lush, small, and round green leaves make it an excellent choice for creating dense carpet plants in aquariums.

It flourishes under medium light conditions and thrives best in temperatures ranging between 20°C to 28°C. While it can grow without CO2 supplementation, adding CO2 can enhance its growth and vibrancy.

One of the reasons Monte Carlo is so popular is its adaptability. It can be grown in various setups, be it a high-tech or a low-tech tank. However, a good flow rate is recommended to ensure it receives a consistent distribution of nutrients.

Regular trimming will help maintain its compact growth and will encourage the plant to spread laterally, creating a lush green carpet.

3. Micro sword (Lilaeopsis brasiliensis)


  • Scientific Name: Lilaeopsis brasiliensis
  • Common Name: Micro Sword
  • Origin: Brazil
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Medium
  • Lighting: Moderate to high
  • CO2 Requirement: Can grow without CO2, but supplementation encourages denser growth.

Hailing from the lush banks of Brazil, the Micro Sword stands out with its fine, grass-like appearance, adding a meadow-like ambiance to any underwater setting. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, but it also provides a natural refuge for smaller aquatic creatures, making it both functional and aesthetic.

In the world of aquarium carpet plants, Micro Sword has carved itself as a manageable plant that offers a distinctive look. It's especially favored as a great foreground plant, as its dense growth can create a visually pleasing green blanket, giving your tank that 'underwater lawn' effect.

However, to ensure the Micro Sword showcases its full potential, providing it with moderate to high lighting conditions is key. Furthermore, while it can survive without CO2 supplementation, introducing additional carbon dioxide will promote denser and faster growth. Regular trimming will maintain its tidy appearance and prevent it from overshadowing other plants in the tank.

4. Glossostigma Elatinoides


  • Scientific Name: Glossostigma Elatinoides
  • Common Name: Glosso, Glossostigma
  • Origin: Australia and New Zealand
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Lighting: High
  • CO2 Requirement: High. CO2 supplementation is necessary for optimal growth.

Originating from the freshwater habitats of Australia and New Zealand, Glossostigma Elatinoides, commonly referred to as Glosso, is a celebrated aquatic plant in the aquarium trade.

This ground-covering plant is cherished for its petite, bright green leaves that form a dense carpet, making it a great foreground plant.

Despite its undeniable beauty, this fast-growing aquarium plant is best suited for enthusiasts with a bit of experience under their belts. Considering its natural habitat where nutrients are rich, this aquarium carpet plant prefers high-light conditions and demonstrates a definite need for CO2 supplementation.

So, make sure your tank's substrates present an abundance of nutrients. Fertilizers? Non-negotiable.

This rapid-growing aquarium carpet plant thrives in a temperature range between 72°F to 82°F and prefers a moderate flow rate to efficiently spread nutrients and keep it in peak condition.

As always, regular trimming will help control its energetic growth.

5. Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri)

java moss

  • Scientific Name: Vesicularia dubyana
  • Common Name: Java Moss
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Lighting: Low to moderate
  • CO2 Requirement: Beneficial but not mandatory

Dive into the world of aquarium carpet plants, and Java Moss is one name you're bound to come across. Originating from Southeast Asia, this plant has rapidly become a favorite in aquatic circles.

Java Moss, with its medium growth rate, boasts delicate, feathery fronds and thrives in a wide range of temperatures, anywhere from 59°F to 86°F. Given its hardy nature, it's quite forgiving of various water conditions. And while it favors moderate lighting, it's versatile enough to adapt to low-light settings.

Now, here's a twist: Java Moss doesn't even have roots!

This unique trait allows it to grow on a multitude of horizontal and vertical surfaces inside an aquarium. Want to carpet your tank's bottom or just camouflage those less attractive aquarium features? This aquatic plant's dense and short growth is perfect for such purposes!

When it comes to water flow, Java Moss isn't very picky. A moderate flow will suffice, helping to distribute nutrients evenly and deter detritus accumulation. And while it's content without extra CO2, a little carbon dioxide kick can spur even more impressive growth.

6. Dwarf Four Leaf Clover (Marsilea hirsuta)

  • Common Name: Dwarf Four Leaf Clover
  • Scientific Name: Marsilea crenata
  • Origin: Asia
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Lighting Requirement: Low to High (Medium-light preferred)
  • CO2 Requirement: Beneficial but not mandatory

While it might remind you of the four-leaf clover you'd stumble upon in a field, this aquarium plant is crafted for life beneath the water's surface.

Initially, it might showcase a taller growth, but under favorable conditions, it adapts to the more typical stature of carpet plants. Adaptable to various lighting scenarios, a medium-light setting is often ideal.

Introducing CO2 can further its growth, though it's not strictly required. Notably, this aquarium carpet plant boasts the ability to flourish both submerged and emersed, marking its versatility for different aquascapes.

Additionally, this plant is fairly accommodating temperature-wise. It thrives in a broad range from 68-84 degrees. While chilly waters aren't its friend, you'll find it doesn't demand a pinpoint specific warmth, easing your maintenance duties.

7. Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides)


  • Common Name: Dwarf Baby Tears
  • Scientific Name: Hemianthus callitrichoides
  • Origin: Cuba
  • Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Lighting Requirement: High
  • CO2 Requirement: High

Dwarf Baby Tears, Hemianthus callitrichoides in the science realm, is one of the smallest and most popular carpeting plants for aquascapers, growing to only about 1.2 inches.

This aquarium carpet plant is a mesmerizing green mat of delicate, tiny leaves, and with the right conditions, it provides lush carpet in planted aquariums.

But no good thing comes easy, right? While this plant is undeniably beautiful, it requires some dedication to maintain its health and vibrancy. An intense lighting combined with CO2 supplementation is essential.

In its natural habitat, it grows in the shallow waters of riverbeds, which means it receives a lot of natural sunlight. Thus, in your aquarium, replicating that intensity of light becomes crucial.

Now, we know by now it spreads out generously above the substrate, but the roots are a different story.

The rooting system of Dwarf Baby Tears is not as aggressive or robust as some other plants. So, choose a porous, fine-grained substrate to best support these fragile root systems.

Additionally, the flow rate should be moderate to ensure nutrients are evenly distributed across its delicate leaves. Again, you can do with regular trimming to promote horizontal growth.

8. Pygmy Chain Sword (Echinodorus tenellus)


  • Scientific Name: Echinodorus tenellus
  • Common Name: Pygmy Chain Sword
  • Origin: North and Central America
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Growth Rate: Fast
  • Lighting: Low to medium
  • CO2 Requirement: Beneficial but not mandatory

Originating from North and Central America, the Pygmy Chain Sword is among the favorite carpeting plants in the aquarium hobby, especially for those just starting their aquatic journey.

The Pygmy Chain Sword's adaptable nature makes it a fitting choice for just about any aquarium. From modest setups to grand aquascapes, you just can't go wrong with this carpet plant.

Unlike some other aquarium carpet plants that can be demanding, Echinodorus tenellus thrives in various water conditions and lighting scenarios, making it less daunting for newcomers to the hobby.

But know that under intense lighting conditions, the Pygmy Chain Sword exhibits a captivating reddish tint and roots firmly within your aquarium substrate.

And you guessed it - they feed heavily from their roots, so provide them with a substrate rich in nutrients!

It thrives in water temperatures ranging from 68°F to 84°F and doesn't demand strong water flow, making it suitable for any aquarium.

9. Christmas Moss (Vesicularia montagnei)

  • Scientific Name: Vesicularia montagnei
  • Common Name: Christmas Moss
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Lighting: Low to Medium
  • CO2 Requirement: Beneficial but not essential

Christmas Moss looks like the branches of a Christmas tree with its overlapping and drooping branches, which is why it's named that way. Hailing from the freshwater streams and shaded riverbanks of Southeast Asia, this carpeting plant has cemented its place as a beloved choice in the aquascaping arena.

Versatility is a hallmark of Christmas Moss. While many other plants are rooted firmly in the substrate, it happily clings to driftwood, rocks, and even meshes, allowing aquarists to craft enchanting moss walls.

Having the shallow-rooted approach, it absorbs nutrients straight from the water. So, you can ditch the worries about finding the perfect substrate. As long as clean water flows its way, Christmas Moss finds its rhythm.

And while it flourishes in optimal conditions, it's also forgiving to beginners, tolerating a range of lighting conditions and water parameters, with a temperature range of 65 to 77 Fahrenheit being its comfort zone.

So, if you want to add a touch of festive greenery to your tank, Christmas Moss is a gift that just keeps on giving!

10. Shoreweed (Littorella uniflora)


  • Scientific Name: Littorella uniflora
  • Common Name: Shoreweed
  • Origins: Northern Hemisphere, specifically Scandinavia and North America.
  • Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate
  • Growth Speed: Slow
  • Lighting: Medium
  • CO2 Requirement: Optional

Shoreweed, with its quaint European charm, brings that serene lakeside vibe to your aquarium. This grass-like plant, with its green pointy leaves, flourishes in cooler waters between 60-75°F and prefers a peaceful water flow, mimicking its native habitats.

Given its optional CO2 requirements and low maintenance care, Shoreweed is a lovely addition to any aquatic setup, especially for those who appreciate simplicity with a hint of elegance.

Note, however, that this carpet plant has a slow growth rate, so providing more light is essential to watch its gentle spread across your aquarium floor. And since the growth rate is unhurried, plant trimmings from time to time won't be necessary. Easy peasy, right?

Common Challenges and Solutions

In aquascaping, some of the common challenges include algae overgrowth, wilting of plant leaves, and slow plant growth.

Algae overgrowth is often due to extended lighting and excess nutrients. This can be mitigated by adjusting light hours, enhancing water circulation, and introducing algae eaters.

Another issue is the wilting of plant leaves, which may result from nutrient deficiencies. Introducing a comprehensive liquid fertilizer that caters to the specific deficiency is one way to solve this problem.

For instance, if the leaves are pale with dark veins, it's often an iron deficiency. Now, for those using tissue culture plants, ensure proper acclimation to help these lab-grown varieties thrive.

Lastly, slow plant growth can arise from inadequate lighting, CO2, or nutrients. Addressing these areas can foster healthier growth.

If leaves show holes or spots, it might indicate a potassium shortage or herbivorous fish activity, which requires respective remedies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I still need to supplement with fertilizers in my nutrient-rich substrates?

Even with a nutrient-rich substrate, over time, the nutrients can diminish. While the substrate will offer a good starting point, you might need to supplement with fertilizers, especially if you notice signs of nutrient deficiencies in your plants.

Are CO2 systems necessary for all planted tanks?

No, CO2 systems aren't mandatory for all planted tanks. However, plants with high growth demands often benefit from added CO2. If you're keeping low-maintenance plants, they can thrive without a CO2 system.

Will adding more plants help reduce algae growth?

Yes, plants and algae compete for nutrients. By adding more plants, especially fast-growing varieties, you can reduce the nutrients available for algae, thus helping in its control.

Can I mix different types of substrate in my aquarium?

Yes, many aquarists mix substrates to achieve desired aesthetics or nutrient compositions. However, consider the requirements of your plants and fish when mixing.


So there you have it! While navigating the world of aquascaping can come with its challenges, it's also a journey filled with opportunities to create and learn.

If you ever need guidance or simply want to explore more about this captivating hobby, don't hesitate to visit our Facebook page. With a thriving community of over 460k aquatic enthusiasts, you're guaranteed to find invaluable insights, shared experiences, and a warm welcome.

Dive in and let your adventure continue!

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