How To Grow (Most) Carpeting Plants (DSM Thread)

Fahn
Member
I am going to give you a step-by-step on the process I go through to get established, healthy carpets with minimal headache. We will be utilizing the dry-start method (DSM). This method involves planting into moist soil with no water in the tank, and allowing a carpet to spread in an environment with high humidity, high CO2, and little risk of algae, pest snails, or equipment errors. Let's begin.

Step 1: Acquire a tank. When creating a carpet, a shallower tank is better than a deep tank. This is because light has less water to penetrate through and you lose less light. This also enables you to use a less powerful light for the same application. My personal preference is a nice rimless aquarium with clear silicone, as it highlights the aquascape without distracting dark lines and frames.

Step 2: Acquire good lighting. Good lighting doesn't always mean expensive lighting; my lights average between 40 and 50 USD. There are variables to pay attention to, such as Lumens or PAR; higher Lumens means a brighter light, while PAR is the measurement of how much light is penetrating at a specific depth (for most carpeting plants you want a PAR rating of around 50 at the substrate level). Generally, most stock lights or very cheap lights are terrible for growing carpeting plants. Mid-range to high-range lighting usually has a higher output that gives you the light penetration you need. I use Chihiros A series on my rimless tanks, but if your budget allows it I recommend ONF, ADA, Twinstar, and Kessil!

Step 3: Acquire a CO2 setup. Unfortunately, most carpeting plants do indeed require CO2. Setting up an automated CO2 system is not difficult, and while it may be a bit of an investment there are budget friendly options. Still, I urge you to start with a reputable, high quality regulator and not cheap Chinese junk from Amazon or eBay. You will need CO2-proof tubing, as CO2 gas will cause standard airline tubing to split. You will also need an outlet timer, a CO2 diffuser (the acrylic Neo diffusers made by Aquario are my favorite), a drop checker to gauge the amount of CO2, and a check-valve to prevent water from back-flowing into the regulator. In the method I use, this system will not be necessary for a minimum of 4 weeks.

Step 4: Substrate. This is one of the most important factors when growing a carpet and is probably essential for DSM. A lot of folks want to try a carpet but are off-put by the sticker price of many aquasoils. They opt instead to do sand/gravel with root tabs, and for many carpets this just isn't enough. Carpets, eventually, make up a lot of the biomass of a tank and as a result need a reliable supply of nutrients. That is where aquasoils come into play. ADA Amazonia is probably the best you can get, but other great soils include UNS Controsoil Black/Brown (Extra Fine), Tropica Soil Powder, Aquavitro (from Seachem) Aquasolum, Brightwell Rio Cafe/Escuro, and Fluval Stratum. Avoid cheaper Chinese aquasoils, as in my experience they break down into a compacted mud after a few months. The finer the grain size of your aquasoil, the better your carpeting plants will root.

Note: Eco-Complete, Flourite, Samurai Soil, and Aqueon Shrimp and Plant Substrate are awful for (carpeting) plants, either having next to no nutrients, or they alter parameters in undesirable ways.

Step 5: Acquire plants and fertilizer. If you've followed the previous steps, there is not much you can't grow! If you opted for CO2 and good lighting, along with a nutrient rich aquasoil, you can grow:
Hemianthis callitrichoides ("dwarf baby tears", "HC", "Cuba")
Glossostigma elatinoides ("Glosso")
Micranthemum tweediei ("Monte Carlo")
...and many more! These demanding plants suddenly become easier and more manageable with the correct setup. As far as how to purchase these plants, pots are by far the least expensive. Pots also have the largest possibility for containing nuisance algae or pests such as snails and hydra. Mats are a good option as well, but are expensive. In my opinion, the best bang for your buck is tissue cultured/in-vitro plants. These are essentially clones of a mother plant, and are grown in a nutrient-rich gel in sterile lab conditions. They are guaranteed pest and algae free. The downside is they often have very small or no root structure, and if planted in a tank filled with water will often float away or melt. This is where the DSM comes into play!

Do not buy carpeting plant seeds online! I know the promise of a quick, easy carpet with no CO2 sounds enticing, but they are usually not the plant they are sold as. They are either not a true aquatic plant and will die, or are unruly aquatic weeds that will overgrow in your tank and take over. Real carpeting plants are never sold as seeds.

For fertilizer, the easiest option is a high quality all-in-one liquid fertilizer. Most members, myself included, recommend NilocG Thrive. If you are not in the states, then there are great options such as fertilizers from The Aquascaper and Tropica Specialized. You can also dose dry fertilizers via the EI Dosing method, and although this is a little more labor intensive, it is the most cost effective method in the long run. If in the USA, Green Leaf Aquariums has an EI Dosing line of dry fertilizers.

Step 6: Planting. So you've added your bag of soil, scaped your tank with that awesome driftwood and rock, and are ready for plants. This next step depends on how you purchased your plants, but it is similar for each type. For pots, remove the plant from the pot, peel off the rockwool, and rinse the remaining rockwool off the roots. Tweezers or a soft toothbrush may be used to clean the roots under running water. For mats, you will need to tear/cut the mat into small plugs, no more than 0.5x0.5 inches (15x15mm). For tissue cultures, rinse off the nutrient gel in a bowl of water, and divide the plant cup into portions, as mentioned previously with the mats. After rinsing plants, gently pat them dry so that they are damp, but not wet, otherwise the soil will stick to them.

Next, taking long, narrow tweezers, plant the plugs into dry soil. This prevents the soil from sticking to your equipment and making a mess, and also prevents your tweezers from leaving holes behind once you plant the plugs. Occasionally, mist everything with distilled or RO water (to prevent water spots from forming on the glass) to keep everything hydrated, but not wet. Only enough so that you see the soil turn dark, then back to it's lighter shade as it absorbs the water.

Plant the plugs in a grid pattern approximately half an inch (15mm) apart, filling in gaps with leftover plants later. The more plants you start with, the tighter your planting will be, and the faster your carpet will fill in.

Step 7: Hydrating. After you are satisfied with your planting, take a spray bottle (I like using a pressurized salon bottle) and spray liberally with distilled/RO water. The goal is to get the substrate moist, but not wet. After adequately hydrating everything, cover the tank with clear plastic film, and turn on the lighting. In the beginning, 12 hours of light per day is perfectly fine! Do not leave puddles of water in the tank. Not only can algae take advantage of this and start growing on the substrate, but it will also encourage mold. Some serious hobbyists add springtail cultures during this phase as they eat mold, but that is completely optional; once flooded, the springtails would all die anyway...

Step 8: Waiting. Once per day, lift the plastic wrap for the tank to air out for 15-30 minutes. If you see mold or patches of wet, watery substrate, leave it open longer. If the soil and plants look dry, mist liberally and close the plastic wrap. Do this daily; in 4 weeks your carpeting plants should be almost completely covering the substrate. If puddles persist, dig a shallow depression in the soil at the front, let it fill with water, and siphon out the excess water with airline tubing.

Step 9: Flooding. Install the CO2 system, and cut the lighting back to 6-7 hours. Make sure the timer for your CO2 is on and off one hour before your lighting turns on and off. Placing bubble wrap, paper towels, or using your hand, gently pour in the water so that it doesn't disturb the substrate. Otherwise, all your patience will be for nothing as your beautiful carpet comes uprooted, and your tank is filled with cloudy swirling dirt! Once full, turn on your filtration; I prefer a canister with glass lily pipes, but any kind will work. Make sure your CO2 diffuser is positioned in the outflow of your filter for optimal circulation, and make sure there isn't too much surface agitation. Put the pH reagent in your drop checker and place it in the tank. Start the CO2 off high; if your drop checker is showing bright yellow, dial it down and wait a few hours. Your target is a nice, bright green color.

Step 10: Water changes. Because of the high nutrient content of the substrate, it is recommended to do multiple, frequent water changes for the first 2 weeks. 50% changes on alternating days (at least 3x per week) is what I do for the first 2 weeks, then I switch to once per week. During the first two weeks I dose no fertilizer. Some aquasoils release ammonia for up to 2 months, but by doing the DSM we have eliminated a lot of that excess ammonia and preemptively seeded the substrate with beneficial bacteria.

Step 11: Maintenance. After weeks of being patient and testing your water to make sure it is safe, you're finally all cycled, and are ready for fish. Also, if all the above steps have been followed, you are now the proud owner of a lush, green, full carpet for your fish to enjoy. Dosing recommendation is a full dose of ferts 3x per week, or half doses every day 6 days per week (if using comprehensive liquid fertilizers). Depending on the conditions, trimming may need to be as frequent as 2-3 times per month! During the first few weeks you may see diatoms; they disappear quickly in high-energy setups and a few water changes and a trim or two will exterminate them completely, and many inverts and fish love to eat it. If you begin to see problem algae, it is most likely due to 2 causes: under-dosing fertilizer and/or overfeeding/overstocking. Correct these issues and use good maintenance practices to keep your carpet clean and green. Stocking animals such as otocinclus, Amano shrimp, nerite snalils, or Siamese algae eaters (if your tank is large enough) can help prevent nuisance algae outbreaks as well, provided stocking, dosing, and feeding guidelines are kept in check.

That is everything I can tell you on how to get a lush, green, healthy carpet with minimum guesswork. If you are patient and competent enough to use a spray bottle, you can grow pretty much any of the popular carpeting plants. Having a high energy setup allows you so much more freedom with what you can grow, and not to mention the colors; you don't see many reds or yellows in low energy tanks. Maintenance is as easy as any other tank, and for CO2, refilling a bottle is often cheap and easy, and a full bottle will last from 3 months to over a year, depending on the size of the bottle and how much is being used in a tank. I highly recommend the DSM as it has enabled me to create flawless, healthy carpets in multiple tanks, and if you follow these steps, you can create and keep one too.
 
Hugooo
Member
Great job! Very well written and very detailed!

A few questions:
1. What is the best size tank for carpeting plants (in your opinion)?
2. What is the easiest carpeting plant to grow and maintain for a beginner?
3. What is the smallest size tank that carpeting plants can successfully grow and live in?

Thanks!
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
Hugooo said:
Great job! Very well written and very detailed!

A few questions:
1. What is the best size tank for carpeting plants (in your opinion)?
2. What is the easiest carpeting plant to grow and maintain for a beginner?
3. What is the smallest size tank that carpeting plants can successfully grow and live in?

Thanks!
1) Doesn't really matter, but preferably less than 12 inches (30 cm) in depth from the light to the substrate, unless you are using a high grade light such as an ONF or Twinstar. Tall or narrow tanks are more difficult to light properly, as the lighting needs to be more powerful or you need to stack more substrate, which means spending more money.

2) They are slow growing, but probably Marsilea crenata or Marsilea hirsuta, both usually sold as "four-leaf clover". These tolerate lower light levels and less CO2 than most other carpeting plants. In my experience dwarf hairgrasses are also easy but unfortunately do not transition from a dry-start very well. Staurogyne repens is also easy.

It is usually used as a stem plant, but pearlweed (Micranthemum micranthemoides) forms a nice, easy, fast-growing carpet under good lighting and injected CO2, as does shade mudflower (Micranthemum umbrosum).

3) I have a carpet of dwarf baby tears in my 2 gallon (8 liter) tank, the floor plan is only 8" x 8" (20cm x 20cm). I am also currently dry-starting glosso in my 4 gallon (16 liter) which is 10" x 10" (25cm x 25cm). Provided you meet their needs for light, water, nutrients, and CO2, you can grow them in anything, even a small vase or bowl (look up Wabi-Kusa and Kokedama).
 
-Mak-
Member
Great write up! Will be following these steps for some monte carlo farm tanks in the next few days
 
thatgaljill
Member
A couple more questions:
1) Are carpet bottoms good for snails and bettas?
2) Can you point me to a way to add a carpet to an established tank (the tank I maintain actually belongs to our office and theoretically we will all be allowed to move back at some point, so I don't have the option of swapping out the tank.)
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
thatgaljill said:
A couple more questions:
1) Are carpet bottoms good for snails and bettas?
2) Can you point me to a way to add a carpet to an established tank (the tank I maintain actually belongs to our office and theoretically we will all be allowed to move back at some point, so I don't have the option of swapping out the tank.)
1) I have kept bettas and snails with carpeting plants no problem. However, snails have a habit of bulldozing plants up if you don't/can't do the dry start method.

2) You can just plant them in small plugs normally as you would with any other plant. Bottom feeding fish and snails will make keeping them planted in the substrate more difficult, and CO2 is basically mandatory unless you choose one of the easier, slower growing carpets such as Marsilea hirsuta.
 
Pridedcloth3
Member
Not a big deal but the equivalent to 1/2" would be 13mm. 15mm is closer to 5/8"which falls between 15mm and 16mm.
 
FisHobbyist
Member
Great info! Thanks for sharing. Have you tried transplanting a section to larger aquariums after doing this process? If so, any success?
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
FisHobbyist said:
Great info! Thanks for sharing. Have you tried transplanting a section to larger aquariums after doing this process? If so, any success?
Once established, large sections of the carpets can be carved out and utilized as a mat. I have used this to transplant Eleocharis parvula, Hemianthus callitrichoides, and Micranthemum tweediei.

The empty patch where the mat was removed will recover over the course of several weeks, and eventually, you'd never know you even removed a section.
 
FisHobbyist
Member
Fahn said:
Once established, large sections of the carpets can be carved out and utilized as a mat. I have used this to transplant Eleocharis parvula, Hemianthus callitrichoides, and Micranthemum tweediei.

The empty patch where the mat was removed will recover over the course of several weeks, and eventually, you'd never know you even removed a section.
That is awesome! Thanks for the tips!
 
AcornTheBetta
Member
Nice! Fahn can I spray down with tap water or dechlorinated water? Does this method work with Dwarf Sag?
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
AcornTheBetta said:
Nice! Fahn can I spray down with tap water or dechlorinated water? Does this method work with Dwarf Sag?
If you use tap water, you will start to see water scale accumulate on the glass and plastic wrap, which not only looks unsightly, but reduces the amount of light plants receive.

Dwarf sag tends to melt back pretty hard if transitioned from emersed to submersed growth, so I don't think it would be a good candidate for the DSM.
 
AcornTheBetta
Member
Fahn said:
If you use tap water, you will start to see water scale accumulate on the glass and plastic wrap, which not only looks unsightly, but reduces the amount of light plants receive.

Dwarf sag tends to melt back pretty hard if transitioned from emersed to submersed growth, so I don't think it would be a good candidate for the DSM.
Ok. Thank you so much!
 
HolyKamikaziBetta
Member
won’t you need to eventually refertilize the substrate again? I’d think that eventually the substrate used would run out of nutrients considering how much is being drained from them.
there are also some carpeting plants that don’t require this method but would benefit from it. I have a planted tank using sand and organic soil. My carpeting plant choice is the dwarf 4 leaf clover. I planted it about 6 months ago and it’s had very littlegrowth until recently. It’s now starting to grow nicely around my stones and such. It’s actually quite fascinating how ithas grown perfectly around a specific stone... it’s running along the edges perfectly... lol.
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
HolyKamikaziBetta said:
won’t you need to eventually refertilize the substrate again? I’d think that eventually the substrate used would run out of nutrients considering how much is being drained from them.
there are also some carpeting plants that don’t require this method but would benefit from it. I have a planted tank using sand and organic soil. My carpeting plant choice is the dwarf 4 leaf clover. I planted it about 6 months ago and it’s had very littlegrowth until recently. It’s now starting to grow nicely around my stones and such. It’s actually quite fascinating how ithas grown perfectly around a specific stone... it’s running along the edges perfectly... lol.
The duration that aquasoils feed plants varies by manufacturer, but generally you can expect about a year in low-energy setups (lower lighting, no injected CO2).

All soils, regardless if manufactured or natural, will eventually need replacing. You can keep plants going with fertilizers and root tabs indefinitely (?), but one day your soil will have all available nutrients utilized and you'll be left with a crumbly, nutrient-stripped silt.
 
HolyKamikaziBetta
Member
Fahn said:
The duration that aquasoils feed plants varies by manufacturer, but generally you can expect about a year in low-energy setups (lower lighting, no injected CO2).

All soils, regardless if manufactured or natural, will eventually need replacing. You can keep plants going with fertilizers and root tabs indefinitely (?), but one day your soil will have all available nutrients utilized and you'll be left with a crumbly, nutrient-stripped silt.
Won’t fish waste and dead plant matter help fertilize it though? Soil, I’d thing would absorb easier
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
HolyKamikaziBetta said:
Won’t fish waste and dead plant matter help fertilize it though? Soil, I’d thing would absorb easier
To an extent, but in a closed system like an aquarium these resources are not broken down and cycled in quantities large enough to sustain plants long-term. Substrate in nature can be several feet deep, if not more, and contains a host of microorganisms that break down compounds and supply nutrients to plants. There is also a constant influx of organic matter from falling leaves, runoff from rain, etc. We can't really replicate that in a glass box with a finite amount of space.
 
HolyKamikaziBetta
Member
Fahn said:
To an extent, but in a closed system like an aquarium these resources are not broken down and cycled in quantities large enough to sustain plants long-term. Substrate in nature can be several feet deep, if not more, and contains a host of microorganisms that break down compounds and supply nutrients to plants. There is also a constant influx of organic matter from falling leaves, runoff from rain, etc. We can't really replicate that in a glass box with a finite amount of space.
Isn’t that basically what the walstad method is? I’m not sure what the “longest running” walstad tank is... but I’m sure it’s possible to do.
min your opinion how long would you say before you need to replace the nutrient rich substrate?
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
HolyKamikaziBetta said:
Isn’t that basically what the walstad method is? I’m not sure what the “longest running” walstad tank is... but I’m sure it’s possible to do.
min your opinion how long would you say before you need to replace the nutrient rich substrate?
Longevity of a Walstad tank is approximately 5 years. For a commercial aquasoil, around 2. You can continue supplementing the tanks with fertilizers, but the substrate will be stripped of nutrients.

I reset my tanks on a yearly basis anyway, so I don't mind.
 
HolyKamikaziBetta
Member
Fahn said:
Longevity of a Walstad tank is approximately 5 years. For a commercial aquasoil, around 2. You can continue supplementing the tanks with fertilizers, but the substrate will be stripped of nutrients.

I reset my tanks on a yearly basis anyway, so I don't mind.
5 years is quite a long time.
move had soil in mine for about 7 months. I added soil when I decided to try carpeting plants. It’s messy... for sure... so maybe next time I’ll try the little bead clay substratestuff people use. It’s just... expensive. I have a 60g it takes a lot of substrate lol
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member

20201028_210501.jpg


Working on a DSM currently!
 
AcornTheBetta
Member
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
AcornTheBetta said:
What plant is that?
Hemianthus callitrichoides, "dwarf baby tears"

Fairly high light and CO2 demand but very fast growing once established.
 
FisHobbyist
Member
Fahn said:
Hemianthus callitrichoides, "dwarf baby tears"

Fairly high light and CO2 demand but very fast growing once established.
Nice scape! Can't wait to see that all fill in!
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
So I am doing an experiment on my current DSM, and may add on a portion to my DSM guide based on the outcome.

Due to mold issues I am experiencing, I am adding springtails to the dry-start to feed on any mold and decaying plant matter. These are used in bio-active terrariums and vivariums to cut down on mold, and a dry-start aquarium is basically just a bio-active terrarium until it is flooded.

Springtails also float, so I can skim them off, put them back into their culture container, and reuse them in the future. Hope this works!
 
Eelectric
Member
1 question because I have never dipped my toe into buying plants online. Why is it that real carpet plants are never sold as seed?
 
Kribensis27
Member
Eelectric said:
1 question because I have never dipped my toe into buying plants online. Why is it that real carpet plants are never sold as seed?
Most aquarium plants aren't. It's easier and faster to propagate them through cuttings and offsets rather than through seed. That's mostly because many plants only bloom when above water, or don't bloom often when underwater. They can always grow them emersed to get flowers, but offsets and cuttings just propagate faster. It's just all around harder to produce many plants through seed.
 
ScottEllis
Member
  • Get a small and shallow container.
  • Fill it halfway with soil or peat.
  • Wet the soil with water, but not too much that the seeds float.
  • Place the seeds on top of the wet soil to keep them moist.
  • Place the setup under light and wait for seven (7) to 10 days for the seeds to germinate
Once the plants in either of the four methods have germinated, all you need to do is move the seedlings into your aquarium and replant them.
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
ScottEllis said:
  • Get a small and shallow container.
  • Fill it halfway with soil or peat.
  • Wet the soil with water, but not too much that the seeds float.
  • Place the seeds on top of the wet soil to keep them moist.
  • Place the setup under light and wait for seven (7) to 10 days for the seeds to germinate
Once the plants in either of the four methods have germinated, all you need to do is move the seedlings into your aquarium and replant them.
Don't use seeds. See my other thread:

PSA: Carpeting Plant Seeds Are A Scam | Aquarium Plants Forum | 459640
 
LouPey
Member
Thank you for this post! I am working on a monte carlo carpet and it is very slow going (after nearly 7 weeks in) so I think I am going to do a review and will use some of you tips above!
 
GUPPYMAMA27
Member
Hello, Just wondering if you have done a carpet with java moss, I have ended up with a significant amount of it. I am just worried that it might be hard to clean in a tank with fish. Ant thoughts? Thank you.
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
GUPPYMAMA27 said:
Hello, Just wondering if you have done a carpet with java moss, I have ended up with a significant amount of it. I am just worried that it might be hard to clean in a tank with fish. Ant thoughts? Thank you.
As far as I know in order to carpet it you need to attach it to mesh and lay it flat on the bottom. I've never attempted it as it seems more trouble than it is worth tbh.
 
GUPPYMAMA27
Member
Fahn said:
As far as I know in order to carpet it you need to attach it to mesh and lay it flat on the bottom. I've never attempted it as it seems more trouble than it is worth tbh.
Okay, thats kind of what I was thinking too. Thank you!
 
mistyseim
Member
Good read, thanks to this thread I'm learning a lot
 
LouPey
Member
Fahn said:
As far as I know in order to carpet it you need to attach it to mesh and lay it flat on the bottom. I've never attempted it as it seems more trouble than it is worth tbh.
Mine is growing on my substrate without a mesh.
It was accidental really. It was growing on my driftwood then I noticed some started creeping along the substrate. When I see any floating bits I just stick it in the substrate at a 'pointy end' and voilà it starts growing along the substrate!
 
taj13
Member
Fahn said:
I am going to give you a step-by-step on the process I go through to get established, healthy carpets with minimal headache. We will be utilizing the dry-start method (DSM). This method involves planting into moist soil with no water in the tank, and allowing a carpet to spread in an environment with high humidity, high CO2, and little risk of algae, pest snails, or equipment errors. Let's begin.

Step 1: Acquire a tank. When creating a carpet, a shallower tank is better than a deep tank. This is because light has less water to penetrate through and you lose less light. This also enables you to use a less powerful light for the same application. My personal preference is a nice rimless aquarium with clear silicone, as it highlights the aquascape without distracting dark lines and frames.

Step 2: Acquire good lighting. Good lighting doesn't always mean expensive lighting; my lights average between 40 and 50 USD. There are variables to pay attention to, such as Lumens or PAR; higher Lumens means a brighter light, while PAR is the measurement of how much light is penetrating at a specific depth (for most carpeting plants you want a PAR rating of around 50 at the substrate level). Generally, most stock lights or very cheap lights are terrible for growing carpeting plants. Mid-range to high-range lighting usually has a higher output that gives you the light penetration you need. I use Chihiros A series on my rimless tanks, but if your budget allows it I recommend ONF, ADA, Twinstar, and Kessil!

Step 3: Acquire a CO2 setup. Unfortunately, most carpeting plants do indeed require CO2. Setting up an automated CO2 system is not difficult, and while it may be a bit of an investment there are budget friendly options. Still, I urge you to start with a reputable, high quality regulator and not cheap Chinese junk from Amazon or eBay. You will need CO2-proof tubing, as CO2 gas will cause standard airline tubing to split. You will also need an outlet timer, a CO2 diffuser (the acrylic Neo diffusers made by Aquario are my favorite), a drop checker to gauge the amount of CO2, and a check-valve to prevent water from back-flowing into the regulator. In the method I use, this system will not be necessary for a minimum of 4 weeks.

Step 4: Substrate. This is one of the most important factors when growing a carpet and is probably essential for DSM. A lot of folks want to try a carpet but are off-put by the sticker price of many aquasoils. They opt instead to do sand/gravel with root tabs, and for many carpets this just isn't enough. Carpets, eventually, make up a lot of the biomass of a tank and as a result need a reliable supply of nutrients. That is where aquasoils come into play. ADA Amazonia is probably the best you can get, but other great soils include UNS Controsoil Black/Brown (Extra Fine), Tropica Soil Powder, Aquavitro (from Seachem) Aquasolum, Brightwell Rio Cafe/Escuro, and Fluval Stratum. Avoid cheaper Chinese aquasoils, as in my experience they break down into a compacted mud after a few months. The finer the grain size of your aquasoil, the better your carpeting plants will root.

Note: Eco-Complete, Flourite, Samurai Soil, and Aqueon Shrimp and Plant Substrate are awful for (carpeting) plants, either having next to no nutrients, or they alter parameters in undesirable ways.

Step 5: Acquire plants and fertilizer. If you've followed the previous steps, there is not much you can't grow! If you opted for CO2 and good lighting, along with a nutrient rich aquasoil, you can grow:
Hemianthis callitrichoides ("dwarf baby tears", "HC", "Cuba")
Glossostigma elatinoides ("Glosso")
Micranthemum tweediei ("Monte Carlo")
...and many more! These demanding plants suddenly become easier and more manageable with the correct setup. As far as how to purchase these plants, pots are by far the least expensive. Pots also have the largest possibility for containing nuisance algae or pests such as snails and hydra. Mats are a good option as well, but are expensive. In my opinion, the best bang for your buck is tissue cultured/in-vitro plants. These are essentially clones of a mother plant, and are grown in a nutrient-rich gel in sterile lab conditions. They are guaranteed pest and algae free. The downside is they often have very small or no root structure, and if planted in a tank filled with water will often float away or melt. This is where the DSM comes into play!

Do not buy carpeting plant seeds online! I know the promise of a quick, easy carpet with no CO2 sounds enticing, but they are usually not the plant they are sold as. They are either not a true aquatic plant and will die, or are unruly aquatic weeds that will overgrow in your tank and take over. Real carpeting plants are never sold as seeds.

For fertilizer, the easiest option is a high quality all-in-one liquid fertilizer. Most members, myself included, recommend NilocG Thrive. If you are not in the states, then there are great options such as fertilizers from The Aquascaper and Tropica Specialized. You can also dose dry fertilizers via the EI Dosing method, and although this is a little more labor intensive, it is the most cost effective method in the long run. If in the USA, Green Leaf Aquariums has an EI Dosing line of dry fertilizers.

Step 6: Planting. So you've added your bag of soil, scaped your tank with that awesome driftwood and rock, and are ready for plants. This next step depends on how you purchased your plants, but it is similar for each type. For pots, remove the plant from the pot, peel off the rockwool, and rinse the remaining rockwool off the roots. Tweezers or a soft toothbrush may be used to clean the roots under running water. For mats, you will need to tear/cut the mat into small plugs, no more than 0.5x0.5 inches (15x15mm). For tissue cultures, rinse off the nutrient gel in a bowl of water, and divide the plant cup into portions, as mentioned previously with the mats. After rinsing plants, gently pat them dry so that they are damp, but not wet, otherwise the soil will stick to them.

Next, taking long, narrow tweezers, plant the plugs into dry soil. This prevents the soil from sticking to your equipment and making a mess, and also prevents your tweezers from leaving holes behind once you plant the plugs. Occasionally, mist everything with distilled or RO water (to prevent water spots from forming on the glass) to keep everything hydrated, but not wet. Only enough so that you see the soil turn dark, then back to it's lighter shade as it absorbs the water.

Plant the plugs in a grid pattern approximately half an inch (15mm) apart, filling in gaps with leftover plants later. The more plants you start with, the tighter your planting will be, and the faster your carpet will fill in.

Step 7: Hydrating. After you are satisfied with your planting, take a spray bottle (I like using a pressurized salon bottle) and spray liberally with distilled/RO water. The goal is to get the substrate moist, but not wet. After adequately hydrating everything, cover the tank with clear plastic film, and turn on the lighting. In the beginning, 12 hours of light per day is perfectly fine! Do not leave puddles of water in the tank. Not only can algae take advantage of this and start growing on the substrate, but it will also encourage mold. Some serious hobbyists add springtail cultures during this phase as they eat mold, but that is completely optional; once flooded, the springtails would all die anyway...

Step 8: Waiting. Once per day, lift the plastic wrap for the tank to air out for 15-30 minutes. If you see mold or patches of wet, watery substrate, leave it open longer. If the soil and plants look dry, mist liberally and close the plastic wrap. Do this daily; in 4 weeks your carpeting plants should be almost completely covering the substrate. If puddles persist, dig a shallow depression in the soil at the front, let it fill with water, and siphon out the excess water with airline tubing.

Step 9: Flooding. Install the CO2 system, and cut the lighting back to 6-7 hours. Make sure the timer for your CO2 is on and off one hour before your lighting turns on and off. Placing bubble wrap, paper towels, or using your hand, gently pour in the water so that it doesn't disturb the substrate. Otherwise, all your patience will be for nothing as your beautiful carpet comes uprooted, and your tank is filled with cloudy swirling dirt! Once full, turn on your filtration; I prefer a canister with glass lily pipes, but any kind will work. Make sure your CO2 diffuser is positioned in the outflow of your filter for optimal circulation, and make sure there isn't too much surface agitation. Put the pH reagent in your drop checker and place it in the tank. Start the CO2 off high; if your drop checker is showing bright yellow, dial it down and wait a few hours. Your target is a nice, bright green color.

Step 10: Water changes. Because of the high nutrient content of the substrate, it is recommended to do multiple, frequent water changes for the first 2 weeks. 50% changes on alternating days (at least 3x per week) is what I do for the first 2 weeks, then I switch to once per week. During the first two weeks I dose no fertilizer. Some aquasoils release ammonia for up to 2 months, but by doing the DSM we have eliminated a lot of that excess ammonia and preemptively seeded the substrate with beneficial bacteria.

Step 11: Maintenance. After weeks of being patient and testing your water to make sure it is safe, you're finally all cycled, and are ready for fish. Also, if all the above steps have been followed, you are now the proud owner of a lush, green, full carpet for your fish to enjoy. Dosing recommendation is a full dose of ferts 3x per week, or half doses every day 6 days per week (if using comprehensive liquid fertilizers). Depending on the conditions, trimming may need to be as frequent as 2-3 times per month! During the first few weeks you may see diatoms; they disappear quickly in high-energy setups and a few water changes and a trim or two will exterminate them completely, and many inverts and fish love to eat it. If you begin to see problem algae, it is most likely due to 2 causes: under-dosing fertilizer and/or overfeeding/overstocking. Correct these issues and use good maintenance practices to keep your carpet clean and green. Stocking animals such as otocinclus, Amano shrimp, nerite snalils, or Siamese algae eaters (if your tank is large enough) can help prevent nuisance algae outbreaks as well, provided stocking, dosing, and feeding guidelines are kept in check.

That is everything I can tell you on how to get a lush, green, healthy carpet with minimum guesswork. If you are patient and competent enough to use a spray bottle, you can grow pretty much any of the popular carpeting plants. Having a high energy setup allows you so much more freedom with what you can grow, and not to mention the colors; you don't see many reds or yellows in low energy tanks. Maintenance is as easy as any other tank, and for CO2, refilling a bottle is often cheap and easy, and a full bottle will last from 3 months to over a year, depending on the size of the bottle and how much is being used in a tank. I highly recommend the DSM as it has enabled me to create flawless, healthy carpets in multiple tanks, and if you follow these steps, you can create and keep one too.
Thank you for writing such detailed and easy-to-understand directions. One day I hope to set up a tank with carpet plants and the CO2, so I'm definitely going to save your instructions.
 
AcornTheBetta
Member
Fahn or anyone else, will the DSM work on Alternanthera reineckii mini and Staurogyne repens?
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
AcornTheBetta said:
Fahn or anyone else, will the DSM work on Alternanthera reineckii mini and Staurogyne repens?
Alternanthera tends to melt pretty hard once switched to a submersed state IME, and Staurogyne repens' may as well, I've never tried it.
 
AcornTheBetta
Member
Can you mist with just normal dechlorinated water instead of distilled/RO water?
 
  • Thread Starter
Fahn
Member
AcornTheBetta said:
Can you mist with just normal dechlorinated water instead of distilled/RO water?
Yes, but repeated mistings will create water scale on your glass and plants as it evaporates.
 
Catappa
Member
W
Fahn said:
1) Doesn't really matter, but preferably less than 12 inches (30 cm) in depth from the light to the substrate, unless you are using a high grade light such as an ONF or Twinstar. Tall or narrow tanks are more difficult to light properly, as the lighting needs to be more powerful or you need to stack more substrate, which means spending more money.

2) They are slow growing, but probably Marsilea crenata or Marsilea hirsuta, both usually sold as "four-leaf clover". These tolerate lower light levels and less CO2 than most other carpeting plants. In my experience dwarf hairgrasses are also easy but unfortunately do not transition from a dry-start very well. Staurogyne repens is also easy.

It is usually used as a stem plant, but pearlweed (Micranthemum micranthemoides) forms a nice, easy, fast-growing carpet under good lighting and injected CO2, as does shade mudflower (Micranthemum umbrosum).

3) I have a carpet of dwarf baby tears in my 2 gallon (8 liter) tank, the floor plan is only 8" x 8" (20cm x 20cm). I am also currently dry-starting glosso in my 4 gallon (16 liter) which is 10" x 10" (25cm x 25cm). Provided you meet their needs for light, water, nutrients, and CO2, you can grow them in anything, even a small vase or bowl (look up Wabi-Kusa and Kokedama).
Wow! Worthy of a college lecture. Thank you for taking the time to write such an educational article. I've learned a lot, including how much I've done "wrong" for years. You truly are a plant guru.
 
Steve13
Member
Fahn said:
Alternanthera tends to melt pretty hard once switched to a submersed state IME, and Staurogyne repens' may as well, I've never tried it.

alternanthera reineckii mini and most of other tissue culture plants when place submerged, they will melt at first to second week, do not touch or try to do anything to it. It will grows new leaf after a week or two to adapt to new submerged form. Most people think they dying and pull them out , its a biggest mistake!
 

Random Great Thread

Latest threads

Aquarium Calculator

Aquarium Photo Contests

Find a Guru

Top Bottom