The Dwarf Hairgrass Could Be The Perfect Plant For Your Home Aquarium

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Thinking of adding some plants to your freshwater aquarium? If so, you’ve made a fantastic choice. There’s no better way to improve the environment and overall functioning of your tank than by adding some plants that can work to improve oxygen content, reduce bioload, and filter out harmful toxins. Plus, plants can make an excellent habitat, hiding spot, and breeding site for your fish!

It can be overwhelming to choose which aquarium plant you should grow, and to be fair, it is often possible to grow more than one kind of plant species in your aquarium. If you are looking for a species that will blanket your entire aquarium with luscious green growth, you should consider planting dwarf hairgrass.

This gorgeous species develops a field-like growth over the bottom of your tank. It looks much like turf grass, and works hard to keep the water oxygenated, to filter out pollutants and other toxins, and to serve as a shelter for your fish that love to hang out at the bottom of the water column.

Even better, dwarf hairgrass is exceptionally easy to care for. If you’re a novice fishkeeper and don’t know where it starts when it comes to aquatic plants, the dwarf hairgrass could be the perfect plant for you.

Here’s everything you need to know about growing this verdant species in your freshwater tank.

What Is Dwarf Hairgrass?

Dwarf Hairgrass 2
Photo by Michelle.khuu

Referred to scientifically as either Eleocharis parvula or Eleocharis acicularis (both are two separate types of dwarf hairgrass), this freshwater plant belongs to the Cyperaceae family. You find close relatives and members of the dwarf hairgrass family all around the world. It is found abundantly in Europe, Asia, South America, and even North America.

Usually, this plant grows in freshwater pools that are relatively shallow. It likes to have plenty of access to light, and it acts like a carpet as it coats the substrate. This plant is very quick to grow, multiplying quickly in a short amount of time.

When used in your aquarium dwarf hairgrass acts much like a carpet. It is good at giving shelter to your bottom-dwelling species of fish like pictus catfish, and it can even oxygenate your tank to help keep it cleaner and healthier.

This plant is one of the most popular in the aquarium hobbyists industry, largely because it is so easy to care for. This plant requires little trimming and maintenance, and also does not need a lot in the way of extra nutrients, either. Dwarf hairgrass only needs ample light, carbon dioxide, and nutrients in order to survive. You won’t have to spend hours each day caring for your dwarf hairgrass plant. Instead you can plant it in your tank and spend the rest of your time enjoying your fish.

You will likely not experience any difficulty in trying to find dwarf hairgrass in stores. Because it is so popular and in high demand, it is found in just about any fishkeeping store. It is inexpensive, so as little as $10 is usually enough to start a carpet in your tank.

When you purchase dwarf hairgrass, it will be sold in tiny pots with wool packed around the root balls of the plant. Try to select a healthy clump so that it is more likely to survive when you transplant it. Watch out for symptoms of aging or disease like brown sections, short roots, or a wilted plant. Any tears or damaged areas indicate that the plant will be less effective at photosynthesis, and it will likely die once you plant it.

What Does Dwarf Hairgrass Look Like?

Dwarf Hairgrass 1
Photo by Tysonmartens

Dwarf hairgrass has a unique appearance that can only be described as shocking. When you see dwarf hairgrass in a fish tank, you may be caught off guard – it looks just like the grass on your lawn! It has thin strands or blades instead of the leaves that you might normally find on aquatic plants.

These strands serve an important, beneficial function. They help the plant conducts photosynthesis. The plant also has slender white roots. These roots anchor the plant in the substrate, and while dwarf hairgrass tends to stay quite short, hence the name, it can develop blades as tall as six inches in some cases.

Because it is a dwarf species and does not grow overly tall, dwarf hairgrass is a top choice for people who want to add color and texture to their tanks – without creating more work or maintenance chores for themselves. It makes a dense carpet on the bottom of your tank, and because the blades are packed closely together, the colors seem even more intense.

Dwarf hairgrass can be a dark green, but usually is a light, electric green that becomes even more vibrant and bright under the aquarium lights. When the plant grows, the blades are tugged back and forth by the flowing current. This will add an interesting dynamic of movement to your tank, and give your fish a source of entertainment as well.

Because there are two types of dwarf hairgrass you need to do your research as to which type will be best for your tank. Since they look so similar, many aquarium stores mislabel them. Admittedly, they are hard to tell apart. Keep in mind that Eleocharis acicularis will develop blades that are curly and slightly taller.

What Kind Of Tank Conditions Do I Need For Dwarf Hairgrass?

Dwarf Hairgrass 3
Photo by Juan carlos

When you are planting dwarf hairgrass, you need to remember that although this plant is found on just about every continent, it does need certain conditions in order to grow. For example, it needs relatively shallow waters that are comprised of sandy or muddy bottoms. These waters tend to be tropical and have lots of direct sunlight.

It is not difficult to create this habitat in your own tank. Because the dwarf hairgrass plant is so hardy, it will hold up well to a variety of conditions. As a small plant, dwarf hairgrass can be grown in tanks as small as ten gallons. It is better suited to larger tanks, as it does have a tendency to small.

When you plant your dwarf hairgrass, start by coating the bottom of your aquarium in substrate. This layer should be about an inch or two inches thick and comprised of a fine grained material like sand. This will allow the roots to push easily through the substrate to anchor themselves to the bottom of the tank.

Dwarf hairgrass can tolerate a vast range of temperatures, from as cold as 50 degrees Fahrenheit to as warm as 83 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant can survive in cold temperatures as well as those that are warmer, which is part of the reason why it has been so successful in establishing itself as a dominant species around the world.

Keep the pH of your waters relatively neutral, around 6.5 to 7.5, avoiding waters that are overly alkaline or acidic. You should keep water that is soft to somewhat hard, with an ideal KH of 2-10. You will need to add an aquarium light, so remember that if you have fish species that do not thrive in high quantities of light, dwarf hairgrass might not be the best plant of choice for your aquarium.

How Do I Plant And Care For Dwarf Hairgrass?

Planting and caring for your dwarf hairgrass is relatively easy, and once you’ve settled into a routine, you should have no problems at all in tending to your plants.

Make sure you plant the dwarf hairgrass in a substrate that is soft and delicate. A substrate that consists of hard, rough grains, like gravel, will scratch and damage the roots of the plant.

You should place your dwarf hairgrass in a section of the tank that receives plenty of light. Dwarf hairgrass needs this light for photosynthesis, and it can’t conduct this process in a shaded area.

Bury the roots of the plant entirely into the substrate. Make sure all pieces are covered. On the flip side, you want to make sure no strands of grass are covered by substrate. Remember that, as a carpet species, dwarf hairgrass can be planted all over the bottom of your tank. You might want to cover the entire bottom of the tank and then trim the plants that are at the front of the tank so that they are shorter than those at the back. This will give your tank the appearance of being more densely planted.

Once planted, dwarf hairgrass is easy to care for. You will need to cut the strands of the plant from time to time, as they may get too long and begin to look unkempt. The plant grows relatively quickly, so you may have to prune back your dwarf hairgrass more often than you may be used to with other aquarium plants.

As we already mentioned, trimming the grass at the front of tank while allowing the grass at the back to grow undisturbed is not only a great way to enhance the perceived fullness of your tank, but it’s also a fantastic way to provide habitat to the fish who inhabit the middle levels of the water column.

Fish like plenty of places to hide, so having some dwarf hairgrass grow a bit taller is definitely not a bad thing. Keeping your dwarf hairgrass shorter in the front allows you to look through and into the aquarium, while also keeping your fish safe and happy.

There are very few diseases or problems to which dwarf hairgrass is prone. In general, the biggest tissue has to do with not enough light being allowed to filter into your tank. You can address this by increasing the amount of light, either by moving your aquarium to a more well-lit area or by adding a higher-intensity light to the tank.

Other problems related to dwarf hairgrass growth have to do with a lack of nutrients or carbon dioxide. While you can get supplements for these items at any aquarium store, you want to be careful about overdoing it. Too many nutrients can cause algal growth and may begin to harm the health of your fish. One type of algae in particular, hair algae, can quickly become invasive in a tank, rapidly overtaking your dwarf hairgrass.

Adding algae eating fish to your tank is a great way to reduce the impact of algae while also providing your dwarf hairgrass with the nutrients it needs to grow. You can also manually clean the algae from the tank, but this can be time-consuming and cumbersome.

Can I Propagate Dwarf Hairgrass?

If you’ve ever owned houseplants, you probably know how beneficial and money-saving it can be to be able to propagate your own plants from cuttings. This is something that can easily be done with dwarf hairgrass, too, but you won’t be able to propagate it from cuttings.

This is because dwarf hair grass cuttings can’t grow their own roots. Instead, as the plant grows, it forms runners that branch away from the area of the roots. These then form into a plant, developing from the bottom up. Since you can’t create your own roots, this can be a tough act to replicate.

That being said, the inability to create your own roots doesn’t tend to be an issue. Because dwarf hairgrass grows in such an aggressive manner, it will produce regular runners that will spread out among your tank. You can influence the production of more runners by adding nutrients, light, and carbon dioxide. Raising the temperature of your tank can also help enhance the rate of growth of your dwarf hairgrass, too  – just remember not to manipulate factors that your other aquarium inhabitants might rely on.

What Kinds Of Fish Can Be Kept With Dwarf Hairgrass Plants?

Dwarf hairgrass is compatible in just about any kind of tank setting, and will get along well with most species of fish as well as other tropical plants.

When considering other plants to keep with your dwarf hairgrass, remember that this plant can easily grow out of hand. It grows in a dense, sprawling fashion, and will compete with other plants for resources. You may notice that your other plants die off when you plant dwarf hairgrass.

Very few fish will nibble on dwarf hairgrass, as those that have broad or long leaves tend to be more popular source of food. The best fish for your hairgrass aquarium will be those that are small and less aggressive, such as tetras, guppies, or mollies.

Fish who prefer to hang out at the bottom of the tank will benefit most from the presence of dwarf hairgrass. You might consider loaches like Kuhli loaches or zebra loaches, or even catfish like the Cory or bumblebee species.

You should avoid keeping fish that are aggressive or overly energetic. Oscars, for example, may uproot your plants, while others may eat or otherwise harm the dwarf hairgrass. While most invertebrates are fine, you should keep in mind that some snails will damage your plants. Stick to snails that don’t like to eat plants as much as others, such as assassin snails, and remember that shrimp species are less likely to have an effect on the growth of your dwarf hairgrass. They can therefore serve as an acceptable alternative.

Is Dwarf Hairgrass The Right Choice For Me?

Dwarf hairgrass has so many uses that you cannot overlook it as a potential plant for your freshwater aquarium. For starters, it keeps the oxygen content of your aquarium’s water high. It can control the levels of nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia in your tank, which will keep your fish happy and healthy.

As a carpet species, dwarf hairgrass serves a beneficial function as it provides shelter to bottom-dwelling fish. It can be used as a food source and even offer fish a shield against the powerful current.

The last point – which cannot be denied by any fishkeeping enthusiast! – is that it offers an absolutely gorgeous appearance. This plant is a lovely addition to an aquarium, and should be the first plant considered when you are developing any tank.

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