Working with Carpeting Plants and Grasses

‘Krabi’, by celebrated UK aquascaper James Findley – read on for more information about how to create a beautiful carpet effect, or view more images of this Nature Aquarium in our Aquatics Gallery.

Carpeting plants are extremely important in aquascaping, they provide us with the lush green pastures, tree-lined hillsides and mossy outcrops which feature in many aquascapers’ visions of a perfect Eden. The availability of these plants can make an underwater garden a more excitingly visual place and allow us to realise our most adventurous and unique visions of paradise.

Carpeting plants such as Hemianthus callitrichoides and Glossostigma elatinoides and grasses such as Eleocharis parvula are very economical plants to work with. This is because they can be separated into quite small portions and spaced apart to achieve an eventual mat or lawn effect, known as a ‘carpet’. It is possible to get around 20 or more plantlets out of some good quality pots, depending of course on how much effort the planter is prepared to put in.

Recommended Substrate Choice
We have found that when working with such small portions planting is much easier when done into a fine gravel such as Zambezi sand or Limpopo sand with a Tropica substrate base, or the finer powder versions of the ADA Aqua Soil, in either Malaya (brown), Africana (red), or Amazonia (black). This is because the smaller grain size suits the small roots of the plantlets better and allows them to grip the substrate better and grow more efficiently. It also reduces the risk of the plantlets coming loose and floating to the top of the aquarium when the water is added, which can be incredibly frustrating!

The smaller grain size of the ADA Aqua Soil Powder type is also very useful and popular in Nano or small aquariums. This is because the smaller grain size allows for a greater sense of perspective to be achieved in a small space, making it appear larger. For the same reason, the ADA Aqua Soil Powder is also very good for the ’miniature landscape’ style of Nature Aquarium that is very popular. Some people simply prefer the Powder because they find it more aesthetically pleasing.

Planting Tips
We have found that it is very useful to fill the aquarium with only an inch or two of water when planting them, to reduce the effects of refraction, or to dampen the substrate and then plant them into the substrate without adding any water first – but if you do this make sure that you continue to dampen the substrate and the plants with a mist of water whilst planting, and continue to do so regularly until the aquarium is filled with water. Planting this way ensures that it is easier to see exactly what you are doing and means that planting progresses at a much quicker rate.

Plants should be prepared prior to working, split into the sizes required and any excess mineral wool removed. They should then be laid out on a flat surface or board which should be placed near at hand or held in one hand whilst planting with the other, just as an artist would work at his easel. Even at this stage, the plants should be kept misted with a fine water spray at intervals to retain their moisture.

When planting these small specimens, a good quality set of fine tweezers is essential to achieve precision results and avoid damaging the plants. There are various kinds of good quality tweezers available ranging from our high quality but unbelievably priced Exceptional Value Range (prices start at around £11 for a pair of pinsettes), to TGM’s own range of high quality mid price range tools, right through to ADA’s high quality tweezers and pinsettes.

A pin style tweezer is very useful for this fine sort of work although some scapers will prefer to use an angled tweezer.

When such small specimens are planted they should be gently picked up with the tweezers and lightly ‘shaken’ into the substrate. If they appear to be too deep this should not be a cause of concern because the plants will soon send out fresh roots, anchor themselves more firmly and begin to grow.

We have found that if planting is done to resemble the number five on the face of a dice then carpeting is optimised.

Where ADA Aqua Soil is used in a larger tank, it is useful to place a bag of the powder form in the area (normally the foreground) where the carpeting plants or grasses will be placed.

Filling the Aquarium After Planting
Once planting is complete the tank should then be gently filled with water. This can be poured over a saucer or square of thick plastic sheet placed in the bottom of the aquarium to avoid any disturbance of the substrate.

Caring for your Carpeting Plants and Grasses
Lighting should be kept to about 6 hours for several weeks, and no dosing with liquid fertiliser should be carried out for five to six weeks, or until the plants show signs that they are in need of fertilisation. The exception to this rule is ADA Brighty K, a source of readily available potassium and rooting hormones which may be dosed daily from day one of planting and is extremely beneficial to early growth. If you are in any doubt about fertilisation, or anything else, then we urge all of our clients to contact us for advice – our team of experts are always on hand and ready to help. We have helped thousands of people learn to aquascape and we are still counting…so you can rest assured that you will get the very best advice around!

Like all plants carpeting varieties will need fairly regular trimming to keep them looking both compact and pristine. Cutting back grasses such as Eleocharis parvula will actively encourage fresh root development. This may be done with a good quality pair of household scissors, although there are specialist, long-reach aquascaping scissors available in our Exceptional Value Range and, of course, ADA provide a tool for every possible Nature Aquarium need!

Various carpeting plants:

If you are in any doubt about anything discussed in this article, or anything else, then we urge all of our clients to contact us for advice – our team of experts are always on hand and ready to help. We have helped thousands of people learn to aquascape and we are still counting…so you can rest assured that you will get the very best advice around!

1 thought on “Working with Carpeting Plants and Grasses

  1. Fantastic site, thank you. Is it necessary to have CO2 injection for these grasses to grow efficiently please? Thank you.

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