Yesterday I tackled the intricacies of plant selection. I realize that differentiating between plant species can be a little bit daunting. I mean, for the most part they’re all just green and leafy, right? Well, I’m hoping to show demonstrate just how varied aquatic plants can be by taking a good, hard look at five of the most popular carpet plant species.

What is a carpet plant, anyway? They’re pretty much exactly what the name implies — species of freshwater aquatic plants that grow outward rather than upward, covering your aquascape like an organic green shag carpet.

Pygmy Chain Sword

Look familiar? It should. Walk out into your backyard and you’ll find something that looks almost identical. Pygmy chain sword is well-known because it looks practically identical to grass. That can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending how you look at it. It’s great if you are trying to create an aquascape that perfectly replicates dry land. On the down side, it’s not very exotic because it looks so common. A lot of people love aquascapes because they give us a way to experience a whole different world. Filling your aquarium with aquatic carpet plants that look almost identical to terrestrial carpet plants kind of misses the point.


For the sake of contrast, next up we’ll take a look at hairgrass. This one also has a fairly self-explanatory name. It has grassy qualities like the pygmy chain sword except that it’s incredibly thin. Delicate hairgrass will give your aquarium a completely different aesthetic impact. For one, the hair-thin strands will drift freely with even the slightest current, which will add much more movement to your aquarium. It also helps to establish a large sense of scale. Pygmy chain sword looks life-sized, but hairgrass is so diminutive that it looks as though we’ve zoomed out and we’re witnessing some gigantic aquascape. Hairgrass might be a good choice alongside underwater bonsai trees or aquatic forests.

Dwarf Baby Tears

Dwarf baby tears, technically known as hemianthus callitrichoides, is probably my favorite carpet plant. They’re one of the smallest carpet plants on the market, which means that the aquascaper has an incredible amount of control over the layout. You won’t have to worry about dwarf baby tears growing to be several inches tall because what you see is pretty much what you get. The other neat thing about them is that they sort of resemble the tops of trees. If hairgrass makes you feel like you’re looking at a landscape from the top of a building, then dwarf baby tears make you feel like you’re looking at a gigantic forest from an airplane. You can use these plants to create aquascapes with a massive sense of scale, including features like canyons and mountains.

Java Moss

Is this the stuff that grows on the bottom of your coffee mug after you leave it sitting around for a few days? Close, but not quite. Java moss is an extremely delicate, frilly plant that almost resembles mold. Many aquascapers like to use java moss as a way to replicate algae, moss, or even tree leaves. Attach some of this moss to a bit of driftwood, and suddenly your underwater stick will begin to resemble an underwater tree. By itself, java moss is just a tiny green plant. In the hands of a true aquascaping professional, however, it can be transformed into virtually anything.

Marsilea Minuta

Is your aquarium feeling lucky? You can add a bit of Irish charm to your aquarium with the shamrock-like marsilea minuta. What I like most about this plant isn’t that it resembles a four-leaf clover, it’s that it is such a beautiful shade of green. I mean, the color is so intense that it’s practically neon. This is a great plant if you want to make your aquascape feel like it’s bursting with vibrant life.

So, does this help you get a better understanding of how complex freshwater aquascaping can be? Carpet plants may seem trivial, but they will have a major impact on the overall aesthetic of your aquarium.