Dwarf hairgrass is one of the most underrated aquarium carpet plants out there. Even though there’s a decent amount of interest in this plant, we think it should be way more popular than it is.
While many aquarists flock to plants like Staurogyne repens, dwarf hairgrass can provide the same benefits with an interesting aesthetic as well.
It’s also hardy and very easy to care for which makes it a perfect fit for aquarists who don’t want any hassle when it comes to their plants.
Overall, if you’re into aquascaping or just want to add a carpet plant to your tank, this is an excellent choice.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about dwarf hairgrass care. From planting tips to tank mates, we’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
Dwarf hairgrass is a resilient and hardy freshwater plant that provides a number of benefits to your fish tank. There are a couple main species of this plant (eleocharis parvula and eleocharis acicularis) but for the most part the same principles apply to both.
Like all plants, it will help filter out some of the waste in your water and enrich it with oxygen. This can make a big difference in the health of the other life in your tank.
It’s also a great hiding place for smaller fish that spend their time on the bottom of your aquarium. The thick grass will give them something to swim through and feel safe.
In their natural habitat dwarf hairgrass can be found in one form or another around the world. It is more heavily condensed in North America and Europe but can extend as far as Russia, Vietnam, Japan, and parts of South America.
It can be found in clear and unobstructed freshwater with a low to moderate current. This typically means the shallow edge of a river or lake.
This important to know because it means you’ll need to provide a significant amount of light dwarf hairgrass to thrive (more on that a bit later).
How It Looks
Dwarf hairgrass looks a lot like grass you would see in someone’s yard (just a bit more stringy). It’s a vibrant green that really pops when in your aquarium and provides a beautiful rich atmosphere to your aquascape.
Author Note: The coloration is something that can vary a bit based on the health of the plant, so if you notice any decrease in brightness there are likely some adjustments you’ll need to make.
Each of the blades or strands in dwarf hairgrass is stringy and very thin. This can give it a sort of whispy appearance when in a full carpet. When there’s a little current it can be very hypnotizing to look at!
The blades are spaced out a fair amount naturally as well which really accents how thin and stringy they are. This means if you want to ensure that your carpet looks full and lush you’ll need to plant them close together.
Dwarf hairgrass is an interesting carpeting plant because even though the growth rate is quite fast, the maximum height is on the short side. This plant will naturally only grow to be a few inches tall, usually not more than half a foot.
At the end of each blade you’ll notice a change in the coloration from green to a more faded brown. Make a mental note of this when you first get your plant so you don’t think something is wrong with it later!
How To Plant It
Planting dwarf hairgrass very straightforward due to its hardy and resilient nature. As long as you have the proper substrate and tank conditions it should take just fine.
Use The Right Substrate
Before you get started planting you’ll want to make sure that the substrate is compatible with your new plant. If you’re setting up a new tank from scratch then this will be quite simple, but if you’re planting in an existing aquarium then you’ll need to consider this.
A soft substrate is your best bet if you want to facilitate growth and maximize the health of your dwarf hairgrass. Some of the best options for this are:
- Dirt with a top layer of fine gravel
These will allow your plant to root itself more easily and reduce the risk of becoming dislodged from the substrate.
Aim for a substrate that’s about an inch and a half thick. We know some aquarists who’ve had success with thinner and thicker, but this is the sweet spot.
Once you have the substrate figured out it’s time to plant!
All you need to do is bury the roots of your dwarf hairgrass in the substrate. The hardy and adaptive nature of this plant will take care of the rest.
Decide On Placement
You’ll have a decision to make when it comes to the placement of this plant in your aquarium. Some aquarists prefer to plant patches in different areas throughout their tank to serve as hiding spots, while others go for the complete carpet approach.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to the location or style you prefer. Keep in mind that no matter where you choose to plant your dwarf hairgrass, it will need enough light to thrive (details on this down below).
Dwarf Hairgrass Care
Dwarf hairgrass care is pretty simple and straightforward. To be honest, taking care of this plant is pretty hard to mess up!
However, there are things you can do to ensure it’s as healthy as possible. If you’re wondering what makes this is so important (it’s only a plant right?), here’s why:
Plants in your aquarium bring a number of amazing benefits to the rest of the life in your tank. We’re in the camp that the wellbeing of your inhabitants should always be your number one priority.
While hardy plants like dwarf hairgrass or hornwort can survive almost anything when it comes to water conditions, their impact on the rest of your tank decreases significantly when they’re in poor health.
Thinking of your plants as a beautiful and natural piece of equipment can be a good thought exercise. If you want to maintain your filters, you should do the same for your plants.
That’s what makes providing the proper dwarf hairgrass care so important.
While tank size is not something that you need to agonize over with plants as you do with fish, there’s still a minimal size to shoot for. With dwarf hairgrass, the minimum tank size you should consider planting it in is around 10 gallons.
Going any smaller will make it difficult for your plant to root itself effectively and grow over time (assuming you have a decent amount of dwarf hairgrass in your aquarium). You would be surprised how far their root system spreads out!
Water parameters and conditions are important to plants just like fish. Although plants tend to be a little more tolerant of different conditions, there are still certain guardrails you want to stay within.
- Water temperature: Dwarf hairgrass can handle a wide range of water temperatures. Anywhere from 50°F to 80°F shouldn’t give it any trouble. Impressive right?
- pH levels: The acidity of the water is something that you need to pay a little more attention to. Sticking between 6.5 and 7.5 is recommended.
- Water hardness: Hardness is a little more flexible with a recommended range of 2 to 10 KH.
As with any plant, dwarf hairgrass needs an optimal amount of light in order to grow and benefit your tank.
There are varying recommendations out there of people considering this plant requiring low, medium, and high amounts of light. In our opinion, the sweet spot is right in the middle.
Keeping the water clean and treating this as a plant that requires an average amount of light will give you the results you want. Water depth in your tank can also influence this a bit as well, so you could get away with a lower amount of light if your aquarium is very shallow.
Fortunately, lighting is something you can experiment with rather easily. Don’t be afraid to test different things! That’s part of the fun.
Author Note: If you experiment with higher amounts of light keep an eye out for algae growth. These often go hand in hand.
Maintaining Your Plant
When it comes to keeping dwarf hairgrass tidy and under control, this aquarium plant is about as easy as it gets.
Unlike some plants that grow like a weed and quickly take over your tank, dwarf hairgrass is much more manageable. Its growth rate is fast but it stays fairly contained even when getting a bit on the tall side.
When it comes to pruning and trimming your plant the only thing you need to watch out for is height. When it gets too tall for your liking, give it a haircut!
If one of the main functions of your hairgrass is to serve as a hiding place you’ll want to exercise some restraint. Don’t let it get out of control, but also don’t give it a buzz cut. There needs to be enough height and volume for smaller fish to feel comfortable hiding inside it.
You can also do a hybrid approach by using it as a foreground plant and allowing other plants or hiding places to be found in the back.
If you’re into aquascaping then you’ll probably want to experiment with different layers and heights to achieve the effect you desire. There are a surprising amount of creative directions you can take when giving your dwarf hairgrass a trim.
If you plan on propagating dwarf hairgrass then the only thing you need is patience. Unlike a lot of other species where you can quickly clip and replant without waiting for full growth, dwarf hairgrass is a bit different.
Since it uses runners to spread, you need to wait for the plant to grow enough for these to form. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a runner is a growth that comes from the base of the stem and grows laterally away from the plant.
This means that instead of you doing clipping, replanting, and hoping, you simply need to wait and keep your plant healthy. We’ve heard from some owners who have tried taking these runners and replanting them as an experiment, and it doesn’t work very well.
Just be patient and you’ll quickly have a full carpet of dwarf hairgrass!
Like most hardy plants, dwarf hairgrass goes well with a variety of freshwater fish. This gives you a lot of options and the luxury of having to choose between one or another.
Since dwarf hairgrass is thin and stringy it is far less likely to get snacked on by fish. This is a big advantage that allows you to plant it in a community tank with a wide range of inhabitants.
Small fish or bottom-dwellers are the best tank mates for dwarf hairgrass. Here’s a list of our favorite options:
There are a number of other great tank mates you can go with, these are just our favorites. As long as you stick to animals that won’t tear up the substrate or snack on any plant in their path (like freshwater snails) you’ll probably be fine.
This is one of the major benefits of having a plant like dwarf hairgrass. You can pretty much include it in any aquarium and have confidence that it’ll not only survive, but benefit the health of the tank as a whole.
Dwarf hairgrass care isn’t rocket science. Not by a long shot.
However, the amazing look that this plant can bring to your tank (plus all the water benefits) make it worth taking seriously.
You can always tell when someone is taking care of their aquatic plants or not. There’s less color, unimpressive density, and the water looks a little less pristine.
Don’t be that person.
If you take care of your dwarf hairgrass it will take care of you. Not only will you have a beautiful aquarium to look at, but you’ll know that it’s working 24/7 to make your life as an aquarist a little bit easier.
Can’t beat that!