7 Best Low Tech Aquarium Carpet Plants

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Carpet plants are great for changing the appearance of your aquarium. Going from plain gravel to a green, grassy aquarium floor makes the display look more attractive and natural. Aquarium carpets are also great for egg-laying fish and small fry in need of accessible hideouts. The problem is that most aquarium plants need a constant supply of CO2 to thrive.

CO2 systems can be quite expensive and a nuisance for those with little storage space. The solution? Choose low-tech carpeting plants! You don’t have to sacrifice the lush aquarium of your dreams, even if you can’t use a CO2 kit. Keep reading to discover the best options for your aquarium setup!

Best Carpet Plants to Grow Without CO2

What makes a good carpeting plant? Besides the low CO2 requirements, you want it to stay relatively short but grow dense and tightly packed. Luckily, there are plenty of beautiful aquarium plants that meet these standards.

From easy to moderate maintenance, slow to fast growth, and foreground to background-fitting sizes, I’ve assembled seven of the best low-tech carpeting plants for all aquarists’ tastes. Here they are, in no particular order:

Java Moss

java moss used as carpet plant

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Water parameters: 59-86°F, 5.0-8.0 pH, 4-13 dGH
  • Lighting: Low to medium

Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri) is beloved by many aquarists. It’s easy to see why this plant is so popular. It’s beginner friendly, low-maintenance, and extremely hardy! It needs no CO2 and little to no fertilization. Its slow to moderate growth also means infrequent trimming.

Java moss is a bushy bright-green plant with small, delicate branches and stems. The small leaves are just 0,08 inches long and give the irregular branches a fuzzy appearance. In ideal conditions, the Java Moss branches grow up to 4 inches tall.

You can use this plant for carpeting throughout the aquarium and leave it to grow taller in the background. It also works as a bushy plant and for DIY aquascaping décor. Java Moss has no true roots and needs no substrate. Thus, you can put it on top of the substrate or attach it to rocks, driftwood, and other decorations.

Propagation is easy and is done by splitting the plant into pieces. It takes roughly 3-4 weeks for a new Java moss plant to establish itself. This plant grows up to 1.5 inches per month.

Dwarf Baby Tears

dwarf baby tears

  • Care level: Moderate to difficult
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Water parameters: 68-75°F, 6.0-7.5 pH, 3-10 dGH
  • Lighting: Medium to high

Dwarf baby tears (Hemianthus callitriodes) is one of the smallest plants in the aquarium hobby. Under ideal conditions, this plant grows just 1.2 inches tall and 4 inches wide. Trimming will be a non-issue. Dwarf baby tears plants are so small they can thrive even in tanks as low as 5 gallons!

The best part about this plant is its unique appearance. Dwarf baby tears grow on creeping rhizome stems. It has dense, bright green foliage made of dozens of small leaves. The leaves are rounded and roughly 0.04 inches long. During photosynthesis, the plant produces small oxygen bubbles that sometimes remain trapped between the leaves.

Despite its slow growth and low CO2 needs, this plant is quite demanding. Fertilization is preferable, especially if you want to maintain the plant’s bright green color. Dwarf Baby Tears are root feeders. They also have delicate roots and don’t anchor with a strong hold. You’ll need lightweight, fine-grain gravel to allow the roots to breathe and grow. Active soil-type substrates are the best for supporting growth.

Alternatively, you may use small aquarium pots to prevent the plant from floating out of the substrate. It takes at least a month to get noticeable growth after planting. Fortunately, with patience, you can use Baby Tears to create a lush aquarium display. Propagation is very easy. You just cut the plant into new segments. Make sure each segment has roots; otherwise, the cuttings will rot.

Staurogyne Repens


  • Care level: Easy to moderate
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Water parameters: 72-86°F, 6.0-7.0 pH, 3-10 dGH
  • Lighting: Medium to high

Staurogyne repens, also colloquially known as “Mud mat,” is a small to medium-sized plant. It grows up to 4 inches tall, so you can use it to carpet the foreground and midground of the aquarium. Despite the name “mud mat,” this could make a lush and elegant addition to your aquarium.

Staurogyne repens grows short, sturdy brown stems. The stems are covered in bright green, medium-sized oval leaves. The plant doesn’t grow so much vertically but spreads well horizontally. Exactly what you need for aquarium carpeting! Just know that the leaves are thin and delicate. In other words, mud mat plants and herbivorous fish aren’t a good mix.

This plant has low CO2 needs, but it appreciates a nutrient-rich substrate. As a root feeder, Staurogyne needs a high-quality lightweight substrate, preferably aquarium soil. Other than a few setup changes, mud mats are not very demanding. The slow growth and low-tech requirements mean easy maintenance.

You’ll need to put in some handiwork to create a carpet with this plant. Staurogynes grow just a little over 0.5 inches per month. You’ll also have to propagate the plant to get maximal horizontal growth. To propagate, cut off new stems that are at least 2 inches long and replant them next to the parent plant.

Dwarf Hairgrass

dwarf hairgrass

  • Care level: Easy to moderate
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Water parameters: 72-79°F, 6.5-7.5 pH, 3-10 dGH
  • Lighting: Medium

Dwarf hairgrass is actually not one single plant but three closely related species grouped together. They all look virtually the same and have similar requirements, so it doesn’t matter which one you choose for your tank. The species are Eleocharis Parvula, Eleocharis Acicularis, and Eleocharis Belem.

Dwarf hairgrass, despite its name, can grow over 6 inches high. The decent size allows you to carpet the entire aquarium, including the background, while maintaining a balanced look. Eleocharis acicularis is the tallest species, while Eleocharis Belem grows only up to 1.5 inches tall.

As for appearance, these bright green plants have very thin and long, upright blades. They look similar to regular grass but thinner. Dwarf hairgrass grows in a rosette pattern, which gives it a dense and bushy aspect. It’s the go-to plant if you want your aquarium to look like a bright underwater meadow.

Dwarf hairgrass needs a soft and nutrient-rich substrate to spread its roots and thrive. A biologically-active soil is best, but inert sand is also suitable. Whichever substrate you choose, you’ll need to use fertilizers to encourage growth.

Planting dwarf hairgrass is also quite tricky. This is a delicate, lightweight plant. You need to be careful not to damage the roots when planting. Hairgrass also takes a while to anchor itself into the substrate. It might float out of the soil at first. Luckily, this plant propagates by runners, so there is no need to split and replant!

Monte Carlo Plant

monte carlo plant

  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate
  • Water parameters: 68-78°F, 5.5-7.5 pH, 3-14 dGH
  • Lighting: Medium to high

Monte Carlo (Micranthemum Tweediei) is a small but hardy, beginner-friendly plant. It looks quite similar to Dwarf Baby Tears, although double the size. Under optimal conditions, Monte Carlo plants grow up to 2.25 inches tall.

This carpeting plant grows thin roots off creeping stems. It has round rich green leaves up to 0.4 inches long. Monte Carlo spreads through runners, growing wide and forming very dense mats. Its moderate growth and small size make this plant perfect for the foreground of the aquarium.

Monte Carlo plants also have simple requirements. They need little to no CO2, and you don’t have to fertilize at all if there’s enough bioload in the tank. However, this plant has tiny roots and needs a soft substrate. Aquarium soil works best, and you can use cheaper inert substrates. Fertilization, coupled with bright lights, speeds up plant growth.

Hydrocotyle Japan


  • Care level: Easy to moderate
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
  • Water parameters: 72-82°F, 6.0-7.5 pH, 3-16 dGH
  • Lighting: Medium

Hydrocotyle Japan (Hydrocotyle Tripartita) is a medium-tall aquarium plant that can grow up to 10’’ high. It also grows very fast, so it requires regular maintenance. It might not be the best foreground plant. But with regular trimming, it can grow into a luxuriant green aquarium carpet. Bright lights and CO2 aren’t necessary, but they encourage faster and more compact growth.

This plant has thin, branched stems and grows small, clover-like leaves. You don’t need a special substrate to plant Hydrocotyle Japan. In fact, you don’t even need to do any planting. This versatile species thrives anchored in the substrate or attached to other surfaces like rocks and driftwood.

It’s good because you can use the trimmed bits in other parts of the aquarium. When pruning new growth, you can cut the shoots anywhere across the stems without damaging the plant. To propagate the plant, you can split a clump with grown roots or replant freshly-cut stems.

Pearl Weed


  • Care level: Easy
  • Growth rate: Moderate to fast
  • Water parameters: 66-82°F, 6.5-7.5 pH, 4-18 dGH
  • Lighting: Medium to high

Pearl weed (Hemianthus micranthemoides) is also called “Baby tears.” However, it looks nothing like the Dwarf Baby Tears I’ve covered above. This medium-sized plant can reach a height between 2-5 inches. It’s also a very rapid grower, and you’ll need to trim new growth weekly.

Just one bunch of Pearl weed is enough to carpet a 20-gallon aquarium in a couple of months. You can use Pearl weed to carpet the entire aquarium, from foreground to background. Let the plant grow taller in the back, and you’ve got some hiding spaces for the larger fish in the tank!

Pearl weed grows thin, tall stems covered in whorls of small, narrow, elongated leaves. The leaves are just 0.4 inches long and dispersed equally across the stem. That makes for a dense, grassy appearance. Give Pearl weed bright light, and you’ll get a tightly-packed bushy aquarium carpet in no time!

This plant does well in most substrates. You can use anything from soil to gravel as long as it doesn’t get compacted. Besides carpeting, you can also use this plant as a free-floater. Some aquarists attach it to other decorations in the tank, especially driftwood. To propagate Pearl weed, clip and replant a mature stem.


A lot of aquarium plants require CO2 to grow and thrive. However, you can still find beautiful carpeting plants for a low-tech aquarium. Some wonderful low-maintenance plants include Java moss, Monte Carlo, and Pearl weed. These species grow up to 2-4 inches, making perfect midground to foreground carpeting plants.

Other short foreground plants include Dwarf Baby Tears, Dwarf Hairgrass, and Staurogyne repens. If you want a taller carpeting plant for the back of the aquarium, I recommend Hydrocotyle Japan and taller Dwarf Hairgrass species like Eleocharis acicularis. All of these plants require little to no CO2, although supplemental CO2 encourages faster, more compact growth.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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