Dwarf Hairgrass Care: Seed, Soil, Gravel & Carpet Planting


Scientific NameEleocharis Parvula
Common NameDwarf Hairgrass
OriginCan be found all over the world  
Growth4 to 6 inches at full maturity
Temperature70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
pH6.5 to 7.5

Dwarf Hairgrass Facts:

  • There are 2 species of Dwarf Hairgrass, but both behave in similar ways.
  • Dwarf Hairgrass can be found all over the world, but it is always in similar conditions.
  • Dwarf Hairgrass is a very popular plant in the aquascaping hobby, and it is easily found in shops and online.
  • You cannot propagate Dwarf Hairgrass simply with cuttings of the plant. You have to wait for the plant to send out runners, and grow offshoots.
Dwarf hairgrass
Dwarf Hairgrass Plant

Dwarf Hairgrass Care

Dwarf Hairgrass is a very popular small plant that’s name is almost perfectly descriptive of itself. Dwarf Hairgrass has blades instead of leaves. The blades are tightly packed together, and under aquarium lighting, they will show up as a bright green. There are fine hairs along the blades that aid the plant in photosynthesis. Dwarf Hairgrass helps oxygenate the water, control nitrate levels, and remove pollutants. It is also the perfect shelter for bottom dwelling fish.

Dwarf Hairgrass has the appearance of grass in your aquarium, and it will grow into a carpet that covers the bottom. It is a wonderful addition to any tank setup that includes fish, and it has been a popular choice for people in the aquascaping hobby.

Dwarf Hairgrass can be found all over the world, but the conditions that it grows in are all basically the same. Thankfully, these parameters can be recreated in your setup easily. It can be found in shallow, tropical, freshwater with plenty of access to light. They can be found in sandy or muddy areas along lakes or rivers.

Tank Requirements for Dwarf Hairgrass

You can plant and grow Dwarf Hairgrass in tanks as small as 10 gallons. When setting up your aquarium for Dwarf Hairgrass, you will want to mimic its natural environment as best you can. This will ensure that your plant will thrive.

Substrate for Dwarf Hairgrass should be no more than 1.5 inches thick. Sandy substrate works best for this plant, as it allows the fine roots to grow and anchor into the sand easily. The roots of the Dwarf Hairgrass plant are almost as fine as the blades are. The roots are white, and you will not notice them as they grow since they will remain buried in the substrate. These roots will help spread your grass around your tank fairly quickly with the right conditions. The roots grow and send off runners into the substrate horizontally. The runners then grow offshoots that will grow more Dwarf Hairgrass.

Lighting is important for Dwarf Hairgrass to survive in your aquarium setup, as it depends on photosynthesis to thrive. Unlike other aquarium plants, Dwarf Hairgrass will not grow in low light or shaded areas of your tank. The good news is that Dwarf Hairgrass will grow with most commonly sold aquarium lights. It is important to keep in mind that Dwarf Hairgrass should not be planted near other plants that can block the light from getting to it. If your Dwarf Hairgrass is in low level lighting, it will grow taller, and not spread as much through your tank. If the Dwarf Hairgrass is in higher light, the more it will spread in more dense patches. This can make a huge difference in the look of your Dwarf Hairgrass in your aquarium.

How do you grow Dwarf Hairgrass from seeds?

There are a few steps to growing your Dwarf Hairgrass from seeds. You will want to start this process in the tank you want to plant in without water in it. Spread your seeds evenly across the bottom of the tank. Once you have the seeds down, you will then want to add your sand or mud substrate over the top of them. This will make it so your seeds don’t float away. Once you have the substrate down, you then add water so that the substrate is moistened but not flooded. Once your seeds begin to sprout, and are roughly 1 to 2 cm above the substrate, you can then gradually add more water. 

Dwarf Hairgrass cannot be propagated from cuttings of the plant. The cuttings will not grow their own roots. Instead, you will have to wait for the plant to propagate on its own. When your plant is in the appropriate setup,  it will create runner roots that will grow offshoots of more Dwarf Hairgrass that you can then separate and replant somewhere else.

Does Dwarf Hairgrass need soil to grow?

Dwarf Hairgrass does not need soil to grow, and it will grow just as easily in sandy substrate. It will grow in gravel too. When you are purchasing Dwarf Hairgrass to plant in your aquarium, it is important to know to plant it with the roots into the substrate, but the blades above. The blades of the plant need to be above the substrate for photosynthesis. If you do not plant Dwarf Hairgrass correctly, the plant will not thrive, spread, and it can even die.

It may seem tedious, but if you take the time to separate out the different chunks of Dwarf Hairgrass before planting, it will help the plant to carpet your tank more quickly. If you plant it all together in one clump, it will take the plant much longer to achieve the desired carpet effect. Trimming your Dwarf Hairgrass down a few days after planting, it will stimulate the plant to grow as well.

Can you grow Dwarf Hairgrass in gravel?

Dwarf Hairgrass is a hardy plant that can grow in a coarser substrate like gravel, but you may want to consider a few things before you choose this as your substrate for your Dwarf Hairgrass. Gravel as a substrate will make it harder for your Dwarf Hairgrass to grow runners and offshoots so it won’t spread through your tank as easily. This will also make your Dwarf Hairgrass grow in more sparse patches that look lumpy, opposed to the lush carpet it can grow into with a more soft, fine substrate. Gravel will also make it harder for you to place root tabs into the substrate.

Can Dwarf Hairgrass be grown without CO2?

Dwarf Hairgrass can and will grow without the addition of CO2, but you can expect it to grow and carpet the aquarium much slower. It is recommended for Dwarf Hairgrass, if you want it to carpet, that you use CO2, and a nutrient rich soil.

Dwarf Hairgrass Maintenance

When you keep your Dwarf Hairgrass in the right conditions, it will grow tall rather quickly. It is important to trim it down so that the bottom part of the plant isn’t deprived of water movement, and trimming your Dwarf Hairgrass plant will encourage it to grow runners and propagate. It is important to use your net to capture the trimmings as they can clog your filter.

How to create a carpet of Dwarf Hairgrass

Dwarf Hairgrass makes for a stunning addition to your aquarium as well as providing a comfortable habitat for fish. It helps oxygenate the water, and helps remove pollutants. It is often chosen for aquariums for its looks as well. A full carpet would be a beneficial addition to any aquarium, and you can grow one of your own. Dwarf Hairgrass self propagates, and if you provide the right environment for it, it will quickly take over the bottom of your aquarium, and it will form a carpet of lush green grass-like blades very quickly. In fact, you may have to adjust your water parameters to get the right balance if you notice it quickly spreading and growing.

If you are purchasing Dwarf Hairgrass you will want to take the time when planting to separate out the clumps. Plant those then smaller clumps into the substrate evenly separated out. Each plant would then individually form its own runner from its roots. Choosing the right substrate is important when you are wanting a full carpet of Dwarf Hairgrass as some substrates can hinder the root runners and slow down the growth. Once the roots have grown runners, the runners will grow offshoots and form new blades. Cuttings from Dwarf Hairgrass will not grow new roots, and you can not achieve the beautiful full carpeted look in your aquarium with cuttings of the plant.

Dwarf Hairgrass can carpet your aquarium in no time, the more of it you plant in your aquarium initially, the faster it will grow into the full carpet of grass to benefit your fish and beautify your aquarium. 

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the knowledge that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory Aquatics is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish healthy.

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