dwarf baby tears carpet

Dwarf Baby Tears: Carpeting, Care & Inspiration

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Dwarf baby tears is also known as Hemianthus callitrichoides or simply HC. Don’t confuse it with baby tears or pearlweed (hemianthus micranthemoides or simply HM), giant baby tears (Micranthemum umbrosum), or Montey Carlo (micranthemum tweedei.)

Almost everyone wants to keep dwarf baby tears – that’s why so many other species of plants are mislabeled to make a sale. The few people who don’t want to keep them don’t want to keep it because they know it’s a time investment. But the initial setup cost is what takes most people by surprise, between the lights, substrate, fertilizers, CO2, and the plant itself, you’re going to be in for some cash if you want to grow a carpet.

Still, you can’t deny how amazing it looks.

dwarf baby tears aquascape

If you want a carpet but don’t want quite as much of an investment, I suggest starting with dwarf hairgrass or Montey Carlo. But if you want to give it a go or you find yourself struggling, read on to find out some tips, tricks, and troubleshooting common issues.

Disclosure: we’re reader-supported! So if you buy a product I recommend, I might make some coffee money at no cost to you.

Table of contents

Hemianthus callitrichoides care

FAQ

Distribution & Natural Habitat

Dwarf baby tears is thought to be native to Cuba and only Cuba. You can find it in other areas of the world as an introduced species, however, predominantly in the southern states in the US and it’s not yet classified as an invasive species.

Dwarf baby tears care
I couldn’t find a picture of it’s natural habitat, so here’s an inspiring aquascape instead!

In Cuba, you can find them growing in the shallow parts of slow-moving or stagnant waterways where there’s plenty of light. It typically grows in rocky areas where it has plenty of texture to grip onto. During the dry months, large portions of the plant will be sticking out above the waterline. During the rainy season, the plant is re-submerged below the waterline.

Aquarium Care

Difficulty: Challenging
Size: 1.2″ (3 cm) – but they can stack
Propagation: Runners, splits, cuttings
Fertilizer: Liquid – but needs substrate & Co2
Speed Of Growth: Slow
Temperature: 65 – 75 F (19 – 24 C)

pH6.0 – 7.0
Hardness:  5 – 20 dKH
Placement: Planted, floating, on structures
Origin: Cuba
Aquascaping: Foreground/carpet
Availability: Common

You’re going to want to keep a close eye on their temperature range. If they get too hot, they’ll melt on you, so keep that in mind if you’re having issues. I also wouldn’t get too acidic or soft with these guys because they need a ton of nutrients for how slowly they grow.

Planting dwarf baby tears is probably the least headache-y part about them. If you bought a mat, it’s as simple as placing the mat where you want it. If you bought a post, it’s best to bury the pot in the substrate and let it grow out from there.

You can also plant them on a rock or a log, which I suggest doing by dry starting it instead of super gluing it and immersing the super glued plants. If you don’t know about DSM (dry start method), this video is a fantastic starting point and he specifically shows how to dry start dwarf baby tears.

Lighting

You’re going to need at least 2 watts per gallon, but if you want to be more specific, you’re going to want at least 45 par hitting the bottom of the tank, 60 and up being better. This means you’re either going to want a super short tank, or several high-powered lights.

In either case, your tank’s gotta be well-lit.

blinded by the light gif

If you want to go with the short tank option, you’re still going to need some good lights. But some recommendations for tanks would be something like a 10-gallon, a 20-long, or basically any size lowboy or frag tank. Lowboys would probably be the best height-wise, but they might be a pain to buy lights for, and you’ll almost certainly still need at least two lights for the larger lowboys.

Below I have the best lights for dwarf baby tears, including par readings for 24″ deep tanks. You can thank me later.

Fertilizers & Substrates

There’s some mixed information about whether or not dwarf baby tears are substrate or water column feeders. In either case, almost everyone agrees that they need both to thrive. And definitely both in order to pearl.

Dwarf baby tears pearling

I don’t particularly suggest root tabs with these guys just because it’d be a pain to get up under the carpet once it starts going, but you may have to resort to tabs within a few years of planting it. If you want to start your carpet quickly (and with minimal effort,) I suggest a good planted substrate. The best substrate for dwarf baby tears are below.

In addition to a solid substrate, you’re going to want a good liquid fertilizer, a decent CO2 system, and possibly some liquid carbon. I’ve included the best fertilizers, CO2 kit, and accessories below as well if you’re lost on where to start.

Common Dwarf Baby Tear Problems

Dwarf baby tears are certainly not without their share of issues. From overheating, melting, not carpeting, or nutrient deficiencies, it can really be a hot mess sometimes. You’re going to want to keep a close eye on their temps and their color because those will be your two big indicators of what’s going wrong.

Melting

plant melting

Melting is incredibly common in aquatic plants as most of them are grown above water. If you pluck off the dying parts of the plant before they start rotting, the new aquatic growth should appear soon enough, and it’ll do just fine.

carpeting plant not carpeting

It’s Not Carpeting

When a carpeting plant isn’t carpeting, it usually comes down to a lack of…

  • Lighting
  • Nutrients
  • Proper substrate

It could’ve also been planted incorrectly. If all of those are in check, try giving it a trim to see if that helps.

Slow Growth

carpeting plant slow growth

When it comes to carpeting plant growing slowly, it usually comes down to one of three things. It could be that it was planted improperly and it doesn’t have enough space to spread out and grow. Another option is that the fertilizers, Co2, or lighting isn’t high enough. It’s difficult to adjust these additions without possibly inviting algae into your tank. It could also be that the substrate isn’t right for the particular plant.

Dwarf Baby Tear Maintenance

Once dwarf baby tears are established in your tank (again, I suggest the DSM), they’re pretty low maintenance. Well, relatively speaking. You’re still going to need to dose liquid fertilizers, run your CO2, and keep your lights on at least 12 hours per day.

This can cause some algae issues, but it typically won’t. Just start on the slow side and be mindful of the balance between lights, plants, and available nutrients and you’ll be okay. You’ll also want to trim your dwarf baby tears every so often. They tend to “stack” on top of each other and form a thick, scraggly mat if you don’t trim them down a little bit.

Thick dwarf baby tears

If that’s your look, do your thing! Just make sure it doesn’t get so thick that portions underneath start dying off and slowly rotting your carpet.

To trim it, you’re going to want to start slow and make small, shallow cuts off the top. You don’t want to expose a ton of the white root because you’ll leave patches or have chunks melt on you. You’re definitely going to want to invest in a nice pair of trimming scissors for this job, otherwise, you’ll risk mangling large portions of your carpet with large, dull scissors.

Also fish tank scissors are usually ew, so you should probably invest in some spare scissors anyway.

Propagating Hemianthus callitrichoides

To propagate dwarf baby tears, all you have to do is cut a chunk off an already established section. You’ll want to cut off a section with a full root system so it can expand on its own. Some people like to cut smaller chunks and plant them around the tank, but you can also cut a larger chunk to get it to spread faster.

Larger chunks are easier to plant, but with some plant tweezers, you can plant smaller portions pretty efficiently.

If you’re propagating your dwarf baby tears to sell them, you’re going to want to cut it and let it settle in for a little bit. If you try to ship it immediately after you cut it, you risk losing the plant (and the customer!)

What About Fish?

Dwarf baby tears aren’t a great plant for most tanks. This is the kind of plant you have for the plant, not the fish. It works well in tanks where they’re not big plant-eaters, the fish don’t dig, and the fish don’t need a sandy substrate. This leaves out goldfish, most cichlids, and cory cats for sure.

Another consideration, of course, is how hot the fish need to be. Again, if you bring your dwarf baby tears up too high, they’re gonna melt on you. You’ll also want to consider fish that aren’t easily spooked and don’t need overhead plants or subdued lighting to be happy – which leaves out most fish, to be honest.

Still, there are a few suggestions I can think of that would work well. Just be sure you grab quite a few more that what the minimum suggested number is since most of the tank will be open and they’ll feel safer in larger numbers.

Chili Rasboras (Boraras brigittae)

chilli rasbora

Chilis are tiny. Absolutely minuscule compared to your average aquarium fish. They’re also shoaling fish that need to be kept in groups of at least 10 – but, again – they’re tiny! Even still, they pack a colorful punch once settled in and make a beautiful, active display for the right tank.

pH: 4.0 – 7.0
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp: 68 – 83F (20 – 28C)

Size: .5″ (1 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Mid to top

White Clouds (Tanichthys albonubes)

These fish are best kept in groups of eight or more, though 10 is better. There’s little information of just how far spread these fish are, but they’ve been observed slow-moving white and blackwater streams in and around China. 

pH: 6.0 – 7.0
dKH: 5 – 20
Temp: 60 – 72F (15 – 22C)

Size: 1.5 – 2″ (3 – 5 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Mid to top

Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

Ember Tetra

Ember tetras are bright, fun, tiny, shoaling fish that occur in South American black waters. They’re hardy, peaceful fish that are often described as active, bold, and playful. They also enjoy a planted tank, but be mindful that they do like to swim in open space, so be sure to include that in your layout. They enjoy their numbers a little higher than most shoaling species, 8 is recommended.

pH: 5.5 – 7
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp: 68 – 82 F (20 – 27 C)

Size: 3/4″ (2 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

Silvertip Tetra (Hasemania nana)

If you like fish that will follow your finger like ravenous sharks, these are your fish. They’re a nearly unspookable little shoaling fish that like to be kept in groups of six or more. 

pH: 6.0 – 8.0
dKH: 5 – 20
Temp:  74 – 82F (23 – 28C)

Size: 2″ (5 cm)
Temperament: Active shoaling fish
Swimming: Mid to top

Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)

neocaridina shrimp

Neos enjoy munching on decomposing plant matter, grazing on algae, and picking sunken pieces of wood and plants clean. This makes them a perfect addition to a naturalistic tank. They come in a variety of colors including the oh-so-common cherry shrimp!

pH: 6.5 – 8.0
dKH: 8 – 20
Temp: 70 – 79 F (21 – 26 C)

Size: 1.6″ (4 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful
Swimming: Anywhere there’s food to pick, but usually bottom

Crystal Red Shrimp (Caridina cantonensis)

crystal red shrimp

Crystal red shrimp, not unlike cherry shrimp, come in more colors than just red. They’re a similar size to cherry shrimp and make a great alternative if you’re looking for a little bit more of a challenge. They’re incredibly popular – although more expensive.

pH: 5.8 – 7.4
dKH: 0 – 4
Temp: 62 – 76F (16 – 24C)

Size: 1.25″ (3 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful
Swimming: Surfaces

Zebra “Danio” (Brachydanio rerio)

zebra danio

Zebra danios belong to the minnow family. They’re fast, outgoing, peaceful, and need room to swim with their shoal (6 or more being ideal.) They can handle a range of temperatures and water conditions – from stagnant to faster-flow, making them a versatile community fish.

pH: 6.0 – 8.0
dKH: 5 – 20
Temp: 65 – 77 F (18 – 25 C)

Size: 1.5 – 2″ (4 – 5 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

leopard spotted danio

Leopard Danio (Brachydanio froskei)

Leopard danios have amazing color and, if you look hard enough, you may even be able to find some dazzling color morphs of this fish as well! They do best in groups of six or more and zip around the tank quite a bit, so ensure you have swimming space for a shoal of this size. 

pH: 6.0 – 8.0
dKH: 2 – 20
Temp: 64 -75F (17 – 23C)

Size: 2.4″ (6 cm)
Temperament: Active
Swimming: Mid to top

Black Neon Tetra (Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi)

black neon tetra

Not to be confused with the black tetra (or “black skirt” tetras) or neon tetras (Paracheirodon innesi,) the black neon tetra is a separate species. They do best in groups of eight or more – but more is always better when it comes to shoaling fish. They have the peaceful demeanor of the neon tetra without all the health issues. 

pH: 5.5 – 7.5
dKH: 4 – 9
Temp: 73 – 81F (23 – 27C)

Size: 1.5″ (3 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Mid to top

Green Rasboras (Microdevario kubotai)

Green rasboras may look dyed, but they’re not. They naturally occur in shoals ranging in the 20 – 30 specimen range, so it’s best to house them in groups of 8 or more. They make a great addition to a peaceful community tank, but since they’re so small they’ll need appropriately sized tankmates.

pH: 6.0 – 7.0
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp: 68 – 81 F (20 – 27 C)

Size: .75″ (2 cm) max
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Everywhere, but usually mid to top

Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare)

Angelfish can be aggressive, but typically only when they’re spawning or – when they’re not spawning – aggressive towards their own kind. They do best in groups of 6 or more to spread out the aggression and don’t do well with boisterous fish or fin nippers because of their long ventral fins.

pH: 5.5 – 7.6
dKH: 2 – 20
Temp: 76 – 86 F (24 – 30 C)

Size: 6″ (15 cm)
Temperament: Can be aggressive
Swimming: Everywhere

Is It Really Dwarf Baby Tears?

Don’t get fooled into paying mark-up for something that’s not actually dwarf baby tears! Or, if you’re struggling and seem to be doing everything right… maybe you don’t actually have dwarf baby tears?

dwarf baby tears

Dwarf Baby Tears

Dwarf baby tears are short, have small leaves, and grow closely clustered together. The leaves are small are round. HC looks similar to short bean sprouts.

pearlweed

Pearlweed

Can grow considerably taller than dwarf baby tears if it’s not trimmed, has multiple leaf sets per stem, and the leaves are thin and pointy.

Giant Baby Tears

Giant baby tears have relatively large, round, leaves – even if the plant is cut short. It looks similar to a smaller bacopa or a massive bean sprout. Like bacopa and bean sprouts, it does a great job growing vertically, but not so much horizontally without effort on your part.

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo looks similar to giant baby tears, only the leaves are slightly larger and more spread out. Additionally, Monte Carlo doesn’t do a great job of growing vertically. It grows by “melting” to wherever it wants to go.

Further Reading & Resources

2 thoughts on “Dwarf Baby Tears: Carpeting, Care & Inspiration

  1. I have a OpNova 360 light is a 50 cm heighted tank.

    Plants added are HC, Java Ferns, Anubias and Java Moss. How do I manage the lights as I don’t wanna go too bright as it hurts the Java moss and ferns while less light can hurt the HC. Also how do I maintain the timings of light and co2.

    Appreciate some inputs thanks.

    1. Hey Roshan,
      Depending on your layout, you could move your anubias, java fern, and java moss to a shaded area of the tank or – if you’re up for it – add some overhead plants to block out some of the light getting to those guys. But none of those low light plants are (usually) harmed by super bright lights, you’d just have to keep a close eye on algae. The only real risk of burns would be if they’re super close to the top of the tank. Alternatively, if you’re open to voiding your warranty, you can cut the wires and add a dimmer to your lights. Not an option I suggest often, but it’s there if you’re okay with it.
      As for the timing of the lights and Co2, since it’s an LED you can’t plug it into a traditional timer, which is unfortunate. But you can plug both your lights and your Co2 into a digital timer if your CO2 runs off a solenoid. The mechanics are a bit tough to explain in writing, but here’s a video that I hope will help explain the setup a little better. I suggest keeping the Co2 on for a few hours a day and slowly bumping it up as needed, especially since all those plants are pretty sluggish growers.

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