Having a planted tank carpet is one of the few luxuries that can be afforded for your aquatic pets. Whether it’s in a massive show-case tank, or just your run-of-the-mill tank, creating the perfect flooring to the tank can mean all the difference to your fish and even your aquascape. The depth of character and the sense of texture that carpeting has on your planted tank can really mean all the difference. Whether you want to make something nice for your fish or design a visually stunning aquascape, carpeting can help, and there are a few things to know before jumping right into putting carpet in your planted aquarium.
To start with, you must understand the basic concept of what a planted tank carpet is. Planted tank carpets are floorings that you can have for your aquarium to entertain your fish and to bring your aquascape to life. Different from your normal rock bedding or sandy bottoms that act as substrates and other textural root grabbing surfaces, carpeting instead, acts as an additional aesthetic feature that adds a new layer to your planted tank. With a mixture of real-life plants and rock beddings, driftwood for hardscaping, as well as some other eye-catching additives, you can create a stunning underwater forest for your pets to swim, play, and reside in or construct a full aquascape, capturing the remarkable essences of your creativity. This creates an atmosphere for fish to thrive and provides them with a little extra tank stimulation and playing textures to keep them from going completely bonkers, as I like to put it. In essence, a planted tank carpet is a more luxurious flooring to ensure your fishes’ health and longevity are in mind as well as utilizing plants and other such things to their fullest capability when making an aquascape.
Before we get started on how to create your own planted tank carpet, it must be understood that this is no easy task and there can be frustrations. The amount of work that must be put into creating, raising, and maintaining the carpet is quite a bit more than your average cleaning. Such things as trimming the plants, cleaning out the tank, maintaining proper heating and lighting, and ensuring proper amounts of fertilizer and other additives, can be an extremely daunting task. But all these must be done on a regular basis if you wish to keep a well-established planted carpet living for your tank. Make sure to understand that, after the carpet is established, will have to be taken care of on an almost 2 to 4-week basis, depending on the types of plants you use. If you understand such things, let’s move on to the fun!
When starting with your carpet, the first step is to establish what plants you wish to have grown on your floor. There are many different types of plants to choose from, but the primary ones that are best suited for such things are java moss, dwarf hairgrass, and riccia plants, HC moss, etc. Monte Carlo is one of the easier carpeting plants, as it has is not very picky. MC generally doesn’t need that much exposure to lighting as the other plants, as well as having a very flexible in terms of maintenance. You are also able to go many weeks without trimming it. You will only need to trim it whenever it gets just a tad bit overgrown. With such plants as dwarf hairgrass and riccia, it’s a bit tougher.
For the dwarf, it can grow immensely tall and must be maintained every two weeks after fully maturing. Not only do you have to keep track of the water and CO2 levels, but you must be sure to also add in a proper amount of fertilizer when dosing to keep up with the nutrients used in new growth, with the amount varying depending on how hearty you want it to grow.
With aquatic plants like riccia, maintenance can become even tougher. With the riccia, you will have to ensure that your measurements are on point. This includes such things as having the correct amount of lighting because it requires a notable amount more than other mosses, as well as proper water temperature and amounts. Maintenance will also be a bit more difficult, as you must make sure to trim the riccia almost once every week, due to its rapid growth rate. As you can see, there are many different types of plants that you can use on your carpet. Making sure to pick the one that not only suits your fish but also works in proper balance with your selected plant load, it is important that you understand the needs and how to care for your carpeting in your planted tank.
Before planting the cuttings, you must take into consideration the bedding for the plants. Make sure to understand the difference between substrates. Using a good mix of powder and nutrient substrates will ensure that your plants have enough space and nutrients to sustain their growth. Too much of a powder substrate and you will end up with a thing known as root compression, where the roots are squished too much, and it ends up being stunted as it grows. Too much of a nutrient substrate and you end up having ammonia spikes for the first few weeks of a new tank. As such, make sure to research the proper measurements for each plant type and be sure to maintain the proper chemical balance in your water. Also, make sure the plants have a proper base when being planted. When talking about bases, such plants as the riccia and java moss need a better grabbing surface, such as wood, rocks, or mesh pads. This is so they can latch on at a much stronger rate, and take root with definite footholds, some also use a technique of tying the moss in place to ensure it takes root where it needs to.
As you plant the cuttings, make it a point to plant them at equal distances apart. One of the easier ways to do this is to do a 'dry start' method. This means that you will wait to fill the tank up with water. Shallow root carpeting mosses such as Dwarf Baby Tears can be a real pain in a newly filled tank. Advanced aquarists know how frustrating it is to plant these only to see them constantly float up and not take root. Even a little disturbance sets them off. It is highly recommended to use a powder substrate for shallow rooting moss like this. Underneath the power substrate, you can use a more coarse one. This will prevent the roots from becoming compressed but also allow the initial smaller roots of plants to take hold. This is to ensure that they will have enough space to grow without hindering the growth of the plants surrounding it. It is a good idea to place little tuffs about 1 inch apart from each other. Then over the course of about 4 weeks keep about an inch or two of water in the tank and keep the leaves wet with a misting spray. This will allow the roots to take hold and be much less likely to uproot when you fill the tank with water and begin to have higher flow which is paramount to a successful tank.
It will take time to grow your carpet. Nothing is accomplished over-night when creating your carpet. As such, be patient. Keep careful track of your carpet growth, don’t over-expose the plants with light in the beginning either. Nothing good happens fast in a planted tank. Lastly, do not give the fertilizer to the plants unless it has been around 5 or 6 weeks, or it seems that it is needed. If following the EI dosing method, make sure you only use half the recommended dosage for the first three months. Once your tank is more established, you can go up to normal. The roots simply aren't big enough in the beginning to handle a significant amount of nutrients as there will already be a ton of organics in the water causing plant issues on a newly cycled tank. This is especially true with substrates that have an already built in nutrient load. Depending on the different types of plants used can alter your amounts needed.
Hopefully, this article helps you in creating your very own planted tank carpet for your aquarium. Good luck, and have fun!