Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides): Care Guide

Common Name(s)Dwarf Baby Tears
Scientific NameHemianthus callitrichoides
OriginWest Indies
Ease of GrowingEasy
Height1-2 inches (3-5 cm)
Temperature68-75°F (20-24°C)
Growth RateModerate to Slow
PropagationGrow new plants by runners
Light RequirementHigh
CO2 RequirementCO2 is not required, but it may help increase growth rate.
Dwarf Baby Tears
Dwarf Baby Tears. Hemianthus callitrichoides ‘Cuba.’ kamujp, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides) is a semi-aquatic plant in the Linderniaceae family. They are also known as Water Starwort, and they can be found in the West Indies. This includes Cuba, Puerto Rico, and The Bahamas. This plant is believed to have been first collected by Holger Windeløv and Eusebio Canicio Delgado Pérez in 2003 in Las Pozas, Cuba. With their lush green cluster of leaves, Hemianthus callitrichoides began to hit the retail shelves in the United States in 2008. Nowadays they can be found in most stores such as Home Depot and Walmart, as well as online retailers such as Amazon and Etsy. If shopping online, you want to be particularly careful you are purchasing the correct Dwarf Baby Tears, as dwarf baby tears can sometimes be mistaken for Monte Carlo.

Dwarf Baby Tears Care

When caring for dwarf baby tears, it is important to prune regularly. This is also helpful when sharing an aquarium with other fish, as dwarf baby tears typically recover easily from being nipped at. The best fish to cohabitate with would be of the freshwater variety, such as guppies or rainbow fish. It’s always best to avoid goldfish or cichlids, or really any larger fish, as to help keep a calming environment for your dwarf baby tears. This calming environment and gorgeous green setting made by the DWARF BABY TEARS cluster leaves that carpet your tank, provides a great place for aquatic life to leave eggs and start breeding other aquatic life.

Dwarf Baby Tears Lighting

Aquarium lighting is very important when you consider preparing for dwarf baby tears. Some could argue, the most important part of caring for these gorgeous plants. Ideally, dwarf baby tears would be saturated in medium-high light anywhere from 10-12 hours a day. Dwarf baby tears really won’t thrive without light, and lots of it. Though you do want to be careful when thinking about lighting, as dwarf baby tears are highly sensitive to temperature changes. You want to make sure not to go above 77° F (25 C) as higher temperatures have been reported to kill dwarf baby tears by “melting” or turning the leaves brown. It’s recommended you keep your tank at 68-75°F (20-24°C). A good rule of thumb would be to get yourself a digital thermometer and regularly check the temperature of your tank. Remember, dwarf baby tears are highly sensitive to frequent temperature changes so you want to be able to locate an ideal spot in your home or office where you can easily maintain a consistent temperature. Another thing to keep in mind is that the optimal pH level is anywhere between 6.0-7.5.

Dwarf Baby Tears CO2

Unlike the specific lighting and temperature requirements, you do have an option on whether you want to use CO2 or not. In general, the dwarf baby tears growth process can typically be slow, however once the bright green leaves blossom they will spread horizontally along the base of your tank, as well as vertically. Using appreciated fertilizer, dwarf baby tears can grow up to up to 3 – 5 cm or rather 1 – 2 inches in height. So is it possible to successfully grow dwarf baby tears without using CO2? While typically, yes, it is, it is not recommended due to the already slow growth process. Not using CO2 is an option, however if you’re aiming for faster results you would want to go ahead and use it. If you choose to go the CO2 route, which I recommend you do, you may also choose to use an injection of CO2. 10-30 mg/l to help dwarf baby tears grow and thrive. Due to the need of CO2 injections, it would be wise to have a high-tech tank as opposed to a low-tech tank. Not impossible I suppose, but to have the best success rate in caring for and growing your dwarf baby tears, a high-tech tank is the best way to go. Keeping in mind the small size that your dwarf baby tears will grow to be, you would want to choose an aquarium tank that would best suit it’s compact size. Thriving mostly in acidic water, a nano tank is really the best option, provided that you are able to keep it well lit and temperature regulated. The recommended water amount for dwarf baby tears is a minimum of 10 gallons, and nano tanks can easily hold up to 30 gallons of water.

Dwarf Baby Tears Carpet

There are various uses of dwarf baby tears, however the most common use has been for carpeting in planted aquariums. Pleasing aesthetics aside, dwarf baby tears will grow throughout your aquarium tank, allowing for other fish to graze, as well as hide their eggs for breeding. The importance of high light content and the CO2 requirements allows for each portion of the plant to populate and produce stems that can then branch off and begin to grow alongside the aquarium. Due to the small height of these beautiful plants, they really make for great carpeting in any aquarium. Is it possible to successfully grow dwarf baby tears on any surface, much like in an aquascape? Dwarf baby tears will grow on most hard surfaces, which makes rocks, driftwood, and gravel very popular substrates, but which is the best route to take? It seems to be a matter of preference for most people, as any of these will wield the results of carpeting.

Growing Dwarf Baby Tears on Driftwood and Rock

Driftwood is commonly used with dwarf baby tears, as it can be fairly easy to grow around. Because the clusters of the dwarf baby tears spread out on their own, you would just simply tie the cluster patches around the driftwood, and let it spread around itself. Having cracks in the driftwood is also beneficial as it gives the clusters more room to grow and immerse itself within and around the driftwood. Some would argue that tying dwarf baby tears around the wood can be unhealthy to its leaves if tied too tightly, and will choose a different approach. Another option rather than tying, would be to simply place the clusters on the wood and in the cracks, surrounded by rocks so that they can eventually start to root and propagate. The usage of rocks can help the clusters cling nicely to the wood, so that it forms around on its own, rather than being tethered. Some people also chose to use sand as opposed to rocks or gravel, as this is believed to help the roots grow easier and faster. This process, although arguably is much healthier for the dwarf baby tears, can be a longer process and therefore isn’t the preferred choice for most aquarists.

While dwarf baby tears will thrive off growing on hard surfaces such as driftwood, gravel, or even rocks, you do want to keep an eye on the growth rate and watch for overcrowding. If cared for properly, dwarf baby tears will continually grow, as long as there is room that allows for its roots. Overcrowding and lack of space will result in your clusters quickly dying off. You want to make sure to prune regularly as the leaves can grow on top of each other, causing suffocation. If you start to notice a brown coloring to your green clusters, this is a sign that the leaves are starting to die off.

Pruning Dwarf Baby Tears

A general rule for maintaining healthy dwarf baby tears is regular pruning, however that may not necessarily be the case if you are opting for floating your Dwarf Baby Tears. Although the most common use for dwarf baby tears is for carpeting, some aquarists also opt to float their Dwarf Baby Tears. If you choose to float your Dwarf Baby Tears, It’s best to purchase a floating mat to which your clusters can root and grow as they’re floating in your aquarium. Not pruning regularly during floating will result with thicker, and even at times, more lush “wild” leaves. This can also provide your other tank inhabitants with nice little places to hide and hang out, as opposed to the bottom of the tank.

If you are in fact looking to grow your dwarf baby tears into a large carpet at the bottom of your tank, you really want to make sure to evenly spread the clusters throughout the whole base of your tank. This will help in evenly growing your clusters into a nice, full carpet. Dwarf baby tears tend to be iron deficient, so they would best thrive off a nutrient rich substrate. Aqua Soil Powder is a great option to use as it is rich in nutrients and minerals that promote healthy growth, while also appearing in a natural earth coloring that looks visually stunning in any aquascape. If you start to notice yellowing on your leaves, this is a sign of an iron deficiency and it’s best to act fast and dose it with iron supplements, as to help in saving your plant.

Growing Dwarf Baby Tears Emersed

Dwarf baby tears don’t need to be submerged in water to grow successfully, even though it is commonly believed otherwise due to their popularity as carpeting in aquariums. They can also successfully become emersed from the top of your aquarium, or even in a separate home altogether, like a planter pot. This process can be a little tricky however, as you want to create a humid enough environment that will allow your dwarf baby tears to really root and begin to grow. You can start by using a soil that is rich in nutrients and minerals at the base of your pot. Add some water, just enough to dampen the soil, without fully saturating it. Plant your dwarf baby tears distributing the stems evenly throughout as to achieve the best results. To recreate an ideal humidity, you can cover with plastic wrap, poking a few small holes creating a nice airflow. Place directly under a light, remembering not too hot (under 77° F) and watch it grow. This is also a good technique for beginning to grow dwarf baby tears in a dry start aquascape.

Dwarf Baby Tears vs Monte Carlo

Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides) and Monte Carlo (Micranthemum tweediei) are often compared they are similar looking aquarium plants.

Monte Carlo can be an alternative carpeting plant to use in your aquascape instead of Dwarf Baby Tears. They are often mistaken for each other since they look so similar. In fact, they are considered relatives, and have a lot of similarities as far as their purpose, lighting and CO2 requirements, but they also have some differences. While both require light to grow, monte carlo can survive on low-medium light, as opposed to DWARF BABY TEARS requiring medium-high light. Monte carlo has been considered to grow faster than dwarf baby tears, and while that can be appealing to some, it can also have a downside. Due to monte carlo’s faster growth rate, some consider it to be “aggressive” in nature. The leaves are larger than that of the dwarf baby tears, at times 3-4 times larger, and could visually dominate your aquascape, rather than simply adding to the scenery.

Dwarf Baby Tears vs Dwarf Hairgrass

Dwarf Baby Tears (Hemianthus callitrichoides) and Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis Parvula) are both aquarium plants that can be used as a carpeting plant. Both plants have a lush green coloration, both are known to be used as carpeting, and both require medium-high lighting. However dwarf hairgrass, although green in color, resembles grass more than cluster leaves. Hence its name, hairgrass. Unlike monte carlo, dwarf hairgrass is easier to tell the difference between that and DWARF BABY TEARS due to the grass-like imagery. Dwarf hairgrass can grow arguably taller than MC, standing approximately 6 inches tall. Dwarf hairgrass also grows at a faster speed than both DWARF BABY TEARS and MC, however, this isn’t necessarily a good thing as it can be harder to manipulate the propagation process. With dwarf baby tears you are able to regularly prune the leaves, and place them back on a substrate, in which they will begin to root again, and grow anew. However this technique doesn’t work with dwarf hairgrass because once cut, they won’t be able to grow their own roots. Keeping in mind the fast growth rate of the dwarf hairgrass makes it nearly impossible to house other plants in your aquascape, as it can quickly overpower and essentially kill off other plants nearby. Therefore dwarf hairgrass is best kept as the only carpet in an aquascape. Not only because it’s competitive growing nature can make it nearly impossible for other plant species to successfully thrive, but also because the shade provided from nearby plants may block the light, essentially making it harder to photosynthesize and grow. Lower lighting with dwarf hairgrass causes the plant to grow taller, but at a slower rate, while the higher light content causes a faster horizontal growth.

When choosing the perfect carpet for your aquarium, there are many options out there. Depending on your aesthetic vibe, care and time capabilities, the speedy results you require, other plants and fish you wish to home there as well, there are many options out there. Be sure to take your time in choosing what works best for your lifestyle, and remember, have fun with creating your aquascape.