Eleocharis belem (Dwarf Hairgrass): Ultimate Care Guide

Common Name(s)Japanese Hair Grass, Dwarf Hairgrass, Hair Grass
Scientific NameEleocharis belem
Care LevelEasy
Growth RateFast
LightingMedium to High
Temperature50 – 85° F
Size3 – 6 inches
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Water pH6.5 – 7.5

If you’re looking to add vegetation to your aquarium, then an excellent choice could be the hairgrass species. Eleocharis Belem, also known as dwarf hairgrass, or simply hairgrass, is an easy to care for aquarium plant species that is great for beginners! The dwarf hairgrass is a very popular aquarium plant that can be used in various ways. This includes as decoration for the foreground, shelter for bottom-dwelling fish, and can help detoxify the aquarium water.

Dwarf hairgrasses are found throughout the world mainly in freshwater sources with plenty of access to sunlight. They are used by hobbyists to create a luscious, grass-like carpet across the substrate of the tank. Thus, they are known as carpet plants because of their ability to grow quickly. This miniature forest can encourage a lot of foraging behaviors in the fish and can provide shelter and act as a food source. Not to mention it creates a vibrant and natural look to the aquarium tank while also purifying the water through its physical properties.

The benefits of growing dwarf hairgrass in your tank are that it can oxygenate the water and remove toxicants. Because it relies on taking in harmful pollutants like CO2 from the water in order to provide itself with energy, it releases purifying elements like oxygen that helps to keep the water clear and clean.  Because of its large surface area, it can also host beneficial microbial colonies. Finally, it can provide shelter for bottom-dwelling fish and other invertebrates.      

Eleocharis belem
Eleocharis belem

Eleocharis Belem Care

Dwarf hairgrasses are the best beginner aquarium plants to use because of their hardy and easy-going nature. They are easy to plant as well. Make sure to have soft substrate in your tank so as to not damage the roots, which grows as runners. If you want a thick lawn effect, then it is recommended to plant in tight clumps throughout the substrate no more than an inch apart. You can spread them out evenly throughout the tank or find specific places in the tank depending on its purpose. Alternatively, some people plant this species in such a way that it fully covers the bottom of the tank. Keep in mind that this plant will grow quickly. So plant roots at least an inch deep into the soil. Ensure that all the roots are fully below the soil and only the blades are visible on the top. Make sure the hairgrass receives plenty of light. As this plant grows, regular trimming will be necessary. Interestingly, this plant has been known to “memorize” the shape it is cut in, so consistently trim blades in a similar manner to create a unifying effect in your tank. And trim after planting since some studies suggest that Eleocharis belem will grow slower if trimmed before planting. If trimmed after, some studies suggest that this will stump growth and lead to slower growth rates.        

How to grow Eleocharis belem in an Aquarium

Hairgrass species tend to do best in conditions similar to their environment which is shallow freshwater sources with plenty of light. Depending on the quantity of grass you are planting, dwarf hairgrasses can thrive in a tank as small as 10 gallons and large gallons would be appropriate as well. The substrate should be at least 2 inches thick and soft enough for the runners to grow through. This makes sand ideal for the dwarf hairgrass species. Be sure to include nutrient dense fertilizer into the soil as well.

Water can stay within a broad range of temperatures such as 50-80 ° F. The pH should remain fairly neutral (6.5-7.5). Also, plan to have minimal shaded areas as dwarf hairgrasses require enough light to fully photosynthesize. Due to its wide distribution, it has a moderate to fast growth rate and can reach heights up to 5-7 inches so periodic trimming is required and simple to do. Just cut the strands to your liking. And trim them in a consistent manner for optimal growth.

As a general rule, dwarf hairgrass does not require CO2 injection, however, including it will significantly add to this plant’s overall health, thickness, and growth rate. Choosing a nutrient-dense aquarium soil and quality LED lighting will also help grow healthy hairgrasses. Adding this and CO2 injection will allow Eleocharis belem to grow fast and healthy and spread throughout the tank.

How to Propagate Eleocharis Belem

Due to its hardy and fast-growing nature, dwarf hairgrass propagates very fast and often can be difficult to precisely control the level of propagation. The root system grows as long runners that stem from a root ball towards the soil. New growth springs upwards from these runners. You can speed up the propagation by making sure your dwarf hairgrass is growing in optimal condition such as sufficient lighting, healthy and nutritious soil, and regular trimmings and removing browned leaves. Compared with other species of hairgrass, Eleocharis Belem isn’t as invasive and easier to contain. 

Where can I find Eleocharis Belem for Sale?

It is usually sold for around $5 a pot and because it is so popular, it is often sold in batches. Always check for signs of browning or damage. An unhealthy plant will struggle to survive in a new environment. Brown markings are the easiest way to spot damage individuals.

Eleocharis Belem vs Eleocharis parvula

Both species of dwarf hairgrasses look similar, but E. Belem tends to develop straight or curly and grows slightly taller than E. parvula. It isn’t as invasive and has a much slower spread than its cousin. Also, E. parvula tends to thrive in saltwater habitats. Both are similar in aquarium shops so make sure to look closely for individual characteristics and to avoid damaged or worn out plants.