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Dwarf Baby Tears, also known as DBT or Hemianthus Callitrichoides in aquarium literature, is one of the most popular foreground plants for planted aquariums.
It grows tiny, bright green leaves at an amazing speed, covering the tank floor with a lush emerald carpet.
The DBT naturally occurs in Cuba, but is has spread through planted tanks worldwide. They are usually sold individually in small pots or, for less patient aquarists that want an instant carpet, they come already grown and rooted in coco fiber mats.
They can also be found rooted on driftwood pieces for aquascaping purposes.
The Hemianthus Callitrichoides will thrive in mostly acidic water with a pH range between 5.0-7.5 and a temperature between 70-84 degrees Fahrenheit. Being so small, this plant is ideal even for Nano tanks, provided they are well-lit.
Light as strong as 2 watts per gallon minimum should be available to keep the plant growing close to the ground. Less light will cause it to rise up to the water’s surface, where it naturally lives in the wild.
Planting your Dwarf Baby Tears
Dwarf Baby Tears are usually found rooting on porous rocks or driftwood pieces. They can also be planted in the substrate as a foreground plant, but the effect is much stronger and natural when attached to other tank objects.
You can tie small sections of Hemianthus to a rock or wooden piece of your choice and leave it to develop its roots around the object. Most aquarists prefer using cotton thread instead of rubber bands or fishing line, as it is hardly noticeable and it dissolves over time, leaving only the roots attached.
Another way of keeping them from floating around would be to cover the Dwarf Baby Tears’ roots with moss that will add some weight to the plant.
These mosses will provide extra nutrients, as well as a good hiding ground for newly hatched fry.
For planting in the substrate, you can plant a whole pot in one place and wait for it to spread, or you can separate small stems and plant them about one inch apart for faster coverage.
This is a time consuming process, though, so allow some aquascaping hours. Plant the stems using a long pair of tweezers and make sure the roots are well inserted in the soil.
Dwarf Baby Tears need a fine-grained substrate rich in nutrients and minerals, especially iron. The plant is sensitive to iron deficiency and will display yellowish leaves if there is not enough iron in the tank.
They will do best with CO2 supplementation and constant fertilization to help accelerate growth rate.
Always prune this plant, as while growing, new stems will get on top of old ones and suffocate them; DBT literally kills itself if left unattended.
Trim the stems with a very sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade to help keep them in place while trimming.
The Hemianthus has a pretty slow growth and development rate, but will still spread across the substrate after settling in your tank. Roots will branch off and develop an intricate network, resulting in a carpet-like appearance, but only if you remember to constantly trim the plant to keep it low.
Another popular method of propagating the Dwarf Baby Tears is to cut off smaller sections of larger plants and replanting them in the substrate.
This way, they will cover up the tank floor faster, as propagation is made from many points.
The Dwarf Baby Tears can be planted alongside other short foreground plants in contrasting colors. The dense carpet will allow spawning fish to lay their eggs and the young fry to hide from harassing adults.
There is no worry if plant-nipping fish graze on the DBT, as it will quickly recover and grow again, especially if it has already covered a considerable surface.
Try not to add ravaging fish, such as Oscars or Jack Dempseys, to a tank planted with DBT, as they will try to uproot weaker stems when “rescaping” the tank.
Goldfish are not a good idea because of their different environmental requirements and because they will stubbornly try to eat as much of the plant as possible.
Be creative and use your imagination and try some aquascaping tricks with this small versatile plant. You can use it in many tanks, from the smallest to the largest, in a variety of ways.