The Dwarf Baby Tears is one of several aquarium plants that will surely catch the eyes of even the newest hobbyist. The plant’s signature clusters of tiny green leaves are sometimes used for a fish tank’s floating cover or an aquascape’s lush living carpet.

In this article, you’ll read in-depth discussions about how to care for this delicate plant, how to propagate it, and how to maximize its beauty in whatever tank area you decide to place it in.

The Origins of Dwarf Baby Tears

Scientifically known as Hemianthus callitrichoides, the Dwarf Baby Tears plant originated from the West Indies region of North America. This plant is endemic to the tropical areas of Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas, where it thrives under warm temperatures and direct sunlight.

Today, aquarists and landscapers alike can purchase Dwarf Baby Tears from their local suppliers or aquatic plants specialty shops. This special plant is popular for being one of the smallest aquarium flora readily available to hobbyists, and its lush appearance often makes it a crowd favorite in shops and aquarium shows.

Among seasoned hobbyists, the Dwarf Baby Tears plant is also fondly called Cuba or HC, from the initials of its scientific name. When grown in ideal conditions, this pretty plant spreads throughout the substrate with its roots and creepers, and then sends up petite white flowers to contrast its round, bright green leaves.

Facts and Stats of the Dwarf Baby Tears Plant

Serious hobbyists who want to upgrade their aquascape usually look to the Dwarf Baby Tears plant for its appealing physical features. However, it is not that easy to care for and is not usually recommended for beginner fish keepers who have yet to experience raising live plants alongside their selection of aquatic creatures.

Below is a handy reference table on some of the more common facts and figures about the Dwarf Baby Tears plant.

Scientific Name Hemianthus callitrichoides
Order Lamiales
Family Linderniaceae
Leaf Size Individual leaves measure about less than 0.04 inches! However, an entire cluster of leaves might reach up to 4 inches in length.
Color Bright green
Distinctive Physical Features Round, small leaves with a soft texture; the plant may also have tiny white flowers on slender stalks.
Aquarium Position Water surface or substrate foreground
Care Difficulty Moderate to Difficult; this plant is best handled by experienced aquarists

Proper Pre-Planting Preparations

Now, before you go ahead and purchase a bunch of these lovely plants, you might want to consider investing some time to prepare your aquarium for the new arrival. You can also take this chance to learn more about what to choose and what to avoid when it comes to selecting your own Dwarf Baby Tears.

These simple preparations will make the planting, growing, and propagating stages much easier and will also set you up for success.

– Adjusting Aquarium Parameters

Unlike aquarium plants like the Anubias, Anacharis, or the Dwarf Sagittaria, the Cuba is not as hardy or as adaptable to differing water and temperature conditions. As such, it would be in your best interest to ensure that your fish tank already meets the necessary parameters for your Dwarf Baby Tears to thrive.

Here is a short table that summarizes the key parameters you need to watch out for and adjust for a successful Dwarf Baby Tears aquarium.

Temperature Ideally 68 to 75 °F or 20 to 24 °C
Light Level High Brightness, with at least 10 to 12 hours of exposure daily
pH Level 6.0 – 7.5
Water Hardness 1 to 10 dGH
Substrate Fine aquarium soil or gravel; may also be grown as a floating plant
Water Flow Moderate
Fertilizer/Chemical Additives Liquid or substrate fertilizers and C02 recommended
Tank Size 10 to 20 gallons; may also be maintained in 5-gallon nano tanks

– Selecting the Best Dwarf Baby Tears

Once you have sufficiently prepared your aquarium, you can now focus on contacting suppliers or your local fish stores to check who has Dwarf Baby Tears in stock.

You might even find that some of your hobbyist friends might have extra Cuba plants to part with.

In either case, here are some pointers you should keep in mind when you choose the Dwarf Baby Tears for your home tank.

  • Damage-Free Leaves

Your chosen Dwarf Baby Tears should have leaves that are bright green and free of tears, holes or other kinds of damage. Run your fingers on the leaves of the plant you have your eyes on. The leaf surface should be smooth and soft. There should be no sticky residue on the top of the leaves.

  • Creamy White Roots

Next, check the roots of the Dwarf Baby Tears plant you want to purchase. The roots should be a creamy white color. Any signs of browning or yellowing are usually a red flag for nutrient deficiencies. In addition, the roots of your chosen plant should be free of debris and gunk. Pull gently on the roots: if they snap off easily, the plant may already have some health issues.

How To Grow Dwarf Baby Tears

There are two ways you can establish or plant your Dwarf Baby Tears in an aquarium setup. In this section, we’ll explore both methods.

You’ll learn more about both methods, from their respective pros and cons to the different situations in which you should pick one over the other.

– Floating Cuba Plants: A Rare but Wonderful Sight

Let’s tackle the more uncommon method of establishing Dwarf Baby Tears in a freshwater tank first. Though the Cuba plant is a favorite among creepers or carpet flora, it can also grow as a floating plant.

Novice aquarists often think that Dwarf Baby Tears are primarily substrate plants. On the contrary, this type of plant is primarily observed as a floater in the rivers and small bodies of water of the West Indies.

The main advantage of growing Dwarf Baby Tears as a floater plant is that it will not take up precious substrate space and it will also work as a shield from direct or harsh lighting. This method of planting Dwarf Baby Tears is ideal for nano tanks and minimalist freshwater setups.

On the other hand, you might not want to use this method if you have other substrate-based plants that are highly dependent on consistent exposure to light. Once your Dwarf Baby Tears spread on the water surface, you’ll have to trim them every other week or so to prevent them from causing lower-layer plants to die.

If you decide to use this method, then you can follow these steps to properly introduce Dwarf Baby Tears as floating plants in your aquarium:

  1. Gently break the substrate in which the Cuba plants were placed when you bought them from the store.
  2. Using plant tweezers, divide your Dwarf Baby Tears into even sections.
  3. Rinse the roots, and be sure to remove as much substrate as possible.
  4. Place your Dwarf Baby Tears on the water surface of your tank. Use your fingers to orient it with its leaves facing upwards and its roots dangling towards the substrate.

– Rooting the Cuba Plant in Substrate

Now we can move on to learning about the more common way of planting Dwarf Baby Tears in home tanks: using the substrate method. While this method is more commonly used by aquarists and paludarium enthusiasts, it does require more care and technique compared to the previously discussed method.

Keep in mind that the roots of Dwarf Baby Tears are quite delicate. That said, some fish keepers find that the most challenging part of planting this type of aquatic flora is ensuring that its roots sink in the substrate properly without them ripping apart from the leaves.

One of the main reasons why aquarists prefer planting this flora in a substrate is that this is the only way to grow a Dwarf Baby Tears carpet or live cover for the foreground and the middle ground of a tank. Aesthetics aside, a Dwarf Baby Tears also provides its home tank with a lot of benefits.

It aids in the oxygenation of an aquarium, and it provides fertile breeding and feeding ground for all types of fish. Perhaps the only disadvantage to planting HC in aquarium soil is that it is more work-intensive than just leaving the plant to float.

Here is a list of steps you can follow if you are committed to caring for and growing your Dwarf Baby Tears in aquarium soil:

  1. Remove the Dwarf Baby Tears from its temporary container and the substrate material binding its roots together.
  2. Decide how many bunches of HC you want to start with, then divide the plant accordingly. Be sure that each of your HC bunches have roots of their own.
  3. Using plant tweezers, gently push the roots of each Dwarf Baby Tears bundle into your aquarium substrate. Insert the roots deep enough that the leaves are secured and will not float away or be carried away by the water current.
  4. Pat the substrate around each section of HC lightly to help secure the plant in its area.

– Easy HC Propagation

Though Dwarf Baby Tears can be a pain to plant in the substrate, they are relatively easy to propagate. This plant will spread throughout your aquarium’s substrate on its own. However, if you want to speed up the process of propagation, all you have to do is follow these easy steps:

  1. Identify healthy HC sections that have young runners or stem-like growths extending outwards from the main plant.
  2. Check if the runners or resulting plants that stem from the main one already have their own roots.
  3. Use plant scissors to cut the stem or runner at a diagonal angle. Then, replant your cuttings in a new area of your aquarium, farther from the original mother plant

You can also opt to purchase Dwarf Baby Tears seeds from your local fish and specialty stores. If you’re adamant about growing your own HC plants from seeds, then consider doing so in a separate container. This will allow you to better observe and care for the seeds as they grow, and it will also prevent the seedlings from being prematurely nipped or disturbed by curious fish.

Dwarf Baby Tears Care

Successfully planting Dwarf Baby Tears, while tricky, is the easy half of this whole endeavor. The more challenging half lies in caring for your HC plant and keeping it alive. As mentioned in previous sections, Dwarf Baby Tears are moderately difficult to care for because they need almost constant exposure to bright lights and a lot of nutrients to flourish.

If you’re up for the challenge and you’re committed to raising this beautiful plant in your aquarium, then read on.

– Establish and Follow a Simple Care Routine

Our experts recommend that you follow a simple care routine during the first few weeks of your HC plant’s stay in its new home aquarium. Having a set routine will help ensure that you care for your plant properly and prevent any neglect or over-the-top attention. Here’s an example of a care routine you can use with your Dwarf Baby Tears:

1. Do a Physical Check-up Every Other Morning

Gently brush the top of your HC leaves with plant tweezers to disentangle any of the stems. This will also loosen any stuck debris, food, or rocks from beneath the leaves.

2. Remove Any Dead Plants

If you see any yellowish, dried or damaged leaves, use your plant scissors to firmly prune them from the main plant. This will help keep the remaining Cuba plant population healthy. This step will also help you identify what supplements you might need to provide or adjust.

3. Adjust Parameters Accordingly

This is a step that only needs to be done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. If you are already in the habit of checking your tank parameters and cycling your aquarium water regularly, then you are well on your way to helping your HC plant flourish.

Be sure that you keep a consistent temperature, pH and GH levels, and keep an eye on the buildup of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Adjust your water and tank parameters as necessary, but remember to do so in a gradual manner, so as not to shock your Dwarf Baby Tears

– Use Fertilizers and CO2 for Better Growth

The slow Dwarf Baby Tears growth rate is something that often frustrates aquarists who are new to handling this kind of plant. If you want to speed up the growth and spread of your HC plants, you should make it a point to feed your plant with CO2 injections and liquid fertilizers that provide significant amounts of copper.

You can feed your plant with these supplements every week for the first one to two months, and then gradually lessen the feeding sessions to a bi-weekly schedule or even less.

Be aware, however, that increasing the amounts of CO2 and copper in your tank can be harmful to your other aquarium creatures. For example, shrimp tend to become more sickly in aquariums with high levels of the aforementioned substances. Always strike a balance between meeting your HC plant’s needs with that of your other aquarium inhabitants.

– Lighting Is Key

The Baby Tears aquatic plant is photophilic. This means that they thrive in sunlit areas and can wither in places where there is no access to either natural or artificial light. As you now know, this type of plant needs around half a day’s worth of exposure to bright lights. This can make it challenging for you to keep the algae population at bay.

A proactive step you can take for this is to invest in timer-controlled LED lights instead of placing your aquarium in an area that is usually flooded with sunlight. You can also opt for aquarium lights that provide brightness but minimal warmth, if any. These will help you meet your Dwarf Baby Tears’ lighting requirement while preventing any algal blooms from suddenly taking over your fish tank.

– Choose Tank Mates Wisely

This plant goes well with most types of small peaceful fish. Here’s a list of the aquatic creatures that our experts believe to be most suited for aquariums with Dwarf Baby Tears.

  • Guppy Fish
  • Plecos
  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Tetra Fish
  • Bettas

You can also house different species of shrimp and snails with your Dwarf Baby Fish. Just remember to manage properly the light and supplement levels in your tank, so that every other fauna and flora will thrive alongside your HC plants.

– Common Problems With HC Plants

Apart from establishing a care routine and keeping all tank parameters in balance, you should also be familiar with the most common problems that Dwarf Baby Tears sometimes encounter.

Sickness/Problem Signs and Symptoms Treatment
Melting Leaves The leaves of your HC plants are brown, shriveled up, or shedding uncontrollably from the main stem. When a Cuba plant’s leaves begin to melt, it is usually a sign of environmental shock. Check your tank and water parameters, and adjust them accordingly. Give your plant more time to adjust to its new environment as well.
Algae Overgrowths The tank water is green and your HC plants’ growth is severely stunted. This results from the combination of high CO2 and light levels. Consider using an aquarium shade and limiting the duration of light exposure for a few days.
Yellow Leaves Your HC plants have yellow or brown spots on their leaves or have entire leaf clusters that have turned a pale yellow color. This is usually a sign of iron deficiency. You can use liquid fertilizers that specialize in providing iron to help your plant recover.

Conclusion

The Dwarf Baby Tears plant is truly a magnificent sight to behold in any freshwater tank. However, as you just learned, it is also a plant that requires commitment and attention. Below is a summary of the most important points we covered in this article about the amazing but delicate HC plant.

  • The Dwarf Baby Tears originated in the tropical regions of the West Indies.
  • This plant is highly dependent on bright light and CO2.
  • The HC plant can be grown as a floater or a rooted flora.
  • It is relatively easier to propagate it if you follow certain steps or use a dedicated tank for growing its seedlings or runners.
  • This plant thrives in the same environment that algae love. Hence, it is crucial to establish an effective care routine and pay close attention to depreciating water conditions or early signs of health problems.

Though this plant can be quite intimidating to maintain, you will soon find that a little dedication and research go a long way. With the knowledge you now have, you should be able to plant and grow your own Dwarf Baby Tears, and soon enjoy its lush leaves as your new aquascape carpet or surface covering.

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