Hemianthus Callitrichoides is one of the most popular plants among aquarists for use in the foreground of the aquarium. Known as Cuba, Hemianthus Cuba, HC or with the curious name in English “ Tears of baby dwarf ” ( Dwarf Baby Tears).
A native of Havana in Cuba, Hemianthus Callitrichoides, was imported by Holger Windeløv, who found it in a riverbed in Cuba, west of Havana.
In a very short time it has become one of the most popular beginner freshwater plants, commonly used as a foreground groundcover in small and large planted tanks.
It is a moderate growing plant that develops tiny, shiny green leaves, covering the bottom of the tank with a lush carpet of vegetation.
Its popularity is increasing day by day among aquarium enthusiasts due to its ease of cultivation and the beauty of the bright green coloration of its small leaves.
We are going to start by looking at the file with the general description of Cuba (Hemianthus Callitrichoides), to later see each aspect in greater detail. Before, if you are just getting started in fish tanks with natural plants, the beginner’s guide to planted aquariums may be interesting for you.
Card of Hemianthus Callitrichoides (Cuba)
- Order: Lamiales
- Family: Scrophulariaceae
- Genus: Hemianthus
- Origin: Cuba
- Scientific name: Hemianthus callitrichoides
- Maximum size: 3 cm
- Growth: slow-moderate
- Illumination: High
- Reproduction: Cuttings and shoots
- Water temperature: 21-28°C (25°C optimal)
- pH: 5.0-7.5
- gH: soft to semi-soft water
- Co 2: better with Co 2 supplements
- Difficulty level: Medium
Collected for the first time by the founder of Tropica, Holger Windeløv in 2003 in Las Pozas, (Cuba), about 90 kilometers east of Havana. The use of Hemianthus callitrichoides has become very popular within the aquarium hobby despite its relatively recent history.
It belongs to the Scrophulariaceae family, and the common name ‘Cuba’ comes from its country of origin.
It is one of the smallest aquarium plants in the world and its delicate stems with tiny rounded to ovoid leaves have a creeping growth habit.
When planted in small groups a few centimeters apart, the plant spreads rapidly forming a beautiful ground cover.
Being so small, this plant is ideal even for nano-aquariums, as long as they are well lit. If you want to know more about plants and aquariums, visit our category dedicated to the most used natural plants in aquariums.
Cuba is usually sold individually in small pots or, for less patient aquarists who want to cover their tank with almost instant wallpaper, they come fully grown and rooted in rockwool or coconut fiber mats.
It can also be found rooted in pieces of wood for its primary use in aquascaping.
Description of Cuba – Hemianthus Callitrichoides
In the wild it grows in stream beds during the dry season of its native home in Eastern Havana (Cuba). It can be found submerged to a depth of up to 1 meter from the river bed, where it is exposed to strong water currents.
Most of the Hemianthus callitrichoides plants that can be purchased are emerged grown and have rounded leaves. In the axils, tiny white flowers can sometimes be seen.
The shape of the submerged plant is quite similar, with a shape more like that of a fluffy rug. Its leaves are smaller and slightly narrower.
It has more or less erect but very short stems with two opposite leaves per node and, at the same time, creeping shoots. In the latter two, the leaves are frequently found in whorls of three per node.
It has very fine leaves and a stem that gives this plant a delicate appeal. It grows up to 3 cm long and spreads horizontally up to 10 cm. The leaves are only about 3-4 millimeters in size, making this species the smallest aquarium plant in the world.
Cuba in the aquarium
In the aquarium, Hemianthus callitrichoides makes an excellent foreground plant that can easily spread out to form a thick tapestry on the bottom of the aquarium. If planted in small groups a few inches apart, it can spread quickly and cover the bottom like a carpet.
This plant is very good for reducing algae growth and improving the clarity of the water in the aquarium. In its use for aquascaping, this plant is good for filling tight spaces or cracks between rocks and wood.
Cuba provides an ideal environment in fish tanks for spawning fish to lay their eggs and for the fry to hide from the adult fish. Also great for shrimp tanks and nano aquariums.
Under the right conditions, this plant produces a visible bubble of oxygen, known as perling, which is a very attractive feature when the lights are on and reflecting off the bubbles.
For several years it has been one of the most popular aquascaping or aquascaping plants, since being so small offers many possibilities.
H. Callitrichoides Care
Its optimum temperature is around 25°C, but it also tolerates temperatures between 21-28°C (70-84º Fahrenheit).
Hemianthus Callitrichoides will thrive in mostly acidic water with a pH range of 5.0 – 7.5.
Although the plant can tolerate some variations in water hardness, it requires soft or semi-soft water, ideally between 4 and 5 dGH.
It needs a fine-grained substrate that is rich in nutrients and minerals, especially iron. A fine-textured substrate will help the delicate roots penetrate more easily.
Cuba has a more or less compact growth in relation to light intensity. It requires a full spectrum light of at least 1 watt per two liters (2 watts per gallon) to keep the plant growing in the aquarium floor. Light should be consistent 10-14 hours a day.
Using modern LED aquarium lighting is one of the most efficient ways to provide adequate light for this plant
It is not always necessary to fertilize Hemianthus Callitrichoides with Co 2, however, the plant grows much healthier with it. Co 2 supplementation and regular fertilization will help speed up the growth rate.
Good water circulation is essential for the healthy growth of this aquarium plant.
Maintenance of Hemianthus Callitrichoides
This plant is susceptible to iron deficiencies, the symptoms of which are yellow shoot tips. It must also be supplied with a sufficient amount of macronutrients, especially nitrates.
You have to prune this plant regularly, because as it grows, the new stems overlap the old ones and end up suffocating them.
The Cuba aquarium plant literally kills itself if left unattended. Stems should be trimmed with a very sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade to make clean cuts.
How to plant Hemianthus Callitrichoides (Cuba)
Small pieces of Cuba can be tied to a rock or piece of wood and allowed to develop roots around the object.
Most aquarists prefer to use cotton string instead of rubber bands or fishing line, as it is barely noticeable and dissolves over time, leaving only attached roots.
To plant Cuba in the substrate, you can plant an entire pot in one place and wait for it to spread.
It can also be separated into small stems and planted 2-3 cm (1 inch) apart for faster coverage. You simply have to separate each stem and plant it individually in a substrate.
This is a more time-consuming technique, but it can be well worth it. Plant the stems with a long pair of tweezers and make sure the roots are well embedded in the soil.
Hemianthus callitrichoides can also be grown above the waterline, where it generally forms more compact mats than underwater.
In an open tank, it can be attached along the waterline to a piece of wood or on rocks sticking out of the water.
Cuba (Hemianthus Callitrichoides) has a slow-moderate rate of growth and development, but will still grow through the substrate after settling in the tank. It spreads through new shoots branching out from the root area.
The roots will branch out and develop a network resulting in a carpet-like appearance, but only if the plant is constantly pruned to keep it short.
Another popular method of reproducing dwarf baby tears is through cuttings. Small sections should be cut from a mature plant and replanted in the substrate.
This way, planting in small groups a few inches apart will cover the bottom of the tank more quickly, as propagation is from many points.
A final option is to use sexual reproduction through seed production and can form new plants under favorable conditions.
The Cuba aquarium plant can be planted alongside other short foreground plants with contrasting colours. But you have to be careful not to mix them with other groundcover plants that can be a competition.
Until the plant is established in the aquarium, it is best to avoid bottom fish, but once it has taken root, there is no need to worry unduly if some fish graze it. Hemianthus Callitrichoides recovers quickly and continues to grow.
It is also not advisable to add fish such as Oscars or Jack Dempsey as they will try to pull out the weaker stems.
Goldfish are not a good idea due to their different environmental requirements and because they will try to eat as much of the plant as possible.
Conclusions about Cuba – Hemianthus Callitrichoides
It has become very popular within the aquascaping world due to its ability to give the appearance of a finely textured bright green carpet with a very tiny white flower.
It is not only suitable for forming beautiful foreground wall hangings, but is also ideal for designs with many stones as a nice accent in crevices.
It can even attach itself to wood logs, where it forms large mats of bright green with dangling buds.
In addition to improving the appearance of the aquarium or fish tank, Hemianthus Callitrichoides offers other advantages: It will produce the bubbles known as pearls that help oxygenate the water and also help reduce algae growth and improve the clarity of the water in an aquarium.
In addition, this type of plant provides adequate space for the spawning fish to use the plant to lay their eggs, and a place for the fry to hide.
It has relatively high light needs in the aquarium and also greatly improves its development with contributions of Co 2.
Well, reader, here we end. For those who are studying in order to get into this beautiful hobby and are not very clear about it, we have a small guide on aquariums for beginners that you can access by clicking on the previous link.