Rotala rotundifolia
Rotala rotundifolia


Background History

Rotala rotundifolia is a classic aquatic plant for any planted aquarium. It is widely distrusted around the Southern regions of Asia, and can be found specifically in waterways of China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos.  Rotala rotundifolia is an undemanding stem plant, however it does thrive in high light conditions where more intense greens, reds and pinks will become readily present.

Rotala rotundifolia has been around the aquatic plant hobby for since the 1980s and is most notable in Nature Aquarium and Dutch Style aquascapes. 

Rotala rotundifolia is very similar to other species of Rotala. So similar in fact, there is a raging debate among aquatic plant hobbyists who claim that species of Rotala such as Rotala sp. ‘green’, Rotala sp. ‘pink’, and Rotala indica are all Rotala rotundifolia grown in different conditions or originating from different regions.

We do know that Rotala rotundifolia is often misidentified as Rotala indica. Although they may look similar in underwater conditions, these are two distinct plants as defined by the different flowers formed in its emersed state.

Growth Characteristics

Rotala rotundifolia is a round leaf, stem plant that is the perfect for the beginner planted aquarium hobbyist, but it still appeals to the more advanced hobbyists since it is a challenging plant to aquascape with.  It is undemanding in fertilizers, carbon dioxide and substrate composition; however Rotala rotundifolia enjoys receiving direct light.  It will grow adequately in low light compositions, where most of the leaves will remain a bright green.  When there is inadequate light, the lower regions may lose their leaves. To truly showcase this plant’s properties, intense light will bring out the rich red and pink tones that can make an aquascape stand out.  

Rotala rotundifolia will grow fast in high light conditions up to one inch (1cm) per week.  Propagation is through removing the lateral side shoots or directly dividing the plant in half and replanting the top. 

Aquascaping Application

Rotala rotundifolia is a versatile plant that can be planted in the midground and background areas of the aquarium. When planted in bunches of six to seven stems, this plant will make for an interesting visual element for an aquascape.  When planted as a sole background plant, and paired with one or two foreground plants such as Downoi and Hemianthus callitrichoides, Rotala rotundifolia will easily set the foundational stage of the layout.

Aquascapers enjoy trimming and shaping Rotala rotundifolia to fit their aquascapes.  This plant is easily shaped by trimming the stems three-quarters a way down, and leaving the short bottoms to sprout lateral side shoots.  These side shoots, once grown out, can then be cut down again, and as a result a busy plant will emerge once new branches sprout. 

Beside shaping the stems, aquascapers utilize the rich colors of the leaves to balance the layout.  For example, the pink hues work well to reduce the intensity of the rich reds of Ammannia gracilis or similar color plants, while blending those red plants with the green plants in a layout.

Plant Profile
Scientific Name: Rotala rotundifolia
Common Name: Rotala rotundifolia
Difficulty: Very Easy
CO2 Requirements: Low
Lighting Requirements: Medium
Plant Arrangement: Variable
Growth Rate: Fast
Family: Lythraceae
Genus: Rotala
Origin: Southeast Asia
Plant Type: Stem
Water Hardness: Medium (GH = 9-13 dH)