Rotala Rotundifolia Beginner's Guide

Published on August 27, 2018
Rotala Rotundifolia Beginner's Guide

One of our nine personal favorite red aquarium plants, Rotala Rotundifolia is a unique and beginner-friendly plant that you should get for your next aquascape project.

In this article, we will cover everything about the plant. Starting from the origin, facts, care, requirements, and recommended plant companions.

Are you interested in finding out more? Let's dive in.


Rotala rotundifolia is a perennial aquatic weed that originated in a Southeastern part of Asia.

This species is visible in an emersed state in moist areas along the rice paddies.

The name Rotala rotundifolia came from Latin words which mean the plant with the round leaves. The most notable feature of the plant is the creeping leaves predominantly of its linear or elongated oval shape.

Notable Facts

Common namesdwarf rotala, Round-leaf toothcup, pink rotala, Rotala rotundifolia 'Ceylon' (other names: R. sp. 'Pink'), Rotala sp. "Green." (This plant species is always mistaken for Rotala indica)
Botanical nameRotála rotundifólia

Rotala Rotundifolia General Description

rotala rotundifolia properties

  • Color: dark green (color changes depending on lighting)
  • Texture: fleshy
  • Height: 20 - 80cm
  • Width: 2 - 4cm
  • Manageability: easy
  • Usage: Decoration, Background, In-ground, Breeding and Hiding places
  • Aquascape usage: fine-leaved, forming a grass-like lawn
  • Growth: invasive


Rotala rotundifolia’s native distribution is Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and the rest of Indo-China.

The plant is well distributed now, especially in the United States where chances of propagation exceed its native range.

Rotala rotundifolia’s popularity increased over time because of its abundant cultivation and beautiful growth pattern.

Some Nature articles and aquascape designs media often cite this exotic plant. The Dutch have a strong penchant for this unique and fragile plant.


Dwarf Rotala

Rotala rotundifolia is a perennial aquatic plant with fragile stems with the ability to branching out more often to form creeping clumps.

The plant species has two forms with characteristics and growth habits distinct from another.

  • Submersed Form: underwater
  • Emergent Form: moist areas, wet surfaces

The submerged form, having a leaf size of 2.5 centimeters or 1 inch- long or less grows in a cluster of 2 or 3 around its pink stems, with a darker green color leaves or somewhat reddish in thin lanceolate shape. On the other hand, the new form has a striking green color and prominent rounded leaves.

Habitat: Where Rotala Rotundifolia Lives

round leaf toothcup

Low-growing rotala rotundifolia emersed can grow up to 15 centimeters. They creep along riverbanks and shorelines.

As pond plant, we can use the weeds for its appealing flower heads in shallow water or grown as a great plant of up to 30cm (12 inches) deep.

Care and Propagation

For the first time aquarist, Pink Rotala is an ideal choice. If you are a beginner, fear not because this plant is user-friendly because it requires only minimum maintenance.

Rotala dwarf is a stem plant which can grow in a short period and can respond favorably to constant or heavy pruning. It regulates and balances the condition of a freshly cycled tank.

You should regularly prune to enable the plant to grow even better and plentiful. For you who aren't familiar, pruning is trimming away overgrown branches, stems and dead leaves to keep the weeds submerged at the bottom, likewise avoids a dense bushy.

pink rotala

Place this plant in the background or middle part of the tank in large clusters and clumps for a natural appearance. Under the right condition, flowering is visible in purple-pink color on the surface of the water, although the occurrence takes a matter of time. But, if you frequently cut and trim the weeds, those fallen parts might create new shoots for propagation.

Rotala rotundifolia multiplies vigorously in a short period. Cut the top half of a sturdy stem and replant it in the substrate (using a tweezer) after you remove any leaves from the last node of the stem. The trimmed mature stem will develop shoots that will produce a root system. This topping process will yield lush, bushy plants.

Over specified months, the older undergrowth deteriorates and become unhealthy. You should allow the top to grow longer and replant the bush.

An important note is Rotala rotundifolia is a fragile weed, and you should not include it in an environment with big species of fish. These fish can easily damage the plant.

Water Maintenance

You must always check the GH (General Hardness) and pH balance of the water in your tank to make it more adaptable to the fish and plant living in it. The ideal pH for Rotala dwarf can fluctuate from 5.5 - 7.5 and DH of not over 15.

Substrate Composition

You have options to use small granulated gravel or just plain sand for the substrate.

The weeds look natural in clumps which can be planted into chosen substrate given enough spacing within the cut stems. You need to handle the weeds with care using tweezers to plant the weeds individually.


You don't need soil fertilizer for maintenance and propagation. But of course, supply them with right micronutrients like iron to undergo normal growth process.

To further enhance the coloration, you need to supply the weeds with prescribed levels of nitrate and phosphate. Besides that, enough dosage of carbon dioxide injection will cause more vigorous growth.

A Pink Rotala plant can display the most intense colors at a low nitrate level (5 mg/l) and a high phosphate plus prescribed iron/micronutrient levels. Various fertilizer doses bring color hues from pink to yellow. Remember to maintain nitrates below 5 ppm, and phosphates above 1 ppm will further enhance the appearance.


rotala rotundifolia lighting

The dwarf rotala is not a delicate aquarium plant but enjoys receiving sunshine. It can grow from a partly shaded pond to a sun-exposed environment. It can grow up to 2.5 centimeters each week provided a sufficient lighting condition.

Under the bright light, the plant’s green leaves will turn fuchsia, pink or red showcasing its allure. However, under the medium light, the weeds become yellow-green and somewhat lanky. Under low light, the leaves take its original bright color and might not propagate unforcefully.

Therefore, you need to balance the light of the aquarium to the moderate lighting of 3.5 up to 5 watts for each gallon of water to provide a natural feel. The stronger the light you provide these weeds, the smaller and the more densely packed their leaves will be.


Rotala rotundifolia can adapt to any aquarium size with a temperature not higher than 30°Celcius (86°Farenheit) and not lower than 21°Celcius (70°Farenheit).

Companion Plants

Rotala rotundifolia can stand out if you mix in with marginal plants or low growing bog such as:

  • Myosotis scorpioides (Forget-me-not)
  • Mentha spicata (Mentha)
  • Bacopa monnieri (Bacopa).

Pond Maintenance

These aquatic plants belong to the type of species which cannot tolerate cold environmental conditions. Rotala rotundifolia emersed when cultivated outdoor can live in a specified time only, during warm months.

These weeds will not survive the freezing point in winter. However, the dead particles of the plant can regrow fast in springtime.

Rotala rotundifolia emersed can still withstand cold temperatures of the pond. It can grow in a shallow depth of water and undergo a flowering stage.

Abundant flower spikes in pink colors take place during spring and autumn. However, the plant's growth may vary (heterophyllous) as indifference in tone and form for aerial parts of the plant as compared with submerged ones.

This plant can grow up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) tall and is prescribed to be submerged in water of up to 20-30 centimeters (8-12 inches) deep.

The pond’s water requirement will never be an issue for Rotala Rotundifolia can adapt in any water conditions. It becomes invasive in a shallow depth of water up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) and can grow up to 15 centimeters (6 inches) in maximum height.

You can also plant Rotala rotundifolia in the substrate at the bottom of the pond. If you want easy containing and maintenance, you may use a shallow tray, a ten-inch-pan to create a mass effect.

The weeds can become so invasive, and this is why we should do cutting and frequently trimming to tidy them up. Dispose of the trimmings properly as they might grow somewhere else on wet surfaces.

Helpful Tips

  • Sufficient light to get good coloration
  • Stronger light (higher PAR values)
  • Avoid extreme water parameters
  • Avoid High alkalinity
  • Avoid un-cycled tanks
  • Maintain Low nitrates (5ppm & below)
  • Maintain other parameters high


Rotala Rotundifolia becomes prolific in spring and summer. It is a favorite among aquarists, especially the beginners who wish to decorate and make their aquarium stand out.

Because of the unique properties, the plant is offered in water garden industries and is being appreciated for both the flowers and leaves that change in colors.

Frequently, the weeds have been mistaken for Rotala indica, even until now advertised as is. Because it was first introduced by the false name of Rotala indica in 1960, such confusion lasts up to this date.

An advanced hobbyist must know the differences in the plant’s structure, important parts, and usual arrangement up to the manner of flowering to distinguish one from the other.

Featured Images by Tropica

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