Rotala Indica Care: Complete Aquarium Plant Guide (2024)

Rotala Indica - Featured Image
Rotala Indica – Featured Image
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 9, 2024
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The water plant, Rotala indica, is remarkably eye-catching and can add a hint of wild jungle charm to your aquarium with its long stems. However, providing it with sufficient light and maintaining its optimal environment is essential for achieving its most vibrant color and robust growth.

Article Summary

  • Rotala indica is a freshwater plant that can give your aquarium a jungle feel with its long, sprawling stems.
  • Rotala indica is a hardy plant and fairly easy to grow as it doesn’t require much maintenance and has the ability to adapt to most environments.
  • Rotala indica should be planted in nutrient-rich substrate, and liquid fertilizers can be added to the water to provide extra nutrients.

As someone who’s a big fan of Rotala species and has kept these plants in multiple large aquariums for over a decade, I’ll be going over everything you need to know about Rotala indica care.

Let’s dive in! 

Species Summary

The true Rotala indica plant is a striking stem plant that is commonly used in the background of an aquarium. Its long and flowing stems clump together to create thick bushes that serve as shelter for aquatic living creatures.

Rotala Indica Plant
(1) Rotala Indica Plant

The true Rotala indica plant has small leaves that are a vibrant green color, as well as bright pink flowers when it is kept in the right conditions. This aquarium plant is native to Southeast Asia and grows in dense patches in rice paddies and riverbanks.

Benefits of Having It In Your Tank 

In addition to looking spectacular, Rotala indica brings many benefits to your fish tank. Like other aquatic plants, Rotala use nutrients in the water and substrate to thrive. As part of photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and transform it into oxygen during the day, which your fish can take advantage of.

However, during the night when the aquarium lights are turned off, plants take in oxygen and produce carbon dioxide.

Removes Harmful Pollutants

Like any other live aquatic plant, Rotala indica can assist with the removal of harmful pollutants in your fish tank water, including nitrogen compounds like nitrite. However, live plants are not a substitute for good filtration or water changes, so you’ll still need to keep on top of tank maintenance.

Provides Shelter for Fish

This aquarium plant can grow tall and group together horizontally, allowing it to spread all over your aquarium and provide your fish with shelter. If you have shy fish species or other living creatures in your tank, Rotala will help them feel much safer.

In addition, algae and biofilm will naturally grow on Rotala, which serves as a primary food source for many invertebrates and herbivorous fish like cherry shrimp, japanese snails, otocinclus catfish, and clown plecostomus.

Is Rotala Indica Easy to Grow?

Rotala indica is a hardy plant and fairly easy to grow as it doesn’t require much maintenance and has the ability to adapt to most environments. However, it tends to grow best in soft, freshwater tanks with tropical conditions.

How Fast Does Rotala Indica Grow?

The Rotala indica plant has a relatively fast growth rate at around 1 inch of new growth per week in high light and the correct conditions. At this speed, a new plant should easily reach its maximum size (around 12 inches) in just 3 months.

What Color Is Rotala Indica?

Rotala Indica with Soft Pink Hue
(2) Rotala Indica with Soft Pink Hue

Unlike some other Rotala species like Rotala rotundifolia which has bright red leaves, Rotala indica has green leaves, though the lower leaves tend to be a soft pink hue

How Tall Does Rotala Grow? 

Rotala indica can grow very tall, so it isn’t a compact plant by any means. At a moderate to high level of light, it can easily reach lengths of 30cm.

Some specimens can even grow to 60cm and above with the correct care and optimal environment. 

Size and Growth

Rotala indica has a moderately quick growth rate, particularly in high light. However, it can be kept relatively compact with stubbier stems in low lighting.

Specimens sold at fish stores tend to be young plants and are a lot smaller, but they will eventually grow into tall plants if you provide them with the right care. 

The plant can quickly overtake your aquarium, so you should trim and prune it frequently to keep it under control.

Due to the fast growth and tall height of Rotala indica stem plants, I’d recommend housing them in an aquarium that’s at least 10-gallon in size so it has enough space to grow. This plant looks its best in large tanks where it can spread out.

Water Parameters

This popular plant will do well in most freshwater setups, but it can grow faster and healthier if you provide it with its preferred water parameters, which I’ll be going over below.


Rotala plants like Rotala rotundifolia and indica come from South East Asia where it is very warm, so you should keep them in tropical conditions in the home aquarium. The ideal water temperature for this plant is between 72°F to 82°F, so it is recommended to use an aquarium thermometer to keep the water temperature consistent.


This green stem plant prefers slightly acidic water with a pH of around 6.0 to 7.5. Investing in a pH meter is a good idea if you want to monitor your tank’s pH level.


Both Rotala rotundifolia and indica are pretty flexible when it comes to light, but their growth and color is enhanced in high lighting. In low light, the stem plant is much shorter and compact, so trimming frequency will be reduced.

Marimo Balls, Rotala Indica and small Sword in a Planted Aquarium
(3) A Planted Aquarium with Rotala Indica Plant

Under high lighting, the plant grows considerably faster and will reach taller heights, often shooting up above the water’s surface. When the plants grow emersed, they tend to have round leaves, so if you prefer this look, use a planted aquarium light with full-spectrum bulbs.

Alternatively, more light exposure can give the stems and leaves of the plant a deeper red coloration.

No matter whether you opt for low or high light for this plant, make sure you provide it with at least 8 hours of light each day


Rotala indica does best in fine substrate as it has a delicate root system. Plain sand or aquatic substrate targeted for planted tanks are both good options.

Aquarium plant substrate is packed with nutrients that provide the roots with everything they need for fast and healthy growth. Alongside a nutritious planting substrate, you can also give this plant aquarium fertilizer that contains iron, phosphate, and trace elements.

Doing so will accelerate growth and produce redder leaves.

Tank Mates

Despite being an easy plant to care for, you should choose your tank mates wisely for Rotala rotundifolia and indica to ensure its growth and survival. Peaceful fish species and invertebrates are best for this plant as it has fragile leaves.

Cherry Shrimp on Rotalica Indica Plant
(4) Cherry Shrimp on Rotalica Indica Plant

Lively inhabitants or fish that are known to uproot plants like cichlid fish should be avoided as they may cause damage to the roots and leaves.

Some good fish to keep with Rotala rotundifolia and indica are:

Fish waste will also help fertilize this plant, much like a planting substrate does!

How Do You Plant Red Rotala?

Planting red Rotala is fairly easy in the aquarium hobby and doesn’t require much work. However, preventing the plant from floating can be a little difficult, especially in young plants as they don’t have strong enough roots to keep the stem down in the substrate.

Before you go ahead and plant Rotala rotundifolia, remove it from its pot (if it came with one) and any rock wool or tissue culture it was packed with. Then, using aquarium tweezers, firmly push the roots of the plant into your substrate. Do this at a slight angle to help keep the stem weighted down.

If you’re struggling to keep the plant down and constantly need to replant it, consider using plant anchors.

Does Rotala Need Soil?

Soil isn’t essential for Rotala, but planting soil and a nutrient-rich substrate can certainly accelerate its growth and help it reach vibrant coloration.

How Long Does Rotala Take to Root?

It usually takes around 10 days for Rotala to root as long as it has been planted correctly.

How Do I Make My Rotala Grow Straight?

Lower lighting will help your Rotala grow straight as the stem will expand vertically towards your aquarium light.

How Do You Make a Rotala Bushy?

If you want your Rotala to have a more bushy appearance, simply cut the stems in half and replant the tops close to the bases. You may need to do this a few times to achieve a dense, thick look.

Watch this video below for more info and tips on how to make a Rotala Bushy.

Trimming Rotala Species to Encourage a Bush

Why Is Rotala Not Growing Straight?

If your Rotala is not growing straight, it’s likely that your aquarium light is too strong. Use less light and plant your Rotala in small groups close together to encourage vertical growth.

Why Does Rotala Grow Sideways?

Rotala rotundifolia and indica will grow sideways and spread out horizontally when it is exposed to strong light. If you want a more vertical look, you should lower the light intensity and use a less powerful unit.

How Do You Trim a Rotala Indica?

Trimming is an important part of Rotala indica care as this plant, just like the Ludwigia Repens, expands rapidly and will quickly overtake your aquarium. Depending on the intensity of your light and the type of soil/fertilizer you use, how often you trim your Rotala will vary.

Plants grown in high lighting conditions and nutrient-rich substrates will need more regular trimming…

Plants grown in high lighting conditions and nutrient-rich substrates will need more regular trimming than those grown in low light and plain sand.

Whenever your Rotala is beginning to grow overly long and look like a tangly mess, take a pair of aquarium pruning shears and cut the top of the stem, just above the node. Remove any plant remains after you’ve finished trimming to keep your freshwater tank clean.

How to Propagate Rotala Indica 

Propagating your Rotala is useful for helping the plant grow quicker and make new plants. While Rotala can reproduce naturally by spreading seeds, propagation is a much faster method.

Don’t worry, propagation for this amphibious plant is a straightforward process – it can even be done during routine trimming! Simply cut around 1 inch of stem (above the node) and remove all of the leaves, then pop it into your substrate.

Within around 10 days, the cutting should develop roots and become its own plant. That’s all there is to it for Rotala propagation!

Final Thoughts

I hoped this guide helped you learn how to care for Rotala indica and, hopefully, encouraged you to pick up this aquarium plant for your tank.

What do you like the most about Rotala? Be sure to let me know on our social media platforms and share this post with your friends!

Featured Image – nttrbx, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
(1) Rotala indica – Adam B., CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
(2) Rotala Indica – mobile_gnome, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
(3) Marimo Balls, Rotala Indica and small Sword, with mexican river cobbles mobile_gnome, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
(4) Cherry Shrimp on Rotala Indica plant – Mobile_gnome, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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