Advice on Growing Rotala Macrandra

Vishaquatics
Member
Rotala Macrandra is often considered to be one of the most difficult plants in the hobby. I thought this plant looked nice, but I also wanted to see if it really was "that" hard to grow. I have ended up falling in love with this species because it is possibly the most vibrant and beautiful plant that I've ever kept. It was difficult to get the hang of, but I have a couple of tips that help to allow for success.

First, many people recommend using RO water because this plant supposedly needs a KH of 1-2 to thrive. I have a KH of 6-7, GH of 13-14 (Ca 56ppm Mg 22ppm) and I do not have any issues growing this plant. This plant is not too sensitive to water quality as long as the parameters are not too extreme.

My tips will not include the basic "high lighting, pressurized CO2, good fertilization, and do your water changes" advice because most people keeping this plant are already doing that. Instead, I am going to give some key tips that allowed me to eliminate stunting and any other issues with my rotala macrandra.

Key Tips:

1) Space these plants adequately when planting. For a couple of weeks in my main display tank, I wanted to try planting my rotala as dense as possible. I was getting a ton of stunting on my rotala mac. I had planted them super close together and didn't give them much "breathing" room. I the uprooted it and planted it properly, this time giving atleast a half inch radius around each stem. Bam, stunting gone and the plants were doing fine because they were not in such close proximity. When in close proximity, the plants often block the flow, which subsequently impacts the amount of CO2 the stems get. Stunting is almost always a CO2 issue in most hightech aquariums. Realize that rotala mac can get pretty large. It can get up to 2" in diameter so be sure to plan ahead so that these stems have adequate breathing room as they grow into your scape.

2) Use colder temperatures. I found that warmer temperatures (76F+) causes the plant to grow really fast and leggy. Making these temps a bit colder (around 68F) slows down the growth and creates more denser, lusher growth. The leaves also become a bit more rounder which makes the leaves look almost like rose petals.

3) Use an aquasoil substrate. While rotala mac can be grown easily using sand, it seems to be more vibrant and stable in aquasoil substrates. I use UNS controsoil.

4) Don't trim your rotala mac, instead uproot it and replant them tops. I tried trimming it, and while it does work, the plant does NOT like this at all. I think it's easier just to replant the top instead for the best possible results.

5) Ensure good flow. Flow is like a goldilocks situation, too much flow to the point where the plant is getting rocked around isn't good, but too little flow to where the plants don't move at all isn't good either. Ideal flow should look like all parts of the plant, from the bottom leaves to the top leaves, are slightly swaying in the water, almost like a tree's leaves on a slightly breezy day.

6) Rotala mac doesn't need extra iron. I constantly see posts claiming this plant needs a ton of extra iron to turn red. That's false. It just needs a good source of light. I dose about 0.09ppm of Fe 3x a week on my densely planted display. In my nano tank, I do about 0.03ppm of Fe 2x a week. They don't need much iron.

7) Practice good plant husbandry skills. Don't let this plant get overgrown, crowded, or shaded. Fertilize consistently and ensure proper flow and CO2 levels. That's really all there is to growing rotala mac. This plant is like a canary in a coal mine. It will be the first plant to indicate when things are going bad. Listen to it.

Here's some pics of my rotala macrandra (and some rotala macrandra green):

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  • Moderator
Coradee
Moderator
Member
Nice write up & that tank is absolutely stunning!
 

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