Rotala Macrandra Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Rotala Macrandra Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation

Rotala Macrandra is a famous and attractive aquatic stem plant that drastically complements the aesthetics and outlay of freshwater aquaria.

It is very popular among aquarists and in the aquarium trade because of its beautiful color and lush flowery appearance. This plant has fleshy foliage that may possess green, pink, tan, or red intense coloration depending on the variety.

Rotala macrandra has large leaves and is somewhat difficult to grow because it requires high-intensity lighting and calculated nutrient dosing. This is in contrast to the more common species of Rotala— Rotala rotundifolia and Rotala indica.

Rotala macrandra is best used in the midground or background of freshwater tanks to create red accents in the midst of green-colored plants.

Keep reading for everything there is to know about Rotala macrandra, including how to care for the plant in a home aquarium.

Quick Notes about Rotala Macrandra

Common Name Rotála macrandra
Other Names Giant Red Rotala
Scientific Name
Rotála macrandra
Difficulty Hard
Lighting High
Optimal pH 6.0 – 7.5
Optimal GH 3 – 8 
Optimal Temperature 72 – 77 °F (22 – 26 °C)
Substrate Needed (Nutrient-rich)
Can float
Growth Form
Growth Rate Moderate to fast
Placement in Tank
Midground or background
CO2 Needed
Height 8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm)
Propagation Head Cuttings 

Origin of Rotala Macrandra

Rotala macrandra is a highly popular and colorful stem plant of the Lythraceae family. This species is commonly known as the Giant Red Rotala owing to its deep red or intense coloration which can strongly improve the appearance and depth of any aquarium setting.

Rotala macrandra has numerous soft, delicate leaves that grow oppositely on thick, vertically-oriented stems.

Also, many varieties of Rotala macrandra exist in the aquarium trade. There are the green varieties, red varieties, variegated, and the mini/pearl types.

The scientific classification of Rotala macrandra is as follows:

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Myrtales
Family: Lythraceae
Genus: Rotala
Species: Rotala macrandra

Habitat of Rotala Macrandra

The Rotala macrandra plant is native to India, particularly to four isolated localities of the four South Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu.

It thrives in marshy soils and can be found growing in streams, flooded paddy fields, riverbanks, and temporary ponds.

This species grows in emersed and submersed conditions, and its growth forms vary significantly according to light and nutrient availability.

Description of Rotala Macrandra

Rotala Macrandra Care Guide – Planting, Growing, and Propagation - pearlingRotala macrandra is an attractive stem plant with fleshy, ovoid leaves growing on tall, vertical stems — which can reach more than 8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm) after six weeks of planting.

The leaves of this plant are primarily red-colored. However, other likely colors include green, pink, tan, and orange depending on the variety or cultivar. In addition, these delicate leaves are mainly ovoid or obovate in shape, while in some varieties, they are somewhat tapering or lanceolate.

Interesting fact: If grown emersed, Rotala macrandra has a denser structure, the leaves become broader with a mostly green coloration.

From observation of Rotala macrandra, tiny oxygen bubbles will start to form on the leaf tips when optimal growth conditions exist— this phenomenon is termed “pearling”.

Varieties of Rotala Macrandra

There are many known varieties of Rotala macrandra, and each variety has a distinguishing feature that sets it apart from others. Let’s have a look at some of these varieties:

Rotala macrandra ‘Variegated’: This variety possesses an alluring magenta red or pink coloration with tan and orange tinges. It features large wavy leaves and white venation compared to the standard Red Rotala macrandra. Moreover, the variegated type is more difficult to grow and maintain in an aquarium setting.

Green Varieties: These varieties are known for having tall stems and more green foliage with little pink or red shades majorly towards the top. Also, they are by far the easiest to grow among the several varieties of Rotala macrandra.

Red Varieties: These varieties feature abundant red foliage completely from top to bottom, and they are generally more difficult to grow in a freshwater aquarium.

Rotala macrandra ‘Narrow leaf’: A profusely branching variety of Rotala macrandra. As the name suggests, this variety possesses many leaves which are relatively narrow or near lanceolate, and bright red in coloration.

Rotala macrandra ‘Mini butterfly’: This variety takes a strong resemblance to the popular Rotala rotundifolia, but it has a deeper red tone with leaf edges that are a bit rolled outwards. It is relatively hard to grow especially in low-tech tanks.

Rotala macrandra ‘Mini type 4 green’: Rotala macrandra mini type 4 green has moderately-sized, soft green leaves with serrated leaf edges. This variety develops orange hues under high-intensity lighting, and that complements the reds and greens in the aquascape.

Rotala macrandra ‘Mini type 4 red’: Same features with the mini type 4 green, however, this type has an overall deep red coloration, and it requires high lighting, nutrient-rich substrate and adequate water column fertilization.

Rotala macrandra ‘Mini type 2’: This variety produces foliage with very unique curled leaf edges. Also, the leaves are mostly green, however, they bear contrasting hues of pink and orange. Just like other minis’, this type is quite difficult to grow and maintain long-term.

Tank Requirements and Water Parameters

Tank size:

This plant requires a large space to survive because of its growth potential. 

Therefore, the recommended tank size for growing Rotala macrandra is a minimum of 10 gallons (~40 liters).

Water type, Temperature, Hardness, and pH:

Temperature: To grow Rotala macrandra in freshwater aquaria, you will need an optimal water temperature between the range of 72 – 78 °F (22 – 26 °C).

pH: The ideal pH level for this species is between 6.0 – 7.5. This plant prefers acidic water.

Hardness: Soft water is required for Rotala macrandra to thrive, so ensure the water provides hardness levels between 3 – 8 dKH.


Rotala macrandra is quite demanding in terms of light requirements. Most varieties of this species need high-intensity lighting to thrive and maintain intense coloration in a planted tank.

That said, make sure to provide high illumination using quality LED aquarium lighting or other good aquarium light sources.

In the same vein, be sure to maintain ideal PAR values and standard photoperiod since they equally contribute to the health and vitality of the plant’s shoots.

Also, the lower regions of Rotala macrandra may melt in the tank due to inadequate light or shading by taller plants, so endeavor to prevent such situations.

Read more about it in my article “Advanced Guide to Planted Tank Lighting”.


The plant needs a nutrient-rich substrate to grow optimally.

Thus, enriched aqua soils would suffice, these hold ammonia and essential nutrients which are good for the development of the plant’s roots, stems, and leaves.

Cultivation in enriched substrates will help the plant develop thicker stems and healthy, fleshy foliage.

Some recommended soil substrates for this plant include (links to check the price on Amazon):

Read more about it in my article “Top 5 Substrates For Planted Aquariums”. 

CO2 and Fertilization:

Fertilizers. Rotala macrandra will appreciate regular additions of plant fertilizers to achieve the best growth forms and intense coloration.

Let me quickly add that when macronutrients are insufficient, the plant’s lower leaves will begin to deteriorate. Whereas lack or inadequate micronutrients in the water column will prompt poor coloration amongst other problems. Therefore, maintaining proper nutrient levels is key to keeping the plant in optimal condition.

CO2: In addition, CO2 injection is required as it will promote the robustness of the plant, hasten the growth rate and ensure profuse branching of the main stem.

Keep in mind that Rotala macrandra does not take CO2 fluctuations well, and inconsistent CO2 levels may cause stunting of tips in this plant, especially in the less hardy varieties.

Recommended CO2 levels range between 15-25ppm.

Important: If you keep shrimp in the tank with Rotala macrandra, I would highly recommend reading my articles:

The point is that a high level of CO2 and Copper (most fertilizers contain copper) is extremely dangerous to the shrimp.

Care and Maintenance of Rotala Macrandra

This stem plant is not a beginner-friendly species since it requires special care and attention for it to thrive in freshwater aquaria.

Rotala macrandra is quite demanding; it needs high-intensity lighting, stable CO2 injection, and lean water-column fertilization to grow optimally and remain vibrant.

Also, the plant will achieve and maintain an intense deep red coloration when the phosphate levels are relatively high i.e. between 1.5 to 2.0 ppm and nitrate levels kept below 10 ppm.

Once settled, Rotala macrandra will grow pretty fast.

Overgrown stems should be pruned regularly to prevent them from reaching the water surface; do this with sharp trimming scissors and replant the upper portions or discard them permanently in a plastic bag.

As part of the care routine, make sure to perform partial water changes. Hence, replace about 25% of the aquarium water once every week with dechlorinated freshwater to maintain excellent water quality and eliminate excess nitrates in the tank.

Additionally, stick to a regular, lean fertilization regime to provide essential macro and micronutrients necessary for optimal growth and development of the plant’s root and shoot system.

Planting and Propagation of Rotala Macrandra

Rotala macrandra is ideal for midground and background placement in freshwater tanks. It can be used to create strong focal points in Nature and Japanese style aquascapes or set off as streets/layers in Dutch style aquascape.

  • To plant Rotala macrandra, first, untie the bunch and divide it into several portions.
  • Next, disinfect the plantlets properly (if they are not grown in vitro).
  • When you are done, place the individual stems into the enriched substrate, and maintain the adequate spacing of about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 8 cm) from each other to prevent overcrowding and minimize shading.
  • Also, you are to dose liquid plant fertilizers to promote their growth and health at the initial stage and further as they continue to grow.

On the other hand, propagation is by cuttings, you just have to cut the tops i.e. the upper portions, about 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) of the stems, and replant in the aquarium substrate.

Remember to maintain proper spacing, apply plant fertilizers, and trim regularly to encourage optimal growth of the plants and the development of multiple side shoots.

Note: Dry start method can be another way to grow Rotala macrandra. This method will provide unlimited CO2. The only problem is that transition to water can melt the plant.

Read more about “How to: Dry Start Method”.

Problems Associated With Rotala Macrandra

Stunting of Tips and Curling: This is usually caused by unstable or inconsistent CO2 levels and over-application of plant fertilizers. When this happens, the leaf edges and tips tend to crumble, curl and/or wither, giving it an unhealthy and unattractive look.

Solution: Check your CO2 level and fertilization regimen.

Leaf Chlorosis (or Turn Pale): Chlorosis occurs mostly as a result of Iron (Fe) deficiency. In this case, the normal bright-colored leaves of Rotala macrandra take on a pale or discolored appearance.
Solution: This problem can be remedied by improving on the levels of chelated Iron present in the water column.

Turn brown: Rotala macrandra can be a bit sensitive toward sterilizing agents. As a rule, the more tender the tissue of a plant, the higher the damage. The browning might be due to this kid of damage.

Melting: This is a finicky plant and requires stable water parameters. Sudden changes can cause it to melt.

Solution: Control your water parameters.

Leggy bottom leaves:  Rotala macrandra gets really dense the bottom leaves will die back from lack of light.

Solution: Give them more space. Also, regular trimming prevents lower portions of the plant from becoming shaded.

Related articles:

Benefits of Rotala Macrandra

Aquascape: The shape and form of Rotala macrandra will be an excellent decorative addition to your aquascape.

Replacement: Once planted Rotala macrandra can be easily moved or removed. This plant has a weak root system. Do not worry, you will not pull up a big part of your substrate with it.

Hiding place: Serves as cover and shade for inverts and small fish. It serves as a perfect hiding place for shrimp and fish.

Foraging place: Acts as a buffet of biofilm, which is an ideal first food for newly hatched fry and shrimplets.

Oxygenation: Rotala macrandra oxygenates and aerates the tank water.

Rotala Macrandra and Compatible Tankmates

This lush red plant is compatible with a wide variety of aquarium fauna that can share the same water parameters

It can be grown in freshwater aquaria with the following species of fish:


The plant is pretty fragile. So, avoid species that may damage it or find Rotala macrandra palatable, e.g. like Koi fish, Goldfish, Oscars, Rainbow, Jack Dempsey, Clown loaches, African Cichlids. These species can really cause problems in the planted tanks.

Do not keep it with most types of crayfish, or freshwater crabs. These animals will cut, eat, and uproot everything in the tank. So, be warned!

Buying Rotala Macrandra

This species is readily available in local fish stores and nurseries all over the world because of its high repute as a very attractive and decorative live aquarium plant.

You can get a bunch of Rotala macrandra for as low as $5, and this may contain up to 7 fresh, healthy stems.

In addition, make sure to obtain only healthy-looking, lush specimens devoid of cuts/rips, discoloration, and any other likely abnormality.

In Conclusion

By all indications, Rotala macrandra is an impressive and fascinating aquatic stem plant that makes an excellent candidate for freshwater aquaria.

This species can be used to create various artistic effects in all kinds of aquascape because of its distinctive form and lively colors that clearly stand out.

Despite that, Rotala macrandra is more suitable for experienced aquarists due to the high demands and special care required for it to grow healthily and maintain the best coloration in a freshwater tank.

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