We all fancy looking at and admiring adorable aquatic plants with small leaves and mesmerizing colors. Rotala indica is one of the widely spread species of such plants.

This plant’s structure, colors, and density make it stand apart from others. It is mainly found stretched across the wetlands and rice paddies in Southeast Asia.

All about the Species

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Rotala indica
Other Names Indian Toothcup, Ameletia Indica
Family Lythraceae
Origin Southeast Asia
Height 5-12 inches
Aquarium Type Freshwater planted aquarium


Belonging to the genus Rotala, Rotala indica is a species of plant that is often referred to as Indian Toothcup. You are quite likely to come across a thick bush of this plant while strolling across the length of clean water bodies in Southeastern Asia, particularly India or the Burma region. Along with being one of the popular floating aquarium plants, it is also one of the widely renowned weed species in rice-growing areas, including California, Louisiana, Portugal, and Congo.

The warm regions of Asia are observed to inhibit this species very well. It was also introduced to other regions of the world like Northern Italy once it started gaining more popularity.


You can easily recognize a Rotala indica for its tall, fleshy stems when it comes to appearance. These stems reach out towards the light. So, you can expect this plant to grow as if it’s climbing towards the source of sufficient light.

This colorful plant has long and delicate stems accompanied by thin, round, and vertical leaves. The shape of the leaves may vary anywhere between oval to circular, though. These leaves sprout from the side of its stem and form a rosette. Rotala indica could go very well with other green plants in your aquarium in terms of contrast, making it even more eye-catching and difficult to miss.

You may either find a dense bush of this plant in green or slightly tinted with a shade of red. The color of the plant may be directly dependent on the growing conditions.

Rotala Indica
Rotala Rotundifolia

Growth Rate

The growth rate of Rotala indica could be anywhere between moderate to fast. But on an average scale, it grows very fast. Given the right circumstances and if the plant is taken good care of, it can grow up to 1 inch per week.

This plant could be a little bit demanding when it comes to maintenance. It isn’t costly to look after a bush of Rotala aquarium plant, but you might need to trim it regularly so that it doesn’t end up occupying too much space in your tank. Pruning Indica can also help you in keeping the plant in your desired shape.

Benefits to Add them to Fish Tank

If you are looking forward to giving your aquarium the jungle aqua spaces theme, then Rotala indica would be perfect for you. One of the many reasons people opt for this plant is that it doesn’t require too much attention or care. If you have newborn shrimplets, this plant in your fish tank has additional benefits. The ability of Rotala indica to create a lot of surfaces for biofilm is phenomenal too. Biofilm is also referred to as surface scum. It is a collection of micro water organisms. These microorganisms are surrounded by the slime they secrete. Your newly hatched shrimplets can use the biofilm for food.  

You can also have this amazing specimen of aquatic plants to oxygenate your water column and give shelter to shy fish and shrimp. It also helps you in keeping the algal bloom in check.

Rotala Indica Care

If you are new to having a Rotala indica in your aquarium, it would be preferable to start with a small-sized or dwarf Rotala indica plant. It would require a minimum amount of care while you get used to caring for it. This plant is not afraid of ammonium. It is not uncommon that a lot of aquatic plants die during the process of cycling. Ammonia can be easily washed away in large water bodies like rivers, lakes, and seas. But it could be a menace to aquarium keepers when it comes to cycling their tank and removing the expelled waste matter of the organisms in their tank.

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Author Note: Rotala Indica is also known for effectively removing nitrogen and phosphorus in waters.

You can care for the Rotala indica very easily by performing regular checks and taking out the dead parts of the plant or using tweezers to keep your tank from getting polluted. Stirring or brushing up the think bushes of this plant could help you bring up the debris. The decayed organic matter can also be cleaned in the same way.

You should also ensure that your plant is fed sufficiently with supplemental liquid fertilizer.

How to Plant in Aquarium

Planting a Rotala indica in your aquarium is a simple and sophisticated process. The verticality of the plant might make it a little difficult for you to plant them if the plant is a grown-up one, especially in tanks with a thin or more petite volume structure.

The best way to plant it is by purchasing a younger plant and taking good care of it. The roots of this plant are pretty delicate, and you might need to be a little more careful while dealing with them.

It’s slightly difficult for this plant to stay well-grounded on its own. Tilting it a little while planting it may help you in keeping the plant down. The angle of the plantation may be helpful for the plant to use its weight onto the stem and roots.


Usually, once the plant is well-grounded, it can propagate on its own with the help of runners it sends out. You can propagate it manually by placing or planting the tops of the plant back into the substrate, and it’s advisable to use the trimmed tops while doing so.

This can also help you in adding to the density of the bushes of the Rotala indica plant. But as mentioned previously, the stems and roots are extremely fragile, and precaution is always needed while dealing with a Rotala indica. You can practice using plant tweezers to prevent potential damage.

Conditioning and Trimming

It’s advisable to trim your Rotala aquarium plant one step at a time. The step length of pruning should be no more than half an inch. It’s okay to stretch your trim step length up to 1 inch if you are well-versed with the trimming process.

Then you can simply choose to shear them off to keep them under your desired or preferable length. This would help you in making them look bushier. If you want your plants to have better access to light, you should consider planting them separately or at a distance from one another.


If you are not acquainted with liquid fertilizers, this could be your call to learn about them. Your Rotala indica would require a sufficient amount of iron. The presence of iron in water is highly essential for your aquatic plants, and it provides them with the necessary nutrient for the well-being of the leaves.

You can opt for a high-quality complete iron fertilizer to achieve the necessary levels of nutrients in the tank water. It’s pretty easy to find bottled liquid fertilizers from a shop nearby, or you can even order them online for more convenience. You can add a certain amount of liquid fertilizer to your tank every once in a while.

The preferable frequency of fertilizing may vary anywhere between once a week to every day based on the sizes or amount of Rotala indica bushes you have in your tank.

How to Make it Blood Red

Exposing your Rotala water plant to stronger lighting could help you make it blood red or redder than it already is. It is likelier to exhibit redder colors when the nitrate is limited. It means that you might need to cut the nitrate supply short for an extended but moderate amount of time.

To achieve the blood-red color, you can also combine some ammoniacal nitrogen while keeping the water column low in nitrate. The recommended level of nitrates is 5 ppm & below. Just make sure that the rest of the parameters are high or inappropriate proportions to fulfill your plant’s needs to thrive.

Rotala Indica Care - How to Make it Blood Red

Common Problems

Your plant is quite likely to fall into the clutch of certain problems associated with growth, health, and coloration. Below is the list of the most common issues this adorable plant faces.

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·  Problems with the Color:

Your Rotala indica may face a challenge called chlorosis. This problem is linked with the lack of iron nitrogen deficiency. If you notice that your plant is colored abnormally, these are the possible reasons along with nitrogen deficiency. It could also be a reason for your tank water’s high acidic content and unsuitable alkaline pH levels.

Preferable Remedy: You should opt for improving the iron content by dosing your tank water with chelated iron. If you are sure that the iron content is well balanced, you can try to maintain the nitrates and regulate the pH levels of your tank on a regular basis.

· Problems with the Leaves:

If it seems that your Rotala plants are losing more leaves than they should, it could probably be a consequence of inadequate exposure to the light. The lower leaves are more likely to face this problem since it’s a little difficult for the light to reach there.

Preferable remedy: Try readjusting your plant so that more light reaches towards the lower leaves. If adjusting the plant doesn’t seem to be ideal, then make amendments with the placement of lights.

Author’s note: If you notice holes in the leaves then consider it an alarm and take appropriate actions too. Fortunately, this problem could be cured with making proper changes in the light settings.

· Problems with the Growth:

If your plant’s growth isn’t up to the mark or stagnant, it could be a sign of lacking nitrates in the tank water.

Preferable remedy: Ensuring that your tank consists of essential nutrients to supply your plant sufficiently could be your key to overcoming this problem.

Tank Recommendations

Tank Facts
Minimum Size 10 gallons
Water Temperature 72°F to 82°F
CO2 Need Not mandatory
pH Level 6.0 to 7.5

Ideal Tank Size

To help your Rotala indica thrive, the aquarium tank size should be more than 10 gallons. One of the main reasons why smaller tanks aren’t preferable is simply because the plan might end up occupying a lot of space, making it difficult for its tank mates to live freely.

Even trimming and regular cleaning could be more difficult given the lack of space in the tank. A Rotala indica could end up getting denser very quickly, which could be great for the way it looks in your aquarium! It should be evenly spread, though. It’s likely to suffocate the lifestyle of the organisms that take shelter in its leaves if the tank isn’t big enough.


The sand acts as an excellent substrate for Rotala indica, but it’d thrive better if you opt for specialty aquatic plant substrate. The plant-based substrate could be a great way to look after the health of your Rotala indica, and it creates a pleasant and enhanced habitat for your aquatic plants.

The suitable substrate could also help you keep the pH water level under control. Other most commonly known substrates are sand, crushed marble, gravel, and even dirt. But if you are not sure about the best substrate for your Rotala indica, it can be happily planted in the sand.

Lighting Requirement

Your Rotala indica is going to appreciate loads of aquarium light while thriving in your tank! It would be better for your plant’s growth if you expose it to a full spectrum of light for up to 8 hours every day.

You can allow 4 to 5 watts of power per gallon of water to achieve better growth. True, the plant is good at tolerating lower levels of light. But it will need higher levels of light to be at its best.

Author’s note: Under the most favorable light settings, the plants belonging to the Rotala family may grow up to 1 inch per week. In that case, you should feel good about being able to take care of the plant so well, but also stay prepared to trim it regularly.

Water Parameters

A versatile and wide plethora of freshwater environments is ideal for every Rotala indica. Talking about the water temperature, ideally, it should be anywhere between 72F to 82F. You should stimulate the freshwater environment of your aquarium to make it resemble a standard tropical condition.

You can do so by ensuring that your water hardness is scaled between 3 to KH. Maintaining an ideal pH level of 6.0 to 7.5 would be a great add-on! High volumes of lights are significantly critical for the wellness of your Rotala indica.

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Pro Tip: This plant tends to grow towards the light. It makes it important for you to ensure that your lighting is placed correctly, preferably right above the surface of the water.

Ideal Tankmates

Quiet and gentle fish make best friends with Rotala indica in a tank. It’s not advisable to put aggressive or hyper-active fish, such as freshwater sharks with a Rotala indica in a tank due to the fragility of the plant. Actively swimming fishes are more likely to harm the plant to a great extent.

Many fish species known as uprooters have a habit of consistently dislodging the roots from their substrate. Since your plant might have a hard time staying grounded when it’s young, it won’t be a wise choice to pair your Rotala indica with one of these fishes.

Some of the best and ideal tank-mates for Rotala indica would be:

  • Tetras – peaceful tetras are great to have with R. Indica
  • Cichlids – can be aggressive and may graze on the plant’s leaves, so they should only be added after the aquarium has been established.
  • Guppies- Like cichlids, guppies should only be added after the established aquarium.
  • Catfish (corys) can be kept with Rotala Indica without any problems.
  • Plants are the best choice to keep with R. Indica because they coexist peacefully while also benefitting each other.
  • Amano shrimp can help keep algae at bay.
  • Buckeye (Snail) Shrimp feed on leftover fish food that falls to the substrate instead of eating Rotala Indica’s leaves like other species of shrimp do because they’re omnivores.
  • Ghost Shrimp (in brackish water is fine) are another species that feed on leftover fish food instead of Rotala Indica’s leaves.
  • Invertebrates such as hermit crabs and sea monkeys are generally peaceful, but aggression can occur if there aren’t enough shells for all the hermit crabs. They work great as tank cleaners removing leftover food from the substrate.
  • Bettas and gourami are generally peaceful bottom feeders.
  • Loaches may eat the plant’s leaves at night, but they mostly feed on snails, leftover food, and algae, so they can be considered a good tankmate.
  • Large Plecos such as Sailfin Pleco (Panaque) and Bristlenose Catfish (Ancistrus) will eat algae and leftover food and won’t cause any damage to leaves.
  • Goldfish and Mollies can be kept with Rotala Indica.
  • Otocinclus are great tank cleaners – and they do not harmthe plant.
  • Siamese Algae Eaters are also safe to keep with them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why does my Rotala have a small leaf?

A. If you feel like the leaves of your Rotala indica aren’t growing as quickly or large as they should, then it could be a result of nutrition deficiency. You should also make sure that your water has sufficient iron, and you can use liquid iron fertilizer for that. If you have planted the Rotala indica in the sand, you should try to replace the sand with a plant-based substrate safely.

Q. How to turn Rotala leaves red from green?

A. The Rotala aquatic plant should be properly exposed to an appropriate amount of light for up to 8 hours a day. It’s advisable to use LED lights, and you can also try limiting the supply of nitrates to an extent for turning your red Rotala aquarium plant redder.

Q. What should I do if my Rotala indica is emersed?

A. If your plant immerses the water’s surface, the next option would be to trim or prune it. You need to be a little careful while cutting it to the required height and replant the tops back into the sand or substrates. It will also result in a thicker and denser bush.

Q. Does Rotala indica require care every day?

A. Rotala indicais very easy to grow even if you are a beginner, and it can tolerate a variety of water parameters while thriving. One of the remarkable characteristics of this plant is that it doesn’t require the aquarium to be injected with carbon dioxide once it is well-grounded and healthy.

Q. Are there any other types of Rotala aquarium plants?

A. Yes, the most commonly found types of Rotala plant are Rotala rotundifolia, Rotala rotundifolia‘Green, ’Rotala rotundifolia’Red, ’Rotala macrandra – Giant Red Rotala, Rotala macrandra ‘Green’ – Giant Green Rotala, and Rotala wallichii.

Final Remarks

These characteristics make the Rotala indica aquarium plant widely renowned amongst enthusiasts. Its undemanding, carefree and colorful nature could be your reason to buy it for your tank!

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior and Welfare

  • University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK (2014-2018)

Writing Experience

Victoria has done ghostwriting for many aquarium and pet websites in the past. She has also worked for Canada's largest natural health magazine- ALIVE, with 300,000 monthly circulations as a freelancer. She had six published articles on animal behavior and welfare during her graduation for her thesis.

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