Guide to Caring for Rotala indica (Aquarium Plant Care)

Alison Page

Alison Page


Rotala indica

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Rotala indica is a beautiful aquarium plant that does well in most well-maintained tropical freshwater tanks, even without CO2 supplementation. This red-leafed plant species is easy to care for and can grow quite tall, making it an ideal choice to create an exciting backdrop to a deep tank setup.

Read this guide to learn everything you need to know about growing and propagating this beginner-friendly plant in your aquarium.

Rotala Indica – Overview

Rotala Indica Info
Scientific NameRotala indica
Common NameIndian Toothcup, India Toothbrush plant
OriginIndia, Southeast Asia
Ease of GrowingEasy
AquascapeMidground and background plant
HeightUp to around 12 inches tall
pH6.0 to 7.5
Ideal Water Temperature72° to 82°F
Growth RateGrows quickly in the right conditions
PropagationTake cuttings and plant them directly in the substrate
Light RequirementModerate to high lighting levels
CO2CO2 is optional but not essential for good plant growth and vibrant coloration

What Is Rotala Indica?

Rotala indica is an easy-care plant that’s also sometimes known as the Indian toothbrush plant or Indian tooth Cup. This is an aquatic plant species that belongs to the Lythraceae family of plants, which is native to Southeast Asia, specifically Bangladesh, Thailand, India, and Myanmar.

This a favorite aquarium plant that’s popular with aquarists because of its vibrant coloration, delicate leaves, and slender stems. The leaves are typically a vibrant reddish-to-green shade, depending on how much light and nutrients are available in your aquarium.

To achieve the best coloration in this plant, you must provide Rotala indica with nutrient supplementation, carbon dioxide injection, and bright lighting.

Rotala indica is extremely versatile and suitable for use in a range of aquatic setups, including high-tech and low-tech aquariums. Since this dense plant is quite fast-growing, regular pruning is required to help keep its shape and prevent it from overtaking the whole tank.

In addition to its aesthetic beauty, Rotala indica is beneficial in aquariums, since it provides hiding places for the vulnerable fish fry, invertebrates, and tiny fish species, helping to create a safe, secure, and natural-looking environment.

Overall, Rotala indica is popular with hobbyists for its ease of cultivation and aesthetic appeal as a beautiful background plant.

Can You Grow Rotala Indica Emersed?

Although Rotala indica is primarily known as an aquatic species, it is possible to grow the plant emersed in a partially submerged environment, which makes the plant suitable for use in garden ponds, paludariums, and terrariums.

If you provide this plant with the optimal growing conditions, you might even see it producing pink flowers on the top of the stem!

When grown emersed, Rotala indica tends to exhibit different growth patterns and leaf structure than when grown in its submerged form.

For example, the leaves typically grow rounder and larger and often lose some of their bright colorations. That is simply a natural adaptation to growing in an emersed environment and does not indicate any problem with the plant itself.

Here’s a quick guide on how to grow Rotala indica through emersion:


Use a well-draining substrate or aquarium soil that is specifically formulated for aquatic plants. The substrate should retain moisture without becoming waterlogged.


When grown emersed, Rotala indica needs high humidity levels to thrive. That is best achieved by covering the whole setup with a transparent plastic cover or using a humidifier.

To maintain humidity and prevent the leaves from drying out, I recommend removing the cover once or twice a day and lightly misting the plant.


Rotala indica plants require bright indirect light for the healthiest emersed growth. You can use fluorescent lights with a color temperature of around 6500K. LED grow lights also work well.


When growing Rotala indica emersed, you need to water the plant regularly and keep the substrate moist without overdoing things. If the substrate becomes waterlogged, the plant will suffer from root rot and could die.


Indian Toothcup plants prefer a consistent emersed growing temperature of between 68° and 82°F for optimal growth.

Rotala Indica – Care Guide

Rotala indica is a lovely plant for both beginner and experienced hobbyists alike. Provided you give the plant the correct conditions and include some additional nutrient support in the form of liquid fertilizer or root tabs, you should be able to grow this beautiful species successfully in your fish tank.

Tank Size

Plant experts advise that Rotala indica is generally better when grown in a large aquarium where there is plenty of space for the plant to flourish and create dense, bushy growth.

Ideally, I recommend growing this plant in a tank that’s no smaller than 10 gallons, although bigger is definitely better where this plant species is concerned.

Water Parameters

Retala indica grows well in a wide variety of freshwater environments. They are adaptable plants and surprisingly hardy, so provided your aquarium has standard tropical conditions, Rotala indica should be fine.

Rotala indica is a tropical plant that needs a water temperature of between 72° and 82°F, with a pH level in the range of 6.0 to 7.5 and water hardness of 3 to 8 dKH.

Aim to keep water conditions stable, and remember to test the parameters regularly with an accurate aquarium water testing kit.

Lighting Requirements

Rotala indica is quite flexible when it comes to lighting, although if you provide the plant with bright light, it will grow more quickly, become taller, and develop more bushy leaf growth. In addition, the plant leaves may change color, with the stem tips and leaves turning a brighter red color.

If the plant is exposed to lower light levels, it will grow in a more compact form and won’t climb toward the surface as quickly, which makes it much easier to keep it tidy and maintain. In addition, the plant’s leaves will become bigger to enable it to capture as much light as possible.

As with all aquarium plants, Rotala indica needs a standard day-night cycle of between 8 and 10 hours of light every day so that it can photosynthesize.


Because Rotala indica plants have quite fine roots, you need to choose a suitable substrate that the roots can penetrate to provide a firm anchor point for the plant.

For that reason, you might want to use sand or a specialty aquatic plant substrate that also contains plenty of minerals and nutrients to boost plant growth.

The substrate needs to be at least two inches deep to allow the roots to spread and anchor the plant firmly so that it doesn’t float away.

Fertilizer and CO2

Although it’s not strictly necessary to provide Rotala indica with fertilizer, adding liquid nutrients or using root tabs will give the plant an additional boost, helping it to grow more vigorously and display brighter colors.

The same goes for CO2 injections. Basically, if you want to use CO2 in the aquarium, your plants will appreciate it, but that’s not essential for Rotala indica.

Planting Rotala Indica

Planting Rotala indica is fairly straightforward. However, remember that this is a tall aquatic plant that must be placed toward the back or around the sides of the aquarium so that it doesn’t overshadow smaller plant species and cut out the light they need.

The plants you buy from your fish store are young specimens that are only around six inches tall. These plants have a fragile root system, so you need to plant them carefully to ensure they don’t float away.

Use a pair of sharp scissors to snip away any dead leaves or damaged stems. Prepare a spot in your substrate, and then use long aquascaping tweezers to place the bottom of the stems into the substrate gently.

I find it works well to place the stems at a slight angle rather than straight up and down so that the substrate helps to hold them in place. Alternatively, you could try using some small pieces of stone arranged around the bottom of the stem to anchor it.


Remember that if you provide it with plenty of nutrients, CO2, and bright lighting, healthy Rotala indica grows pretty quickly and can easily overrun your aquarium if you don’t keep on top of routine pruning and maintenance tasks.

To keep the plant tidy and under control, all you need to do is use some sharp scissors to snip off the stem’s top just above the spot where two leaves emerge.

When you have finished pruning your plant, remember to clean up any debris and remove it from the water before it begins to decompose and pollute your tank

What Are Good Tank Mates for Rotala Indica?

Once it’s established, Rotala indica is an ideal plant for peaceful community fish tanks that are home to small, easy-going fish that won’t try to dig up or eat the plants.

You can also safely put shrimp in the same tank as Rotala indica, although I would double-check that any freshwater aquatic snail species you fancy adding to your setup are plant-safe.

So, fish species such as tetras, danios, platies, mollies, guppies, and the like are perfect for a tank containing Rotala indica.

Shrimp and non-plant-eating snails can make entertaining little members of a community and help to keep the tank tidy by grazing on leftover fish food and general organic detritus.

I would avoid keeping freshwater crayfish and crabs in the same tank as Rotala indica, as both these creatures are well known to be destructive and will quickly wreak havoc in any planted tank.

Rotala indica

How to Propagate Rotala Indica

There are several ways of propagating Rotala indica, all of which are straightforward:

Stem Cutting

The most popular method of propagating Rotala indica is by taking stem cuttings from your original plants.

  • Choose a healthy well-established stem of the parent plant.
  • Use a pair of sharp scissors or a clean razor blade to cut a piece of the stem that contains at least three or four leaf nodes.
  • Remove the lower leaves from the stem, leaving just a few of the upper leaves intact.
  • Plant the cutting in the substrate, ensuring at least one or two growth nodes are buried.

After a week or so, the baby plant should send out roots and gradually become an established, brand-new plant.

Side Shoots

Rotala indica often sends out lateral branches or side shoots, which you can cut from the plant and replant in the substrate as individual stems.

Use the method described above to prepare and plant your cuttings.


As described earlier, you can grow Rotala indica emersed in a paludarium or terrarium. Follow the instructions in that section of this guide to plant cuttings taken from the main parent plant or side shoots.


Once the Indian Toothcup plant is established in your aquarium, it’s a resilient, hardy species, provided you give the plant all the nutrients and bright lighting it needs to thrive.

However, sometimes a few problems can occur.

Insufficient Lighting

The Rotala indica plant needs moderate to high lighting conditions to show its best growth. If the plant doesn’t get sufficient light, the stems will become stringy, and the leaves won’t show their best colors.

If the plant appears to be struggling, try increasing the light levels and duration.

Inadequate Nutrients

Aquatic plants, including Rotala indica, need macronutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen for good growth. If your plants aren’t getting enough of those nutrients, the leaves can become pale, and the plant won’t grow well.

Consider using root tabs or a balanced liquid fertilizer to give the plant more of the nutrients it needs and encourage a boom in growth.

CO2 Deficiency

Although you can grow Rotala indica without using CO2, the plant will benefit from supplemental carbon dioxide injections in the aquarium water, and sometimes, poor growth and faded colors can be corrected by using liquid carbon or CO2 injections.

Incorrect Water Parameters

If the water parameters in your aquarium don’t suit Rotala indica, its growth might be stunted, or the leaves could deteriorate.

Therefore, check the aquarium water temperature, pH levels, and water hardness are within the plant’s tolerance and make any corrections that are necessary.

Poor Maintenance

As mentioned earlier, constant trimming can help to maintain bushy and healthy growth in this plant species.

Take care to remove any dead or dying leaves so that they don’t impact the overall health of the plant, and trim overgrowth regularly so that the plant doesn’t become leggy and take over your tank.


You can buy Rotala indica from most good aquarium suppliers and fish stores for just a few dollars a pot.

I recommend buying the plant as a 100% sterile tissue culture since that rules out the danger of importing contaminants and pest snails into your aquarium.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now, here are the answers to some of the questions people often ask about growing and caring for Rotala indica:

Q: Does Rotala indica need CO2?

A: Although you don’t need to supplement Rotala indica with CO2 to grow well, CO2 injections will encourage better coloration and bushier growth.

Q: Is Rotala indica easy to grow?

A: Rotala indica is a pretty hardy plant that’s tolerant of a range of water conditions and is relatively easy to grow in tanks without CO2 injection after a period of adjustment.

Q: How tall does Rotala indica grow?

A: When provided with optimum growing conditions, such as bright lighting, CO2 supplementation, and a nutrient-rich substrate, Rotala indica can grow to around 12 inches tall or even more in large tanks and ponds.

However, in a regular tank, the plant generally reaches around 6 inches in height.

Q: Is Rotala indica a stem plant?

A: Yes, Rotala indica is a stem plant that grows vertically and puts out multiple branching stems from its base. The plant is easily propagated by taking cuttings.

Q: Do Rotala indica need substrate?

A: Rotala indica is primarily a root-feeding species that needs a substrate in which to anchor its roots and take up the nutrition it needs for healthy growth.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide on how to grow the beautiful Rotala indica plant. If you did, please remember to share the article with other keen aquarists!

Rotala indica is a tall, fast-growing, aquatic stem plant that produces glorious long leaves in various colors, ranging from bright red and green to pink, depending on the growing conditions.

This plant is easy to grow and propagate, so it’s suitable for beginners and does well in aquariums and in its emersed form in garden ponds, terrariums, and paludariums.

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