Archive for the Plant Profiles Category

Rotala rotundifolia

Posted in Plant Profiles with tags , on November 5, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

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Rotala rotundifolia

Rotala rotundifolia is probably one of the easiest Rotala sp. we encounter in our hobby. It may also most probably be the first stem plant a new comer to the planted tank hobby generally walks out with from a local fish store due to its ease of availability. Aspiring aquascapers are attracted to the beautiful small pinkish red leaves of this plant. Even tough it’s an easy plant to grow and maintain in an aquascape it requires a good amount of light and proper fertilization to show its true beauty.

R. rotundifolia is a common marsh plant found through out Southeast Asia from India all the way to Japan. Recently there have been reports of its introduction in Florida and Alabama. Emergent growth of R. rotundifolia is distinctly different than the underwater foliage. Some times in an open top aquarium when periodic trimming is neglected R. rotundifolia starts putting out thick round leaves on stems over the water. These round leaves give this plant its common name “Roundleaf Toothcup”. If one is lucky enough these emergent stems will also bear beautiful pink inflorescence at the tip. When observed closely this inflorescence is actually a group of tiny pink flower. The inflorescence can be used to differentiate between R. rotundifolia and R. indica which looks very similar. R. rotundifolia is commonly mislabeled as R. indica in aquarium shops, but both are actually different species.

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Underwater R. rotundifolia has small lanceolate leaves. The color of leaves can vary from green to deep red. When grown in medium light, the leaves will remain green. For the plant to show its beautiful red leaves it requires a lot of light along with a good amount of iron dosing. Under high light R. rotundifolia stems grow at a slant angle instead of growing vertically up. This particular habit of the plant can be used to a great advantage while aquascaping creating dense beautiful hedge creeping over some rocks. Consistent trimming must be done to shape the hedge. Leaving the stem bottoms in the substrate instead of replanting the stem tops helps to achieve the required plant density. After trimming, new buds emerge from the nodes between the petiole and the stem.

R. rotundifolia does well in a variety of water conditions ranging from soft to slightly hard. It is also quiet undemanding compared to other species from this genus. Even though it can be grown in inert substrate like sand with adequate water column fertilization, fertile substrates like ADA Amazonia benefit the plant significantly.

Finally R.rotundifolia is a good beginner plant which can be used to a great advantage in an aquascape.

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Rotala macrandra

Posted in Plant Profiles with tags , on October 20, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

Rotala macrandra is a plant which has been long been considered by aquatic plant enthusiast to be the most beautiful red plant you could add to your aquascape, but it is also considered one of the more difficult plant to keep. The delicate red wavy leaves of this plant can add a strong focal point to an aquascape. The red leaves help in drawing attention into the aquascape , while the beautiful wavy leaves helps to give a soft impression to the aquascape when used with other delicate looking plants.

R.macrandra can be used as a background plant in medium to large aquariums. When provided the right conditions for growth the stems tend to grow fast towards the light and then form floating leaves along the surface. These top leaves are always redder than the leaves lower down the stem. Rotala macrandra originates from India. This plant needs a lot of light to show its beautiful red color supplemented with good CO2 and a proper fertilization regime. Over the years a lot of people have speculated what causes the plant to turn red. The oldest and the most widely believed claim recommends adding enough chelated iron combined with good lighting to bring out the best in this plant. Some people have claimed that limiting the NO3, while maintaining relatively high levels of P would produce large, deep red leaves. Iron and micro-nutrient dosing will also need to be sufficient. I cannot confirm the validity of the above claims as I never measure the water parameters in my tank but in my experience taking care of major factors like light, fertile substrate and CO2 should solve 80% of the problems associated with cultivating this plant.

R. macrandra is available through a lot of online plant dealers and is also regularly available at most LFS. In my opinion there is a small trick when selecting R.macrandra stems. When selecting R.macrandra stems always select a bunch in which stems show some inter nodal roots. My observation has lead me to believe that when we select stems which do not have inter-nodal roots , the stem rot off faster than the plant can form new roots. R.macrandra has a tendency to lose leaves on the lower part of the stem like other stem plants as time progresses. Proper placement of mid-ground plants should help to cover this unsightly section of the plant. R.macrandra can be propagated by cutting the tops of the stem and replanting them in place of the old ones or you could just leave the cut sections of the stem in place which will develop new shoots. Consistent trimming can produce beautiful bushy look. R. macrandra has been widely used in both Nature Aquarium and Dutch aquascapes for a long time.R macrandra can be a great addition to any aquascape but is certainly not a plant for novice.

Hydrocotyle verticillata

Posted in Plant Profiles with tags , on October 3, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

Hydrocotyle verticillata

Hydrocotyle verticillata even tough a common marsh plant through out the southern states of North America is not as establish in the planted tank hobby as the other member of the genus Hydrocotyle leucocephala. This probably is attributed to the difficulty of growing this specie underwater. H.verticillata is commonly known as the Whorled Pennywort or Sheild Pennywort. Hydrocotyle verticillata can be found growing all year round throughout Texas wherever there is moist to wet soil. There are a few people I know who ordered this plant from online dealers later to find out this plant growing like weed in there own backyard. I have found large groups of this plant growing in quiet a few place around my house. Even though considered as a perennial plant this plant suffers quiet a bit in the Texan summer. I have found that during summer only group of plants in well shaded locations survive. H.verticillata can be found growing submersed in large groups in fast flowing water of San Marcos River all year around. The water temperature of this river stays around 72 °F all year.

H.verticillata growing on the bank of San Marcos River.

H. verticillata is considered a moderately difficult plant to grow submersed. It requires a lot of light supplemented with good carbon dioxide addition and regular fertilization. Lack of nitrogen will cause quick yellowing of the older leaves. It also likes soft and slightly acidic water. I have been growing this plant both emersed and submersed. H.verticillata is a fast growing weed when grown on land in sunlight as well as when grown emersed under lights. But its rate of growth significantly differs when grown underwater. It grows painstakingly slow. The stem of this plant grows along the substrate with 1-2 leaves growing upright at each node. The height of leaf stalk in an aquarium is decided by the amount of light. I had this plant growing under 65w of light in a 10 gallon aquarium. The maximum height to which it got was 1-1.5”. In low light tanks the leaf stalks try to reach out towards the light and hence can have long stalks. When I first started with this plant I planted it in two different tanks one with Aquasoil Amazonia II and one with just plain river sand. The few nodes which I planted in Amzonia II sent out new leaves within a couple of weeks of planting, but the ones in river plant took a lot longer than that. This makes me believe that it appreciates a nutritious substrate. This plant can also be grown as a floating plant. If grown as a floating plant it will appreciate a lot of nutrients in the water column. This plant has small white flowers growing in tight group on the tip of the stalk.

I haven’t seen H.verticillata been used by a lot of aquascapers in their aquascapes. This probably is due to the unique leaf shape which makes it difficult to incorporate in a scape. Mr. Takashi Amano has used this plant in quiet a few of his earlier scapes as a foreground plant. The most memorable use of this plant was in his scape called “Grace of Angles” from AquaJournal Vol.18 (December 1995). A picture of this scape pops in my mind every time I see this plant. H.verticillata’s unique leaf shape and easy availability prompted me to use it in “Boraras Dream”. It was placed in this scape on the extreme left corner to draw attention of the viewer to that corner while adding interest to that shaded section. In a small aquascaped tank H. verticillata can be used as accent plant to draw attention to its unusual leaf shape. In larger tanks it can be used as the main foreground plant. I belive a lot of aquascapers will appreciate the slow growth of this plant underwater. It does not get unruly like Glossostigma elatinoides or Echinodorus tenellus. If you can satisfy all its need H.verticillata can be a great addition to any aquascape.