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Synonyms: Rotala pusilla (erroneous)
Hardiness: Moderate
Light Needs: High
Plant Structure: Stem
Family: Lythraceae
Genus: Rotala
Region: Central/South America, Africa, Asia, Australia
Location: Worldwide in warm areas
Size: Stem width: 2-4 cm (1-1.5 in)
Growth Rate: Fast
Can Be Grown Emersed: Yes


Rotala mexicana is a relatively new stem plant to the aquarium hobby. It is native to many tropical and subtropical regions the world over including South America, Western Africa, Australia and Japan. It isn't surprising then, that it shows a great deal of variation. Befitting a plant with such a wide distribution, it also has several synonyms in the scientific literature, of which R. pusilla - the name which formerly headed this article - is one.

First available through the Japanese company Rayon Vert as Rotala sp. 'Araguaia', the form shown in the photos above is now becoming more widely available through trade among hobbyists. Forms from Australia and elsewhere remain rare and difficult to obtain in North America.

As far as growth is concerned, this South American form of R. mexicana is very much a plant that either goes boom or bust. It requires strong, unimpeded light, ample carbon dioxide, and abundant macro and micro nutrients. Make sure it gets all of those things; it will often respond to their absence by stunting, remaining smaller and blackening. Lower nitrate levels will make its red stem redder but are generally not advisable because of the danger of stunting, although higher iron levels can compensate for the difference. When conditions are to its liking, it grows rapidly and vigorously, stopping just short of weed status. Propagation in good conditions poses no problem as it branches often.

Like its cousin R. rotundifolia, R. mexicana 'Araguaia' is an excellent background plant. It can also make an excellent hedge for a mid-ground planting if the aquascaper doesn't mind a little extra trimming. Its reddish stems and pointed yellowish-green leaves make it a beautiful and highly recommended species for anyone able to provide the required conditions.

Photo #1: US and International Copyright 2005 by Jay Luto All Rights Reserved.

Photo #2: US and International Copyright 2005 by Jay Luto All Rights Reserved..