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Rotala macrandra

Jeff asked about growing R. macrandra.  I think of it as a very stable plant
and once you give it what it needs, it's a strong performer and a plant
whose coloration can be manipulated quite easily.  One can also greatly
reduce the phenomenon of the lower leaves dropping off by careful management
of nutrients.  First of all let me say, that ALL of my experience is soft
water-based.  I simply don't know a thing about how the plant performs in
harder water, except to say that I know folks with hard water who grow
macrandra well.  And second, I believe many water mains in Europe have
relatively high nitrates and I know that many European aquarists grow
macrandra well-so one of my observations re nitrate levels must have been
solved by aquarists with high nitrate levels or is perhaps untrue.  

My general impression is that macrandra benefits from relatively higher
nutrient levels, excluding nitrates.  Red coloration in macrandra is easily
manipulated with macronutrients.  Lower levels of nitrate and higher levels
of phosphate lead to striking red coloration.  Macrandra is almost the polar
opposite of Eusteralis stellata.  Conditions which bring out red coloration
in macrandra cause ES to become quite green.  (The plants are fun to grow
together as cell mates.  :))  The particular combination of phosphate at
around 1 ppm (just after dosing) and nitrate in the 2 - 5 ppm range (with
adequate light, CO2, micronutrients and potassium) produces a striking blood
orange red coloration in macrandra.  And unlike ES, red coloration in
macrandra does not appear to involve nutrient distress or leaf senescence.
Leafy, wavy, fluffy, blood orange red macrandra appears quite healthy to my

 Here are the particulars that I use to obtain good results with macrandra:

Lighting -  2+ watts per gallon;  I have used both MH and CF bulbs in the
5000 K range.
Temp -  76 to 82 degrees, depending on the tank.
pH -  6.6 - 7.2  (In the range I operate in I have not noticed any
preferences that RM has.)
KH -  3 - 6 degrees
Ca (ppm)-  17 ppm - 50 ppm ( as CaCo3, I think)
Mg (ppm)-  about half the Ca level, but this ratio has not appeared to
matter much to RM.
Cl (ppm)-  ??
Fe (ppm)-  0.1 ppm - 0.2 ppm after dosing
additives/frequency (PMDD, KNO3, CaCl, CaSO4, etc...)  I use KNO3 and also
K2SO4, if necessary
Substrate/additives/cables...  I use laterite with gravel and have never
used cables.

Anything else you can think of...  
I would carefully and slowly pull the nutrient levels up, excluding nitrate
(but don't let nitrates drop to zero).  CO2:  15 - 25 ppm; K: 15 - 25 ppm;
add some level of traces other than iron regularly.  I have grown macrandra
well with Tropica Master Grow and the SeaChem products.  At the moment I'm
getting spectacular coloration using the SeaChem line.  

If you're patient and learn how to grow macrandra well, you'll have learned
quite a bit about plant nutrition and will be well-situated to try some of
the other more difficult species.  Above all else, have fun!  :)  I can
finally honestly say that when a plant fails for me, I'm excited by the
challenge and eager to attempt to figure out what is going on.  It is a
great pleasure for me when a plant that has failed 5 or 6 times comes around
and thrives in one of my tanks.  For several years macrandra failed for me
sort of spontaneously every so often and I was clueless re the cause.  Now
it is a reliable centerpiece in my main tank.

Good luck and best regards, 
Steve Dixon in San Francisco