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Rotala macrandra and Laterite

>I have a few questions for all you plant experts.  First, i have a plant

>was labeled rotala at the pet shop but i don't think it is.  The farther

>you go on the plant the rounder the leaves get.  At the very bottom

>nearly circle and at the newly emerging tips they are more like

>triangles.  It is quite a fast growing plant ( i'm estimating one

>per day.)  

It certainly sounds like R. macrandra. (red Rotala)  The round leaves are
the emerse grown foliage.  The triangular ones are the ones that have
grown since the plant was submerged.

>What is this plant and how do i trim it because it has reached the

>surface.  I'm thinking just cut the bottom of the stalk of with a pair

>scissors but is this going to disturb anything?  

You can cut across the stems and replant the tops.  Like many other stem
plants, the bottom will regrow (usually branching just below the cut) and
the top will grow roots to become a new plant.  I find that I get far
more branching and productivity if I wait till at least some of the stems
are draped across the water surface before cutting them.

>Second, in my geography

>class (9th grade) my teacher is telling is that laterite is a

>rainforest soil that has nearly no nutrients and is hard for roots to

>penatrate?  If this is true why do we use it for our plant tanks?

He is not wrong, but we do not use a solid layer of laterite, we mix it
with gravel.  Therefore it is not hard packed.  Not all laterite is
created equal, and some contains more useful trace elements than others. 
Also, some contain minerals (mainly aluminum) that we do _not_ want in
the aquarium.  For a complete article on laterite, see the Dupla web
page: <underline>http://www.dupla.com/ </underline>

Karen Randall

Aquatic Gardeners Association