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trimming "jungle val"

My jungle val has leaves over 3 feet long in my 20 gallon aquarium.  They 
sort of wind around at the surface.  It is becoming a problem because they 
are blocking too much light.  When I trim the leaves, they stop growing and 
slowly "rust", start to die, and become a home for algae.  I don't remember 
this being a problem when the aquarium was unheated and had goldfish.  I 
though Vallisneria was a grass, and thus grew from the base rather than the 
leaf tips.  Should I be able to trim the leaves when they reach the surface, 
or do I have to remove the outer leaves entirely when they get too big.