Sunday, September 2, 2018

Emersed Project: Rotala 'bonsai''

What would you do with trimming stalks of aquatic plants after tank maintenance? Put for sale? Or giving it for free to fellow hobbyist? Or throw it away?

There is another option: planting it emersed. 😊

I would like to write down step-by-step planting Rotala 'bonsai' emersed for your reference. This plant is beautiful underwater. Below are some of the  photos taken from my tank before it was trimmed.  

Beautiful Rotala 'bonsai' in the tank (submersed condition)
It needs frequent trimming to get a bushy shape

Trimming stalked

What you need for planting emersed are quite simple. A jar, scissors and tweezers, soil (here I use AquaSoil) and of course the trimming plant stalks. 

What you need to prepare before planting
First, add aqua-soil in the jar with about 5cm soil depth which is good enough for stem plants to spread the roots.

Aqua-soil was added in the jar
Next, add in water which is just above the soil surface level, which stimulates the "swamp environment". :)
Water was added just above the soil level
After that, you can start planting trimming stalks by using tweezers to push the stalks into soil. You can plant stalk by stalk or 2-3 stalks at a time. 

My daughter was helping me to plant Rotala 'bonsai' in the jar

Planting started
Rotala 'bonsai' was planted densely in the jar
After planting done, using a Cling-wrap plastic sheet to cover the top of the jar to keep high moisture environment in the jar. It is really essential to keep high-level moisture during this transition period so that plants can adapt accordingly from submersed from to emersed form. In nature, it happens for the plants along the riverside, whereby water raise-up and lower down from time to time. Aquatic plants in nature can adapt to those changes fast since it has an existing strong rooting system. For the emersed planting project, plant stalks taken from a fully submersed environment where nutrients can be uptaken from soil and also water column. Once it is planted in emersed from, there is no water column, hence rooting system takes important roles for plant development.  we need to keep the high moisture environment until plant roots develop for its nutrients uptake from the soil itself.  

You can poke some holes on Cling-wrap sheet after covering the jar. It would give better ventilation in the jar to prevent molding and plants can get more CO2 from the atmosphere. A few holes are enough for the ventilation and at the same time, still can keep high moisture environment. :)
Cling-wrap was covered on top of the jar. 
The plant jar was kept outdoor to receive natural sunlight. I keep it in a good lighting place but not under direct sunlight to prevent it became "steam vegetable". :) It is necessary to keep the plant in check daily to ensure plants leave is moist. Spraying mist daily is also good during this transition period.
Spraying daily is good during this transition period
After a week time, signs of root spreading could be seen from outside jar.

After a week, a sign of root spreading could be seen.
After 2 weeks, more roots were spreading out. At this time, you can poke more holes on the Cling-wrap daily to get the plants gradually get use to the emersed environment. 
After 2 weeks, more roots were spreading out
At this time, more new emersed leave could be seen from the stems. Cling-wrap could be opened more and more gradually.

New emersed leaves after 2 weeks planted
After 4 weeks, Cling-wrap was totally opened. Rotala 'bonsai' is now in fully emersed form. New emersed leaves sprouting nicely.
After 4 weeks, new emersed leave popping out nicely

Cling-wrap was removed totally
After 6 weeks, plants had grown very well and got much taller. Spraying mist on plants daily is recommended. Also, keep a check on the water level in the jar daily to make sure the soil does not dry up. Water level in the jar should be kept at soil level without any ponding to prevent mosquito breeding. 

Rotala 'bonsai' after 6 weeks plant emersed.
After 2 months, plants was fully grown at the prime. Time to capture some photos. :)

Rotala 'bonsai' after 2 months planting emersed.

The emersed leaves are in a shiny dark-green colour and stems are turning reddish 

The tip of leaves looked beautiful!

Dark green colours of emersed leaves

Strong healthy stalks
The jar is now can be placed on your studying desk or work place where adequate light needed. You can also harvest the stalks and plant submersed in the tank.

The process of planting other aquatic plants emersed can be a bit different base on each species. Nevertheless, the steps should be about the same.  

I hope you find the journal is useful. Happy planting! 

Cheerio! :)


  1. thanks for this! I am going to try this with my own Rotala Bonsai! I have trouble growing Rotala bonsai.. so maybe this is a good way to save some of the plants if they all die in my aquarium!

    Any tips for keeping them alive in the tank? Rotala Bonasai

    1. Thanks for reaching out.

      Rotala 'bonsai' is kind of easy-going plants. It would be better to grow it in the tank with CO2 injection and good lighting. Better lighting would make the tips reddish/orangish in colour. :)

  2. Lovely planted tank and good tips. Here is what I sometimes do, I just drop the cuttings into a shallow bowl and then let them grow out of the water by themselves. Then I can clip some of the tops and put their bottoms in water to grow some roots and then pot them up like regular potted plants. I keep some of almost all my aquarium plants planted in pots in my greenhouse where I can clip them as I need them for the aquariums.

    1. Wow! That's really a great tip! I will try for myself, too. Thank you. :D

  3. Very well put together. Ty for sharing

  4. Very Nice. Beautiful results
    Thank you for the demonstration.