A fractal analytical method was used to examine the developmental responses of root systems in upland rice genotype CT9993-5-10-1-M (japonica) and lowland genotype IR62266-42-6-2 (indica) (abbreviated as CT9993 and IR62266, respectively) to soil water stress. The root systems were grown for one month in root boxes with 25 cm in length, 2 cm in width and 40 cm in depth, which were filled with soil. The root systems were sampled by following the needle-pin board method, and then spread on the transparent plastic films with nets after carefully washing out the soils. The two-dimensional images of root systems were digitized by using a scanner. The digitized images were used for analysis based on fractal geometry with the box-counting method. The reductions in shoot dry weight, photosynthesis rate and transpiration rate of IR62266 by soil drought were greater than those of CT9993. The change of fractal parameters in response to soil moisture conditions differed between the two rice genotypes. The values of fractal abundance (FA) and fractal dimension (FD) in well-watered IR62266 plants were larger than in CT9993. The value of FA of IR62266 was decreased more by drought stress than that of CT9993, indicating that the volume of soils explored by the whole root systems of CT9993 was maintained or less decreased in response to drought stress in comparison to IR62266. Moreover, the values of FD tended to increase in CT9993 while it tended to decrease in IR62266 in response to drought. These root responses detected by the fractal analysis in CT9993 may be advantageous for its extracting more water from drying soils, which explains its better growth under drought stressed condition.