If you’ve heard about Indian almond leaves for use by fish keepers and can’t figure out what the heck all the chatter’s about, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post we’re going to dive into the benefits of using them, how to use them well, and how many to use for the best care of fish tank with tannin-friendly fish.
Before we dive in, though, be sure that all the critters and fish you keep in your aquarium are tannin-hardy.
Some species can’t tolerate the tannins (the whole point of the leaves!), so mixing the two could be deadly for your aquatic pals.
What Are Indian Almond Leaves?
The Indian Almond Leaves (also known as catappa leaves) grow on Terminalia catappa trees. This plant is native to tropical freshwater water regions of Australia, Africa, and Asia.
Author Note: While these plants are part of the leadwood family of trees native to tropical waters, they have recently become introduced to America.
These plants have some uses in aquariums. The typical use is to help lower the pH levels in the tank and lower instances of fungus and bacteria in the water. In addition, these plants will leach the toxins out of the water, which will cause the plant to develop yellow and brown coloring.
For those wanting a plant for a freshwater shrimp tank or betta fish tank, the Indian almond is a great choice. They enjoy eating the leaves from the plant.
When this plant is harvested, it’s picked up leaf by leaf. After the leaf has been cleaned and dried correctly, it is ready for use in the pond or tank you wish to use it in. Most people use this plant to order directly from another country, but some stores carry this plant.
What Do Indian Almond Leaves Do in Aquariums?
Indian Almond Leaves offer a wide range of benefits to the aquariums they live in. After being placed in a tank they will start to decompose and turn yellow or brown.
The plants release tannis that will help lower the pH level of the water as well as give reduce bacteria and fungus in the tank.
If you have fish which are suffering from tin rot, this plant can help. This plant can’t heal fin rot but it can remove the toxins in the water causing the infection.
Another great use for Indian Almond Leaves is if you are raising fry. They are incredibly sensitive to any tank changes so having these leaves will help keep them safe and healthy.
The health benefits from this plant come from it’s natural place. They grow on trees and help to prevent bacteria and fungi from forming on the tree.
Indian Almond Leaves Lower pH Levels in the Water
One of the biggest helps that Indian almond leaves provide is the lowering of pH levels and the softening of water. Many fish species do better in these lower levels (but it should be noted that many don’t!).
They also help to stabilize water conditions for easier care over all.
Indian Almond Leaves Help Reduce Stress
Many fish come from naturally darker, murky waters. Bright, clear water in fish tanks can actually cause stress for these fish. Stress, in turn, weakens their immune systems, results in fin rot, and overall morale among the fishes is down.
Author Note: Indian almond leaves can help dramatically improve all these areas for your fish, partially because they make the water darker and give it a more natural environment feel, more like what they’re used to.
Just bear in mind that the leaves leach tannins into the water, so not all fish and critters can safely live with them.
Indian Almond Leaves Have Medicinal Properties
Okay, so if there was a magic healing herb for fish, Indian almond leaves are about as close to that as we could hope to get.
They have both antibacterial properties and antifungal properties, meaning that fish who typically become ill (and can handle tannins in the water) can actually bolster their immune systems by having Indian almond leaves in their fish tanks.
To do this, just add the leaves (or almond leaf extract) and let them be. The fish will consume the properties, boosting their systems naturally without any extra help from you.
Indian Almond Leaves Decompose Slowly
Okay, so, yes, the leaves themselves decompose while in the aquarium water, but they do so slowly. And while they do it, they provide extended benefits to your take, unlike other dried leaves that decompose quickly and may actually wind up causing issues.
Indian Almond Leaves Provide Protect for Fish Fry
Just like human babies, fish and eel babies (fry) are susceptible to danger and need lots of protection and care. In the case of fish, they also need protection from mama and papa at times, but I digress.
Because of this need for cover, Indian almond leaves are a great choice for tanks with fish fry. They provide protecting from other fish and general shelter, plus they are great for maintaining a good amount of infusoria in the fish tank.
Infusoria, if you didn’t know, are microorganisms that act as a food source for fish fry, thanks to their tiny structure. Other aquatic animals love to snack on them, too, including snails, shrimp, and small fish species.
Indian Almond Leaves Provide a Food Source for Shrimp
Indian almond leaves are good news for your shrimp species. They love to nosh on the leaves once they start decomposing. Dwarf shrimp in particular go ga-ga over them and gobble them down until they’ve vanished.
Indian Almond Leaves Can Help Create the Right Blackwater Environment
Blackwater fish prefer soft water and lower pH levels, which Indian almond leaves help with. They also give a darkness to the water that helps those fish feel safer and happier overall.
Indian Almond Leaves Give Cover for Breeding
Some fish are pretty shy when it comes to breeding. And, interestingly enough, Indian almond leaves can help give them some of the privacy they crave when the mood strikes.
The dark environment created by the leaves helps encourage breeding in shyer fish by giving them protection against predators in this uniquely vulnerable time.
Author Note: Even if no predators are present, they can still help, as they help your fish feel less vulnerable. Their world is pretty small, sure, but they’re still functioning on natural instinct.
Indian Almond Leaves Can Function as Substrate
Yep, you read that right. These leaves can actually function as substrate for your tank, replacing sand or gravel, depending on the types of fish you’re keeping.
You will want some other materials as substrate with them, though, as they tend to be very dark. Combine them with other leaves to relieve that issue. Think magnolia and oak leaves.
Pros and Cons of Using Indian Almond Leaves in Aquariums
Using Indian almond leaves has both pros and cons for you and your aquarium. Just a few of them include:
Pros of Using Indian Almond Leaves
- They lower pH levels
- They create a more natural environment for dark water tanks
- They help encourage breeding for certain species
- They have healing properties that help fish heal
- They provide certain species with food – especially small fish and fish fry
Cons of Using Indian Almond Leaves
- Not all fish and invertebrates like lower pH levels
- They turn the water brownish, so they’re not as great for the overall aesthetics for many aquarists
When Should I Use Indian Almond Leaves?
Okay, so, now the question is, who should use Indian almond leaves and when.
In some cases, these leaves can be a luxury, in others a necessity. If, for instance, you have some fish infected or ill, Indian almond leaves could literally be a life saver, helping those fish fight off the disease.
Or if your goal is to encourage breeding in some fish species, adding a few leaves can benefit them as well. Indian almond leaves can also be used to help set up your aquarium before you introduce your first fish, as they help improve the water quality.
Of course, not all fish and underwater critters do well with Indian almond leaves. Some may need hard, darker water or high pH, and others cannot tolerate the tannins the leaves put out into the water.
Top Tip: Be sure to study up on pH levels and tannins capacity for your fish and invertebrates before installing Indian almond leaves.
Some of the species that could benefit from Indian almond leaves include:
- Betta tanks
- Many shrimp varieties, including cherry shrimp
Note: Most African cichlids and goldfish do not do well with Indian almond leaves.
How to Prepare Indian Almond Leaves for the Aquarium?
There are three basic ways to introduce Indian almond leaves into your fish tank.
The first option, which is the easiest and fastest way to do it, is by adding whole Indian almond leaves one or two at a time, every couple of months.
If you don’t want to go with whole leaves, you can shred the leaves for leaf litter to help the release tannins more quickly and easily throughout the tank.
The leaves will also be less noticeable this way and may be more aesthetically pleasing for you. Distribute them around the tank as evenly as possible for best results.
If you don’t like the looks of the leaves in the tank at all, you can make an extract of the leaves and infuse that into the water instead.
- Boil 2 quarts of water
- Put 2 medium-sized Indian almond leaves into a jar
- Place a sterilized metal spoon into the jar to prevent the glass from overheating and shattering.
- Pour the boiling water into the jar over the leaves.
- Cover the jar with cheesecloth to keep out dust and debris.
- Keep the leaves in the jar for 24 hours.
- Remove the leaves from the jar.
- Now, cover the jar with a lid and store in the fridge for up to three months.
Add a little of the extract to the tropical fish tank every once in a while, one ounce per gallon of water, approximately.
How Many Indian Almond Leaves Should I Use?
Generally speaking, you’ll want to use 1 medium-sized Indian almond leaf per 10-gallon tank. Remove any Purigen or activated carbon from your filtration system, though, was they will make your Indian almond leaves less effective.
If you do wind up going overboard and adding too many leaves, it’ll be okay. There won’t be any negative effects for your fish, unless you’ve added so many that the pH levels drop significantly. Thankfully, that’s rather unlikely to happen.
If you do add too many leaves, you’ll notice the water turns much deeper brown. This indicates you should probably remove a few and go with a lower number when you replace this batch.
Author Note: You can reverse the effects in the meantime, too, by making gradual water changes and removing a few of the leaves.
Why Do Indian Almond Leaves Change Water Color?
You will notice that, yes, Indian almond leaves can change the color of your tank water to a yellow or yellow-ish brown color. This occurs naturally as the leaves decompose, leaving behind tannins.
The tannins are what change the color of the water. Tannins, by the way, are what changes the color of water when you make tea, too.
This color shift in the water isn’t a bad thing – actually, it can be a good thing for some species of fish that naturally come from brownish water, helping to reduce stress levels for those fish. This means your fish tank now more closely resembles their natural habitat.
Plus, the tannins in the water extract enzymes from the fungus and bacteria that grow in the fish tank, which helps boost your fishes’ immunity (i.e., ability to fight infections) as well.
How Long Do Indian Almond Leaves Last?
Typically, Indian almond leaves will last between one and two months, depending on how big your fish tank is. They will eventually decompose completely or you can replace them before that happens, when they start to look thin.
There’s really no right or wrong here – it’s all based on your preference and aquarium keeping style.