In the world of betta fish breeders, Indian Almond Leaves (IAL) are often seen and used to mimic the natural habitats of betta fish. These leaves, also known as KTP Leaves or Terminalia Catappa, are becoming very popular amongst fish breeders around the world, as a natural medicine and water conditioner for aquarium use. They are commonly used for conditioning and care of Bettas. Indian Almond Leaves are believed to aid the fish in several ways which include; increased fertility, good health, and vigor, regulation of water PH level, quick recovery of diseased or damaged fish, induction of spawning in breeding tanks, as well as tannin water coloring.
As earlier stated, aquarium owners use Indian Almond Leaves to mimic the natural conditions of their fish in their aquaria. Adding Indian Almond Leaves to your aquarium and allowing it to stay for some time will release compounds from the leaves to the water, thereby altering the water chemistry to making the aquaria more similar to the habitat from which the fish hailed.
Leaving the chemistry of Indian almond leaves aside, some fish breeders argue that the leaf litters the aquarium – which could be true, but many fish species feel homely in it. Leaves and leaf litters make the environment more natural. Bottom-dwelling fish love to hide among sunken leaves, while surface and mid-water dwellers like the sense of security offered by floating leaves. Indian almond leaves are also nice for fish and invertebrates to nibble on between meals, and the leaves serve as home and food for infusoria.
Just like driftwood and peat, when an ample amount of tannin is released into the water from the Indian almond leaves, the water pH value is significantly affected and the water turns dark – just like a blackwater river. Water-rich in tannins is appreciated by fish species that hail from such environments in the wild. Blackwater habitats are formed in the wild when rivers flow slowly through heavily forested areas where falling leaves and other plant debris end up decomposing in the water.
The Indian amount leaves, when put inside the water will normally float for 2-3 days before sinking beneath. When this happens, is recommended that you take them out.
Hence, to get the best of Indian almond leaves for your betta fish, the following dosages, usages and preparations methods are expertly recommended;
Dosage: Dosages below are based on 15-25 cm (6-10 in) leaves. If your leaf is smaller or bigger, you need to adjust the figures accordingly.
Using 2 leaves per 50 L (13 gallons) of water is recommended but be prepared to adjust the dosage to suit your particular fish. Some Betta keepers routinely use up to 2 leaves per 15 L (4 gallons) of water in their everyday tasks. Betta breeders normally use 1 leaf per 20 L (5 gallons) of water in breeding tanks. In fry rearing tanks, using 1 leaf per 40 L (10 gallons) of water is recommended.
There are at least five ways Indian almond leaves could be prepared and used in the aquarium. These are;
- DIRECT: Simply put the leaves into your aquarium. After 1-3 days, once the leaves are completely soaked, they will be water-logged and sink. Apart from their beneficial effects on the water, they will tan the water slightly, providing a very natural stream-bottom look to your tank.
- INDIAN ALMOND TEA: You can make Indian Almond Leaf Tea using either Indian Almond Teabags or simply using the leaves directly. Most tea bags contain only one to one and a half leaf. Put the tea bag or a large leaf crumpled up into a cup, and add hot water. Leave it to cool. Once cooled the water in the cup will have the appearance of strong tea. Add what you need into the tank, and keep the rest (together with the leaf or the teabag) in the refrigerator.
- FILTER BAG: Get a filter bag (like the laundry netting or ladies stocking). Crumple up 2-3 large leaves for every 25 gallons and stuff them into your filter bag. Leave the bag in the compartment of the Overhead Filter near the inlet into the filter. If you use a Canister Filter, leave it in a bottom tray. The leaves will begin to tan the water in a couple of days. But it will disintegrate over 14-21 days and should be changed.
Remember: activated carbon will negate any tanning or good properties from the leaves. So the use of activated carbon is not recommended when using Indian Almond Leaves.
- SOAKING SEPARATELY: You will need a bucket or tub of water. Soak the leaves in the bucket. After a few days, you can pour the tanned water into your tank, and then top up (the bucket) with fresh water. You can leave the leaves in the bucket until the water from it ceases to be amber-colored.
- INDIAN ALMOND LEAVES BLACKWATER EXTRACT:
You need a pot big enough to hold at least 1 gallon of water, but the bigger the pot the more extract you will produce.
Put roughly 30 of your Indian almond leaves for each gallon of water inside the pot.
Fill the pot with clean water.
Let the leaves soak in the water for 24 hours. It’s best to put some type of weight (e.g., a light clean iron or nail) on top of the leaves to stop them floating.
The following day, boil the pot of leaves for 15 – 20 minutes.
Put to one side and let it cool and stew for another 24 hours.
The next day, boil the pot again for 10 – 15 minutes.
Once the water as cooled you will notice that the water is black with a very strong fragrance.
Filter the Indian almond leaf black water extract through a coffee paper filter or an old pair of tights. This is to stop any undesirable matter from getting into the black water extract.
The Indian Almond Leaf black water extract can now be poured into plastic or glass bottles, sealed and stored in the fridge or somewhere dark and cool.
The recommended dosage is one ounce for one gallon of water.