Indian almond leaves (IAL), are believed to aid fish in a number of ways, such as helping Siamese Fighting Fish heal after a battle and inducing spawning in breeding tanks. They have been used for years by Betta breeders in South East Asia, to mimic the natural Betta habitat, making the aquarium more similar to the habitat from which the fish hails.
Indian almond leaves just like driftwood and peat, release ample amounts of tannins into the water. The tannins affect the pH-value 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 when rivers flow slowly through heavily forested areas where falling leaves and other plant debris end up decomposing in the water.
Using Indian almond leaves is not just about chemistry. Some Aquarists think leaf litter looks ugly, but for many fish species it feels just like home. Leaves and leaf litter makes 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.
The leaves will normally float for 2-3 days before sinking. Sinking is natural and it doesn't mean that your have to change the leaves.
Depending on how actively your fish tries to destroy them, the leaves will normally disintegrate after a month or so. There is usually no need to change the leaves more often than every second month.
Some aquarists who dislike the sight of torn leaves normally replace the leaves every 2-3 week, but this is purely for aesthetic reasons. The leaves also serve as home and food for infusoria; minute aquatic creatures like ciliates, euglenoids, and protozoa. Due to its size and nutritional content, infusoria is an excellent food source for newly hatched fry of many species of fish.
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 tanks. 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.
Using Indian Almond Leaves :
There are at least 5 ways of using them in the aquarium (apart from using them as beautiful leaf-litter in terrariums for crabs, frogs, lizards, spiders, scorpions and snakes).
1. 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 (to a clear amber) and providing a very natural stream-bottom look to your tank.
You do not need to change the leaves until they begin to disintegrate in about 3 weeks to a month. If you have shrimps or plecos, they will devour them when they start to disintegrate.
2. INDIAN ALMOND TEA :
You can make Indian Almond Tea using either Indian Almond Teabags or simply using the leaves directly. Most teabags contain only one to one and a half leaf. Put the teabag 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.
3. FILTER BAG :
Get a filter bag (laundry netting or ladies stockings will also do). 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.
4. 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 coloured.
5. 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 our large 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 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 blackwater extract through a coffee paper filter or an old pair of tights. This is to stop any undesirable matter getting into the blackwater extract.
The Indian Almond Leaf blackwater extract can now be pored in to plastic or glass bottles, sealed and stored in fridge or somewhere dark and cool.
Recommended Dosage : 1 ounce for 1 gallon of water.