11 Reasons to Use Indian Almond Leaves in Your Aquarium

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Has someone ever told you to use Indian Almond leaves in your aquarium? Were you surprised to learn that a tiny part of a tree grown hundreds of miles away could benefit your fish?

Well, the Indian Almond is no ordinary tree, and its leaves are far more than just decorative. If you have not used them in your aquarium before, then it is time to give them a shot. Not only do they provide an attractive, natural look to your aquarium, but they also provide beneficial tannins.

But first, let’s take a look at what they are, and why they offer benefits to your fish.

What Are Indian Almond Leaves?

2 dried Indian Almond Leaves

Indian almond leaves come from the Terminalia catappa tree, which is an evergreen species that grows in tropical areas. That includes Southern India, Sri Lanka, and other parts of Southeast Asia, to be exact. It is also known as the “Toothbrush Tree,” because the leaf skeleton is very tough and fibrous like a toothbrush.

These trees can reach up to heights of 50 feet (about 15 meters), and they generally bloom in the summer months. Flowers grow on long stalks and are white in color. Their seed pods grow to be about four inches (10 cm) long, and they contain a hard shell with two almond-shaped seeds inside. These seeds look very much like coffee beans when roasted, but they can also be eaten raw or boiled before roasting.

11 Reasons to Use Indian Almond Leaves in Your Aquarium

Now that you have a better idea of what catappa leaves are, let’s take a look at some of the benefits they offer for your aquarium. They have been immensely popular among aquarium hobbyists for many years, and there are many reasons why!

Without further ado, here are 11 reasons to use them in your aquarium:

They Create A Natural Habitat

One of the best reasons to use them in your aquarium is simply because they look good. Their color and texture lend a natural feel to your tank, and they can be used in a wide variety of ways. Scatter them on the floor of your tank to form a leaf litter substrate, or attach them to driftwood or rocks with fishing line to create hiding spots for your fish.

By using these leaves to replicate a natural environment for your pets, you can bring out their natural behaviors. That includes exploration, hunting for food, and breeding. Ultimately, this keeps them happier and healthier.

They Help With Fungal Infections (Furunculosis)

One of the most common problems in aquariums is furunculosis. This generic type of fungal infection can present itself in many ways, including pop-eye, dropsy, red streaks on fins or body, and white spots on fins or body. If left untreated, this disease can spread very quickly throughout your tank and eventually kill off your fish.

fungus on a fish
Image Source: www.flickr.com

The good news is that furunculosis can be treated with antibiotics. The bad news is that these antibiotics come with a laundry list of side effects, including damage to your biological filtration and stress to your tank inhabitants

Fortunately, catappa leaves offer a natural alternative treatment for this disease. They contain antifungal properties courtesy of their high tannin content, so when you put them in your aquarium, they can help with the treatment of furunculosis.

They Contain Natural Tannins

Catappa leaves lend a distinctive brown color to the water in your aquarium. This is due to their high level of tannins, which has a pigment that absorbs light, making it appear as though they have absorbed the brown color from the water around them.

This property can be beneficial to fishkeepers because tannic acids also bind to nitrogen compounds in the water. By binding these compounds to tannic acids, they become nontoxic and are filtered out of the tank via your filter or by the plants before they can cause any damage.

Healthy amounts of tannins can also increase the stability of your pH levels. In a healthy aquarium, you should see a range between 6 and 8 for both your pH. When this level is maintained, it ensures that your pets have a steady habitat to live in.

They Control Water Hardness

These miracle workers also have a natural ability to lower water hardness. Soft water refers to water with a low mineral content, while hard water is full of minerals like calcium and magnesium. 

Different fish prefer different levels of toxicity, hardness, and pH, but catappas are particularly beneficial for the wide variety of species that prefer soft water. By binding to magnesium and calcium in your tank water, theycan help keep the hardness of your water low.

Therefore, this leaf species can be especially beneficial in tanks housing bettas, dwarf cichlids (particularly Apistogramma and Microgeophagus ramirezi), and most scaleless catfish like Corydoras and Otocinclus.

They Have Medicinal Properties

Many people are wary about using chemical-based medication for fish. Because commercial products are made in laboratories, there is little understanding of how these products react with the natural environment. Catappa leaves provide a natural remedy for many of the common illness that afflict aquatic pets.

These specimen contain tannic acids that act as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory for aquatic animals. This means they can help treat wounds without causing any damage to your biological filter.

Because they absorb water, they can also help to rehydrate a fish that has been stressed or is suffering from constipation. Although there is little scientific evidence for this property, many hobbyists swear by its effectiveness.

They Are Cost-Effective

costs Reduction Concept . 3d rendered illustration

Although high-quality Indian Almond leaves can be costly when purchased at pet stores, you can grow them at home. This can be a great money saver if you have a large aquarium and need to use them often.

To grow this plant, you will need to purchase the seeds of the Terminalia catappa tree. Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting them, and place them near a window where they will receive sunlight or under a grow lamp. 

You can harvest your leaves when they are large enough to use by cutting the stem just above the leaf node with a pair of scissors. Be careful not to go overboard, as they can cause your water to become too acidic. If you find yourself in this situation, simply conduct a partial water change to get things back to normal.

They Help Maintain Constant Water Parameters

Nothing is worse for your pet than fluctuating water parameters. Fish are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, and fluctuations can put them under a lot of stress, which in turn makes them more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

One way that you can ensure that your water parameters are stable is by using catappa leaves. The tannins they contain bind to many toxic compounds, including ammonia and nitrites. When the tannins combine with these substances, they become insoluble and fall to the bottom of your tank, which in turn ensures that these wastes will not disrupt your tank’s chemistry.

Of course, catappas should be only one part of a larger strategy for maintaining water quality. You will still need conduct frequent water changes and monitor your ammonia levels to ensure that you are meeting the needs of your pet

They Can Be Used In Betta Fish Breeding

If you want to breed your betta fish, this one’s for you! Catappa leaves make it easy to simulate a betta fish’s natural habitat in your aquarium. In the wild, male bettas stake out a territory and claim it as their own. This is important because it allows them to build nests of bubbles where females can deposit fish eggs once they have been successfully fertilized by a male.

In order to create this type of environment, add seven pieces to your aquarium and place them in the area where you think your male betta will claim as its own. Once you have done this, your male betta should begin building bubble nests, which means that it is ready to breed.

In addition, they can be used to calm more aggressive betta fish. Some betta enthusiasts have reported that their pets are less likely to be aggressive when they are surrounded by these wondrous little things. You can try placing them in your betta’s favorite hangout spot, or incorporate them into its main tank.

They Can Be Used As Fry Food

Heap of dry complete multi-ingredient flake food for daily feeding of all ornamental fish

Yes – you read right! Catappa leaves can be used as a source of food for your baby fish. These nutritious-packed goodies come with minerals such as calcium and iron that can be beneficial to your fry. The minerals allows baby fish to develop healthy bones while still feeding them properly.

In addition, this exceptional food source contains tannins, which are facilitate the absorption of essential minerals. This can help them grow nice and strong, so it’s best to introduce your baby fish to these miracle workers early on.

To use them as a food source, simply drop 1 medium-sized Indian Almond leaf into your tank and let it float until it becomes soft and mushy. Once this happens, it will become soft and easily chewed by young fish fry.

They Improve The Color Of Shrimp

If your shrimp are looking lackluster, you can try feeding them these leaves to help improve their color. The high iron content helps the shrimp develop a more vibrant red coloration. For example, shrimp that are naturally orange in color might take on a more intense red hue.

In addition, they provide your shrimp with high levels of calcium that can help them develop stronger exoskeletons. As a result, their shells will not be as prone to damage and other diseases such as Red Spot Syndrome. Shrimp that are fed catappas also become healthier and stronger as a result of their improved nutrition. This makes them far less likely to fall prey to ich and other common shrimp ailments.

When feeding them to your shrimp, remove the leaf skeleton and then either float or bury the leaf in your tank. Be careful not to overwhelm your shrimp’s digestive system and introduce too many at once. They may also make your shrimp sluggish, so it’s best to feed them one or two pieces per week.

They Can Be Used As Bacteria-Digesting Agents

Tannins are known for their ability to bind with proteins, which is why they are used in tanning leather. These microscopic compounds cause bacteria to clump together, effectively preventing it from multiplying and growing out of control.

microscopic view of Vibrio bacteria

As a result, the catappa can be used as powerful bactericides that will not only treat low-grade infections in your fish, but will help prevent unwanted algae growth in your aquarium. Once they have done their job by binding to the bacteria, they will sink to the bottom of your aquarium and decompose.

At this point, your aquarium water will then absorb the tannins that are stuck to the bacteria, effectively removing them from your aquarium. Due to this bacteriostatic effect that takes place, it is best not to remove them until they have fully decomposed.

How To Use Indian Almond Leaves In Your Tank

Have we convinced you to bring these little wonders into your tank yet? Given the many benefits that they provide, it’s no wonder that we’ve managed to convince you! However, we understand that you may still be a little hesitant to add them into your tank.

If you’re still not sure how and when to use these plants in your aquarium, here’s a step-by-step guide on using them:

Step 1: Start with Fresh Pieces or An Extract

Just like any other plant or food source, Catappas are no different when it comes to issues concerning freshness. Any leaf that has already started to decay will not be beneficial in your tank. To avoid introducing decomposing specimen into your aquarium, make sure you only use fresh or wind-fallen ones when feeding your fish or shrimp.

If decimating a fresh leaf is something you’re not willing to do, feel free to use Indian Almond leaf extract instead! These can be bought at any pet store and can be used to treat your bacteria outbreaks without having to harm the environment. Plus, it’s cheaper than buying actual leaves.

Step 2: Use An Appropriate Amount

It is important to use these potent plant species appropriately. If you introduce too many they will sink to the bottom and decay all at once. This will cause an ammonia spike as the decaying leaves release nitrogen into your aquarium water.

Every 10 gallons of water should only contain one or two pieces . This should slowly lower the overall nitrogen levels in your aquarium over time. As a result, your water will be safe for fish and shrimp to live in. However, you should still monitor changes in ammonia levels when using them to ensure that they are being used safely.

measuring cup on a table

If you have extras available, store them in an airtight bag and place them inside your refrigerator for up to a month. You can also freeze them for use at a later time.

Step 3: Consider Using A Mixture Of Species

Although Indian Almond leaves will do a great job as a bacteriostatic agent on their own, you can boost their antibacterial properties by mixing them with other plant extracts.

When combined with an extract from Crinum or Peace Lily, you will see even better results when treating your fish and shrimp for bacterial infections.

You can also create a mix of oak and beech leaves. By doing this, you will not only increase the antibacterial effect, but will also benefit from tannin leaching as they slowly decompose.

Step 4: Clean The Leaves

No matter what combination of leaves you opt for, know that most of them are foraged from the wild where they are exposed to pesticides, possible fertilizers, and various other chemicals. As a result, it’s best to subject them to a hygienic cleaning process before feeding them to your fish or shrimp in order to keep these creatures safe.

To clean the catappas have collected, simply soak them in fresh water for about 30 minutes to remove any chemical residues. If you plan on using them for a while, make sure you change the water every few days or as needed.

Whatever you do, do not place them in boiling water! This will not only kill any beneficial bacteria, but will also break down the tannins, reducing their antibacterial properties.

Step 5: Add Them To Your Aquarium

Now that your Catappa leaves have been thoroughly cleaned and dried, it’s time to add them to your aquarium!

fresh and dried Indian-almond leave

It is also important to consider the size of your tank when feeding the leaves to your fish or shrimp. If you have a small aquarium, you are better off cutting a large leaf smaller pieces. This will allow for even decomposition while also ensuring that all fragments have a chance to sink down to the bottom of your tank before being completely decomposed.

Another option is to place them in a mesh bag and let them slowly decompose on their own. If you choose this option, make sure you move them around regularly so they break down evenly. This will speed up the rot process and prevent any undecomposed portions from accumulating in one area of your tank.


Are There Other Types Of Leaves We Could Use?

Yes! If you cannot find Indian Almond leaves at your local fish store, don’t fret. You can use other plant species as well. Here’s a quick list of alternatives you could consider:

  • Oak
  • Amaranth
  • Beech
  • Guava

These options are not as readily available, but it never hurts to ask your local fish store if they can order them for you. They differ slightly in appearance, but they offer the same tannins.

Are They Good For All Fish?

These leaves are an excellent choice for both fish and shrimp. However, species that prefer hard water might not enjoy the softer water that results from tannin leaching.

For optimal health, it is best to monitor ammonia and nitrite levels as well as pH. If your pets show any signs of distress, a solid water change should help them return to their normal selves.

Do Indian Almond Leaves Lower pH?

The pH Scale mini infographic

Yes, they do lower pH levels. They release tannins into the water which act as a natural acidification agent. However, you will need to use larger amounts (20 or more) in order to see any significant effects on your aquarium’s pH level.

If you notice that your fish are getting stressed due to your aquarium’s low pH levels, you can always try raising the pH level by adding marine salt mix.

How Do I Put My Leaf On My Betta?

There is a popular misconception that these leaves can be used ON fish. In reality, they should never be placed directly on a betta’s body or fins.

This is because the effects of tannin leaching can cause harm to your betta. Instead, you should place these leaves in an aquarium plant basket and allow them to slowly decompose from the inside out.

When Should I Remove Them?

The best time to remove your leaf is after they are completely decomposed. For shrimp keepers, this will be after around one month. For fish keepers, it may take up to three months for it to break down completely.

An important thing to remember is that you should never remove your leaf until there are no longer any tannins coming out of them. If you remove them too early, they may cause your water to turn cloudy with tannins and inflict stress upon your pets.


We hope this article taught you everything you need to know about Indian Almond leaves and why you should use them! They offer many benefits to the health of your pets by reducing stress and lowering pH levels. Over time, they will ensure proper tannin leaching in your tank.

For more information on how you can use catappas in your aquarium, feel free to leave a comment below! And if you know someone who might benefit from this article, do share it with them! Your support means the world to us.

Thanks again for reading, and happy fishkeeping!

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

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