What’s the Deal with Almond Leaves and Bettas?

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Betta breeders and longtime betta keepers know what Indian Almond Leaves (IAL) are. They have used them for years to condition the water and to give the health of their fish a bit of a boost. Being found in the water many wild bettas live in, these leaves can assist in stimulating the natural environment these guys have thrived in for millennia.

In way of background technically these are leaves of the Terminalia Catappa tree. You may also see them referred to as Ketapang leaves by online sellers. And you’ll likely have to buy them from an online seller off eBay or Aquabid since they are not readily available locally.

As for the glorious things IAL does for your fish, well, this video gives you a quick overview of some of the potential benefits.

What you should have gotten from the video.

  • IAL can be used for lowering the pH (softer water) and otherwise conditioning the tank water. Plus it helps to protect against fungus and bacteria. As you know soft water will often trigger breeding behaviors in male bettas meaning your guy will set about to build a bubble nest. But don’t worry. It won’t crash to pH dangerously so as to endanger the life of your fish.
  • Another useful tip would be when you are expecting new bettas. Drop an almond leaf into the tanks you have set up for them to condition the water, release the fish, and you’ll help them recover from any transit stress.
  • These leaves release tiny amounts of trace elements into the water which also benefit any plants or other occupants you’ve got in your tank. Not to mention, again, the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents that are released. (Yet there’s no need to concern yourself over the fate of your beneficial bacteria. Any anti bacterial action would seem to target the ‘bad’ bacteria in your water, not the bugs you depend on to keep ammonia or nitrites in check.)
  • Finally the substances released by IAL will work to help keep any fry healthier, more alert and showing improved vitality. While they are said to harden the scales of adults and act as a general tonic leading to better overall health and vigor. For more on the properties these leaaves confer you might check out this article which suggests using blackwater extract to achieve the same affect.

Okay so should you choose to go with IAL for your bettas, all you have to do is float the leaf on the surface. Sure some opt to cut them into smaller pieces and float those on the surface of their tank but that really isn’t necessary.

One rule of thumb is you want to use one larger leaf, say 8-10 inches in size, per 10 gallons of tank water. But I see little need to get all agitated about precise dosage here although how much to use will depend to a degree on how hard your water is to begin with. Still overall, close counts when it comes to getting the therapeutic benefits of IAL.

Now the first thing you will notice in the next day or two is that your tank water takes on a bit of a amber hue. So don’t freak out over that. That coloration is from the tannins that have come from the leaves. Yet if you don’t find that attractive, using any means of filtration that includes activated charcoal will remove that “staining” from the water. As will subsequent water changes.

If you don’t want to put the leaf into the tank directly, you can always put some aged water into a bucket and place some leaves in. Then use that as replacement water. Or this is a way to get most of the tannins out of the leaves so you can put them in your aquariums without giving the water that golden brown tinge.

You can also put them in boiling water to leach the beneficial agents out quicker. And again use the water as replacement water to add those dissolved organic materials to your tank setup.

So there you have it. A quick and dirty overview of Indian Almond Leaves. They are used by those in the know to generally promote the health of their bettas, to encourage breeding behavior and improve water quality. So if you aren’t using them I’ll hope you’ll start to, and sooner rather than later.

Before you go here’s a video made by a seller who makes a point about the grades of these leaves.

About Lucas
Putting a name with a face I'm Lucas Smatana. Like you I'm passionate about betta fish and hope to share my enthusiasm. The idea here is to make sure you get helpful info and useful ideas on betta fish care that really work. To insure your betta keeping experience is a good one both for you and your fish. So that you and your pet enjoy a long, happy and healthy relationship.

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