Almond Leaves for Betta Fish: All Questions Answered

Blackwater aquariums have become popular in the fish-keeping industry, and using Indian almond leaves is one of the main ways to turn the water dark. But it’s not just about the color. Indian almond leaves carry multiple natural health benefits, especially for bettas.

Indian almond leaves help reduce the PH levels, making the aquarium more suitable for bettas while improving the overall quality of the water. They help boost the betta’s immune systems against bacterial or fungal diseases, encourage breeding and protect eggs from rotting.

Continue reading to learn more about these leaves, where they come from, and how you can use them in your aquarium.

What Are Indian Almond Leaves?

Indian almond leaves come from the Terminalia catappa tree, commonly known as the Indian almond tree. The leaves are also called catappa leaves, named after the tree they come from.

The Indian almond tree is part of the leadwood family and grows throughout the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Australia. It produces nuts that taste like almonds, but people seek after the leaves more. 

They’ve had a place in traditional medicine for centuries. The Indian almond leaves are dark orange or brown, they come in various sizes up to 14 inches (35.56 cm), and they’re shaped like teardrops.

Once the Terminalia catappa tree sheds its leaves, people pick them off the ground one by one. Once the leaves are dried, they’re ready for use in aquariums.

Are Indian Almond Leaves Good for Betta Fish?

Indian almond leaves are good for betta fish. Betta’s natural environment is a slow-moving, shallow, and dark body of water. Indian almond leaves help mimic this condition in the aquarium, helping the bettas feel at home.

The Indian almond tree grows on river banks next to bodies of water filled with fish, including bettas. The catappa leaves fall into the water naturally, and they affect its quality. When the leaf litter decomposes, it leaches chemicals into the water that turn its color dark. As a result, the Indian almond leaves shape many underwater ecosystems in the black water habitats.

What Do Almond Leaves Do for Your Betta?

The Indian almond tree has a particular chemical inside its bark and leaves called tannic acid or tannins. When the Indian almond leaves fall into the water, tannins leach out from them, so their antifungal and antibacterial properties benefit the fish.

Tannins work as a natural defense mechanism against infection by drawing out the enzymes from bacteria and fungi.

Here are other benefits of almond leaves:

Natural Remedy for Diseases

The catappa leaves are a natural remedy for diseases or injuries concerning the fish’s skin or scales, such as fin rot. Fish with long-flowing fins such as bettas are particularly susceptible to these kinds of diseases. They can benefit from the leaves’ healing power that strengthens their immune system and fights off bacteria, fungi, and viruses faster.

Moreover, the tannins will help prevent the newly laid betta eggs from spoilage and rotting by limiting the fungal infections.

Lowers the PH

Every good fish keeper or pet owner wants their fish to feel at home, right? Since betta fish live in naturally acidic environments, mimicking the low PH levels will let them thrive.

Many people decide to use commercial products such as the General Hydroponics pH Control Kit (available on Amazon.com) to alter the PH inside their aquariums. The chemicals contain some mild acid or base and will affect the PH levels fast. However, the effect is temporary, and after a short time, the additives will wear off, and the PH will change back again quickly. You’ll have to use the product over and over again to get results.

What you might not realize is that you’ll be doing more damage than good. The rapid fluctuations in the PH levels will cause extreme stress for your fish, weakening their immune systems or even causing their deaths.

There are safer ways to alter the acidity in your tanks, like using natural chemicals to change the mineral components of the water. Indian almond leaves are one of your best choices. As the leaves leach out tannic acid into the water, it’ll start to lower the PH gradually, and the effects are long-lasting.

This natural water conditioner will also reduce carbonate hardness and the overall water hardness. Moreover, it’ll help you manage the bioload inside your tank easier. Since ammonia takes longer to break down in high PH levels, its amounts will rise. In an acidic environment, there’s no such problem, and your fish will stay healthier.

Not only bettas, but the following fishes can also benefit from the environment that catappa leaves create:

  • Platies
  • Tetra
  • Angelfish
  • Barbs
  • Cory catfish
  • Gouramis
  • Discuss
  • Killifish
  • Rasboras

Tints Water

The tannins that the Indian almond leaves bleach out into the water give it a yellowish or brown color. That’ll mimic the natural habitat of the blackwater fish, including the betta fish, and make them feel less exposed to external dangers and predators. Of course, there aren’t any predators in your aquarium, but your fish don’t realize that, especially at first. Shy fishes will feel less stressed and have more confidence to come out of their hiding spots.

Plus, many aquarists dig the black water look and use Indian almond leaves to create a dark tint to achieve the aesthetics.

Encourages Breeding

Some species, including bettas, are very picky when it comes to breeding. They need certain water conditions on top of feeling safe. Bettas need the water to have low PH levels, proper hardness ratings, and a darker color.

Indian almond leaves can induce spawning by lowering the PH, increasing the water quality, and offering protection and hiding spots. Bettas like to create bubble nests underneath the floating catappa leaves and lay their eggs there.

Food and Protection for the Fry

The Indian almond leaves also benefit the baby fish and fries after they’ve hatched. Many fish keepers and breeders add these leaves to their fry tanks.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • The blackwater that the leaves create makes them feel safer.
  • The leaves provide protection and hiding spots for the fry.
  • When the Indian almond leaves decompose and break down, some microorganisms appear and start feeding on the leaves. They’re called infusoria, and you can barely see them with the naked eye. The newly hatched fry will feast on the infusoria until they grow and need a different food source.

How Do You Use Indian Almond Leaves in Your Tank?

You can simply put the Indian almond leaves directly in your tank or prepare stained water separately. Whichever option you choose, remember to rinse out the leaves first to wash off any leftover dust and debris they may carry.

Also, remove any activated carbon you have in the filters beforehand. It’ll remove the tannins and neutralize the effects of the leaves.

Here are the detailed ways on how you can use almond leaves in your tank:

  • Float the leaves: The first and easiest method is to dunk the leaves in the water. They’ll float on their own at first, and after a few days, they’ll sink. Floating the leaves is a good option if you want to block some light out or let the bettas build bubble nests underneath them.
  • Submerge the leaves: You can wait for the leaves to submerge themselves, but you can also use substrate or other objects to keep them down from the beginning. You can strategically place them and build nests and hiding spots for your fish.
  • Create leaf substrate: You can tear the leaves up into tiny pieces and create a layer of organic substrate with them. When the leaves are torn up, they’ll leach out tannins much faster.
  • Make stained water separately: It’s also possible to put the catappa leaves inside a bowl filled with water and wait for them to leach out the tannins. Then you can add the water into the tank. This option is best for those who don’t like the appearance of the leaves inside their tanks.

How Many Almond Leaves Should You Add to the Tank?

A general rule of thumb suggests putting one medium-sized catappa leaf for every 10 gallons (37.85 L) of water. Stick to that ratio for bigger tanks as well, and if you don’t get the darkening effect you were hoping for, add more. 

The more leaves you add, the more tannins they’ll release and the darker the water will be. Just remember to watch the PH levels closely.

It’s highly unlikely that you end up using too many Indian almond leaves in your tank while you’re keeping count of them. On the low chance that it may happen, remove the leaves and start doing partial water changes. No more than 25% because you’ll change the PH rather quickly, resulting in shock for the fish. 

Also, you can add activated carbon to gradually clear up any remaining tannins and bring back the PH to its normal levels. You’ll have to replace it more regularly.

How Long Should You Leave Almond Leaves in the Betta Tank?

You can leave the Indian almond leaves inside the tank as long as you want. These leaves tend to release most of their tannins into the water in the first couple of days and after they sink.

After that, the leaves will start to decompose. You can take them out of the tank and replace them if needed. You can also let the leaves fully decompose, which will take one or two months.

Fry and shrimp will appreciate the decomposing leaves because they’ll feed off them, as mentioned before. The leaves will also provide a nice substrate and a great hiding place for the fish.

Do You Need To Boil Almond Leaves Before Adding Them to a Tank?

You don’t need to boil the Indian almond leaves if you don’t want to, and adding them to the tank in a normal way is perfectly fine. However, by boiling the leaves, you can make an Indian almond leaf extract and pour it into the tank instead of using the leaves.

Watch this YouTube video on how to make Indian almond leaf extract:  

The extract is a very concentrated version of the stained water, and it’s perfect for those who don’t like the looks of the almond leaves in their aquascape view.

Here are the steps to make almond leaves extract:

  1. Boil 2 liters (0.53 gal) of water first. 
  2. Put one or two Indian almond leaves inside a glass jar and pour the boiling water on top of them. The more leaves you use, the more concentrated the extract will become. 
  3. Leave the jar open and let it sit for a day. 
  4. Then, take the leaves out of the jar and remove any floating bits with a sieve. 
  5. Close the jar with a lid and put it in the fridge.

The extract will last for several months, and you can pour a bit in the aquarium water every time you do a water change.

Where To Buy Indian Almond Leaves

Unless you happen to live in areas where Indian almond trees grow naturally and you can go pick up the leaves yourself, you can look for them in local pet stores, fish stores, or online.

Searching the internet and buying the leaves from trusted retailers is a more straightforward solution. The quality of the leaves is essential concerning how they were harvested, dried, and processed. So, don’t try to save money on these leaves, or you’ll be left with some garbage that lowers your aquarium water quality.

I recommend these Indian almond leaves available on Amazon.com:

Final Thoughts

Indian almond leaves are beneficial for your bettas in many ways. They can help you alter the aquarium environment as close to their natural habitat as possible, protect them against bacteria and fungi, and provide food and protection for their babies. 

You can buy the leaves from multiple sources and add them to the tank in various ways. There’s no downside to having them in your tank, only benefits!

Sources

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

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