Home > Guide to Brewing your own Catappa Blackwater Extract | Learn about benefits of tannins in Terminalia catappa leaves
Guide to Brewing your own Catappa Blackwater Extract | Learn about benefits of tannins in Terminalia catappa leaves
How to brew your own catappa Blackwater extract
Published by Amy Lim October 2, 2011
Commercial blackwater extracts tend to be very expensive. This guide provides some easy to follow steps for brewing blackwater extract using Indian Almond (Terminalia catappa / ketapang) leaves.
'Blackwater' is the term used to describe the kind of water found in the natural habitat of some acidic water fishes such as Bettas, gouramies, killifish and arowanas. The water in such biotopes tend to be amber or tea colored due to tannins that leach out of driftwood, peat moss and fallen leaves. Indian Almond (Terminalia/Ketapang) trees tend to shed their leaves throughout the year and would even dump almost all their leaves a few times in a year. As a result, where there are Indian Almond Trees, the leaf-litter in the blackwater stream, swamp or pond would comprise mostly of Indian Almond Leaves. In other words, the blackwater is black largely due to the tannins leaching out of dried Indian Almond Leaves that have fallen into the water.
And studies have shown that Indian Almond Leaves leaches not only tannins but many other beneficial substances.
Referring to leaves from the Terminalia catappa tree, Dr Robert J. Goldstein (not the podiatrist- wannabe terrorist of Florida; but the aquarist and environmental consultant of North Carolina who wrote numerous book on fish-keepings), writes in his 2002 paper entitled “Water Conditioners and Additives”:
The large, leathery leaves are used in folk medicine to treat infections, indigestion, and other medical conditions. The water extract makes a pharmacologically powerful tea… In Southeast Asia, Betta breeders add a dried leaf to provide a surface for the bubblenest and to leach substances that protect the fry from diseases. As the leaves decay, they also provide detritus to grow extract-resistant infusoria for the babies. Of 35 aromatic (ring structure) substances identified from these leaves, noteworthy were benzene-acetaldehyde, acetones, and sabinen-hydrate. The first is strongly antimicrobial, and several of the 35 others destroy microbial cell membranes.
And he adds:
“So these leaves are not simply sources of stains and tannins and other acids as we would get from oak or hickory, but rich in many other kinds of complex and highly effective chemicals with a wide range of physiological and antimicrobial effects.”
For this reason, blackwater extract made with Indian Almond Leaves can actually be more effective than those made with peat moss alone.
To brew blackwater extract, follow the following steps:
1. Collect or purchase a bag of Indian Almond Leaves. If you purchase, Grade C leaves will be good enough, but remind your supplier not to clip off the leaf-stubs if he routinely does so.
2. Wash the leaves over running water with a stiff brush if they are not already washed. If they are already washed, rinse the leaves.
3. Get a large pot (preferably clay pot, else stainless steel, but certainly not copper) which is large enough to contain say 2 gallon of water.
4. Put about 50 (or more) leaves for each gallon of water the pot can contain.
5. Fill with clean water (preferably with chlorine and chloramine removed)
6. Weigh the leaves down with a chemically inert stone (e.g. granite).
7. Let the leaves soak in the pot for a day.
8. Boil the pot for 15-20 minutes.
9. Leave it to cool and soak for another day.
10. Boil one more time for 10-15 minutes.
11. Leave to cool. The water in the pot should be as black as thick coffee and very fragrant.
12. Filter the blackwater extract through a coffee paper filter (to trap detritus or any other insoluble matter).
13. Store the liquid in sturdy plastic or glass bottles.
14. Refrigerate or keep somewhere cool.
Dosage & Improvements
Dosage will be 1 ounce for 1 gallon of water in the Betta tank. Use your discretion for larger tanks, but do not use more than 1 ounce for 1 gallon of water.
To improve efficiency you may also add anti-chlorine and chloramine into it, but make sure you calculate how much to add so that when you use 1 ounce of your blackwater extract, you will be able to treat 1 gallon of water (to rid it of chlorine and chloramine).
Refrigerate or use standard canning process to give your extract a longer shelf-life.