Guide to Buying Indian Almond Leaves | What to look out for when buying Terminalia catappa leaves online

Published by Amy Lim February 21, 2008

This is a guide for those who are new to these leaves on what to look out for.

Most, if not all, Asian breeders of blackwater tropical fishes know that the leaves of the Ketapang tree, also known as the Sea Almond tree, the Indian Almond tree, or Terminalia catappa, is one of the greatest water conditioners for promoting healing and breeding. They're well-known for their ability to fight off bacteria and fungi. As little as a few of the leaves being placed in a betta's aquarium has been shown to trigger the fish to spawn. The leaves in the quarantine tank will help the fish recover from finrot or injuries (such as spawning injuries). However, standard aquariums can also benefit from their use.

These leaves contain a lot of organic acids like humic and tannic acids, which are extracted as a powerful brown color when soaking in water. These help remove toxic heavy metals from the aquarium water and can prevent the growth of many different types of bacteria.

It is common knowledge, for instance, that if mature untreated water is used, display Bettas housed in a 1 gallon tank will require water changes every 2 or 3 days. When Indian Almond Leaves are added, however, the frequency of water changes can be increased to once per week. Also, tubifex worms kept in tap water or even matured water would undergo necrosis and stench within a day or two, however worms kept in water treated with Indian Almond Leaves (or extract) will continue to flourish for up to a week without fouling up or producing any odor.

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Sorting the Leaves

Keep in mind that the leaves of an Indian almond tree are never duplicated. Each season brings a new crop of leaves from which to choose, and the Indian almond trees are no exception. The leaves of the Indian almond tree vary in form, size, thickness, and even color. The sizes vary. When freshly picked, some varieties are bright crimson or black in hue, while others are bright yellow or green. Some are thick and leathery when dried, while others are extremely thin and crinkly. When collected, some are shattered or holy while others are undamaged and flawless.

Therefore, one should not make their purchasing decisions based just on cost.

The aesthetic value of these leaves may be diminished by the fact that they are food. It is recommended to use graded leaves unless the leaves are offered by weight. Otherwise, you can get leaves of varying sizes and qualities (in terms of color, tickness, age, etc).

Typically, teachers use one of two grading systems. A common practice is to sort the leaves by size. Leaves that are at least 7 inches in length might be considered Grade A, while those that are less than that size might be categorized as Grade B.

One alternative grading system takes into account the leaf's overall condition, including its wholeness, any holes or tears, color, and thickness. Using this scale, we may classify leaves into the following five groups:

Grade A Extra Large (7+"), Large (5-7"), Small (5-7"), Infant (3-5"), Grade B Extra Large (7+"), and Grade C (anything else still usable).

Buying properly graded leaves is an effective strategy to reduce the risk of purchasing subpar product. Pick the measurements that work best for you. Keepers of Bettas, for instance, could do better with smaller, infant leaves than those of arowanas or plecos, who might benefit more from the larger leaves.

You should consider Grade C Indian Almond Leaves if you use a lot of them and typically use them to generate blackwater rather than leaving them in the tank (which you might want to do if you are spawning Bettas).

Additionally, keep an eye out for

It's not a good idea to buy newly plucked leaves. Blackwater streams do not typically feature leaves like this. Most of the leaves in blackwater rivers and streams are dead.

Favor darker leaves over greener ones. Mature leaves on certain varieties of Indian almond tree are a bright yellow, while leaves on others get a deeper red as they age. Select the darker-colored leaves if possible.

Also, remember that newly fallen and dried leaves look different from weathered ones. While rain-washed leaves may quickly absorb the water, the rain also washes away much of the leaves' beneficial properties. It takes more time for newly fallen leaves to tan water (about 3-4 days). These leaves are similar to time-release capsules in that they gradually unleash their medicinal effects.

Take into account the dissimilarities between shade-, sun-, and flat-dried items. As they require more time and effort to manufacture, flat dried leaves are typically given an A+ rating. This is because they are made from the most attractive leaves that have recently fallen from the tree. When shopping for flat dried leaves, it's important to find those that have fallen from the tree on their own rather than having been plucked. The leaves that have been sun dried or those that have been shade dried are virtually identical. To avoid mold growth during transport, ensure they are completely dry and crisp. Sun-dried leaves may have fewer dangerous bacteria, etc., according to some people. In any case, keep in mind that it's quite improbable that any terrestrial bacteria discovered in the leaves will survive when submerged in the aquaria. Still some maintain that dried leaves in the shade retain most of their health benefits. If you are unsure how your provider processes his leaves, you should ask.

Only a few vendors would provide damp leaves for sale. You should dry the leaves in the sun (or another dry spot) before using them if you obtain damp leaves. This is due to the fact that new leaves are more likely to create water contamination in the tank and will quickly develop mold if not dried. Moldy leaves are useless and should be thrown away.

Lastly, before purchasing, double check that the leaves have been properly cleaned and dried. Under flowing water, clean the leaves gently with a soft bristled brush. Some of the beneficial properties will be lost if you wet them. Cleaning the leaves gets rid of the dirt but also any chemicals that may have landed on them. Do not assume that there will not be a pesticide problem if you are importing leaves from a developing country. It is important to keep in mind that mosquito fogging is commonly used in many nations of the developing world. This is why you should only purchase dried and cleansed leaves. Just make sure you give the leaves a good cleaning before you put them in the aquarium.


You have the option of sending your order of Indian Almond Leaves in a box or an envelope. Shipping them in an envelope can save money on postage, but it increases the risk of the leaves being crushed in transit. Don't go with this unless you want your leaves to blend in with the rest of the tank's decor and look like they've been through a fight. Mailing leaves in a box typically results in a higher shipping cost. However, the low weight of the leaves (about 2 grams for a large leaf and 1 gram for a small leaf) means that the shipping costs won't skyrocket unless the box is particularly hefty.

Hints and Tips More

a. To reduce packaging and shipping costs, certain vendors may routinely remove the remaining leaf stems from an order. While it is generally necessary to remove the stub for smaller packages (5-20 leaves) owing to packing limits, if you are purchasing a larger lot (say, above 50 leaves), do ask the seller to leave the stub on as it is actually a very good source of beneficial tannins. When using leaves to create blackwater, don't throw away the stems (I will write a separate guide on how to make blackwater when I have the time).

b. After about 6 months of storage, especially in tropical humidity, leaves begin to degrade, reducing their effectiveness. This is why you should only buy leaves that have been recently gathered, cleaned, and dried. If you're not sure how long your provider has been storing his or her leaves for, ask.

c. Thoroughly dried leaves will remain extremely long in temperate or dry weather condition, therefore if you use these leaves frequently, it is recommended to order a larger quantity to save on postage.

c. Some Indian Almond Leaf vendors would use a hot iron to press their leaves into a thinner, more uniform shape. Hot-ironing the leaves eliminates some of their health benefits, making this a contentious practice. A quick experiment will prove this to be true. Scratch a dried Indian Almond leaf and sniff it. There ought to be a pleasant aroma. press it with a hot iron. Re-smell it. The aroma will be different this time. If Indian Almond Leaves are unavailable, you can use any other type of leaf for the experiment. Make sure the leaves are dry between papers if you prefer them flat. It's a lot more work, but the finished product will be leaves that are smoother, prettier, and smell like naturally dried leaves. Genuine A+ material right here. Conversely, hot-ironed leaves may appear quite crinkled despite being flat; and they will have a cooked aroma.

As a consumer, you may want to know where the leaves came from if you're purchasing them from a local stock list or reseller. If you want to make sure the leaves you buy are safe for your fish, it's best to get them from a reputable vendor who takes the time to sort through and grade his stock.


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