Guide to Using Indian Almond Leaves | Learn 5 methods for using Terminalia catappa leaves in the aquarium

How to use Indian Almond (Catappa) Leaves?

Published by Amy Lim March 7, 2014

Terminalia catappa (also known as Ketapang or Tropical Almond or Sea Almond or Indian Almond) leaves are becoming very popular as a natural medicine and water conditioner for aquarium use. This guide provides 5 suggestions on how to use them.

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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. Both bacteria and fungi are killed by them, thus they must have some sort of healing capabilities. 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 may help remove toxic heavy metals from the aquarium water and prevent the growth of some germs.

No wonder they're dubbed "Miracle Leaves," since they truly are miraculous.

How to use these leaves?

At least 5 aquarium setups can benefit from them (apart from using them as beautiful leaf-litter in terrariums for frogs, hermit crabs, scorpions and snakes).

Method #1: Directly

Here's how it works, and it couldn't be easier: The leaves can be dropped straight into the fish tank. If your leaves are moist for more than a few days, they will become waterlogged and sink. In addition to their purifying qualities, they will also give your aquarium a realistic stream-bottom appearance and a slightly tanned (to a clear amber) water color.

To what extent should one employ leaves? That's easy enough to answer: as many as you want. However, the more leaves you add, the less acidic the water will be (though it is unlikely to drop below 6.0). Use the leaves as tank substrate alongside bog wood or a tree stump with roots to create an authentic Amazonian environment for your blackwater fish.

On the other hand, a 1 gallon (4 liter) betta tank may only need a couple of little leaves or half to a quarter of a large leaf. One or more leaves should be sunk (for the female to hide in) and at least one leaf should be allowed to float if you intend to spawn the bettas. Most likely, the male betta will construct his nest beneath the leaf. The bubble-nest will help keep the leaf afloat until the fry hatch and can swim on their own.

For a larger tank (one housing tetras, gouramis, arowanas, apistos, plecos, or shrimp, for example), I would use 2-3 large (or 4-6 little) leaves for every 25 gallons (100 litres).

The leaves can stay on until they deteriorate, which should take approximately three to four weeks. In fact, as they begin to decompose, shrimps and plecos will eat them up.

Method #2: Filter Bag Method

The use of a filter bag is required for this technique (laundry netting or ladies stockings will also do). For every 25 gallons of water, crumple up a few huge leaves and place them in the filter bag. Place the bag in the Overhead Filter's inlet compartment. Canister filters should be left in the base of the unit. (Don't just throw the leaves in the top of the canister; that could cause the impellers to break). In just a few days, the tannins from the leaves will turn the lake's surface a rich brown. Unfortunately, it will fall apart in 14-21 days and will need to be replaced.

Method #3: Soaking Separately.

This technique calls for the use of a water supply in the form of a bucket or tub. Toss the leaves into the bucket and fill it with water. After a few days, the extremely brown water is ready to be poured into your tank, and you can fill it (the bucket) with clean water.

For even better results, you can run an air pump to promote circulation and aeration, and you can also throw a spoonful of salt into the bucket (as a preservative).

Leave the leaves in the bucket until the water no longer has an amber hue, using this approach.

Method #4: Brewing Blackwater Extract

This method is described in a separate guide: How to brew your own catappa blackwater extract.

Method #5: Tea Cup Method

You can use pre-packaged Indian Almond Tea bags or steep the leaves yourself for this procedure.

If you prefer using teabags, be sure to only use those made from sanitary, water-resistant materials. Instances of such teabags are available for purchase on the online marketplace EBay. About 1.5 leaves are the maximum you'll find in a standard teabag.

Fill a mug with boiling water and add a teabag or a large, crushed leaf. The temperature needs some time to drop. By the time the water in the cup has cooled, it will have the appearance of robust tea. Put only what you'll use into the tank, and refrigerate the rest, together with the leaf or teabag, for later use.


To what extent does the preferred method differ? Really, the choice is yours.

If your provider did not wash the leaves for you, make sure to do so before using them. If they have already been cleaned, all you have to do is rinse off the items you need under the faucet.

Keep in mind that it may take more time for the beneficial properties to be leached out of high-quality leaves that have not been exposed to the elements. Leaves that have been exposed to the elements may leach tannins more quickly, but by the time they are gathered, much of their beneficial characteristics will have been washed away by rain.


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