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Indian Almond Leaves | How And When To Use Them!

Last Updated July 30, 2021
Indian Almond Leaves

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If you’re an aquarist, you’ve probably heard of using Indian almond leaves (also known as catappa leaves) to make your aquarium water more natural and better for your fish. There are a few reasons why you might consider adding Indian almond leaves to your freshwater tank, including their medicinal properties and popular usage as an additional food source for small shrimp and fish. These leaves will also stain your water, giving your fish tank an unparalleled natural appearance that can really make your mini-ecosystem come to life.

But how, when, and why should you use Indian almond leaves in your tank and what will they do for my fish?

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Indian almond leaves: the real when, how, and why you should use Indian almond leaves in your aquarium.

What are Indian almond leaves?

Indian almond leaves come from the Terminalia catappa tree. The leaf of this tree is especially known for its ability to act as a natural medicine and aquarium water conditioner for betta fish and shrimp tanks when the leaf has emerged in water for extended periods of time. Indian almond leaves are said to help combat fungus and bacterial problems like fin rot and can further help prevent fish from getting stressed by mimicking the water they are naturally found in. 

The Terminalia catappa tree grows throughout the tropical regions of Asia, Australia, and Africa. As we’ll discuss later, the leaves fall from the tree and into the water. Tannins then leach out of the leaves into the water, adding hues of yellow and brown while lowering the pH.

Indian almond leaves are usually harvested by simply picking them up off the ground leaf by leaf. After drying them properly, the leaves can then be added into the water or the tank. You can import Indian almond leaves directly, but nowadays, they are also available in some pet/fish stores as well as online!

What do Indian almond leaves do for your water and for your fish?

When placed in water, Indian almond leaves slowly start to decompose. While this happens, the leaves turn the water a yellow or brown color by releasing tannins. These tannins gradually lower the pH of the water and are said to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, which comes in handy when you have a fish suffering from fin rot or when you’re raising vulnerable fry.

This ‘healing’ ability is actually a direct effect of what tannins are meant to do; in trees and plants, tannins are mainly stored in the bark and new leaves. The tannins have the ability to precipitate out important enzymes from bacteria and fungus, preventing the tree or plant from becoming infected. This would then likely bolster the ability of the fish to fight off infections as well when Indian almond leaves fall into the water and the tannins leach out.

The dark water tank appearance caused by these tannins is considered unsightly by some aquarists, but it actually mimics the natural habitat of many fish species! In fact, it’s said that a lot of fish feel less exposed when in dark water, which may help shyer fish gain more confidence that will bring them to the front of the tank. These properties alone definitely make using Indian almond leaves worth considering, but we’ll discuss even more benefits to adding some leaf litter to your tank later! 

Some aquarium keepers like their tank really full of tannins like this one, but luckily, the color is easy to regulate with regular maintenance and activated carbon if the water gets too dark for your liking!

When should I use Indian almond leaves?

Many people use Indian almond leaves in their betta fish or shrimp tank, but these leaves can be used in many situations for other fish as well:

  • Adding an Indian almond leaf or two to a quarantine tank with a sick fish can help speed up the healing process. I’ve spoken with betta fish breeders who have actually stopped using regular fish medications altogether. They have started treating sick fish with nothing but Indian almond leaves, clean tank water, and activated carbon.
  • When you’re dealing with fish or invertebrates that prefer water that is soft and acidic, Indian almond leaves can be great for stimulating breeding. The tannins released by the leaves help create water conditions that are similar to those in the natural habitat of the fish, which further help replicate breeding conditions. If you’re trying to get your betta fish or crystal red shrimp to breed, adding an Indian almond leaf or two to the breeding tank may help speed up the process!
  • Indian almond leaves are also used as a beginning food source for certain fish fry and baby shrimp because they like to feed off the decomposing leaf matter. Not only does the Indian almond leaves potentially provide a first meal for the fish or shrimp, but they can also be used as emergency food if other food sources are scarce. Indian almond leaves also allow smaller fish to hide amongst the leaf litter where other larger fish can’t easily see and eat them. 
  • Indian almond leaves are also used to condition aquarium water and maintain water quality. In fact, this method is sometimes known as the β€œpoor man’s water conditioner”; however, the wrongly-named “poor man” is most likely describing those (lucky!) aquarium keepers that have readily available access to Indian almond leaves. For the rest of us, getting Indian almond leaves can be quite expensive, so it’s typically best to buy them in bulk when possible (and you should still always use commercial aquarium water conditioner just to be safe)! Since Indian almond leaves also help slowly lower the water pH, it’s said to be better for keeping harmful ammonia levels under control since ammonia is converted to the less toxic ammonium at low pH (anything less than 8.0). 
  • Lastly, it is very common for fish enthusiasts to use Indian almond leaves in their tank just to stain the water with the tannins. If you’re interested in setting up an Asian blackwater biotope, which imitates blackwater rivers and streams, natural foliage like Indian almond leaves or other leaf litter is a must-have. These leaves appear in these regions naturally so they are biotope-correct and will be willingly accepted by your fish and other tank inhabitants. You can also add Indian almond leaves to other tank setups with fish that prefer soft and acidic water if you just like the look of it. Never add Indian almond leaves to a tank that has fish or other invertebrates that require higher water pH levels!

How do I use Indian almond leaves in my fish tank?

There are a few different ways to use Indian almond leaves in your tank; the easiest way is to just place a leaf or two in the tank at first and wait for them to do their job. The more leaves you add, the more tannins will be released and the darker the water will get; you can tear the leaves up if you want the tannins to release more quickly. Once the Indian almond leaves start decomposing, you can take them out or replace them, but it’s also fine to wait for them to completely decompose on their own. Shrimp and fry will actually appreciate it if you don’t remove the leaves because, as mentioned earlier, they feed on the decomposing remains; no piece of leaf will go to waste no matter how small!

If you’re not a big fan of having leaf litter in your tank, another option is to soak the Indian almond leaves separately and then introduce the stained water into your tank between water changes. You can also make your own blackwater Indian almond leaf extract, which is a very concentrated version of stained water that has lots of tannins. This is done by taking a very large amount of Indian almond leaves, boiling them in a pot of water, and letting them soak for multiple days afterward.

You only have to add a small amount of the Indian almond leaf extract to your tank to get that blackwater look, so don’t overdo it! (And by the way, if you’re not the kind of person who stands around boiling leaves for your fish tank, you can also just buy your Indian almond leaf extract online. We won’t judge.)

What if I add too many Indian almond leaves into my fish tank?

It really isn’t likely that you’ll end up using too many Indian almond leaves in your tank; the only way this could happen is if you use an absurd amount of leaves and your pH gets so low that it starts to affect your overall water quality. And even that is very unlikely to happen if you are keeping count of the leaves in your tank! It is usually recommended to only use one Indian almond leaf per 10 gallons (38 L), however, you should be safe with adding another leaf if you didn’t get the desired effect with just one.

Otherwise, your problem comes down to only the aesthetics of the water in your tank. The more leaves you use and the longer you keep them in your tank, the darker your water will get. However, if you accidentally add too many leaves at once or too much Indian almond leaf extract, this can be fixed by simply doing partial water changes and using and regularly replacing activated carbon. Activated carbon will fill up with the tannins over time, so you may need to replace it more regularly if you’re really wanting to clear up the water in your tank.

Seed pods, twigs, alder cones, and other leaf litter

With the popularity of realistic blackwater biotope aquariums ever-growing, so does the number of different types of dried tree leaves, bark, and twigs sold by fish stores. Most pet and fish stores nowadays don’t just sell the classic Indian almond leaf; they also might carry many other different types of organic matter and leaf litter that you can also use in your tank.

Generally speaking, all of these products give the same beneficial effects to your water and to your fish as using Indian almond leaves. They release beneficial tannins and help create a natural look in your tank that fish love. Don’t be afraid to switch it up and try using something other than Indian almond leaves!

How about some banana, magnolia, oak, mulberry, or guava leaves for your tank? Or maybe seed pods from various plants, like alder cones (much appreciated by dwarf shrimp), magnolia, or lotus? If that’s still not enough, you could even try whole pieces of twigs or bark like that from the Indian almond tree, palm fronds, or plain old oak twigs.

Some of these pieces you can collect yourself if a certain tree or plant grows near you. Do keep pollution in mind, though: thoroughly clean any leaf litter or other organic matter before adding it to your tank and generally avoid anything that’s growing in polluted areas. Any pollutants can and will seep into your water and can affect your fish!


If you don’t have access to or just don’t want to use Indian almond leaves in your tank, you can always resort back to commercialized chemicals to treat fish diseases and regulate water conditions. As we mentioned before, you can also try other kinds of leaf litter and organic matter if they suit your tank or match the natural environment of your fish better. Just make sure to research whatever you end up using before adding it to your tank, especially if you are collecting them yourself; some materials may require a recurring process or may be contaminated due to pollution.

If you choose to use Indian almond leaves in your tank, you won’t be disappointed. These leaves will help keep your fish and invertebrates healthy and fed. Your water will also be stained beautiful hues of yellows and browns that would naturally be found in the areas where your fish and/or invertebrates are from. Using Indian almond leaves is also a good and simple alternative to lowering water pH instead of using chemicals that can easily be over- or underdosed. If worse comes to worst and you hate the color of the water, you can always lessen the effect of the Indian almond leaves by using and regularly replacing your activated carbon.

If you have any more questions about Indian almond leaves or about using Indian almond leaves in your own tank, make sure to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!

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  • Reply Pascal September 10, 2021 at 6:51 am

    The Indian Almond tree is called Talisay over here. I dry my own in the sun, but never use ones already on the ground. Leaves on the ground can easily be contaminated. Great article, thank you

  • Reply Pam July 31, 2021 at 5:21 am

    Hi, I have one male betta fish in a 5 gallon tank and have added one almond leaf. My betta seems to love it. He swims to it and rubs himself on the leaf and even lays on it and lets his many crown tail fins drape over it. He seems very happy, but I’m hoping I’m reading his behaviour correctly. Is a 5 gallon with real plants, a hammock and a little tunnel enough for him, or too much?

    • Reply Jennifer Doll August 1, 2021 at 5:01 pm

      Hi Pam!
      That sounds like an ideal setup! If it looks like he doesn’t have a lot of room to swim/is bumping into objects when he moves, then I would remove either the hammock or the tunnel. But otherwise, it sounds like he’s doing just fine.
      Do be careful that rubbing can be a sign of parasites/disease, but if you’ve had him for a while and haven’t added anything else to the tank, then there’s no reason to be concerned.

  • Reply Taylor Hansen December 11, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    It really helped when you said to place some leaves in the tank while adding more for the tannins to be released. I’m getting betta fish for my son and I’ve heard that they can get sick usually. I’ll have to get some almond leaves as well just in case they get some sort of ailments.

    • Reply Jennifer Doll December 11, 2020 at 7:19 pm

      Hi Taylor!
      Yes, tannins can help in many different ways and can’t hurt the aquarium as long as you don’t add too many as this can cause the water to become too acidic. If you ever start to dislike the appearance of tannin-stained water, all you have to do is run some carbon and maybe do a routine water change or two and the color will be gone!

      • Reply Dana January 19, 2021 at 1:21 pm

        At what point do you remove the almond leaf? Our ph doesn’t seem be dropping, and now there is fuzzy mold stuff growing on our leaf!

        • Reply Jennifer Doll January 21, 2021 at 10:33 pm

          Hi Dana!
          This is a great question. Most likely, this fuzzy mold is a natural fungus that helps breakdown organic matter. If you don’t like the look of it or it starts to affect your water parameters otherwise, then you can remove it from the tank.
          As for why your pH isn’t dropping, there could be a number of reasons. One, you just haven’t had the leaf in your tank long enough; it will take a few days for tannins to really take effect! Two, you have another parameter that isn’t letting your pH change. Most often, this is KH, which allows pH to rise/fall/fluctuate.
          It would be best to test all your parameters along with KH to see if one could be impacting your lack of pH results.
          pH and KH can get pretty tricky, so if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

  • Reply Olivia September 9, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    Would oak galls make an acceptable substitute? There are tons of scrub oaks near me and I collect the galls to make ink once the gall wasps vacate, so I have a bunch of them laying around.

    • Reply Jennifer Doll September 9, 2020 at 8:10 pm

      Hi Olivia!
      I honestly had to look up what oak galls were; I’m not versed in them at all, sorry! But from what I’ve found, no one has ever really tried to use them in the aquarium before. I personally wouldn’t risk it, especially since you don’t really know how the wasps are affecting/changing them chemically. I think you’re much safer just using the oak leaves themselves instead!
      If you want to try using oak leaves, make sure that they haven’t been in contact with herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. Wait until the leaves turn brown on the tree (if the leaves change in your location, otherwise, you will need to pick them and let them naturally dry out in a warm area), and pick them directly from the branch so they don’t get ‘contaminated’ on the ground. You then need to boil the leaves for a couple of minutes just to get any pathogens off. Let them dry for a couple of days and then place a few in the tank; you can then store the leftovers!
      I hope this helps. If you do choose to experiment on the oak galls, let us know how it goes!

  • Reply Lizzie July 4, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Hi there
    Great article, very helpful!
    Im confused about the mention of removing carbon from the filter. Am I to remove the cartridge? If so, what would I use to replace it?
    Thank you

    • Reply Jennifer Doll July 5, 2020 at 1:09 am

      Hi Lizzie!
      Activated carbon tends to remove all the benefits from the tannins that Indian almond leaves leak into the water; it is recommended to remove carbon so that these are not immediately stripped from the tank! It is actually recommended to use carbon if you accidentally put in too many leaves/too much extract. As for a replacement, it is best to just use filter floss/sponge to help catch waste as it moves through your tank. You will need to wash these out regularly though if you plan on always having it in your filter. Some people only use filter floss/sponge after water changes, and then remove it completely after a couple of days. Another possible substitute is bioballs or other porous filter media, but you will also need to regularly clean your filter chamber to get out leftover detritus.
      Good luck and happy fishkeeping!

  • Reply Chad May 16, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    If we allow leaves to be in the tank for a longer time, nitrate concentration of water will increase. Please verify. Also you mentioned, leaves can be boiled and leave it for 3 days for absorption…. what did you mean by absorption? Thanks very much.

    • Reply Mari May 17, 2019 at 1:43 pm

      Nitrates are nothing to worry about if you use leaf litter. If they were, people wouldn’t be able to maintain blackwater tanks with a thick layer of leaves! From what I’ve understood the reason they don’t cause nasty situations when decaying is because the leaves naturally fell off the tree after the tree reabsorbed the nutrients inside them (hence why they are dry and brown). This means there simply isn’t much in there any more that can cause nitrate spikes.

      By absorption I simply mean the water absorbing the tannins. Leaving the leaves for a couple of days makes sure all the beneficial stuff from the leaves has leached into the water. πŸ™‚

  • Reply What do alder cones have to do with your shrimp? / The Shrimp Farm May 2, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    […] go crazy over "leaf litter" and "botanicals". That basically means plant bits, most notably Indian almond leaves. We use these in our aquarium because they are good for our fish and […]

  • Reply Peter March 8, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    I agree that blackwater tanks are both great for the fish and for the look of the fish. If your fish have any reflective patches they will shine best in dark water. I have fish like eyepatch raspboras which have a reflective patch just behind the eyes which really shines in dark water. Also my sidthimunki loaches have a golden reflective patch behind their eyes when in good condition which also shines in dark water better than clear. Neon/cardinal tetras, glowlight etc tetras look much better in dark water as they come from.

    I also have a female ancistrus (bristlenose) catfish (born in the tank, last one left) who much prefers a deep leaf litter. She comes out much more often moving under the leaves and is much less likely to skitter to the back of the tank if I come into the room if she is under something, even if visible from the side of the tank iow she feels more secure.

    The poor fish had never been out of the tank, never been netted since born in it. When I took the tank apart to change from a UGF to a canister filter she was so scared when I netted her she clamped onto the net and would not let go when placed in the nice black bucket with the bogwood and plants to hide in. But she likes the new look tank (humate under the gravel for plant growth and tannins etc). New bogwood added to old as well. Plants will actually grow in the gravel which they didn’t with the UGF, just on the bogwood.

    I’ve been using alder cones which do darken the water but don’t acidify it so I’m trialling nano catappa leaves as well. The canister filter (no carbon, just ceramic beads, foam and phos-ex) seems to extract tannin from the water so it’s hard to maintain a dark tank. I put cones in the change water as it conditions and it darkens that as well but it still lightens.

    I’ve got a load of oak leaves and are adding those in batches both to give a deep litter (with guava and beech leaves) and hopefully add tannins.

    BTW I tried dead dried phalaenopsis orchid leaves and my female pearl/lace gourami eats them. Phalaenopsis grow from China to India across the tropics and are epiphytes on trees. So they will naturally fall into the water where these fish live. I put the dead stem and roots of a dried out dead plant in the nano tank in lieu of bogwood and bully male pearl gourami is very happy with it. I have plants growing on it as well.

    Phalaenopsis are THE most common orchid, your friends may have some, ask them to save dead leaves for you or save them from your own plants. I have one given as a gift which is dying post flowering (pushed too hard for sale I suspect, two large flower spikes from 2 leaves!) which is drying out nicely. Might even be worth buying a leafy plant and just don’t water it. Eventually it will dry out and then you can use it. Getting a new plant every 6 months or so should supply an endless supply of leaves. Make sure they are dried out and brown though and keep dry so they dry out instead of rotting.

    • Reply Mari March 11, 2019 at 4:40 pm


      Thanks so much for your comment! I agree on the Phal leaves, I’ve done the same thing since I’m a houseplant junkie as well and it’s a cheap way to get leaves. I have tons of plants and dead leaves are a part of growing them, so all the better for my tanks Other than that I have nothing to add to this, great advice πŸ™‚

      • Reply Peter March 12, 2019 at 8:56 pm

        Thanks, BTW how long should the catappa leaves take to make the water darker and more acid? I have two in a 10G for a week with no movement in either. I have one in a nano tank with just a foam filter and that is the same.

        I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve bought a bad batch of leaves.

        I might boil up my remaining alder cones to make blackwater extract. I can get more from the tree if required.

        • Reply Mari March 18, 2019 at 1:32 pm

          Well, for any effect on acidity you’ll have to use quite a few leaves or blackwater extract. Color-wise, I would expect something to happen in such small tanks with one or two leaves, honestly, but I doubt it’s possible to really buy a bad batch of leaves. They’re either dried leaves or they’re not, I’d think?! You could always try tossing them in with the alder cones to create your blackwater, boiling them is about the harshest thing you can do so that should do the trick.

          What luck to have alder cones available! They’re probably the most effective litter I’ve tried for darkening the water.

  • Reply Angelo jay Cruz December 28, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    What is the content of indian almond leaf that can affect the coloration of betta fish?

    • Reply Mari January 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      Hey! As far as I know these leaves don’t directly affect the coloration of your fish. The only change I can think of would be through improved general health. πŸ™‚

  • Reply victor velasco November 26, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Hello, just today I’ve bought a IAL. Right now is inside my aquarium. I do not know if the properties of the Almond leave will disapear if I have active carbon in my filter. Do I have to remove it or keep it in?

    • Reply Mari November 26, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Active carbon does remove the beneficial properties of IAL. In fact, it’s not a good idea to have it in your filter on a permanent basis at all. In a healthy and cycled aquarium it won’t be needed and it actually removes other beneficial substances from the water as well. I recommend taking it out and keeping it for emergencies or to remove medication from the water if the need arises! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jessica November 9, 2018 at 1:28 am

    Hi, I have a male veil tail Betta and he has been experiencing some bloating for about a month now. I tried giving him a raw pea and fasting him but the bloating just hasn’t gone away.
    I was wondering if adding the IAL would help the bloating go down. What would you suggest?

    • Reply Mari November 10, 2018 at 3:50 pm

      Hey! If he’s still bloated after a month then I think it might be something more serious than can be solved with some IAL. Have you done a thorough check of your water values and other factors? There are a number of reasons for bloating beyond just diet, some of them a bit more grave unfortunately.

      That being said, adding IAL is still pretty much always a good idea with Bettas, so you can still go ahead and do it. Just don’t hold too much hope of it solving the problem altogether.

      Hope he recovers!

      PS: peas aren’t good for Bettas as they can’t digest them. For bloating problems that are related to diet you can feed daphnia or try an epsom salt bath. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Melody Munro November 1, 2018 at 4:57 am

    Hello, thankyou for your helpful article. I am planning on using these for my discus and angelfish aquariums which are 75 gallon and 110 gallon. My intention is to boil the leaves to make extract. My question is how long does the extract keep for? and should I store it in the fridge?

    • Reply Mari November 1, 2018 at 2:43 pm

      Glad to hear this article was helpful to you πŸ™‚

      With the acidity level of these extracts I’d expect them to keep reasonably well, especially in the fridge. What I’d do, though, is just freeze it in handy amounts. Then when I’d need it I could just thaw and add to the tank the amount that works for me! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kayla October 15, 2018 at 9:45 pm

    I have a half moon make betta in a 5 1/2 gallon tank. He has been fail biting and I have 7-12 inches of almond leaves. How many should I put in his tank? In addition, should I boil the leaves and let it cool and dump everything in Ghoste’s tank?
    Thank you!

    • Reply Mari October 15, 2018 at 10:05 pm

      Hey! Sorry to hear your Betta has been tail biting.

      You could start by just putting one leaf into his tank, in a 5 1/2 that should already have some effect. You can always add more after that if you’d like the water to be darker. Boiling the leaves to make extract that you can add a little bit at a time of is something you can do, but not a necessity. It just depends on your own preference. I think your Betta will appreciate the leaf litter in the tank so I’d go the other route of just putting the leaf in instead.

      Keep in mind that the leaves float at first, which is not a problem. Good luck!

  • Reply Vicky August 7, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Hi, mine is a question. Can the Indian almond leave be used in a catfish tank. Thank you.

    • Reply Mari August 7, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Hey! Yes, that works just fine. Many catfish come from habitats that naturally have plenty of leaf litter πŸ™‚

  • Reply Rhylee Senescall July 16, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Hi. I have a betta in a 3.5 gallon (yes I know, small. I can’t afford bigger at the moment) with snails and a marimo moss ball. Will the leaves harm my moss ball at all? The snails and betta love it so I’d hate to see it damaged. My betta has a tail nibbling problem and I’m hoping maybe the new moss ball addition and the leaves will help calm him down a bit. He does it when I’m not home or when the water temp isn’t just right, I’ve caught him in the act. Definitely not fin rot (yay) but not sure what to do with him.

    • Reply Mari July 16, 2018 at 5:35 pm


      The leaves won’t hurt your moss ball in any way whatsoever, so yay! And I think adding some decor will definitely be appreciated, so that’s a good idea. You could also consider floating plants, I’ve got an article with some info on them here.

      Good luck, hope he’ll stop tail biting. Such a frustrating thing!

  • Reply Alison williams May 2, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Will ramshorn snails eat the leaves

    • Reply Mari May 5, 2018 at 2:55 pm

      They will definitely see the leaves and the biofilm that grows on there as they break down as tasty snacking. So the leaves work well for them! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Heather February 9, 2018 at 10:07 pm


    I’ve been using these in my betta tanks and noticed recently that they start to grow fuzz on them in different spots a couple days after adding them. If I scrub it off it just comes right back. Would you have any idea what this is or what’s causing it?

    • Reply Mari February 10, 2018 at 10:36 am

      Hi! Yes, your leaves are decomposing as they should be and the fuzz is biofilm πŸ™‚ it should be completely innocent. Shrimp keepers would be jealous of you, they deliberately grow this stuff in their tanks to feed their shrimp!

  • Reply Carrie February 8, 2018 at 1:12 am

    I’m so happy I found your site! You have shared such a wealth of knowledge. My question for you is I just moved my 1 female beta and 2 tetras into a 13 gallon from a 3 gallon. I had the water tested prior to moving them in and everything was perfect according to Petco. All 3 fish are really active and eating well. My concern is the beta may have fin rot. Since she’s a female and has smaller fins than the males I’m just not sure. She also looks like she has some dark (almost black) spots are her body. She’s darker blue so it’s hard to see them clearly. Should I separate her from the 2 tetras? Do you think IAL would help? Thank so much for your advice.

    • Reply Mari February 9, 2018 at 9:35 am


      Nice to hear you’ve upgraded your Betta, I’m sure she loves having so much room!

      First off, I’m sad to say NEVER trust anything you hear from a chain pet store. More often than not, employees know absolutely NOTHING about keeping fish. Did they give you the exact water values? Did you cycle the tank before moving the fish in there? Is there a specific reason you don’t have a liquid test kit yourself (you should really have one if you want to keep fish, especially if you think you’re dealing with something like fin rot)?

      If the tank is fully cycled and the water quality really is good, the instructions in this article should be enough to work things out. IAL is also always good, whether your Betta is sick or not. If the tank isn’t cycled then you’re unfortunately in a bit of trouble here. Let me know if that’s the case and do daily water changes until you hear back from me.

      Lastly, yes, separate her from the tetras. Those are group fish that should be kept with at least 8 and shouldn’t be kept with Bettas because their activity level and nippiness can stress them out.

      Hope things work out and your fish will be fine!

  • Reply Ami December 29, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Hey there Mari! I was wondering, since I’ve added the ial into my outdoor tub it has changed the high ph to around 7.5ph which i wanted since im gonna add goldfish in the future. Should i just let it remain or will it still continue to decrease the ph? Hope to hear from you soon.

    • Reply Mari December 30, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Hi! I’d just leave it in there. The pH changes from IAL usually aren’t too drastic, and if they are you can always remove the leaves later πŸ™‚

      • Reply ld January 14, 2018 at 2:25 am

        Hi!Can I use this leaves for flowerhorn fish?

        • Reply Mari January 14, 2018 at 10:32 am

          Hello! Yes, that should work as long as your pH doesn’t get too low πŸ™‚

  • Reply Miss Bonner October 28, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Will these leaves cure my baby (full grown Betta) of his graying fin rot. Got him from Walmart. Or should I just do aquarium salt baths? He has gray on his torso and his find are fading at the ends. Betta Fix doesn’t seem to be working.

    • Reply Mari October 28, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Bettafix isn’t working because it isn’t actual medication, it’s a mild antiseptic and it’s actually not suitable for Bettas despite the marketing. It’s just diluted tea tree oil. Indian almond leaves won’t cure your Betta but they can help create a healthy environment (as long as the rest of the tank is suitable – filtered, cycled, heated, 5+ gal). If you’re sure it’s fin rot you’re dealing with, don’t use aquarium salt – it doesn’t work either and actually harms your fish. Go for an actual antibiotic like Maracyn 2. I’ve got a full article on dealing with fin rot here but I must warn you that if the rot has spread to the body you might not be able to save him any more.

      Good luck! And be sure not to buy any fish from Walmart any more. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Alli August 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Hi, I’m just wondering how drastically one leaf could change the pH in a 10 gallon? My tank pH is a constant 8.2, but I want my future Betta to be as comfortable as possible. The main thing I’m worried about is that when I do water changes the pH will shoot back up from the fresh water and shock my Betta

    • Reply Mari August 30, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      One leaf doesn’t change the pH drastically at all so that won’t cause any problems πŸ™‚

      If you really want to go the blackwater route but are worried about water value fluctuations you can always make blackwater extract and add that to the new water before fillng the tank back up.

  • Reply Ingrid April 12, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Thanks for this information! I ordered giant Indian almond leaves from Amazon . They really are huge! So I used half of one for my 10g Betta tank. When I replace it I may just use a 1/4 instead. I’m doing this as a prevention because I hope to have the healthiest and longest living Betta in the world LoL

    • Reply Mari April 12, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      Glad the leaves are working well for you! And good luck with achieving your goal, haha πŸ™‚

  • Reply Josh March 15, 2017 at 12:33 am

    Hi I was wondering do you have to use Indian almond leaves? I have a Betta fish by the way, because I have a lot of almond trees around where I live I was wondering if I can use them as a substitute.

    • Reply Mari March 16, 2017 at 9:23 am

      You don’t necessarily have to use Indian almond leaves, many leaf types and other plant parts are used to darken the water. I think other almond tree types are fine but be sure to check their toxicity beforehand. You can also use oak leaves!

  • Reply Cindy February 26, 2017 at 2:47 am

    Does the extract have the same medicinal effect as the leaves? and how do you tell how much of the extract to add? (10 gal tank, betta fish)

    • Reply Mari February 26, 2017 at 6:38 pm

      Yes, the extract has the same effect. I can’t really tell you how much to add, that also depends on how dark you would like the water to be. You can just carefully add extract until it looks dark enough to you. You can assume you’re getting the positive effects as soon as the water is starting to look tea colored/yellowish.

    • Reply Harry March 16, 2017 at 9:38 am

      The recommended dose to make your own extract is to boil 50 grams of (crushed) leaves in 2 liters of water. After 2x boiling you finally will get aprox. 1 liter of extract. From this extract you add 10ml for every 10 liter water (2.5 gallon). So in your case that would be 40ml for your 10 gallon tank. Thats how i use it for my discus and they love it.


  • Reply Leng February 21, 2017 at 2:19 am

    Hi there, i came across your article regarding indian almond leaves. I have added couple of endler n wild guppies in my fish tank as well as albino cory n china hillstream loach not forgetting some water snails too. I’m wondering would it be fine n if my fishes are able to accommodate ial ? Looking forward to your reply..

  • Reply Breeder January 6, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Can I use the leaves for my swordtail fish is it ok if it turns brown

    • Reply Mari January 7, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      Yes, you can use them. The brown color is normal.

  • Reply Sier Salazar December 21, 2016 at 11:00 am

    How long do I soak the leaf in my 2.5 gal tank? Is 1 leaf is too much for my 2.5 tank? Or should I cut it in half? And when I am going to make my partial water changes? Thanks in advance! πŸ™‚

    • Reply Mari December 31, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      One leaf is probably not too much, but it can make your water pretty dark. You could start with half a leaf and see how it works out and then possibly add the other half. You should do water changes as usual.

  • Reply Kshitij October 27, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Can I use Indian almond leaves as showcase in my freshwater tank

    • Reply Mari October 28, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      I’m not sure what you mean! But you can use them in freshwater tanks just fine, as described in the article πŸ™‚

  • Reply Buddika September 15, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Hi, I have a outdoor water pond with fish. I need to keep my fish in healthy and safety . How to use almond leaves for outdoor water.

    • Reply Mari September 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Just as you would indoors! The instructions in the article work for ponds as well.

  • Reply Arun Raja June 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    I’m from South India, here almond leaves can be found in abundance. I have a few 1 gallon aquarium for bettas and this leaf will take a few days to decompose, and only after that it will look brownish. Would you recommend me to clean the aquarium (water change) after it turns brownish? I hope the process will be initiated only after a couple of days. Thankyou..

    • Reply Mari June 3, 2016 at 10:47 am

      1 gallon tanks are too small to keep bettas in (unless you’re an experienced breeder), so please upgrade your fish! The brown stained water is not a problem at all, though obviously you should still do water changes often to keep water quality high.

  • Reply Kimberly May 17, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Is it harmful to put too much IAL in a tank? I’m in the process of moving so I have 1.2 gallon QT tank until I can get the 2.5 gallon set up again. I bought IAL from amazon by tantora size medium (5-7 inches ). Would 1 leaf be too much?

    • Reply Mari May 21, 2016 at 9:23 pm

      I do think it’s possible to put in too much but I don’t think one leaf would be too much of a problem. Sorry for the late reply, hope it worked out for you!

  • Reply Candy May 3, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Hi do you usually boil your leaves before putting them in the rank or just add them from the bag? Thank you

    • Reply Mari May 5, 2016 at 10:58 am

      I just add them from the bag! If you buy leaves for aquarium use they should be pesticide free and 100% safe. As mentioned in the article you can boil them to make blackwater extract, though.

      • Reply Candy May 5, 2016 at 11:37 am

        Thank you!

  • Reply Julia Lusk March 14, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Hello I have a 31/2 gallon tank with one betta .. Would half a leaf be plenty for this size. He is completely happy and healthy but I thought he may still benefit from the almond leaf.

    • Reply Mari March 14, 2016 at 11:14 am

      1/2 or one leaf would probably be enough, yes. I’m not really a fan of keeping bettas in such small tanks, though!

  • Reply Elise February 16, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    In my 10gal tropical community tank others fin rot. I have 1 male betta 4 corys and an otocinclus. I hate using medications and was wondering how well Indian almond leaves work for fin rot. And how any do you put in a 10gallon to treat fin rot? It’s not server yet but bad enough. Thank you!

    • Reply Mari February 16, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      Hi! What kind of Cories do you have? It sounds like your tank may be a little overstocked which is likely causing the fin rot. I’d recommend rehoming at least one species – if the cories are anything other than Corydoras pygmaeus, hastatus or habrosus then it’s really a good idea to find another home for those. You can then expand your group of Otocinclus, they prefer to be with at least four or five and don’t have a very high waste output.

      As for treating fin rot with these leaves, they don’t replace medication but can help if there is no very serious damage yet. Beginning fin rot can be treated with a combination of very clean, warm water (daily water tests with your liquid test kit, increase your water changes) and possibly some Indian almond leaves. Three leaves would be a good starting point, don’t be scared if they discolor your water. If the fin rot keeps progressing you’ll unfortunately likely have to switch to antibiotics. However, as the fin rot is likely caused by overcrowding I suspect you won’t have too many problems with it once you’ve rehomed a few fish. 10 gallons is very small and can only be stocked very lightly!

      Good luck! I hope everything turns out alright.

  • Reply Jack February 15, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Hi, can I use it to lower PH in Aquaponics?

    • Reply Mari February 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      Hi! Although Indian almond leaves can help lower your pH a little, I wouldn’t rely on them if you really want to work on your pH. As with stuff like wood, the effects likely won’t be too drastic. Using RO water might be helpful if you really want full control, though reading a few guides is definitely a good idea before getting into it πŸ™‚

  • Reply Trepkos December 25, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    How long do these take to work? We put some in our 6 foot and 4 foot tank about a week ago (7 and 5 leaves respectively) and haven’t seen any change. If it takes weeks, then presumably every time we change water, (one per week) we will be working against them.

    • Reply Mari December 26, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Hi! The leaves start working quite quickly, but with 6 and 4 ft tanks I think you’ll need a few more than what you’ve used now! Looking into oak leaves, alder cones and almond leaf extract might help as they all have similar blackwater effects πŸ™‚

      • Reply Trepkos December 27, 2015 at 2:03 am


  • Reply Blackwater Aquariums | The Aquarium Guide November 20, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    […] can achieve the blackwater look in your home aquarium using leaves (Indian almond or oak), driftwood, or alder […]

  • Reply Joseph November 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Can I use Indian almond leaf along with API stress coat water conditioner?

    • Reply Mari November 6, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      Yes, you should be able to combine them with normal aquarium products πŸ™‚

  • Reply Ash October 16, 2015 at 5:48 pm


    Can I use them with my snakehead?

    How many leaves per litres of water?

    • Reply Mari October 17, 2015 at 10:54 am

      Snakeheads naturally live in low to neutral pH waters, so I think it would work fine! I assume you have a pretty huge tank for a snakehead, so you would need quite a few I think. Maybe start with 1 leaf per 5 gallons (20L) and see how that works for you? πŸ™‚

      • Reply jeremy chase October 16, 2020 at 8:26 am

        Great article. I am making a 2 gal closed aquatic ecosystem that needs to survive at least 30 days for a school project. My dayd says to use pond water and plants and to get 3 or 4 cherry shrimp. Questions 1 any suggestions to go along with that? 2 would it be beneficial to add a leaf to the bottle. And how much since it is only 2 gallons?

        • Reply Jennifer Doll October 16, 2020 at 5:44 pm

          Hi Jeremy!
          Closed ecosystems are fascinating, though I don’t think this plan would work with adding cherry shrimp to an already-natural pond ecosystem; believe it or not, aquarium shrimp are actually very delicate and I fear that the unknown parameters and parasites/pathogens that come in with the pond water would affect your shrimp. If you’re really wanting to add cherry shrimp, then I would recommend only using aquarium-safe products and treated water.
          I’ve watched a lot of videos about hobbyists who go out and just scoop up dirt and water from various aquatic ecosystems and then close it off for months and sometimes even years. Usually, they get some significant hitchhikers, like snails and shrimp, along with all the other microscopic creatures. Instead of risking it with the cherry shrimp, I would just go all-natural and let whatever show up, show up.
          As for adding Indian almond leaves, I wouldn’t. You’re bound to get some detritus when you scoop up some of the substrate. Indian almond leaves would just make it unnatural, like the cherry shrimp.
          Let us know how this goes!

  • Reply Ramon October 6, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Can Almond leaves be used in an Angelfish breeding tank with fry in it. I have a breeding tank with fry and want to use these if it’s okay.

    • Reply Mari October 9, 2015 at 10:26 am

      I think that would be okay! Angelfish are naturally from stained waters so it would help imitate their natural habitat.

  • Reply Quinn September 12, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Is there still benefit to use with carbon? I have one 4 inch leaf and a small amount of carbon in 100 litres and so far no colour. Fish Inc tetras, Cory and shrimps.

    • Reply Mari September 13, 2015 at 10:09 am

      I think the shrimp like to eat the leaves, but other than that there is no benefit if you’re also using carbon (unless it has already lost its effectiveness, which doesn’t take too long). In a 100 liter, one leaf isn’t going to do much, though, you’ll definitely need to use a few more to actually see a difference. Good luck!

  • Reply Justin August 13, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Have you used these leaves with Goldfish? I am wondering if it would be good for them as a natural defense for fin rot

    • Reply Mari August 13, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      I haven’t! I mostly use them for fish that prefer acidic water, like bettas, gourami or corydoras. Goldfish prefer a slightly higher pH which may lead to issues.

  • Reply Emily May 22, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Got mine from , was wondering if there’s any different if the leaves came from different country????

    I love the aroma , they came from Malaysia. because the last time i bought from another country they were broken. and smaller.

    • Reply Mari May 22, 2015 at 5:39 pm

      I don’t think there’s any difference, they should be fine! I personally don’t mind smaller broken up pieces, but if these work for you there’s no need to worry about anything.

  • Reply Mandy March 11, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    I was wondering if these leaves can be used in a tank with orange and blue neon tetras, black phantom tetras, corydoras, albino rainbow shark, and upside down catfish. There’s no aggression in the tank and I don’t want to cause any sort of distress which might lead to aggression.
    I’ve had live plants in my tank before but the fish started to eat the plants and that killed the plants. Is it safe for fish to eat the leaves? Once the leaves start breaking down do they release any sort of ammonia?
    Thanks for your time and help,

    • Reply Mari March 11, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      I think you could use the leaves if you want to; they do of course release some wastes while breaking down, but you should not experience any problems. Many people actually let them break down completely, but if you’re unsure you can remove them timely to prevent any possible issues. You could start with one leaf and see how it works! You can also use almond leaf extract so you don’t need the actual leaves.
      I’m just wondering how big your setup is, though? The sharks especially need a very big tank and are semi-aggressive, so unless your setup is quite big there may be aggression in the future.
      Good luck!

  • Reply lisa September 10, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Well, I am definitely getting these. A few quick question- How do I tell if they could be carrying a disease, or something that could harm my fishies?
    And would neon tetras like these? I know they come from slightly more acidic water, and don’t think they would dislike them, but I do want to check.

    • Reply Mari September 15, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      If you order from a trustworthy site you can be 99% there are no pesticides/diseases on the leaves! I have never had problems with it. Neon tetras do like Indian almond leaves, so you can definitely try them if darker water is not a problem for you πŸ™‚

      • Reply Lisa September 20, 2014 at 7:02 pm

        Great, Thanks! Darker water is not a problem for me, as I think it looks sort of pretty when you are doing certain aquascapes. My fish will have to wait a while before I can get them(I’m thirteen, and my parents don’t believe in buying stuff like this, so I have to wait until Christmas) Hopefully by that Time I’ll have had my Divided betta tank set-up, so all my bettas can have IAL, as well as my neons.

  • Reply Paolo August 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Hi there! I just want to say that I love your blog so much and ive been following you ever since it was just your goldfish tumblr. I’m from the Philippines and indian almond trees grow everywhere, i would just like to know if there is any actual difference between handpicked and dried leaves and naturally dried leaves because there seems to be conflicting opinions online and id feel much more comfortable asking you hahaha. Thank you so much!

    • Reply Mari August 19, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      Hi! That’s actually so great to hear, thanks for messaging me!

      I’m actually unfortunately not sure if there is a difference, although I don’t think so. I think I’ve used both and I’ve never noticed any difference. Just be sure to pick the big “adult” leaves and I think handpicking is fine!

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