Indian almond leaves have been used as natural remedies in traditional medicine for centuries.
More recently, Indian almond leaves have gained popularity with betta fish keepers. Fish keepers place these leaves in their aquariums because of their beneficial properties.
So, what do Indian almond leaves do for betta fish?
Indian almond leaves help lower the pH levels in a betta fish tank without the possible side effects of commercial products. The tannins released by Indian almond leaves produce blackwater conditions similar to a betta’s native habitat. Betta fish also enjoy building bubble nests under these leaves.
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What Are Indian Almond Leaves, and Do They Benefit Bettas?
Indian almond leaves are brown and grow on the Terminalia catappa tree, also called the Indian almond tree. These leaves are sometimes called catappa leaves.
Despite its name, the tree does not produce almonds. Indian almond leaves got their name because the fruit from the tree has a similar flavor to almonds.
The Indian almond leaves are brown and not harvested until they fall to the ground.
Tannic acids produced by Indian almond leaves are thought to have medicinal benefits.
Indian almond leaves are used as a remedy for diseases in traditional medicine practices.
There is no scientific evidence proving the healing properties of Indian almond leaves. But, there is enough anecdotal evidence suggesting they may be used for common illnesses and low-grade infections.
How Do Indian Almond Leaves Benefit Betta Fish?
Many people use Indian almond leaves for the general well-being of their fish.
Indian almond leaves may prevent mild bacterial or fungal infections.
But, these leaves offer some distinct benefits for bettas.
If your betta tank’s pH is too high, you may lower it with Indian almond leaves. Ammonia levels are usually higher in tanks with high pH levels.
Betta’s prefer slightly acidic water conditions over alkaline water in the wild. The ideal pH for a betta tank is 7.0, which is neutral.
Many commercial products use phosphoric acid to lower the pH in fish tanks. These products work fast, but the sudden change may not benefit your betta.
Indian almond leaves lower the pH with tannic acids. Tannic acids gradually decrease the pH in your betta tank.
The tannins may take a couple of hours to leach into the water.
Gradual adjustments take less of a toll on your betta and keep stress low.
Some fish keepers use Indian almond leaves as a natural water conditioner. Besides lowering pH levels, the leaves reduce water and carbonate hardness.
Indian almond leaves produce better results in lowering pH levels if the water is already soft and has a low carbonate hardness.
Creating a Blackwater Environment
Indian almond leaf tannins leach into the water, turning it brownish.
Darker waters help recreate a betta’s natural environment.
The rice paddies and marshes of a wild betta’s natural habitat have brownish water. This dark water is known as a blackwater environment.
Many betta fish owners do not care for the dark water tank appearance. Creating a blackwater tank is usually a matter of personal preference.
Most betta owners take pride in creating a more natural environment for their fish.
If the stained water is too dark or the pH is too low, perform a 20% partial water change. A carbon filter also helps remove some tannins from the brown water.
Start with 1 medium-sized Indian almond leaf per 10 gallons of aquarium water. You may make adjustments according to the color and pH of your water.
Maintaining constant water parameters is vital for the health of your betta. Sudden fluctuations in temperatures or pH levels negatively impact their health.
Indian almond leaf extracts are concentrated versions of blackwater conditions with many tannins. These extracts are used for treating common ailments in bettas.
An Indian almond leaf extract is simple to make in just a few easy steps.
First, boil about 2 quarts of water and add 1-2 Indian almond leaves to a jar.
Pour the boiled water into the jar and leave the lid off for one day. Remove the leaves and place the lid on the jar.
Keep the jar in the refrigerator for a few months, and you’ ‘ll have Indian almond extract.
Provides Shelter for a Bubble Nest
Indian almond tree leaves are the perfect size for betta bubble nests.
The leaves are large enough they protect the eggs and provide hiding spots for the betta fish fry once they hatch.
Betta fish build their bubble nests near plant matter for added stability and protection.
Indian almond leaves may also have antifungal properties. Many betta fish breeders place them in fry tanks for the health of the betta eggs and baby fish.
The antibacterial properties of Indian almond leaves are thought to protect the betta fish fry from bacterial infections.
There are no scientific studies backing these claims, but anecdotal evidence suggests it may be worth a shot.
Indian almond leaves also increase infusoria in a fry tank. These tiny organisms already exist in the water but multiply when feeding on decaying plant matter.
Since betta fish fry are too small for regular fish food, the infusoria provides a healthy food source.
Indian almond leaves reduce stress in betta fish by creating blackwater conditions.
Stress causes several issues in bettas, including a weakened immune system and lowered sense of security.
Tannins from Indian almond leaves keep a betta’s immune system strong.
The darker environment these tannins produce also increases a betta’s comfort level.
Creating a natural environment for your betta is the best way of ensuring its happiness.
Encourages Breeding (Maybe)
Many betta fish breeders insist on having Indian almond leaves in their breeding tanks.
They claim the leaves are good for the eggs and encourage bettas’ breeding process.
Once again, there is no scientific evidence backing up these claims.
If a male and female betta are ready for breeding, they will do it regardless of the presence of Indian almond leaves.
Still, many die-hard breeders of betta fish swear by these claims. They insist the almond leaves improve breeding conditions.
Do Indian Almond Leaves Have Medicinal Properties?
The tannic acids in Indian almond leaves have antimicrobial properties. The leaves act as a mechanism against infection in bettas.
Many pet owners claim Indian almond leaves encourage healing from issues like fin rot or mild fungal infections.
The key word here is “mild.” Do not rely on Indian almond leaves to cure serious illnesses in your betta fish.
Indian almond leaves do not make the illness worse. But they are not a miracle cure for all betta diseases.
Some diseases and infections require antibiotics or antifungal medications.
Never risk your betta’s health by not providing much-needed medicines.
A variety of betta illnesses are fatal without the proper treatment.
Indian almond leaves may encourage healing but should not be the only treatment.
To learn more about fish illnesses, read our article on the most common betta diseases and their treatments.
How To Use Indian Almond Leaves in a Betta Fish Tank
Always start with one Indian almond leaf in your betta tank. Do not add more until you know how the almond leaf affects your water parameters.
One Indian almond leaf is enough to treat a 10-gallon tank.
You may buy Indian almond leaves online or at your local fish store.
Place one leaf in the tank and let it float on the surface.
The submerged leaf slowly releases tannins as it decomposes.
Indian almond leaves release the most tannins after the first couple of days.
You may then remove or let the almond leaf decompose in the water.
The entire decomposition process takes several weeks until only the leaf skeleton remains.
After a couple of months, add another almond leaf to the tank. This maintains a blackwater environment.
If you have dwarf shrimp, Indian almond leaves are an additional food source for them.
Another method of using Indian almond leaves is creating an extract.
Indian almond leaf extract is a concentrated solution. You may use it for treating mild illnesses or adding it to the tank for blackwater conditions.
Pre-made Indian almond extracts are sold online or in many fish stores.
An extract is also easy to make at home. We have provided how to make your own extract in the section on creating blackwater conditions.
A couple of leaves will be enough for an effective extract.
Test Your Water Parameters!
Whichever method you choose, always test your water parameters after adding Indian almond leaves to your betta tank.
Use caution with Indian almond leaves if you have driftwood in your tank.
Driftwood releases the same type of tannins as almond leaves.
The tannic acids in the leaves and driftwood lower the pH levels in your tank. You do not want these levels to become too acidic.
Acidic water conditions may damage your betta’s fins or scales. Aim for pH levels between 6.5-7.0 in your betta tank.
How To Use Indian Almond Leaves With Other Tank Treatments
In this scientific study, the uptake of ionizable fish medications was tested at various pH levels. The study concludes the uptake of certain fish medicines is mostly affected by pH levels below 6.0 and above 8.0.
The ideal pH levels for betta fish are between 6.5-7.0.
As long as your pH levels test within this range, Indian almond leaves are safe to use with other tank treatments.
Indian almond leaves may even help with the healing process.
Be careful when using any tank treatment or medication with your betta.
Specific treatments and medications cause harm to aquatic plants and other tank mates. These treatments may also disrupt your water parameters.
For example, aquarium salt is a widely-used treatment for betta fish. But aquarium salt may change your water parameters and damage plants.
Aquarium salt is also deadly for other tank mates like dwarf shrimp and snails.
Use a separate quarantine tank if you have any concerns about how a treatment or medication may affect your aquarium.
A quarantine tank lets you medicate your betta without disturbing your main tank. It is also good for checking your betta’s condition for signs of improvement.
Checking Your Betta’s Health When Using Indian Almond Leaves
Keep an eye on your water parameters when using Indian almond leaves. Measure pH levels and toxicity with an aquarium test kit.
If you are treating your betta’s fin rot with Indian almond leaves, ensure the condition is not getting worse.
Check your betta for any signs of discomfort when using almond leaves in the tank.
Differences in behavior or swimming patterns may indicate a problem.
You may see physical signs when pH levels are too low for your betta.
Signs of low pH levels in your betta tank include:
- Excess algae growth
- Pale fish
- Sludge buildup on the substrate
- Stressed fish
- Betta staying at the surface or the bottom
Remove the almond leaves immediately if you notice these signs in your betta tank.
Perform a partial water change and test your water parameters.
You may remove tannins in the tank with a carbon filter or a tank treatment.
Sodium bicarbonate is a natural remedy for increasing pH levels. The recommended dose is one teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate per five gallons of water.
Are There Alternatives to Indian Almond Leaves?
Indian almond leaves are not the only way of adding tannins and creating blackwater conditions in your betta tank.
Some safe alternatives to Indian almond leaves are:
- Peat moss pellets
- Alder cones
- Dried banana leaves
- Beech leaves
- Red oak leaves
Use these alternatives the same way as Indian almond leaves.
Don’t Leave Your Betta Without Indian Almond Leaves
Indian almond leaves make an excellent addition to a betta fish tank.
The leaves help you create blackwater conditions similar to your betta’s natural habitat.
Although no scientific proof exists, Indian almond leaves may help prevent mild bacterial and fungal infections.
Indian almond leaves provide shelter for a bubble nest and help protect the fry.
They are also an additional food source for any dwarf shrimp in your tank.
Speaking of shrimp, check out our article on keeping shrimp with betta fish (includes a list of the best options!).
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