We've all heard and read about the benefits of Catappa leaves and alder cones as fungicides and stress relievers in fish and shrimp tanks. But what is the point of all of this?
A bit of history
Botanical compounds, often known as plant-derived additives, are well-known for their medical and restorative effects. Sebastian Kneipp is known as the "Father of Naturopathy" since he was one of the first to market the use of medicinal herbs.
Aquarists in Asia and Europe began utilizing botanical substances to cure fish illnesses and bacterial infections not long after. This, however, stretches back to the beginning of time, when plants and trees fell into the water and created a pleasant biotope for living creatures to inhabit. Dead plant debris is directly linked to natural environment biotopes, whether as a shelter or a food source.
Putting aside the attractive appearance of leaf litter and driftwood in our aquariums, such "botanicals" should be included in any natural habitat you recreate for your fish or shrimp.
When you add botanicals to your tank, they begin to decay, lowering the pH and releasing tannins. Tannins contain antifungal and antibacterial characteristics that can help the fish and eggs in your aquarium. They also supply microfood for your fish, like plecos and other grazers like shrimps. There is a huge range of botanicals that might be the ideal addition to your tank, and the possibilities are endless. Choosing the perfect aquarium botanicals to enhance your habitats and give practical and aesthetic benefits for your tank occupants may become difficult.
Before we get into which botanical is best for which sort of fish or shrimp, there are a few categories of botanicals that we'd want to go through.
Leaves: Those are dried plant leaves that have been clipped off the mother plant before falling to the ground. This is significant because the leaf matures, storing all of the nutrients before drying entirely and falling. Picking it early minimizes the quantity of tannins required, but picking it late makes it more vulnerable to parasites. Catappa Leaves, Jackfruit Leaves, Guava Leaves, Mango Leaves, Mulberry Leaves.
Seed pods & cones: Fruits of pod-bearing trees such as pine, carob, and coral tree. They are mainly employed to change the chemistry of water and do not contain tannins like leaves. When pods are fully grown and have shed their seeds, they are carefully picked. Seeds are not suggested for use in tanks since some of them contain harmful substances such as amygdalin.
Stems: Plant stems are plant components that hold the fruit or the leaf to the branch, and in botanicals, those are stems that usually hold a large fruit to the mother plant. They are chosen from trees that grow in damp locations or near bodies of water because they carry the essence or juice that feeds the fruit to maturity. Stems are less prone to develop tannins, but their composition makes them soft and fluffy in the water, making them ideal for shrimp grazing and good bacteria growth. Banana Stems, Palm stems, Fern Folds, Coco Crowns
Bark: Shells of trees or shells of large fruits that form the outer skeleton of fruits like coconut or trees like catappa and are heavy in tannins and serve as an adornment as well as a driftwood piece. They are less likely to serve as fungicides and are more likely to help the biofilm by providing refuge and food, as well as releasing tannins and changing the pH of the water. Coconut Husk, Catappa bark, Oak bark, Mangrove Bark.
The inhabitants you wish to serve are a crucial consideration when picking botanicals. Botanicals are less likely to be used in aquascaping since they can degrade the scape and design. However, whether choosing a biotope or growing and breeding fish and shrimps, one must compensate for the artificial environment using botanicals in order to recreate the natural habitat as nearly as possible.
Having stated that, it is now your responsibility to conduct some study on the species you are maintaining. Unfortunately, we do not know everything. What we do know is that:
Apistogramma requires a lot of leaves and barks to resemble an Amazonian biotope, offer a surface for the fish to lay eggs on, and have pH buffering qualities.
Betta fish require floatable leaves that do not degrade quickly in order to create their nest. There are also a lot of tannins and virtually dark water, so using tannin-rich cones and leaves makes sense. Botanicals renowned for their antifungal effects are also significant here, because betta fish have a fragile digestive system that may be readily corrupted by the use of chemical therapies.
Ornamental Shrimps feed on biofilm and spend the majority of their time grazing and crawling on accessible surfaces. Choosing Botanicals with a broad surface makes sense. Selecting botanicals that degrade quicker than others is also vital for shrimp since it will supply lots of food for the shrimps and compensate for a shortage of food while you are traveling or not around. Antifungal botanicals are also vital for shrimps since they contribute to the shrimp's overall health, and having a high humic acid concentration aids in shrimp reproduction. Botanicals that provide cover are also crucial for shrimps, therefore the more crevices a botanical has, the more benefits it offers in a shrimp tank. For some species of shrimp you need to lower the pH so botanicals can come in handy here as well.
Dark water and biotopes: Catappa Leaves, Alder cones, Oak Bark, Mangrove Leaves, Acacia pods, Sabu Pods
Antifungal Properties: Catappa Leaves, Cinnamon Leaves, Coco Crowns
Food & Biofilm: Coco Petals, Casuarina pods, Coco Husk, Mulberry Leaves, Jackfruit leaves, Oakfern, Bana Stems
Shelter: All Leaves, Applewood Pods, Buddha Pod, Jungle Pods
Our collection is not complete; rather, it is intended to provide some samples and explain the logic behind choosing your botanical if you do not want to rely just on decorating and overall appearance.
So, before you buy, ask around and study up on each botanical and how it benefits a certain species. For example, we observed that Alder cones are less significant in a shrimp tank than previously thought. In shrimp tanks, coco husk and banana stems with some catappa leaf are far superior to alder cones.
With the help of 520buce, we chose a handful of the botanicals they provide to put in our shrimp tank store. Hopefully, the following link will help you locate what you're searching for.
And if not you visit directly 520 After dark collection on their website:
Boil all botanicals for 60 minutes to remove germs, dirt, and debris. Allow your botanicals to soak in dechlorinated, RO or aquarium water overnight before placing them in the aquarium.
You can use the soaking water as dark extract since it contains a decent amount of beneficial tannins.
Science and additional reading
If you don't want to complicate your life do not read this section.
I'm doing a quick research to establish specific tannins and concentrations for some of the botanicals that are often utilized in the aquarium hobby. We chose Indian Almond Leaves (Terminalia catappa), Alder Cone (Alnus glutinosa), and Coco Husk as our ingredients (Cocos nucifera).
To begin, Tannins are a type of astringent, polyphenolic macromolecules that bind to and precipitate proteins and other organic substances such as amino acids and alkaloids, according to Wikipedia.
Tannins that have been evaluated are derived from a laboratory extraction technique including HCL, Acetone, and other compounds that do not always replicate the same findings in aquariums and water. However, our goal is to assess the concentration and presence of substances that may or may not be leached into your aquarium.
Now the overall tannin concentration of our 3 selected Botanicals is as follow
% Concentration per volume
26 - 42%
20 - 34%
6 - 12%
The low and high values are typical and rely on how the tannins were extracted as well as the period of collection and preparation of the fruit or leaves. Let's not get into the specifics right now.
The essential thing to note here is that a catappa leaf, which is 5 to 10 times heavier and bigger than an Alder cone, has comparable levels of tannins. Coco Husk, on the other hand, has reduced tannin levels.
Second, we investigated the notable kind of tannins contained in each, and this is what we discovered based on the literature:
What does this all mean and how do we use this?
Plants have been noted to have different effects, such as antistress, growth advancement, stimulation of appetite, enhance immunity, aphrodisiac, and ant pathogenic properties in fish and shrimp aquaculture such as alkaloids, terpenoids, tannins, saponins, and flavonoids. (1)
For freshwater aquaculture, steroids were only identified in the shrimp samples, while at least one banned steroid was positively detected to affect marine products. (2)
Saponins are classified as substances with multiple benefits, particularly in key parameters such as feed intake, nutrient digestibility, intestinal physiology, metabolism, growth, and health. These compounds are naturally occurring plant glycosides that have a steroid or triterpenoid structure and possess detergent properties. (3)
However, at high concentrations, it is important to note that saponins can have deleterious effects on aquatic animals, such as depression of feed intake, inhibition of active uptake of nutrients, reduction of fertility and a decrease in protein digestibility. (3)
In conclusion, further study needs be conducted for specific usage in home aquariums, however if you follow the example of fellow aquarists who have tested and experimented with Botanicals in settings similar to yours. You won't have to undertake all of this research on your own.
SO IN SHORT - ALWAYS LOOK INTO WHAT YOUR TANK INHABITANT NEED, THINGS LIKE ACIDIC WATER OR MORE BIO-FILM AND HOW IT IS RELATED TO THE QUANTITY OF BOTANICALS YOU ADD. AND, KNOW THAT THE FASTER THE BOTANICAL DECOMPOSES THE FASTER THEY RELEASE TANNINS AND AFFECT YOUR WATER pH AND gH WHICH IS DIRECTLY RELATED TO SHRIMP DEATHS ALSO TO A LOWER ABOSRBANCE OF PROTEIN LEVELS WHICH CAUSES A DEGRADATION OF WATER QUALITY.
Ghosh AK, Panda SK, Luyten W. Anti-vibrio and immune-enhancing activity of medicinal plants in shrimp: A comprehensive review. Fish Shellfish Immunol. 2021 Oct;117:192-210. doi: 10.1016/j.fsi.2021.08.006. Epub 2021 Aug 14. PMID: 34400334.
Nasr-Eldahan, S., Nabil-Adam, A., Shreadah, M. A., Maher, A. M., & El-Sayed Ali, T. (2021). A review article on nanotechnology in aquaculture sustainability as a novel tool in fish disease control. Aquaculture international : journal of the European Aquaculture Society, 29(4), 1459–1480. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10499-021-00677-7
The use of saponins in aquaculture, by Roberto Acosta, Yoav Rosen and,Ra'ananAriav, Phibro Aqua, Phibro Animal Health Corporation, Ecuador and Phibro Aqua, Phibro Animal Health Corporation, Israel - https://aquafeed.co.uk/entrada/the-use-of-saponins-in-aquaculture-21026/