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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I thought I'd share this nice little article on leaf litter in the aquarium. I wasn't sure which forum was most appropriate but I figured all us natural tank people would appreciate another natural way to make our fish healthy and happy.

http://www.seriouslyfish.com/all-the-leaves-are-brown/

Let me know what you think and if you also have any experience using leaf litter in the tank. Sob stories and success stories are welcome.

Have a great week!
Luffy
 

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Great article! And Seriously Fish is my favorite fish web site.

One of the points Dunlop makes is that the leaves add humic substances to the water, and this is beneficial. Walstad points out that soil, specifically its decaying organic matter, adds humic substances to the water. These are also called dissolved organic carbon, or humus in their dry, terrestrial state. So by using soil in our aquaria, we get some of the same benefits as using leaves would give.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It's my favorite website too. And beyond the health benefits, I think the coloring of these humic substances has a nice visual effect as do leaves.
 

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I tried oak leaves (Quercus lobata).
IMO they disintegrated too fast and just made a mess. I do not need the substrate to be perfectly clean, but this just went too far the other way.

I usually use peat moss for the black water effect.
 

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There is a big difference in tree species in this respect. I used bur oak, Q. macrocarpa, and they lasted a long time.
 

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Q. lobata do have rather thin leaves, and they are deciduous, designed by nature to decompose quickly. Perhaps the evergreen oaks would have more durable leaves. Perhaps I should go get some. There are seedlings of some hybrids right outside my gate...
 

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Maple leaves are thin and fragile, and break down quickly in a compost pile. I suspect they won't last long in the aquarium.
 

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The indian almond leaves (the ones people usually sell for betta breeders, etc) are quite good, and they last a long time. Decomposition in my experience takes awhile, but it's not that messy... Plus the vein structure of the half-decomposed leaves is rather neat and visually appealing IMO
 

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I have access to Indian Almond leaves and tried them in the past but ended up with dead Lemon Tetras instead of triggering them to breed.

Eventually I found out from a friend that I should add the number of leaves gradually. He mentioned that I shouldn't have added the entire leaf on day one. He suggested half a leaf and gradually increase to 1 leaf, followed by 1.5 leaf.....2 leaves, etc. For my case, I added 2-3 leaves at once. Maybe that's my mistake but I don't dare to try again.
 

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totziens, I had the same experience with dwarf spotted rasboras when using oak leaves. I think your friend is right: any type of leaves should be added gradually.
 

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Yes, the suggestion of my friend makes sense. I had never thought about the sudden change of water chemistry affecting the fish when I did the mistake. I was suspecting chemical and air pollution :rolleyes:
 

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I love how the leaves covers some of the substrate.
Have always thought my tank looks a bit odd with the exposed substrate but couldn't find a suitable foreground plant for it. This might be it.
Though it would be nice if the leaves don't colour the water further. My water is already tanned from the pit moss in the substrate.
 

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Tannin released from the driftwood does not last for years. Sooner or later, you will find your water looks as clear as any tank without any driftwood.

Chemistry wise I doubt it makes any difference. Both are plants based anyway.
 

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I just recently decided to try this out myself. I’m using ash leaves from the tree in my yard. I soaked the leaves for a week or so in water, rinsing them a few times. I removed all the leaves that were already moldy or didn’t look healthy. (I am not sure how a dead leave looks healthy.) I added more about a week later.
I have three Apistogramma bitaeniata (Rio Tigre) in there and I read somewhere they live in waters that are filled with leaves. I have already noticed the ph is dropping. Hopefully I haven’t done this too quickly.
 

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Plants (leaves, wood) have many different materials, specifically acids. Tannic acid is just one. Some plants have more of this one, other plants may be higher in some other organic acid. Some plants decompose faster, releasing these materials into the water faster.

In the wild a rain forest stream will have many species of trees dropping leaves and falling into the water. But this is over a long distance.
In an aquarium you may want that sort of blended sources of organic acids, but you do not have miles and miles (or even feet and feet) of stream bed to drop leaves into. It would look weird, too, having too many different materials in a small section of 'stream'. Stick to one species of tree, or some leaves and a branch of wood could be from different species, but I would not mix leaves of different species unless they are already broken up so you cannot see the shape.

So, if the tank is going to be pretty much based on one type of leaf and one type of wood, it needs to be a fish-safe species of plant. There are probably quite a few that will work.
 

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I was cleaning this tank today. The leaf litter has darkened the water considerably. This seems to be helping with the algae in the tank but it also seems to be turning the rotala green from red. Not a great picture. This is just after I filled the tank after cleaning and doing a water change.



Uploaded with ImageShack.us
 

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I just wanted to note that it has been about 6 or7 weeks and the leaves have pretty much disintegrated. What is left now is simple vein structure. I am planning on adding more leaves soon. The tank as a whole has improved though I don’t know how much of that is due to the leaves.
 
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