Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Olympia 08-02-2012 04:28 PM

Maintaing a natural leaf litter in an aquarium
So, after seeing the video on the bottom, I feel in love with the idea of the leaf litter! (Yes I realize the fish will probably hide from my view in it most of the time).
Just curious, does anyone keep a tank with this? Used to? What sort of leaves did you use?

I remember reading that the leaves have to be changed out every now and then, curious if that's true. Decomposition is a part of nature, and does occur in all our planted tanks.. but this is decomposition to the next level!

Would any hardwood considered safe for aquariums have safe leaves? Obviously I realize they will be dried. We have a natural forest nearby and I know nothing bad is sprayed anywhere in it.
I know people use Indian almond in aquariums, but usually small amounts, buying it would be too expensive long term for the tank size. I know oak leaves for sure are safe as well. Whatever is in the video is neither oak nor Indian almond.

:-D Any input is appreciated!

Byron 08-03-2012 01:39 PM

I use leaves, but so far not to the extent shown in the linked video.

Oak and popular leaves are safe, and the Indian Almond of course that some fish stores sell. I have an oak tree and collect fallen leaves in the autumn. I do not know which trees are safe or toxic, other than oak and poplar being safe. The leaves must be completely dry when collected, and then dried inside.

There is n o need to replace them, they can stay in the tank permanently, as some of those in the video seem to have. Initially the leaves support Infusoria, but as the nutrients in the leaves are exhausted, this purpose ends, and that is why most people replace them. But the leaf itself is then just decorative in purpose.


Chesh 08-03-2012 02:32 PM

Glad you asked this, Olympia! I've been researching into this, as well - I love the look of it, and I know my loaches will adore them.

There is n o need to replace them, they can stay in the tank permanently
Won't they eventually rot away or disintegrate eventually? I've read that they will release tannins, and have a similar effect as driftwood (though less) - is this true?

Do they cause any changes, otherwise - for example, will they cause ammonia or raise nitrate levels as they decompose? Or does this not really apply because they're dried leaves.

ANY oak? I have White Oak and Pin Oak in my backyard - would it be safe to just pick them up off the ground when they fall this autumn?

It seems kind of dangerous! What are the chances of molds being carried into the tank, or . . . do you clean them somehow?

Sorry for all of the questions, I've been wondering!

Mikaila31 08-03-2012 03:07 PM

yes they do breakdown eventually but it takes a long time, for oak leaves its 1-2 months. Normally they just break into smaller bits. The waste issue is very minimal, the tree absorbs a lot of the nutrients out of the leaves before they drop and given their slow rate of decay in the tank I've never had much of an issue.

I know someone who does peat moss substrate and compared to that leaves are very cleanly.

Yes any oak will do, I use pin oak gathered from the yard in autumn. Occasionally burr oak but the leaves are not as pretty IMO.

Olympia 08-03-2012 03:32 PM

Wow, I am definitely doing this! The bichir and ropefish will adore it! :) We have 3 poplar trees in our yard and they love dropping entire branches all year round! What luck!

I know the Indian almond do have some benefits.. on a small scale they release tannins, can brown the water if you have enough of them, and have antifungal properties. Oak leaves are supposed to have all these benefits but to a much lesser extent.

I always figured dry leaves never gave out ammonia, never really knew why!

And yes, Chesh I remember watching a video of a leaf litter tank full of kuhli loaches and it was pretty awesome too!

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