Indian Almond Leaves

The fantastic Indian almond leaves come from the (catappa tree) not from an almond tree, as the name leads you to suspect. The trees grow in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia. Varying leave sizes from 6 to 10 inches and around 5 inches wide.

These leaves used in the aquarium will affect your water chemistry. Watercolor will change to a yellow, red tea color; this change in water appearance appeals to some aquarists.

I consider myself one of these fishkeepers; It produces that natural ambiance of a calm river or marshy area; the area that comes to mind that reminds me of this is the Suwanee River in the US.

The Suwanee runs from Georgia down to Florida, and it derives a tannic color from all the decomposing matter of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Leaves of Terminalia Catappa
Leaves of Terminalia Catappa

Benefits of these leaves

A word of caution before purchasing Indian almond leaves is first to test your water pH levels. If your pH level is already low or on the lower side for the species of fish you have, you may not want to add these leaves as it may cause your pH to be too low for said species.

Benefiting tannins release into the water and can lower the pH. Never add too many leaves at once. A sudden change could lower the pH levels, not allowing adequate time for fish to adjust to the decrease in pH.

Changes or additions you make to your aquarium need to be done slowly and not all at once. If it is a drastic change, it could harm or kill your fish.

Lowering of pH is the main reason people use the leaves. Like me with high pH water from the tap, I add Indian Almond leaves to most of my aquariums to help reduce the high pH. The amount I use does not cause a dramatic drop in pH; usually only minus (.1-.4). When more and more leaves are added, it will continue to lower your pH.

Indian Almond leaves help mimic a natural habitat that reduces the stress on fish. If you have seen these leaves in water before, you may have noticed the water changes color.

These are the tannins being released into the water; caused by the leaves decaying. They can provide a good food source for some species. Some fish species use the leaf litter gathered at the bottom of the aquarium for the safe rearing of fry.

The most significant benefit of Indian almond leaves is their ability to lower pH levels without chemicals that can cause rapid changes to water pH levels, affecting your aquarium fish.

Indian almond leaves will help maintain a more stable pH rather than using chemicals to lower pH, which has rapid changes to water chemistry. Using these leaves is ideal because THEY ARE NATURAL.

Indian Almond Leaves
Indian Almond Leaves

Some fish species use the leaf litter gathered at the bottom of the aquarium for the safe rearing of fry. 

species of fish that benefit

Fish species that catappa leaves are ideal for are those species that come from habitats where leaf litter is prevalent in the water. My albino bristlenose plecos enjoy them a lot. Other examples are gourami’s, discus, some dwarf cichlids, and most bettas. 

The betta industry has used them to mimic the natural habitat of the betta fish. It has been reported that Indian almond leaves can help fight fungus and bacteria associated with fin rot.


Foliage Dry Leaf
Foliage Dry Leaf

The downside of Indian almond leaves is the change in watercolor that hinders hobbyist’s from using them. If a natural look is desired, then these leaves are for you, but if you’re going for a classic aquarium look that’s bright, colorful, showing all the colors of your fish, this is not the option for you.

An excessive amount of leaf litter sitting in your aquarium can make it look dirty. If you do not regularly clean it; pulling the old leaf skeletons from your substrate will help. I have only run into the skeletons needing to be pulled out in my pleco tanks as they will eat the leaves more than other species.

As stated above, if the fish species have a set pH level, going too low can harm your fish, making them very uncomfortable or even causing death. Before putting Indian almond leaves into your aquarium, check your water parameters.

Key Takeaways

  • Check pH and water parameters before purchasing and using these leaves in your aquarium.
  • It creates a more natural habitat for your fish; not everyone likes this look.
  • It causes the aquarium to have a dirty appearance.

Almond leaves have significant benefits for your aquarium and the species you stock. The real decision is whether you enjoy the look and appreciate the health of your fish that benefit from Indian almond leaves.

If you’re hesitant about how it would look or whether you will enjoy it, adding some to your aquarium is easy. If you decide it is not for you, take the leaves out, and after a couple of water changes, the water will clear up.

A similar natural product that does the same thing but is much smaller is alder cones I will cover in another post.