Dried tree leaves have numerous benefits for aquarium livestock and the aquarium ecosystem. Many kinds of wild aquatic ecosystems are littered with fallen tree leaves and other plant parts, so a layer of leaves can create authentically attractive substrate decoration and natural cover for fish and shrimp. The tannins that leach from tree leaves to stain the water also function as a healthy tonic for many kinds of fish. Wild type Betta, some characins, Apistogramma and many others originating from tannin-stained waters usually show improved vigor and coloration soon after addition of dried oak leaves or other tannin sources. Tannins can also suppress harmful bacteria, so Parosphromenus licorice gouramis and other sensitive fish will prosper best with their use.
Tannin stained water can block a large proportion of photosynthetically-useful light, so it should not be used in concentration with plants other than low light selections. This same characteristic, however, is useful for discouraging algae in tannin-dedicated setups. A few oak leaves can look very good as a natural habitat feature in a planted tank; the water-staining effect can be corrected by using fewer leaves and with extra water changes.
Aqua Verdi Prepared Leaves are mainly Quercus oak species foliage collected as leaves that fall naturally in the autumn from trees in areas away from automobile traffic and chemical use. We select the leaves by hand, then dry & heat sterilize at 300° F. The generous portions are then packed flat in a resealable 1-gallon zip bag. We pack our prepared leaves as carefully as possible for shipping, but they are very brittle. Some breakage should be expected, but broken pieces are as useful as entire leaves and most leaves will arrive intact. Soaked leaves are more limber and relatively durable in the aquarium.
Chinquapin Oak leaves are distinct from the other oak tree species that we offer as prepared leaves because they have sawtooth margins with a simple lanceolate shape, rather than deep lobes. As such they might create a better representation of the trees found in tropical areas.
Always use caution when adding prepared leaves or making any other changes to your aquarium ecosystem. Start with smaller quantities, then check for changes in water parameters and animal behavior. The effects of prepared leaves as a new component can also be moderated by first soaking in a separate container for 24 hours, then pouring off water before adding the soaked leaves to the aquarium.