Benefits of leaf litter in dwarf shrimp tanks November 04 2014, 0 Comments

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The following was written by Julie Lightfoot. Check out her Facebook page, Shrimp and Scape.

Many of the shrimp we keep originate from mountain streams in South East Asia.  These streams are often flanked by overhanging trees and bushes, so the shrimp’s natural environment contains lots of fallen leaf litter and plant material, which eventually settles on the stream bed.  It is in these areas they are most concentrated.  When large amounts of tannin rich plant material end up in a slow flowing river, they create a type of habitat commonly referred to as blackwater.  As Part of the natural biodegrading process, these leaves quickly become covered in micro-organisms or biofilm (sometimes visible as a faint white slime film) and it’s this layer that the shrimp love to graze on.  These biofilms are hugely beneficial to adult and especially baby shrimp as they help provide a balanced diet and being a complex mix of good bacteria, proteins and vitamins, they are extremely important in helping to build the shrimp’s immune system.

Dried leaves etc offer a surface that biofilm can quickly populate and thrive on.

When they soften and start to break down, the shrimp will eat the leaves etc right down to the skeleton, this provides a nutritional food source.

Benefits:

As well as providing biofilm and natural food, dried leaves also contain tannins and humic acids which leach into the water having beneficial properties including anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.  They can help promote good health and color, stimulate breeding, reduce stress and aid in the molting process.  Tannins are what give blackwater rivers their characteristic tea-color appearance and low pH value.  Although the leaves will lower pH of your tank, you would need to use more than the standard dosage quantities recommend for shrimp tanks to have any real effect.

There are benefits to using more than one type of dried leaf in your tank at the same time.  Some leaves provide different beneficial properties than others, they break down at different rates and so there will be a constant source of natural food in your tank and you are also providing a varied diet for your shrimp.

Why Dried Leaves?

It is better to use dried leaves that have fallen naturally from a tree.  The reason for this is that these leaves will be depleted of chlorophyll, sugars, sap and etc through a natural process and as such will not decompose in the tank and foul the water, as fresh or wind fallen leaves might.  Aslo the beneficial properties of the leaf litter comes from the tannins and humic acids that are naturally present in ‘dead’ leaves.

Selecting Leaves:

The main consideration when adding leaves to your tank is to ensure they are free from pollutants, pesticides, and/or harmful chemicals.  Therefore leaves that have been specially prepared for aquatic use are best, as these are harvested well away from towns or city areas.

 

The following five paragraphs contain more information on the benefits of specific dried leaves.

 

Indian Almond Leaves / Catappa Leaves

Benefits of using IAL / Catappa leaves in your shrimp tank:

  • Creates a natural water environment for freshwater shrimp
  • Enhances the natural color
  • Provides biofilm grazing
  • Aids the molting process, helping reduce mortality rate during this stage
  • Contains acids and tannins which have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, preventing bacteria and diseases
  • Stimulates breeding
  • Relieves stress
  • Mildly reduces pH

Indian Almond Leaves / Catappa Leaves have also long been used in home remedies as well as in aquariums.  They are used to treat a variety of ailments in a number of countries around the world, included scabies and leprosy in India, internal parasites in the Philippines and colic in South America.  So they are widely recognized as possessing excellent medicinal properties.

 

Mulberry Leaves

Benefits of using Mulberry leaves in your shrimp tank:

  • Excellent source of natural food for shrimp
  • High in carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins and minerals
  • Helps to maintain shrimp exoskeleton
  • Aids the molting process

Mulberry leaves are essentially a food source to be fed as part of a varied diet.  They soften quickly and will be devoured within a couple days.

 

Guava Leaves

Benefits of using Guava leaves in your shrimp tank:

  • Have anti-bacterial properties
  • Help to prevent diseases such as Vibrio and Luminous Bacteria
  • Great source of food for shrimp

Guava leaves soften much more slowly than other dried leaves and do not break down as quickly, therefore these leaves will not require replacing/removing as frequently.

 

Banana Leaves

Benefits of using Banana leaves in your shrimp tank:

  • Reduces the risk of bacterial and fungal outbreaks
  • Provides great natural cover
  • Provides biofilm grazing
  • Stimulates breeding
  • Relieves stress
  • Mildly reduces pH

Banana leaves have been used by tropical fish breeders in Asia to great effect for many years.  However, they have only more recently become popular for aquatic use in Europe, the UK and USA.

 

Indian Almond Bark / Catappa Bark

Benefits of using IAL Bark / Catappa Bark in your shrimp tank:

  • Creates a natural water environment for freshwater shrimp
  • Enhances the natural color
  • Aids the molting process, greatly reducing mortality rate during this stage
  • Contains acids and tannins which have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties preventing bacteria and diseases
  • Stimulates breeding
  • Relieves stress
  • Reduces pH

IAL / Catappa Bark has strong healing and anti-bacterial properties and is used in many countries for medicinal purposes, such as in Mexico for asthma, Indonesia for rheumatic pain and Brazil as a folk remedy for fever and dysentery. 

IAL/ Catappa Bark is more concentrated than the leaves and is a greater product for producing blackwater extract.

 

Alder Cones

Benefits of using Alder Cones in your shrimp tank:

  • Creates a natural water environment for freshwater shrimp
  • Provides biofilm grazing
  • Contains acids and tannins which have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties
  • Stimulates breeding
  • Relieves stress
  • Reduces pH

Alder cones break down at a slower rate than leaves so will not require replacing / removing as frequently. 

Alder cones are widely available in many countries.  If you collect your own, ensure they are collected away from pollutants and pesticides etc.  Otherwise you should buy from a trusted seller.

 

There are a variety of other dried leaves that shrimp keepers can use to similar effect to those mentioned, such as fallen hardwood leaves like Oak or Ash or dried fruit leaves such as peach as a food source.

Again, the main consideration when adding dried leaves to your tank is to ensure they are free from pollutants, pesticides and/or harmful chemicals.

Most of the products mentioned above are available from the Tantora Shrimp Series range of natural food and water conditioning products. 

This range of products offer a natural solution for shrimp keeping.  Products are grown and harvested away from town or city areas so therefore free from pollutants.

These leaves are carefully selected, harvested and prepared for safe use in your shrimp tank.