How to prepare oak leaves for use in aquarium?

  • #1
Not sure if this is the right channel for this post, but not sure where else to put it. I am looking to use leaves as both a food source for my shrimp and to ideally lower my ph a bit with the tannins for the fish I am keeping and will be adding.

My main question is how should I prepare the leaves to both ensure they are safe to use and still maintain tannins to be released in my tank? The oak leaves were harvested from my backyard last fall and I know no pesticides or chemicals are on them, but I am leary of putting something I found outside into my tank. They are currently sitting in leaf bags from when they were raked up in the fall.

Boiling them is the best way I know to disinfect them, but that will also lose some of the tannins I want to keep so I am unsure the best course of action. I would purchase and use almond leaves, but a member of my household has an anaphylactic nut allergy and maintenances the tank for me when I am not around so almond leaves are a no go.

I have been researching this quite a bit and would love to get some opinions on the best course of action. Thanks for reading and for any advice you can all offer!

  • #2
When you boil the tannic acid out of the oak leaves, you could use the liquid from boiling for your tank (thats what I did with IAL to ensure that my Blackwater tank got slight brown right away). All the bacteria and viruses should be killed and it should be safe (again Ive tried this method to mantiain tannic acid in my bw tank, BUT i used IAL that I bought from amazon and oak leaves from your backyard can vary (in terms of what could be on them). Now again the boiling should do the trick but be cautious!!

NOW that being said. I dont suggest adding a ton of tannic acid to an already established tank (in terms of parameters). For instance, if your pH was 7.0 and you wanted to add some tannins but added too many, your pH could significantly drop which could be fatal for your shrimp. So be careful. Less is best. Thats why I feel that simply putting the leaves and let them leech a small amount of tannins over a longer period of time is better and safer. For me, my kh and Gh levels were high enough to the point that the amount of tannic acid I put in my tank would simply not effect the pH. It all depends on your parameters.

What's your tap water, ph, kh, gh
Whats your tanks, ph, kh, and gh
Do you have additives (buffer's, mineral additives etc) or possibly detering factors of your pH (ex. A substrate such as fluval stratum that makes your pH 7.0)?

  • #3
Hi MaMarvel
I have never boiled any oak leaves collected in autumn from my local parks. I have been adding a small handful to many tanks at random times for 4 years . With the cherry shrimp tanks that are generally only about 5 to 8 gallons I add just 5 or 6 at a time. I have never had a problem with a PH swing but I don’t test for months on end anyway.

Avoid cigarette butts and dog poop . No mould is seen when stored dry .
No green leaf.

A quick snapshot of a bucket that has oak leaf , roiibus tea bags, and IAL . I add a random amount of tannins water from this bucket at most water changes.

image.jpgNever had an issue with unwashed, unboiled DRY leaf collected from the ground in autumn.
  • #4
I bake everything even leaves. But proceed at your own risk

250F for 20 - 40mins
  • #5
Simply throw some in.
  • #6
I have four rice fish tubs under a deciduous crab apple tree. From the beginning of spring it drops blossom. Then in early summer it begins dropping small unformed apples. As summer progresses it’s dropping full sized 1 inch apples and green leaves continuously. I can go outside and remove leaves and fruit in the morning and have more to remove in the afternoon. All this is before the autumn when hundreds of leaves fall daily. The water has tannins from green leaves.

Like the daily changes in water temperature observed it’s all a learning curve for me.


  • #7
I also don’t do anything to them, I just rinse the dirt off
  • #8
I know you said you're leery of using something in your tank that you found outside, but since you said they weren't exposed to pesticides or herbicides the risk of them being contaminated is very small.

I rinse mine under the kitchen faucet and drop them in the tank. They'll float for a day or two, then slowly sink. At that point you can move them to where you want.

I do the same for wood, by the way. I've picked it up in the pasture when checking cows, rinsed it with a hose, and dropped in the tank to float until it sinks on its own.
  • #9
I've never boiled them. I just rinse lightly and toss them in. The dead leaves stay on the trees through winter, so I only take leaves from the tree and not the ground.
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Thank you all for the advice! I am going to try baking the leaves for 30 minutes, giving them a rinse and dropping them in. I will start with 1 just to be safe, but assuming all goes well I will add a second. I will let you all know how it goes!

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