Aquatic Botanical Preparation: The good, the bad, and the necessary.



The idea of using leaves and other “aquatic botanicals” in aquariums is not exactly new. We'll hazard to guess that it just sort of happened by chance. One day, some fish breeder was looking for a way to simulate the natural waters where his/her fishes came from, threw in a few old leaves, and lo and behold- his fishes started looking better, showing stronger colors, breeding, etc. 

Yeah, no one can really claim to have “invented” the process…It’s something that has happened in nature for eons…In tropical areas of the world, most famously, the Amazon River system, leaves, branches, bark, fruit pods, seeds, etc. fall off trees in the wind, or tumble into the rivers during rain events, etc., and accumulate in these waterways.

The rest, as they say- is history.

So, why would we add stuff like “twigs and nuts”  (as one of our fishy friends cheerfully teases us about) to our carefully crafted aquarium environments?

As these items decompose, they impart a brownish tint to the water, and lower the pH from the release of substances known as tannins. Tannins and humic substances are known to provide health benefits for a wide array of fishes, and may be of fundamental importance to their health and longevity. Botanical-rich environments are important and productive in nature. The areas of leaf litter, in particular, foster an enormous variety of fishes. Some species of small Apistogramma, for example, almost exclusively inhabit the matrix of leaves and branches, and many other fishes, from Discus to Knifefishes, may spend their whole lives living in these biotopes without ever encountering an aquatic plant.

It’s a perfectly natural setting for them.

Now, we freely accept that, when you start throwing things like leaves, branches, seed pods, etc. into a closed aquarium system, there will be some impact on the pH, the color and clarity of the water, and, of course, the overall aesthetic. It’s not for everyone.

However, if you are looking for significantly different results from your breeders, trying to create a more realistic biotopic aquarium display, or are simply being bold and want to take the plunge into something different, Tannin Aquatics offers some great botanicals to use!

You also need to understand that, if your goal is to create a "blackwater" aquarium with soft, acidic conditions and a lot of tannins (or if you're adding these materials to an existing aquarium with these types of conditions), that there are characteristics, practices, and implications that you need to be aware of. Bad stuff CAN occasionally happen if you're not careful (and sometimes, even if you are). Acidic, low-alkalinity environments are not "set and forget"; you need to monitor basic water parameters, such as pH and alkalinity (hardness) on a regular basis. If you're not prepared to do this, maybe you just want to run a "hard-water/tinted" aquarium, with more of an aesthetic component provided by the botanicals than a chemical one. No problem! it's a good, responsible compromise. For more on the dynamics and "need to knows" about blackwater aquariums, see this recent blog post. All of the scary-sounding caveats aside, we've found that, once they're established, blackwater aquariums are among the more stable, straightforward-to-manage systems you can own.

We offer what we hope is the widest variety of aquatic botanicals available anywhere, and we know that each one requires special consideration and some preparation before use.

One sweeping generality, however: Always rinse any of our aquatic botanicals before use, even after boiling or soaking. By the way, a "post-boil soak" in fresh water with a bag of activated carbon is a recommended step, too. Although we obtain our products from sources known to be free of pollution, impurities and pesticides, you can never be to careful, and the extra step is worthwhile, in our opinion. 

Also, to the dedicated "pod lover", we make this recommendation that can preserve domestic tranquility: Purchase a nice quality cooking pot and some wooden spoons! Having your own dedicated "Aquatic Botanical Prep Pot" is a wise and thoughtful investment! We also recommend using a good grade of activated carbon or other chemical filtration media for the "post-boil soak", as this will help remove any excess initial tannins and impurities that built up in the pods during the drying process, and might have been released after immersion. Always go slowly- add a limited quantity of your botanicals to your aquarium at first, to gauge their impact on your animals.

Upon introduction to your aquarium, your aquatic botanicals will begin to soften and gradually break down...yep, that's right. They will decompose, just as they do in nature. Although many can last weeks; even months- some even years- in general, aquatic botanicals should be viewed as sort of "transient" residents of your aquatic community, and will periodically need to be replaced. All part of the charm and mystique!

Nothing ever goes perfectly with natural products, and there are times when you'll think you've emptied a pile of yuck into your tank. We're not 100% certain why, but in some systems, you'll get a heavy dose of "biofilms" all over your botanicals after they've been down a short time. These biofilms are caused by bacteria, and are not dangerous to your fishes. It's perfectly natural- you see it in the wild all the time- and accepting that you'll see this stuff in your tank s just part of the "mental stretch" we have to make when we play with botanicals in our aquaria.

Probably 90% of the time, it's like a "phase", and will ultimately dissipate without much in the way of intervention on your part. You can siphon it out as you see fit, or even employ some ornamental shrimp to graze on it (snails like 'em, too). Curiously enough, we've found through our experience and that of our customers that the biofilms tend not to occur as often when the water is already tannin-stained. So, perhaps "leaves first" is not a bad way to introduce botanicals into your system.

If you really can't handle the "biofilm phase", should it occur in your tank, we recommend pulling out botanicals, inspecting them, and then giving them a rinse/scrub with fresh water ( a soft toothbrush can help). After rinsing, we recommend a day or two soaking in a container of freshwater before replacing them in the tank. As long as they don't have a nasty, hydrogen sulfide ("rotten egg") smell, you can re-introduce them without concern. Most of the time, pods will have an earthy, almost "potting soil-like" smell, even when they've been covered with nasty biofilm. If you're really having issues with your botanicals, contact us and we can figure out the best course of action together! We've written about this phase in a recent installment of our blog, "The Tint."

After the "biofilm phase", you will sometimes experience a "beard algae" phase, too (yay!), which will result in some of your botanicals covered in a coating of yucky algae. Fortunately, just when you think you're ready to cry and give up, the algae almost always spontaneously vanishes after a few weeks, with surprisingly minimal intervention on your part. Sure, you could scrub the stuff off, but it may simply come right back. You could also incorporate some algae eating fish to help attack it (We've used Otocinculus cats for this purpose with great success, believe it or not!). In the end, it's simply about playing a "waiting game" should the algae rear its ugly head...Patience is important. In time, it will go away, although, much like in nature, you will almost always have some of this stuff in your system. It's kind of a part of this type of approach to aquariums, and is, believe it or not- natural, and very much a part of the aesthetic!  

Another annoying thing about botanicals is that there are many that simply won't sink, even after an hour or more of boiling. You can continue to leave them "steeping" in water for as long as it takes to "get 'em down", or you could put them in a mesh filter bag and keep them in your canister or outside power filter to continuously pass water over them. I even played around with a coffee "French Press" technique that worked..All of these tricks can help- and no doubt, you'll develop some of your own, too! Don't be shy! Share them with us!

Again, botanical-style blackwater aquariums are not "set and forget" systems. They do require understanding, observation, and upkeep, and if you're not careful about following good common sense procedures, you can occasionally have a bad outcome. It's the reality of forging into new territory, but it contributes to the body of knowledge that is the aquarium hobby.

Okay, we've given you the good, the bad, and the necessary...and the annoying- about preparing and using aquatic botanicals in your aquarium. There is still much we can all learn as more and more hobbyists work with them! It's an evolving art and process- one which we can all contribute to!

Here is a bit more information and thought on the preparation and use of aquatic botanicals.

Of course, all of our aquatic botanicals are intended for ornamental aquarium use only. Please use common sense and take the time to boil and/or soak all botanicals prior to using them, to reduce the possibility of problems.  Go slow when introducing any botanicals into your systems, so you can judge the effect they have on your fishes and plants. They are not intended for human consumption. DO NOT INGEST!

Here is a brief rundown on each of our botanicals, and some comments and recommendations on their preparation:



These leaves can provide a significant "boost" to your blackwater efforts, as they contain a lot of tannins relative to their size, decompose rather quickly, and affect their immediate aquatic surroundings noticeably. There are two ways to prepare these leaves for use. You can steep them in boiling water for about 10-20 minutes, which will soften them rather quickly, and  help them sink. This will produce a fair amount of tannins right off the bat, and the subsequent leaching into your aquarium will be somewhat reduced.

Alternatively, you could simply soak the leaves in room temperature fresh water for a few days, and let them naturally become waterlogged. There will be a lot of initial leaching of tannins, but the continued leaching of these substances into your aquarium water will be longer and more pronounced than if you step them in boiling water, in our experience. We're kind of "old school" here at Tannin, and if you asked us, we'd recommend the "room temperature steeping" technique. Takes longer, but it preserves the leaves longer! Rinse them thoroughly before placing into your display, regardless of if you boil them or not.

You can place the whole leaves into your display aquarium, or tear them/cut them up into smaller pieces, depending upon your aesthetic preferences. If you  like the benefits of Catappa leaves, but don't like the look of leaf litter in your aquarium, you can tear them up into little pieces, place them in a fine mesh filter bag, and use in your power filter or canister filter as a sort of "filter media."



Among the most attractive of all aquatic botanicals, the Guava leaf has a great dual purpose: In addition to being an aesthetic/habitat enrichment product, these leaves can be used as a supplemental food for many kinds of ornamental shrimp. They are somewhat "stiffer" than Catappa leaves, in our opinion, and tend to decompose at a much slower rate than Catappa leaves do. Also, their color impact on the water doesn't seem to be quite as pronounced as that of the Catappa leaf.

You can certainly "room temperature steep" these leaves for several days to waterlog them before placing them in your aquarium. However, we actually favor steeping them in boiling water for about 10-15 minutes, particularly if you intend to use them as supplemental shrimp food in the short term. This will soften them up more quickly, rendering them more palatable to the shrimp sooner. Be sure to rinse them once again in fresh water before use.



These bark pieces are surprisingly thick, and can take a pretty long time to "break in', so boiling them as opposed to steeping may be the quicker option. Alternatively, you can weigh them down if you can't get them to sink after a 4-5 day "room temperature steep" process. If you opt to boil them, our experience dictates that it's best to place them in the pot of water, bring to a steady boil, and give them about 40 minutes or so to really sink them...could take more or less, depending upon the density of the particular bark "specimens" you're working with. Rinse thoroughly in fresh water before using. It's as much of an "art" as it is a "science!"



 Cholla is really good stuff! It does tend to float a bit when you first immerse it, so you have a couple of options. First, you could simply soak it in room temperature freshwater for as long as it takes to sink (that could take a week or more, FYI). The nice thing about the "RTS" is that you can rinse it and change the water every few days, is this stuff tends to produce a biofilm from the stuff trapped in it's matrix of holes. 

Alternatively, you could boil in a large pot for about 45 minute or so, followed by an overnight soak in room temperature freshwater. Give them a good rinse before placing them in your aquarium. This is nice because you can get the wood to saturate, while simultaneously forcing some of the organic materials within the wood to release. Either way, the extra care you put into preparation of this unique wood is well worth it, for it's utility and aesthetic advantages.



These are simply awesome pods, but they can be a bit challenging to ready for aquarium use. Why? Because the darned things, really well!  While we're not suggesting that they be used for personal floatation devices, the idea did pop into our heads before.

Anyways, there are two ways to over come this buoyancy thing. First, you can simply weigh them down by partially burying them in your substrate, or placing a few rocks in them. Easy. Quick. Done.

Of course, if you're like most hobbyists, doing something quick and easy is almost never in your nature! So, you'll opt to boil them. Yup. Just place them in an inert pot (let your spouse know what's about to go down here...Trust us, it's the right call!) with some fresh water, and bring it to a steady boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat, and let them "cook" for about an hour. Yup. An hour is about the minimum time we've been able to boil them for and achieve "sinking." We recommend giving them a "nudge" to the bottom several times during this process. 

Let them cool. In a perfect world, you'd let them sit under water a couple of days before using them, preferably with a fresh bag of activated carbon, but it's your call.  One curious and extremely aggravating phenomenon: If you let them dry out for a day or two before using...they will FLOAT again, and you'll need to boil them once again (although for a slightly shorter period of time)! Talk about "willpower!" So you're best advised to use them in your aquarium as soon as possible after preparation.



Tannin's most popular pod is, mercifully, pretty forgiving in terms of prep time. Yeah, they'll float like mad when introduced to water, but their buoyancy tendencies can be conquered relatively easily. 

Once again, you'll need to boil them. Place them in an inert pot, fill with fresh water, and bring them to a boil. Keep poking at them during the process to make sure they get submerged as much as possible during boiling. Once the water reaches a boil, reduce heat and let them do their thing for about 10-15 minutes. Allow them to cool, then place them in a container of fresh, room temperature water to make sure that they've been "sunk." Leave them submerged for a couple of days, preferably with a bag of fish activated carbon to remove any impurities and excess tannins.



These tiny cones are not only attractive, but they are surprisingly powerful! One of our friends calls them "Tannin's Tiny Terrors", as they pack a lot of tannin wallop into a little package! The key with these guys is preparation. Like many of our aquatic botanicals, you can "go both ways" on preparing them- a boing water steep (about 10 mins) or a "room temperature" steep...your choice. The main advantage of steeping them in boiling water for about 10 minutes is that you'll leach out an initial "burst" of tannins quickly so we'd go that route. If you room temperature soak them, it's not a bad idea to include a bag of activated carbon to remove some of the initial tannins. Rinse them carefully before placing them in your tank. They will tend to break up and decompose over a few weeks, which isn't necessarily a bad thing- it looks pretty cool!



These little pods are what we've been waiting for! An aquatic botanical that looks cool, has minimal environmental impact, in terms of tannin leaching, and...get this: It SINKS WITHOUT BOILING! Yeah, you read it right! Soak them overnight in some freshwater, preferably with a bag of activated carbon. Then, just give these little gems a rinse and place them on your substrate in a manner that suits your aesthetic sensibilities!



Another one of those rather surprisingly fast sinkers! These pods are best placed in a pot of fresh water, brought to a steady boil, and "cooked" for about 15 minutes. That typically does the trick for us; some "stubborn" Helix Pods will require a longer "steeping time."  Curiously, boiling will "un-helix" many of them, and they sort of flatten out. Not to worry- after boiling, they are typically pliable enough for you to sort of reshape them by hand! Alternatively, you can place them in room temperature water, ideally with a bag of activated carbon, weight them down with a stone, and allow them to naturally waterlog themselves. Either way, rinse them thourghouly before using in your tank. This can take a long time- possibly a week or more, so in our opinion, boing is the better option.



Perhaps the "featherweight champion" of pods, these little guys will really float...and float....The only way to really overcome this during your natural lifetime would be to place them in an inert  pot of freshwater, bring it to a steady boil, and "cook" them for about 20 minutes or so. It may actually take longer, so you'll kind of have to test periodically during the process.  You could also sort of "weigh" them down by tying epiphytic plants to them, too! Interestingly, these pods last a long time before decomposing, which makes up for the difficulty in sinking them!



Preparation for these little pods is much like our "Jungle Pods", which means that we're talking about boiling them for at least an hour to get them waterlogged enough to sink. As with our other pods, the prep time, a necessary evil, is totally worth it for the aesthetic reward that these little pods bring.  

Place them in a pot of water and bring it to a steady boil. Continue to "cook" these pods for a minimum of one hour, prodding them periodically with a wooden spoon to push them under water for greater saturation. Let them sit in some fresh water, preferably with a bag of activated carbon, a day or two before using. Rinse thoroughly before placing in your aquarium.

"Lampada Pods" will leach small amounts of tannins into the water over time, so keep this in mind when using them in your aquarium. Boiling will remove a lot of the initial tannins, but do expect a little "tint" over time.




These little pods are one of those "in-between" types, in terms of how easy they are to get to sink. Some specimens waterlog quickly, while others are stubborn and take an hour or more of boiling before they'll even start to sink. Yet sink, they will.

Place them in a pot of water and bring it to a steady boil. Continue to "cook" these pods for a minimum of one hour, prodding them periodically with a wooden spoon to push them under water for greater saturation. You may find that an additional overnight soak in fresh water will be necessary to really get them down. Include some activated carbon in your soak to remove any impurities. Be sure to rinse carefully before placing them in your display. Occasionally exasperating, but always worth it!



 These little flower-like pods are another "super lightweight", requiring a respectable effort to get them to sink. It's all about patience with these little guys. They are best handled with a long boiling period. 

Place them in a pot of water and bring it to a steady boil. Continue to "cook" these pods for a minimum of one hour, prodding them periodically with a wooden spoon to push them under water for greater saturation. After an hour, you may still have some stubborn ones that simply won't sink! You can keep them in water for a few days if they won't sink after the initial boil...And sometimes, they may even require another boil.  And ideally, a soak of a day or so in fresh water; including a bag of activated carbon is recommended. Argh! It's a test of your will, but in the end- totally worth it! Oh, final piece of information: Often, they will sort of "close up" after boiling and look like little beans, which is actually kind of cool, in our opinion.



Although they're soft and capable of leaching some serious tannins into the water, these curls will require effort in order to sink them. They're amazingly light, and that means we need to employ the boiling method. 

You'll need to boil them for at least an hour (sometimes a bit more) to waterlog them, because they are really quite light and readily float when first immersed! Or, you can simple soak them  in fresh water with some activated carbon for a couple of weeks to help waterlog them, or some combination of the two!  As with some of our very lightweight pods, you may even need to get really clever and weigh them down to get them to sink, even after boiling! 

Another idea- You can tie epiphytic mosses and plants to them, and perhaps cheat and throw a plant weight on. This, of course, results in immediate sinking and no boiling! If you're going for the "instant gratification" technique with this, or any of our aquatic botanicals, be sure to give them a very thorough rinse with fresh water before using!



These little "bits of stem" are cool...but pretty light, which means the best technique is a prolonged boil, and possible even a soak afterwards for up to a week.  You know the drill by now: Place them in an inert pot with some fresh water, and bring it to a steady boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat, and let them "cook" for about an hour. Follow with a day or so in fresh water, ideally with a bag of activated carbon. Rinse before placing them in your tank.

 An hour is about the minimum time we've been able to boil them for and achieve "sinking." We recommend giving them a "nudge" to the bottom several times during this process. A lot of work, perhaps- but aren't most desirable things in this hobby? Yup!



 Another small pod that has a bit more "heft" to it, the "Estalo Pod" needs to be thoroughly waterlogged to really sink it effectively. Preparation for these little pods is much like many of our other small pods, which means  boiling them for at least an hour  (sometimes more) to get them waterlogged enough to sink, followed by a soak in freshwater with some activated carbon. Like their distant relatives, the "Pequeno Pods", these guys will usually "close up" after boiling and soaking, looking for all the world like a little bean...which is actually kind of cool, especially since they'd be submerged at that point. Something you should be aware of, regardless.

We're 100% convinced that a little bit of prep time is well worth it, in terms of the aesthetics that these little pods bring to your aquarium. They bring an aesthetic that really works!



These large, woody, yet leather-looking pods are rather heavy, and believe it or not, will often sink on their own with merely a prolonged soak in room temperature freshwater! By "prolonged", we're talking couple of days typically, with a bag of activated carbon.  It's still  not a bad idea to give them a short (10 minute or so) boil to really waterlog them and help remove some of the initial tannins they contain. Rinse them carefully before placing in your tank.

Another rather amusing fact about these pods is that they tend to "unroll" after being submerged or boiled, and may or may not cooperate when you attempt to "reconfigure" them to their original dried form...And that's not the end of the world, because they look pretty smashing when "unfurled" as well!



This is a sometimes frustrating pod. It seems like it should sink right away, and it often will, with minimal preparation. Other times, it can be tough to get to sink!

Preparation for these little pods is much like many of our other pods, which means that we're talking about boiling them for at least half an hour to get them waterlogged enough to sink. It could take longer, depending on the particular pod! Soak them a day or two in fresh water, with a bag of activated carbon to remove any impurities and initial tannins. Rinse before placing in your tank. They also tend to unfurl a bit from their occasionally curled-up dry shape. However, they do remain hard, yet somewhat pliable, after soaking, and are relatively forgiving to work with. As with our other pods, the prep time is totally worth it for the aesthetic reward that these bring to your biotope.  



Any pod that is really thin and ultra lightweight is a virtual recipe for difficulty when attempting to sink it, and these pods sometimes can fall into that category. The reality is, Conchas are no more difficult to sink than any other pod. They respond pretty well to prolonged boiling (generally around 45 minutes, but some very stubborn ones can take longer), and will generally sink pretty well after that. A soak of a couple of days in fresh water containing a bag of activated carbon is highly recommended. They can also be steeped for an extended period of time in room temperature freshwater with a bag of carbon, and will ultimately sink (but it could take a couple of weeks!).

Some specimens of these pods tend to roll back into themselves after boiling/soaking, which isn't the ned of the world, because they look pretty cool- almost like a miniature gourd! Most, however, retain their "dried" appearance. In the end, a surprisingly great little pods that can be used in a variety of situations where its strong, "Jungle Stream" aesthetic can really pay off!



A very lightweight pod that you should use-and prepare as you would a leaf. It floats when first immersed, so you have the two options to consider when preparing it for use: You can boil it for about 20 minutes, which puts these guys into action the same day, although we recommend a one or two day soak in some fresh water with a bag of activated carbon following the boil. Rinse them thoroughly before use. Alternatively, if you're the patient type, 3-5 days of room temperature soaking (sometimes a bit longer)in fresh water with a bag of activated carbon can do the trick and get them to sink. They do release some mild tannins, so the prepping will minimize this.




Another super lightweight botanical that you should consider just like a leaf. It floats like mad when first immersed, so you have the two "classic" prep strategies here: You can boil it for about 20-25 minutes, which should sink them nicely. Sometimes, a bit longer is required to do the job, however. Alternatively, a week to 10 days of room temperature  freshwater soaking (sometimes a bit longer) with a bag of activated carbon can do the trick and get them to sink. Rinse them before placing in your tank. These are really versatile and long-lasting, so they're well worth the effort!



 These beautiful, highly variable leaves are prepared for aquarium use much like Catappa leaves. You can either steep them in boiling water for about 10-20 minutes before placing into your aquarium (that should do the job to sink them and leach out some initial tannins), or you could simply give 'em the "room temperature soak" for about 3-4 days (more or less, depending upon the specific leaves)with a bag of activated carbon before using them. Be sure to rinse them one more time before placing into your tank. Either way, they're a surprisingly durable leaf that will last just a bit longer than Catappa, in our experience. They often recruit a significant "biofilm" as they decay, which ornamental shrimp and some fish just love!



A great "transitional pod", with relatively "easy to sink" capability! It has a surprisingly durable outside shell, and a slightly softer interior. We recommend a 35-40 minute boil to really waterlog them, followed by a day or two soaking in freshwater with a bag of  activated carbon. You can also do the old "room temperature freshwater soak" with activated carbon for approximately one week if you're the patient type- although sometimes they give up sooner and sink after only a couple of days. Either way, rinse them one more time before placing in your tank.  All in all, you will love this pod!



An awesome "super lightweight" pod that  has some pod attributes (tougher on one side), while possessing a structure and "usage factor" reminiscent of leaves. Translation: It's light, and you'll need to do some prep to sink it! We recommend a room temperature soak for at least a few days- perhaps up to a week, and include a bag of activated carbon. You could boil it for 20-30 minutes, too, speeding up the process, yet compromising the useful life of the pod somewhat. A middle ground might be to steep it in boiling water and simply leave it in the container for several days with some activated carbon. Rinse before placing in your tank. A long-lasting pod that looks great in leaf litter!



 This coconut-husk based material is super clean, and very lightweight. It needs to be boiled and soaked to really get it to sink and leach out initial tannins it contains. Patience is key...We have found that about an hour of steady boiling will do the trick. Do note that it expands a bit after it's wetted, so you'll need a pot of sufficient size in which to prepare it and have good water volume. As an alternative, you could do a very long room temperature soak (like a week or two), or even use it in a media reactor or cannister filter (in a media bag), which will double as both a means to give your water some "tint", and to help saturate the media for use as a substrate!  Here's another word of warning: This material will leach significant tannins into the water so we highly recommend a prolonged (like a week) soak in fresh water to help leach out the tannins, even after it's been boiled, followed by a careful rinse in fresh water. No matter how you prepare it, we think that "Fundo Tropical" is special stuff that will find many uses in the fish rooms of serious hobbyists!



 A great new discovery, these distinctive, thin, lightweight leaves are surprisingly easy to sink! You basically have two good options: You can boil them for about 10 minutes, and they'll typically sink quite well. Alternatively, you can steep them in boiling water for about 10-15 minutes (possibly longer) to get the same effect.  Soak them overnight in  some fresh water containing a bag of activated carbon. Rinse before placing in your tank. They're surprisingly long-lasting and durable (if such a term applies to a leaf) for a thin little leaf! They'll impart a nice light-colored tint to the water, which we of course, love!



 Crazy, twisted little twigs, these are. Preparation is actually kind of easy. You can steep them in boiling water for 10-20 minutes, and they will usually sink after that. Alternatively, you could give them the old "room temperature soak" in fresh water with a bag of activated carbon for 3-5 days. Personally, we recommend the boiling water for faster results, followed by a one or two day soak in water with a bag of activated carbon. The weird thing about these little branches is that they will "coil up" after being prepped, and will often not retain their dry form. This is actually pretty cool, because they can be used for all sorts of interesting applications!



Yet another "super lightweight" botanical! This one is paper thin, and naturally floats like mad when you first wet it down. The "best practice" with this one is to give it a good rinse in fresh water, then boil for about 20 minutes or so to get it good and waterlogged! It may or may not require some additional soaking (a couple of days usually) in fresh water containing a bag of activated carbon to complete the process. Nonetheless, it's surprisingly long-lasting, very beautiful, and quite versatile! It will continue to leach some tannins over time, but not nearly to the extent of some of the other leaf litter enhancement materials we offer.



These extra large, extra-hefty pods are perfect for a wide variety of applications, including vivariums and other aquatic features! Even though they are pretty substantial in size, and can weigh up to 2 ounces or more, they still float! So, if you're going want to waterlog them, you'll have to boil them for at least 30-40 minutes, sometimes more. Of course, as is our protocol, we recommend a post-boil soak of a few days as well, just to keep them down and allow them to leach out any initial tannins and other trapped organics. Give them a quick rinse after the soak, and they're good to go! As would be expected, these are durable, very long-lasting botanicals that you'll love as much for their utility as you will for their beauty.



 Among the most beautiful botanicals we offer, the clean, dried, fallen pods of the Magnolia tree are coveted by frog enthusiasts as a habitat enrichment "prop." They're also well-known for  serving as a "refuge" for beneficial isopods, hexapods, and other insects in vivarium/terrarium settings. We rinse them carefully, and they're sound dried. We do recommend another supplemental rinse and even a soak before use, just to make sure they're ready to go. Yes, you could boil them if you're planning on using them for an aquarium for either tadpoles or tropical fish. In fact, some frog enthusiasts will recommend baking them in your oven for about 15 minutes or so to really make sure that they're good and clear of any potential impurities.



 Another "aquatic cross trainer", if you will, with a variety of wet and dry aquatic applications-the cool "Palma Abrigo" is one of the easier botanicals to work with, in terms of getting out to sink! We've found that a 10-15 minute boil is usually enough to get it to sink. You may have to go a little longer, but we're not talking hours here! It's highly recommended that you soak them afterwards for several days (if you plan on using them in a submerged state in an aquarium) in fresh water, to leach out some of the initial tannins that will be released upon submersion. These may continue to leach out tannins over time, but the effect will be somewhat minimized by proper prep work on your part.



 A beautiful, robust botanical for a variety of aquatic purposes! You can use 'em above or below the water! Boiling for at least 30 minutes will help leach out some of the initial tannins, as well as sink them. If you are going to use them underwater, we highly recommend an addition a soak of a a few days before placing them in your display, just to let that "burst" of tannins and organics leach out a bit before using them in your aquarium. Even if you're using them in a vivarium, taking the time to do some prep work is strongly advised!



These are one of the most useful botanicals we offer! Being quite lightweight, however, these pods simply won't sink easily, if at all, despite much effort at boiling and soaking them in our trials. Now, they can sink, but it's simply not a guarantee by any stretch! They are quite clean. However, regardless of weather you're using them in an aquarium or vivarium application, we do recommend a little boiling and a soak in freshwater for a couple of days, to leach out any initial tannins and other substances contained in the dried pods. Except a small amount of tint to be released. These pods last a surprisingly long time, given their thin, lightweight nature!



 Yet another "ultra buoyant" pod. As such, we think this one is really best suited for vivariums and terrariums...It seems like no matter what we do to it- boiling, soaking, drilling, etc.- we just can't get it to sink! Not so bad, because it's an awesome pod for "above water" use! For preparation, we recommend a quick boil and/or a prolonged (3-5 day) soak (or should we say, a "float?") in fresh water, followed by a good rinse. These are remarkably durable pods, and will last a long time in the moist conditions of a vivarium.



 As pods go, these are pretty lightweight, so we recommend that you boil them for at least 30-40 minutes or more before use, then let them cool for about 5 additional minutes. Sometimes it takes a much longer "boil/soak" time to help them sink. It's highly recommended to do a 24-48 hour "post-boil soak" to let them leach out any initial tannins and organics. Change the soak water as needed, and rinse before use, as they do release a lot of tannins and organics initially after boiling. Once in your aquarium, they will last a surprisingly long time! They will recruit a "biofilm" on their surfaces, which shrimp and small fishes seem to love.



These are another gorgeous, but ridiculously lightweight botanical. They simply need to be boiled and/or soaked for an extended duration to get them waterlogged enough to sink. You can either waterlog them with a one week room temperature freshwater soak, or better- boil them for at least 30-40 minutes before soaking. They tend to last longer when soaked, as opposed to being boiled, however. Worth the prep time for their beauty and interest.



Lovely, delicate-looking botanicals with interesting structure and shape, these little "turtle shells" will be a perfect addition to your leaf litter zone. They tend to sink after around 35-40 minutes of good boiling, followed by a 1-2 day soak in room-temperature freshwater. They will soften up quickly, develop a "biofilm", and eventually decompose after a few weeks, at which time you'll have to decide whether to leave 'em in or remove them. Either way, they are gorgeous botanicals with many aesthetic and practical benefits for the aquarium or vivarium! 



Although they're chunky in appearance, these are lightweight botanicals that take a surprisingly long time to waterlog and sink. It takes as much as an hour or more to accomplish this, and we definitely recommend a 1-2 soak in fresh, room temperature water to really get them saturated and leach most of the initial tannins. A word of caution- the interior of these botanicals tends to soften an deteriorate quickly (like 2-3 weeks), so you'll notice this. Shrimp, snails, and Plecos will help consume the soft interior parts. The outer "skin" will last indefinitely, however, providing you with a real aesthetic treat!



What a beautiful, yet challenging little pod we have here! These guys are not the easiest to sink, but the rewards for the patient hobbyist are a beautiful and unique specie that will accent your aquascape. If you're using them for a vivarium, simply give them a good rinse and  boil for a few minutes before using. If, however, your an intrepid aquarist, and want to use 'em in an aquarium, we'd recommend that you boil them for at least 1.5-2 hours or MORE, and then soak them in freshwater for several days as necessary to get them to sink! Note that some will "butterfly after the boiling process, which we think looks pretty cool, and seems to render them much easier to sink!



 These little powerhouses are probably the "arch rival" of the Alder Cone! Well, not really, but they are similar in many respects, except that these guys seem to have a little more "oomph" to them, from a tannin-producing perspective, anyways! You would be best soaking them in room temperature freshwater overnight or until they start to swell and sink. Alternatively, you could steep them in boiling water for an hour or two, and if they sink, give 'em a little rinse and add them as you see fit. Just go slow, because they seem a bit more potent than the Alder cones...start out with maybe 6 for every 10 gallons, just to gauge the effect on your aquatic environment.



These a re really lightweight little botanicals, which take a fair amount of time to get to sink. The best way is to boil them for around 20 minutes or so, and they will usually sink after that. Alternatively, you could give them a "room temperature soak" in fresh water with a bag of activated carbon for 3-5 days. We recommend the boiling water for faster results, followed by a one or two day soak in water with a bag of activated carbon. Tip: Make sure that you drop 'em in your tank right after you remove them from the "post boil soak", so that they stay waterlogged and down!



These cool little botanicals are not only a visual treat, but they have proven rather easy to prepare for aquatic use! You can go a couple of routes: First, you could boil them for like 10 minutes or so, followed by a couple of days in a freshwater soak. Or, you could simply rinse them out of the bag and soak them in fresh water for several days. In our experiments, they sink without having to boil them, merely needing a day or two soaking in water to become saturated. And they say surprisingly solid when submerged, lasting quite a few weeks before slowly decomposing. Shrimp, snails, and Plecos seem to love camping on them!



Magnolia leaves are some of the most colorful, durable, and overall attractive leaves that we offer! They are pretty easy to prepare for aquatic use, requiring just a good rinse, followed by a steep in some very warm, or boiling water for about 10 minutes, and/or an overnight soak in freshwater. They have a thick cutting layer, which gives them an almost "plastic" appearance. It also makes them last a good long time underwater, providing aesthetic benefits as part of a varied leaf litter bed, and of course, leaching a fair amount of tannins, adding to the golden-brown tint we love so much around here!



As cones go, these are quite durable little guys. Preparation is straightforward: A good rise in fresh water is the first step. We're a bit conservative, and recommend a good 20 minute steep in very hot (boiled) water so to further rid them of any possible contaminants (dust and dirt particles, mainly), as well as to help saturate them bit to encourage them to sink. They put out a really nice amount of tannins, making them cost-effective little "tint delivery vehicles" that are perfect for our aquatic uses! Like our other botanicals, and cones in particular, start of slowly with them to gauge for yourself the affects they have on your aquarium water.



These delightful leaves have not previously been offered for hobby use in North America, to our knowledge. They're beautiful and easy to use! Simply rinse and/or steep them in boiling water before use, and add them gradually to your aquarium, at a rate of just a couple of leaves for each 10 U.S. gallons of aquarium capacity, so that you can gauge for yourself the impact they have on your water. NOTE: These leaves sometimes are a bit "crispy" (i.e.; brittle) when dry, but soften up nicely upon immersion.



These  big pods are pretty cool! We recommend boiling them for over an hour to get them saturated enough to sink reliably. And of course, we recommend a soak of a few days in a bucket of freshwater after boiling, to let them fully saturate and release some of the lignin and other organics found in the outer layers of the pods. We have noticed that the interior has more of a layer of this "spongy", paper-like connective material on the interior surfaces (see closeup pic), which you may want to carefully scrape out a bit with a wire brush or small knife (we used a grapefruit spoon!) before placing it in your aquarium. 



This durable, yet lightweight pod requires a good amount of boiling to get it to stay submerged. We recommend about an hour, although sometimes the occasional stubborn one will take longer. A 24 hour "post boil soak" in freshwater is also a great idea, to really let it leach out the initial organics and bound-up tannins. They last a very long time submerged, or in humid environments such as vivariums.



These little palm-derived botanicals are pretty darned lightweight...Like, really lightweight. Which means boiling and some soaking is your main option to get them to sink. And sink they will...It generally takes about 20-30 minutes, plus a little soak afterwards...And then you've got this really cool leaf litter supplement! And they give off a nice little burst of tannins, too. Really worth the effort, as you can do all sorts of things with 'em!



These little lightweights are a lot of fun, but as you'd suspect- they float like mad! You'll need to boil them for at least an hour (sometimes a bit more) to waterlog them. We recommend following the boil with an overnight freshwater soak before adding them to your aquatic feature. Or, if you're incredibly patient, you can simply soak them for a couple of weeks to help waterlog them! They give off a little bit of tannin "tint" throughout their "service life", making them valuable additions to a blackwater aquarium. You may, on a rare occasion, need to get really clever and weigh them down to get them to sink, even after boiling! 



These big guys are used most commonly in vivariums, so the preparation is a bit different for use than for aquariums. In this instance, a good thorough rinse in warm water, and perhaps a scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush will do the trick. This will remove any dirt or surface impurities from the pod. Because of their large size and incredible flotation capability, these botanicals are NOT typically recommended for aquarium use. However, we won't stop you from trying! If boiled for approximately 30-60 minutes or more, and soaked for a few days in room temperature freshwater, you might get them to sink. Or, you could fill them with rocks and sand to help weight them down as required after preparation. (NOTE: You can certainly boil them anyways, even for vivarium application)



Although the primary use for these botanicals is to provide supplemental food for your ornamental shrimp, they do work as part of your leaf litter, and last a good long time! To feed to your shrimp, we recommend steeping them in boiling or very warm water for an hour or so to really soften them up, then simply drop them in the aquarium. As leaf litter- the same preparation is used. They'll slowly soften up over time.



Preparation of these palm fronds is pretty straightforward, in our experience: Simply give them a good rinse in fresh water, and they're ready to use.  You can soak them overnight in said fresh water; the choice is yours. They're really buoyant, so you'll need to anchor them down some way, with a rock, plant weights, or other botanical/decorative materials, and they'll stay exactly where you want them. Over time, they will impart some "tint" to the water as well!



These pods are durable, yet surprisingly light an pliable once submerged. In our experience, they take about 45 minutes of continuous boiling in order to sink; we typically will let them soak overnight in some fresh water afterwards to really waterlog them before adding them to an aquarium. They will soften up a bit over time, and although the opening to the cavity might close up a bit after preparation, they are pliable enough to gently pry open as you see fit.



These are beautiful and distinctive leaves, and are remarkably durable- surprising, given their rather delicate appearance! Preparation is fairly straightforward: You can steep them for 15 minutes in boiling water, followed by an overnight soak, or you could simply soak them in room temperature freshwater for 2-3 days to let them saturate. This leaves will give off some tannins, although the "tint is more amber-colored" than brown. They also recruit significant biofilms after submersion, making them a really cool leaf for grazers like shrimp and some catfishes.



These cool botanicals are  super easy to prepare! Our recommendation is to boil them for about 20-13 minute, then a quick soak in room temperature freshwater (we'll tell you overnight, but it's your call). They sink right to the bottom. You might lose a few of the little "vertebrae" on them when you prepare them, but they are, as a whole, quite durable, and last for many months submerged! They give off a surprisingly large amount of tinting tannins when initially submerged, so keep this in mind when considering how you'll utilize them.


Heftier than our much-loved "Rio Fruta", yet quite similar, these pods are more representative of the types found in brackish habitats. Prep is similar:  We recommend that you boil them for at least 45-60 minutes or more before use, then let them cool for about 5 additional minutes. Sometimes it takes a much longer "boil/soak" time to help them sink, as they are fairly buoyant. After boiling, we highly recommend a soak in fresh water for several days to leach out the initial burst of tannins and organics.


These exotic leaves have not, to our knowledge, been offered in dried form for aquarium use before. However, there is no "magic" or exotic preparation technique required. We recommend either a quick boil (like 10 minutes), and/or an overnight "steep" in warm fresh water, to soften them up a bit and aid in submergence. they will last a pretty long time (both Yellow and Red varieties!)



These pods will leach some tannins into the water over the long term. You'll need to boil them for at least 15 minutes (sometimes a bit more) to release some of the initial tannins and organics contained in their porous structure. Interestingly, they almost always sink immediately upon immersion in water- a nice change of pace from the usual "hyper-buoyant" botanicals! And they can color the water pretty intensely, too! You will likely want to do an overnight soak as well, just to make sure they sink and to "crack off" any residual dirt and organics released during boiling. And, they can "un-twist" themselves after preparation..Not to worry- they're actually pliable enough after boiling to "reshape" them by hand!



These are big, rather brittle, but very exotic-looking leaves that you'll really love. They add that extra touch of diversity in a leaf litter bed, and definitely are distinct. Before using the leaves in your aquarium, we recommend steeping them in hot water for about 15 minutes, then soaking them in fresh water overnight to let them become waterlogged. Then, you can place them on the bottom of your aquarium like any other leaves. 



This unique bark is easy to use, but requires just a bit more effort in its preparation  Soak it overnight in freshwater to saturate it, then boil it for about 15-20 minutes. After boiling, let it soak overnight in freshwater, then boil it again for 15-20 minutes. This process will help it become more waterlogged and sink, and leach out some of the dirt, organics, and initial tannins bound up in the bark.