The Planted Tank Forum banner

Leaf litter, is it in your tank? (All done!)

27918 Views 67 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  ravensgate

Is there leaf litter in your Shrimp tank?

This is my simple question.​

There are many positive things related to leaf litter in all kinds of environments and I am wondering who uses it and who does not. I do not mean a leaf or two either, I mean a good layer of this stuff maybe an inch or so thick, but not limited to just covering the tank bottom.

All I can think of is positive results from using it in shrimp tanks, and in my opinion very few people on this forum and in the USA use it in general. Personally I haven't started using it yet for one major reason. The "Bag o' leaves" I grabbed was mistaken as garbage and thrown into the lot next door, and I haven't collected anymore yet.

The idea behind this?

Its simple, shrimp eat things we cant see. Especially things that like lots of surface area and a food source. Leaf litter provides that, and the Shrimp eat it as well. It is said to increase survival rates of young shrimp and older shrimp alike. It seems to be a no loss addition to your shrimp tank right?

The good!

A large amount of leaf litter in your shrimp tank can have numerous positive outcomes. One simple outcome is that it provides a place where shrimp can hide, if you want to add small fish to your tank, adding leaf litter gives the shrimp another advantage. It becomes a self-sufficient food source. With the leaves slowly breaking down there are things at work here, also adding other small bugs like copepods and daphnia possibly also bloodworms and such will provide food if it has shrimp that are not algae eaters exclusively or if you have a fish tank it can make leaving the tank for a week or so much easier. For people wishing to achieve a lower Ph Indian almond leaves and some people report that oak leaves help to lower the hardness of the water. With all this good is there any bad?

Possible problems:

1. Shrimp in general are very sensitive to chemicals and fertilizers. Collecting leaves outside may have lots of those in contact with them.

Solution: Know where you are collecting and possible chemicals. It is best to collect from an area that you know is free of chemical treatments and fertilizers.

2. Leaves releasing tannis and making it impossible to see into your tank.

Solution: Treat your leaf litter beforehand to hopefully avoid that!

3. Its messy having decomposing leaves in my tank.

Solution: Yes it will be messy, but it is for the health of your shrimp especially helping to get more babies to survive. As long as you incorporate it into your tank well, it should look great. This is of course not required to keep shrimp and many people have had success without it so this may not be for you.

Treating leaf litter:

Treating leaf litter can be a very simple process or a very complicated one depending on where you got the leaves and how paranoid you are. There are several easy ways people treat leaf litter.

1. Simply wash off the dirt and debris this is probably the simplest way, which is easiest to do as long as you know that the leaves are safe.
2. Boiling the leaves is another method used. It helps them to release tannis is any is going to be released and it will kill anything on them hopefully. The only downside to this is that it can help them break down faster.
3. Baking them at a 350degrees in the oven for approximately 30 minuets. Followed by letting them cool and soak in water to wash off the debris and hydrate them.
4. Microwaving them also is an option if you have a microwave. I wouldn’t just use the microwave on them, because I doubt it does too much compared to boiling or baking them.
5. Freezing the leaves is an option if you have extra freezer space somewhere. Most Zoos freeze for 30+ days so if you are in a hurry this is impractical.
6. Finally doing a bleach water solution of about 10% bleach 90% water can work. The downside is that they need to have them air dry for a day or so. If they’re going into a tank with sensitive shrimp I would also give them a bath in something similar to Prime because it can’t hurt, but might not do much.
7. The only 100% absolute way to sterilize anything really is to use an autoclave which 99% of the people ever reading this will not have access to. Basically it is a VERY high pressure, pressure cooker that has heat and steam that will kill everything. Trying to use a pressure cooker instead will not work unless you have a very high-pressure pressure cooker.

How Much?

Many people do put in a leaf or two in their tanks, but I would not consider that leaf litter. I would say the minimum requirement to consider you have leaf litter in your tank is to have a good two to three leaves on top of each other at all time in your leaf litter. So a good inch or so should be great. With a larger amount of leaf litter you may have more of a tannis problem so running your filter with carbon and other commercially sold products to remove tannis is probably a good idea if you do not like it. You also may have a fungus/mold outbreak but the shrimp should clean that up within the first week or so.

In Conclusion…

Originally this guide was started by me because I have always wanted to keep poison dart frogs and started reading about all the positives this has with keeping it in their tanks. People swear by it with their Pumilios for raising the young in a good leaf litter with lots of small bugs in it. We have similar problems with our tanks and raising some of the more delicate shrimp so I believe this should help the problem when done correctly. I could never have finished this without all the information on and on The Planted forums, especially some of the topics on Dendroboard about leaf litter the moderator “Elmoisfive” posted specific temperatures and time for baking leaves, which I used in this article because I had neither time nor temperature for baking.

Thanks for taking the time to read!

Also known as Fish Newb and a hill on Dendroboard.

PS. If there is anything anyone would wish for me to add to make this better please shoot me a PM!

Not open for further replies.
1 - 2 of 2 Posts
1 - 2 of 2 Posts
Not open for further replies.