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

27923 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 Dendroboard.com and on The Planted Tank.net 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!
-Andrew

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!

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hey guys all good information and things covered thanks.

Spypet, I personally would say generally that information about pesticides is false. They are very commonly used sadly. And especially with delicate shrimp like CRS and BD it makes me nervous thinking about putting them in. Then again I put a LOT more in my tanks than most people do some things straight out of local streems.:icon_cool :icon_roll

Sorry I haven't updated the original post yet, been too tired to really do the other research and write more. I want it to be presentable etc so I'm going to take my time on this. I'm also going to try and cover benefits of using a good sized leaf litter base in community tanks and fish only tanks. Many good things can be seen from leaf litter. In my opinion in most tanks, we are adding too many big things before the small stuff like all the good bugs:thumbsup: more on that later, just some food for thought.

Spy I'm pretty sure all of NE is sprayed from the air for mosquitoes. Personally I'm quiet opposed to that because of the other things it kills, but humans value themselves much higher than the small stuff it seems. I'm pretty posative they use pesticides and the likes in central park as well:thumbsup:

So more coming soon.

-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
what about leaves from those threes with paper bark?
I believe you're talking of white birch or paper birch, don't know Latin names off hand... :help:

Their leaves are very thin and with that being said I would assume they would not last too long in a shrimp tank, but may look very nice. I'll collect some sometime and see how they do.

Sorry about dp, was ninja'd

-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Just want to say,

Most tree's leaves will be fine some may be toxic and plan on having a part of the "guide" so to speak about that.

Let me say, no poison oak or ivy should be added to your tank. Just a community message lol...

But usually people want leaves to last a long time so the thicker leaves like oak and magnolia are chosen.

-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
I could see it now..."Why are your eyes swollen shut dear?" "Well..I was hunting leaves for my shrimp and...":hihi:

Great pic spypet.
Yeah it would be great untill someone gets sued:icon_roll

As for the article I'm finishing it up today/tomorrow and submitting it to Ryan for the contest, after the contest I'll be posting the finished article on here as well.

Nice pictures spypet. For me I'm more talking about not one leaf, but actual leaf litter like you would see on a rain forest floor or a stream with trees growing over it.

Now to finish it:icon_roll

-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Well I know I originally was going to keep the finished article untill after Ryan had finished his contest, but I really want to get this out there for people so I'm updating the top of the thread:thumbsup:

-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
I use leaves in my composter.
They rot.
Just like they do in aquariums........
We rotate the composter and it has plenty of air holes to let O2 in.
Your tank has plenty of O2 as well, this speeds up the composting(which is the goal in composters).

Adding compost might be a better idea, at least nutrient/chemical wise.
You can select the type of rotten leaves.
Worm castings to the bottom sediment was all the rage about 8 years ago, seem to die a quick death in popularity however.

If, like with wood, they are for aesthetics, there's no issue.
Just do water changes, or use activated carbon which will remove any organic compounds, mostly tannins.

Regards,
Tom Barr
Adding compost is another interesting idea, its probably a bit messier though. I don't have any at the moment (spead all our compost this past year) but May try this in the spring. Essentially this is what we are doing, the shrimp and other things in the tank are eating with the compost rate it seems so you don't get as much noticable rotting.

Leaves for aesthetics vs. function is interesting. I'm looking at more function wise. It provides a safe haven for shrimp, fry, etc and can also generate a good deal of food as well especially for fish with worms and stuff if you seed it with this.

I've been reading Dianna's book Ecology for the planted aquarium. It is a bit out of the trends but the second chapter I believe is about how tannins are actually good for the tank, the humic substances will bind with things like copper, aluminum, mercury (lets hope you have none of this) and stuff to actually make the water safer. Being shrimp are very sensitive to these things I think this would be another added bonus! Very interested what your take is on this.

Thanks to all the replies. A few leaves isn't much of what I'm trying to talk about with this, there needs to be a good amount I haven't determined what the say minimum for maximum results is yet, but will be experimenting soon.

-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
You are basically raising live food.
I'd say that, rather than any chemicals that the shrimp like is what's going on.
Thats the whole idea behind it for me. All the other things where things I read or found out about since then. Allelopathy is interesting either way, if it hasn't or has been proven either way.

I didn't know ETDA was in most commercial substrates but that makes sense to me, so the humic substances don't really matter.

The purpose for me in introducing leaf litter is to not feed as much from outside the tank, so when I travel and other things the tank keeps a stable supply of food for the shrimp and other stuff in there. So for me just adding a few leaves here and there loaded with stuff is pointless.

Thanks for the comments!
-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
Its that time again to go collect leaves:thumbsup:

I'll be stocking up and hoping that the stock won't be thrown out:icon_roll

-Andrew
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Tom wants me to test something else too... Maybe I'll hold this one off for a little, I haven't posted any progress on the dye project yet:icon_lol:

Now this is the only reason I keep a bag of barley still in my overlow. The shrimp love picking at.

Now is it the bag or the barley?

Great. Time to try a bag of marbles. :icon_idea
LOL. have fun with that one:hihi:

Another question I have is how important is the light:icon_idea with leaf litter...

Too many questions too little time.

-Andrew
 
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