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

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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!

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· Banned
3,296 Posts
I recently discussed this on APC.

leaves found in urban/suburban areas are
rarely subject to fertilizers and pesticides,
so if you rinse the leaves a while before
putting them in you tank, they'll be fine.

Beech and Oak leaves are best.
they leech the least tanins and
break down the slowest without
altering your water chemistry.

Catt, in general, plants release phosphates
and fish release nitrates, as they degrade.

you can use almond leaves,
but they tanin, are expensive,
and are generally reserved for
fish health applications, not for
tank decor.

· Banned
3,296 Posts
Bill; how well do Mulberry leaves maintain their form when long submerged?
how did you know about using them? read elsewhere, or trial and error?
which of these three variation of Mulberry leaf are you working with?

oblong, I agree with your practical concerns. That's why I like to use Lava Rocks in my shrimp breeding tank. they provide lot's of nooks and crannies for shrimp to eat off and hide, and are easy to remove with a quick shake to keep the fry in the tank while cleaning my bare slate bottom tank.

· Banned
3,296 Posts
Bill, sounds like you are basically clipping green mulberry leaves and feeding them to your snails. I think most here are looking for dried brown and red leaves to put in our tanks as natural fall decor, that last longer than a week, and won't get eaten up by most tank inhabitants.

· Banned
3,296 Posts
I learned from my friend in the Parks department here in NYC;

there are 6 different kinds of Oak tree found around NYC
and they are easy to spot in the fall, since they are one
of the only trees not to lose their leaves going into winter.
so now is prime time to go fresh leaf hunting for your tank.


· Banned
3,296 Posts
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.
obviously... as much as I respect people's advice on these forums, I was just demonstrating for myself how well oak leaves held up while submerged. I suspect if they are on the bottom exposed to the same microorganisms and bacteria in your substrate's mulm, they will remain intact far shorter than my demonstration bares out. I'm may change a portion of my shrimp tank to have a pile of these leaves - I'm sure the shrimp and dwarf crayfish will love it.
I just hope my neighbors don't think I'm crazy when they see me pulling dead leaves off of tree branches

Top 10 excuses for a Park Ranger - catching you pulling leaves off an Oak Tree;

10. maybe a bed of them will encourage my kid to hibernate for the winter
9. need them to help jump start my compost heap
8. now that I'm a vegan, I need to replace the down filling in my parka
7. if rose petals help get her in the mood, what will dead oak leaves do
6. these leaves were blocking my view of that hot girl next door
5. if I pick them off the tree now, it's less yard work in the Spring
4. oak leaves could make for a great new source of fiber in my diet
3. need an original item to throw at the bride & groom instead of rice
2. makes great kindling for the fireplace, since nobody buys newspapers anymore
1. I want to line the bottom of my fish tank with leaves to make my shrimp happy

· Banned
3,296 Posts
at 3 Months the oak leaf no longer feels like 24lb paper,
but more like plastic saran wrap. this means, had I then
used it as a tank bottom medium, it would have noticeably
flattened by three Months, thus you might lose the pockets
favored by small invertebrates for hiding and molting.

week 12 submerged:

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