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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 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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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.

 

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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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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
 

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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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Well after reading that I have to put some leafs in my tank. Im looking forward to seeing the out come of this. Thanks for putting out this great info.
 

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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
 

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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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I use leaf litter in my yellow neocaridina tank. Initially, I got the idea off of planetcatfish, from an article on SA biotopes.

I'm using oak leaves in my tank; not bothered enough to find out which type exactly. But a month into it, I haven't noticed much decay, only a loss of color in the leaves. I rinsed and soaked the leaves just to remove any debris, as I don't have to worry about chemicals/fertilizers. The water is slightly surprisingy clear. Someone mentioned earlier that oak leaves are one of the types that release less tannins than most, which has rung true in my situation.

As far as how the shrimp act, they love it. It does provide a wonderful, natural place for them to hide and a great deal of surface area for food. My tank is mostly for breeding purposes, so it's not the best looking (with just rocks, java moss, and the leaf litter), but I'd be happy to take a pic or two if anyone is interested. :D

Great article, btw!
 

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FYI,
Most detrivores and fungi tend to be generalist, they are not specific or picky, they will use and go after anything that's easy to decompose.
So leaf species is not really that critical near as I can tell for all the aquatic fungi and detritivor research that's been looked at.

Shrimp tend to eat these critters that are at this level or another level above the decomposers.

As far as tannins, the trace metal binding etc may be relevant in some large scale systems in nature, wetlands, river systems, but they are not in Diana's tanks, nor ours.

Why?
She and many of use add traces, whether it's in the sediment(In her case, she used extremely rich relative to plant demand Fe source sediment) while many use Flourite, or add water column ferts, which are already binding Fe using ETDA etc.

Plants are opportunistic, they will use nutrients where ever they are, sediment and/or the water column, they also leach some nutrients into the water column via the roots, and simple diffusion out of the sediment also applies greatly.

So the traces are not really influenced via tannins in our tanks in most every case.

It's nice to speculate, but that is all it is.
Folks read stuff and assume it's fact or true.
She was fairly clear about speculation in the book vs fact and she did speculate a lot.

I do also, but like her, I think what is being applied and does it support my claim. She suggested Allelopathy, but there is no evidence it exists in our tanks nor in natural systems, none.
Then I go about developing a test to see if my hypothesis might be right.
So adding activated carbon, which is the control here for leaves' impact of the tannins and water column organics can work and also works for allelopathic chemicals can be used to test this hypothesis.

If allelopathy is controlling algae growth as she speculates, adding AC to an otherwise healthy relatively aklgae free tank should induce an algae bloom after a few week's time.

However, we do not see this in non CO2 tanks nor in CO2 enriched tanks.
The test does not say what is causing algae, nor claims to do so, merely that allelopathy cannot be the cause.

Simple test to answer complex question.

The same can be applied here.

As far as shrimp and feeding: heck, add some leaves to a small bucket to the side of the tank, raise your own critters on the leaf litter.
Then add the leaves little by little.

I think the feeding on the critters on the leaves is much more what is going on, the leaves have little nutrient value for the shrimp, but the microflora/fauna is loaded.

That is really what you want there.
This way no ugly rotting leaves in your tank and you get the function.
Also, you can do all sorts of amplification to the leaves in a small bucket such as add Vitamins, proteins etc. Just add an airstone and change the water after a few weeks etc, toss a leaf in there every now and then and remove one and add to the tank.

You are basically raising live food.
I'd say that, rather than any chemicals that the shrimp like is what's going on.


Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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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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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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I have almond leaves on ALL of my shrimp tanks and the shrimps love it :)
I got some of the almond leaves from Chikorita. How would you suggest I utilize them? I do not want a whole layer of leaves, just a leaf at a time.{I only have 7 shrimp right now}
I also have a question about the original post. How can there be organisms left on the leaves you collect, if you boil, bake, or otherwise heat them?
 

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I could get a bazillion tons of oak and beach leaves, living here in West Virginia. ;-) Just it being winter now, they've been laying on the ground for several months. Next fall though I'll collect a ton of fall colored oak and beach leaves and dry them and freeze. And a bunch of brown dried too. I plan to have serval shrimp tanks by then. ;-)
 

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I got some of the almond leaves from Chikorita. How would you suggest I utilize them? I do not want a whole layer of leaves, just a leaf at a time.{I only have 7 shrimp right now}
I also have a question about the original post. How can there be organisms left on the leaves you collect, if you boil, bake, or otherwise heat them?

You only soak them in a little bucket of water for like 2 days for it to release all the brown color .. then you put the leave into the tank .. and once the leave decay .. there would be more little microthingie for the shrimps .. If only 7 shrimps then soak 1 leave ;) and that 1 leave should last you a few weeks. :)
 

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You only soak them in a little bucket of water for like 2 days for it to release all the brown color .. then you put the leave into the tank .. and once the leave decay .. there would be more little microthingie for the shrimps .. If only 7 shrimps then soak 1 leave ;) and that 1 leave should last you a few weeks. :)
Thank you Chikorita.
 
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