Top 6 Fish to Use Aquarium Botanicals With

Tiger Barbs eating a jackfruit leaf aquarium botanical in a botanical style aquarium by Betta Botanicals.
Tiger Barbs eating a jackfruit leaf in a botanical method aquarium.

Can I use Aquarium Botanicals with my Fish?

Have you ever explored your local pond, lake, or stream and noticed that the water is golden brown instead of crystal clear? This is the magic of botanicals! Aquarium Botanicals are natural materials like dried and decomposing plant matter that add tannins to the water as they break down. Most freshwater ecosystems contain botanicals, which is why adding them to your home aquarium is beneficial to almost all freshwater fish.


What are Aquarium Botanicals?

Like in nature, aquarium botanicals are natural materials that release tannins, humic substances, and other beneficial compounds to the water and help mimic a more natural ecosystem. Aquarium botanicals include twigs, sticks, bark, seeds and seed pods, dried leaves, and other leaf litter. Imagine what you might collect from the forest floor on an afternoon walk. Adding botanicals can be beneficial for your aquatic inhabitants for a variety of reasons! Tannins are healthy compounds that help prevent your fish from getting sick while recreating their native environments. At Betta Botanicals, we believe that fish are more fun to watch in botanical method aquariums as they are more likely to engage in natural behaviors.


Halfmoon male Betta Fish in a botanical method aquarium with aquarium botanicals by Betta Botanicals.

Betta fish in a botanical aquarium with rainbow gravel.

Indian Almond Leaves Aren’t Just for Betta Fish

Catappa leaves (or Indian almond leaves) are among the most popular botanicals available in the hobby. We recommend this tannin-rich botanical to every beginner looking to get started with botanical method aquariums. Catappa leaves are often recommended for betta aquariums, but did you know that you can add them to other tanks as well? It’s true! Despite our name, our botanicals aren’t just for bettas.

Pile of Indian Almond Leaves Catappa Leaves by Betta Botanicals

Indian Almond Leaves by Betta Botanicals


What Fish Can I Keep With Aquarium Botanicals?

The answer is all fish! All freshwater fish can benefit from adding aquarium botanicals to your setups. Let’s explore the native ecosystems of 6 popular fish in the hobby to learn more about which aquarium botanicals are right for them!

Can I Buy Indian Almond Leaves for my Axolotls?

One of the best ways to learn about an animal’s native ecosystem is to consider its appearance. Have you noticed that many freshwater fishes are green, black, grey, or brown? These colorings help the fish camouflage with its surroundings to avoid predation. More colorful fish, such as betta splendens, are selectively bred to display bright colors and flashy fins. In this case, it is important to consider the wild types of your chosen fish. The wild axolotl, for example, tends to have a mottled green-brown coloring, mimicking the murky, tannin-rich environments they live in.

The famous axolotl (translated to “water dog” from the Aztec language) is only native to cold water river and lake systems in Mexico, unlike other salamanders which have a much larger distribution. Keep your temperatures cool and add aquarium botanicals to help your axolotl feel at home. Just a note - axolotls will eat anything small enough to fit in their mouths. Because of this, select your botanicals carefully! Great aquarium botanicals we recommend for your Axolotl include Indian almond leaves, sterculia pods, coconut curls, jackfruit leaves, and jambolan leaves. We don’t recommend small aquarium botanicals like alder cones, casuarina cones, live oak, or mokha pods.

Can I use Aquarium Botanicals with non-Wild Bettas?

Wild bettas come from the Indo-Pacific region and thrive in shallow, dark, tannin-rich environments such as rice paddies and vernal pools. Wild types are easily differentiated from their domesticated counterparts by their dark coloring, allowing them to camouflage with the heavy roots and leaf litter in their natural environments. Botanicals are always a good idea for aquariums with wild bettas and domestic strains as they help keep your fish healthy and stress-free.

We recommend our Betta Leaf Litter variety pack and Betta Tea for the betta keeper looking to get started in botanical method aquariums!

Half-moon betta with aquarium botanicals in a blackwater aquarium by Betta Botanicals.

Male betta with aquarium botanicals in a blackwater aquarium.

Should I use Aquarium Botanicals with my Angelfish?

Freshwater angelfish are native to the Amazon region of South America. Angels tend to prefer an overgrown environment cluttered with submerged branches and thick root systems. Despite our name, our products are meant for all fish, and a mix of melastoma roots, manzanita branches, live oak, mahogany pods, and banana stems would create an ideal ecosystem for your angelfish.

Botanicals are especially beneficial for your aquarium if you’re planning to breed your angelfish. When spawning, angels will search for a safe place to lay the eggs. Large leaf litter can provide a flat, protected area for the mating pair to lay and fertilize the eggs, and the tannins found in the leaves can help provide a mild anti-bacterial and anti-fungal benefit to the developing eggs.

Ideal Aquarium Botanicals for Corydoras

Corydoras are popular in the aquarium hobby for their docile, sweet, and social temperament. Primarily native to South America, corydoras school in shallow, slow-moving streams and river systems where the water ranges from clear to extremely murky. As bottom feeders, they required a habitat that allows them to continuously graze for food. Botanical-rich environments cultivate that type of habitat, which are often overgrown with leafy plants and roots, and house nutrient-rich sand and soil that cories will root around in. 

I’ve personally found that my corydoras love Indian almond leaves and seed pods like monkey pots and jacaranda pods! When resting, my cories hide under larger leaf litter and take afternoon naps in the natural caves created by seed pods. Due to their curious nature and gill plates equipped with cheek spikes, we don’t recommend using cholla wood or cariniana pods with them as they may get stuck inside them.

Habrosus corydoras catfish with aquarium botanicals in a blackwater aquarium by Betta Botanicals.

Habrosus Corydoras in a botanical Aquarium


The Most Underrated fish to use Aquarium Botanicals with are Goldfish

Symbols of wealth, prosperity, and good fortune, goldfish have a rich history in many Asian cultures. Goldfish were domesticated in China around 1,000 years ago and came to Japan in the 16th century. Since then, their popularity in the fishkeeping hobby has distributed goldfish worldwide.

Goldfish are traditionally pond fish native to slow-moving freshwater bodies where the water is slightly murky. Keeping these large freshwater fish healthy in indoor aquariums can take additional thought and effort. Recreate their native ecosystems by adding plants and leaf litter to your goldfish tank. The tannins, flavonoids, saponins, and humic substances found in aquarium botanicals help to improve the immune system and slime coat of goldfish, which helps them stay healthy in aquariums. Like axolotls, goldfish will eat just about anything. Avoid smaller botanicals (such as alder cones) in goldfish aquariums. 

Gouramis Benefit from Tinted-Ecosystems

Gouramis are semi-aggressive tropical fish popular for their bright colors and intelligent personalities. They are native to dark, shallow, low-oxygen environments in Asia and the Indo-Pacific, similar to bettas. In fact, bettas and gouramis share an evolutionary adaptation called the labyrinth organ, allowing them to breathe oxygen directly from the water’s surface! Like bettas, botanicals are always a good idea for gourami aquariums.

“My gouramis have always been intelligent, curious fish which will wedge themselves into tight spots and explore new botanicals as I add them to my tanks. I recommend botanicals such as sterculia pods and other aquarium seed pods for gourami keepers, primarily for enrichment purposes. I love watching my fish display natural behaviors in botanical aquariums!” -Note from Clare

Aquarium Botanicals are a good idea for All Fish

At Betta Botanicals, our goal is to bring a slice of nature into your home or living space while providing optimal conditions for your fish and aquarium inhabitants. We do this the best way we know - by selling aquarium botanicals! You can learn how to safely add and prepare aquarium botanicals in our previous blog posts. We love botanical method aquariums for their ability to recreate natural habitats and keep our fish happy, healthy, and engaged in natural behaviors. Because most freshwater ecosystems contain botanicals, no matter what type of fish you keep, you can safely add aquarium botanicals to your home setup.

Written by Clare Mangan, @The.Grumpy.Betta with edits from #TanninBae Himself 

1 comment

  • Neel: September 17, 2023
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    I cannot agree more! I use a complete natural aquarium with botanicals…

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