How to collect your own aquarium botanicals by Betta Botanicals.

What Leaves can be used in Aquariums?

We love using tropical species of leaves in our aquariums like Catappa, Guava, Jackfruit, Magnolia, and Banana. It makes sense. Our fish come from tropical locations. But, if you live in cooler, less tropical climates, there might be trees in your neighborhood dropping leaves right now you can collect. These locally collected botanicals will still mimic your fishes natural environment from a functional standpoint, but what betta would naturally see an oak leaf?! Here in Bellingham, WA USA we have been gathering aquarium leaves like;

Now is also the time to collect seed pods for your aquarium, as the pods are beginning to naturally fall from the tree, empty of their sugary saps and seeds. We collect species like;

Botanicals are a vital component of a natural fish tank, providing beneficial compounds. Let's discuss this a bit more in depth.

Aquarium botanicals inside a botanical method aquarium by Betta Botanicals.
A dead rolly polly and alder cones in a botanical style aquarium.

Are Dead Leaves good for the Aquarium?

One of the most important ingredients that dead leaves add to an aquarium is Humic Substances. These are organic compounds that are important components of humus, the major organic fraction of soil. They influence water chemistry, and allow life to establish in the aquarium. In tap-water, humic substances are removed during water treatment because they negatively interact with the chlorine needed to make it safe for humans to drink. Other compounds like tannins, flavonoids, antioxidants, polyphenols, and other beneficial compounds are replenished by the leaves.

Almost all bodies of water have some form of leaves, seed pods, fruit segments or bark falling into them, helping to improve the water chemistry. At Betta Botanicals we believe our aquariums should function the same. 

Collecting and Cleaning Botanicals

When we collect local botanicals for our aquariums we follow the steps below to ensure the safety of our bettas, tetras, corydoras, rasboras and other community fish.

  • Collect from areas far away from cars
  • Gather botanicals in areas where you are positive no pesticides have been used
  • Make sure no dogs could pee on them (ie; pick above waist height) 
  • Avoid botanicals which have already begun decaying or are covered in dirt.
  • Conduct extensive research on the species you intend to gather to make sure it doesn't contain poisonous sap (chances are it's been discussed in a fish forum!)
We like waiting for fall and after the first wind storm because many branches of dried materials fall from the forest canopy and are perfect for collecting.


How to Prepare Leaves for your Aquarium

Aquarium botanicals locally collected by Betta Botanicals.
White oak and beech tree leaves, twigs, and seed pods.

We have a preparation video highlighting the steps needed to mitigate any potential contaminants to your aquarium, and we will always recommend following the prep method for all botanicals. We would greatly stress following it for the first introduction of locally collected botanicals. Botanicals are natural materials which come in to contact with many compounds during their life span. This prep method helps to ensure their safety.

How to Add Botanicals to the Aquarium

In established aquariums we recommend adding botanicals slowly, 2-3 leaves or seed pods one day, wait until the next water change, and then add a few more. You need to let nature adjust. Let the bacterial colonies establish and colonize the new materials. The worst thing you could do is add in handfuls of botanicals to your 10 gallon aquarium, only the next day find all your fish gasping at the surface. Our 'slow and steady' method helps to ensure this.

Depending on what species of tree you gathered, you will see varying levels of tannins imparted to the water, and you will see varying levels of biofilms establishing over the coming week. Different botanicals have different palatability to bacteria and fungal colonies, with softer materials generating quite intense biofilms as they are consumed quickly.

What questions do you have? We are here to help! We invite you to leave a comment below.

Let's talk leafy business again soon!


Betta Botanicals provides premium aquarium botanicals, leaves, seed pods, and bark for community fish collected from safe environments. All of our sustainable products are packaged inside compostable bags.


  • Spira : April 08, 2023
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    Does anybody know about Redwood? I’ve started to use redwood leaves and cones. I’ve only come across one or two entries online of other people using them. So I thought I’d check here… Thanks!

  • Victoria : October 23, 2021
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    Thank you, very informative 👌

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