A lot of customers ask us, "How many leaves, pods, etc. should I start with?"
Great question, and one for which there is no real one clear-cut answer.
Like anything else in the aquarium hobby, patience and taking the time to observe, measure, and evaluate are crucial. If you're starting a new aquarium, with no fishes which have to acclimate to the rapidly changing environment, you could probably go a bit heavier and add more botanicals from the get go. Obviously, the acclimation of the fishes will be important, but you're adding them to the environment, not changing it while they're already in residence, so you can go a bit 'faster', if you will.
In practice, many of you have existing aquariums that you probably want to enrich, or gradually evolve towards a natural, "blackwater" environment. This should take time. I'd add just a few botanicals- like a handful of pods, leaves, etc. for every 10-15 gallons. Granted, botanicals like Alder Cones add a significantly greater amount of tannins and humid substances to the water than items such as: Heart Pods", Lampada Pods, or even "Teardrop Pods" can. Evaluate your water with a "before and after" pH test, to evaluate the impact the botanicals are having. You might be surprised how little pH impact some of the botanicals might have, despite the water appearing very dark by the tannins released! Notice the qualifier "some"- because many of the botanicals- like the aforementioned Alder Cones and even Catappa leaves, can decrease pH when added in sufficient quantities.
Regardless, taking the time to prepare the botanicals for use is a crucial step. You simply don't want to just dump them into the tank...rather, you want to rinse, boil, and soak them before use...not just to sink them, but to help leach out some of the initial tannins and other substances bound up in these dry materials.
If you're using one of our packs, and want to enrich an existing, fully populated aquarium- do it over a period of weeks. Yeah, weeks. Go slow. Not only will many of these botanicals release tannins and other substances over a period of time, they will begin to decompose slowly, as well. Adding a huge bunch of this stuff into your existing, fully-populated aquarium from the get go seems like a recipe for trouble, IMHO.
Why? Let me elaborate:
You're not only making rapid changes to the aquatic environment, but you're releasing significant quantities of organic materials into a stable environment that may not have the biological "capacity" to handle it...In theory, setting up the possibility for actually polluting your tank as the beneficial bacteria race to multiply fast enough to assimilate all of the influx of organics caused by a big load of botanicals! In fact, this might be a good case for using one of those "bacteria in a bottle" products to help handle the possible increase in organics more efficiently.
Again, common sense is the key. Botanicals are dynamic, because they're releasing substances into the water, as well as providing forage for micro and microfauna, all of which contribute to the boiled of your system. And, as every experienced hobbyist knows, nothing good ever happens quickly in an aquarium- only the bad stuff! So, we admonish you yet again to go slowly in an existing tank, letting your animals, plants and microfauna make the adjustment to a new and beneficial environment.
If used carefully, with thought, aquatic botanicals can help you replicate an amazing environment in your aquarium; one which will provide numerous benefits for your fishes, and stimulate color, growth, and reproduction. And that's just some of the biological benefits! The beauty and intrigue created by natural botanicals in your aquatic environment will present an aesthetic feast for the eyes, and delight your senses!
We're extremely excited to offer a large variety of these fascinating materials to help you enhance your aquarium, or replicate one of the aquatic world's most unique environments.
Stay wet...and enjoy "the tint!"