We love leaves. Specifically, leaves of the Indian Almond Tree, Terminalia catappa.
Of course, we figured that you kind of know that already.
These trees are found throughout the world, specifically in tropical locales, such as Asia, Africa, and Australia. Well, not all Catappa leaves are the same! These have an awesome story behind them!
My good friend, Jake Adams, Sr. Editor of the wildly popular marine aquarium hobby blog Reef Builders recently spent some time on a coral farm in Raja Ampat, Indonesia, where these trees are abundant on the property. As one of he aquarium world's most diversified and talented "watermen" (he keeps both marine and freshwater animals at a very high level), things like Catappa leaves don't escape his view. He's an obsessive aquarist, with a great appreciation for natural systems and aquatic diversity. he's also a dear friend, and knew my obsession with them as well!
He knew immediately that the Catappa trees surrounding him were fantastic, and literally bursting with those beautiful leaves that hardcore aquarists treasure so much. Apparently, aquarists aren't the only ones who enjoy these leaves! One day, while walking on the property, Jake noticed a large Black Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) high up in a beachside Catappa tree, busily knocking down large, fresh green leaves as it was hunting for a snack and creating a comfy perch for itself.
As the leaves fluttered to the ground, Jake realized that he had that rare opportunity to collect some of the freshest, most intact "Grade A" Catappa leaves possible, from the top of the tree, a location human collectors can't get to- "harvested" naturally by a busy, obliging bird! And of course, he knew that I was as obsessed with leaves as anyone, and immediately thought of me and Tannin Aquatics!
Ever the alert aquarist (and keenly aware of our obsession with these leaves), he couldn't resist collecting a nice batch of these "XL" size leaves (averaging about 8 inches in length and up to 5 inches wide!) for us and bringing them back to the States. Of course, aquarists don't utilize freshly fallen green Catappa leaves right from the tree- they need to be prepared for use. Normally, the leaves are collected after they have naturally fallen from the tree, and are a little further along the way to being ready for use. Typically, they are a darker brown or reddish-brown color when collected. This, of course, was not the case here, and Jake knew that a healthy dose of time and patience would be required to get them ready for aquarium use.
He very quickly realized that preparing Catappa leaves for aquarium use is not a simple task! It involves careful washing and drying- and a lot of patience. You really have to be on top of things! Jake diligently tended to his batch during a time-consuming air-drying process. Jake was only a couple of weeks away from returning home when he started the process, but still took the time to do it right. Although some Catappa "experts" believe that it doesn't make a lot of difference whether or not they are sun-dried or air dried, the majority will tell you that shade-dried Catappa leaves retain most of their beneficial properties.
Jake opted for air-drying them in the shade, because a) he's an aquarist and doesn't take shortcuts, and b) he is a great lover of the "craft" of aquaristics, and knew instinctively that the time invested on that end would make a difference to the aquarists who use them. In an effort to keep them as intact and wholesome as possible, Jake carefully tended to his batch of leaves with the same reverence and diligence that a craft beer producer might give to his brew, carefully laying them out flat and turning them periodically to keep them drying slowly and evenly.
His efforts really paid off, as these leaves were in fantastic shape upon his arrival in Los Angeles (home to Tannin Aquatics)- absolutely the most beautiful Catappa leaves I'd ever seen. There is no substitute for an aquarist collecting and preparing these leaves for other aquarists' use- and upon seeing these leaves for yourself, you'll know exactly what we mean.You can literally see the quality and imagine the amount of beneficial tannins these leaves can produce thanks to Jake's careful efforts.
A few more weeks of careful drying on our end here in L.A. rendered these leaves near-perfect and ready to use in the aquarium! Of course, we tested them on our own tanks, and were really impressed by their tannin-producing capability. It didn't take much to get a healthy tint to the water in our 50 gallon tank, requiring just ONE well-placed 8"leaf! Your results will vary, of course, depending upon a variety of factors, so you'll have to experiment.
When we decided to offer these leaves to you, we realized that these were truly a precious and beautiful selection, and with a "limited run" of them, we would offer them in packages of 6. When they're gone, they're gone, so if you want try these magnificent specimens, grab 'em while you can! If ever there were Catappa leaves that could be called "craft made" for aquarium use- these are the ones. In fact, we're not aware of anyone ever offering aquarist-prepared Catappa leaves specifically for aquarium use before!
We think you'll not only appreciate the story, but you'll love the quality, value, and love that went into preparing each and every one of these Raja Ampat Premium "XL" Catappa leaves!
Like with any Catappa leaves, before using the leaves in your aquarium, we recommend that you soaking them in fresh water for a few days to let them become waterlogged and to leach off some of the tannins. Then, you can place them on the bottom of your aquarium as a functional and aesthetic substrate enhancer, or place them into a filter sock and use them simply as a filter media to help foster "blackwater" conditions in your aquarium.
Regardless of how you choose to employ them, we know for a fact that you'll love these leaves, because of the quality, care, and attention to detail that was put into every aspect of their preparation. Yeas, all the leaves may be brown- but we think that you'll agree that they are definitely not all the same!
Stay dedicated, stay engaged.
And stay wet!