Aquatic botanicals as a "spawning aid?" Sure!

Wouldn't it be cool to provide your Tetras, dwarf cichlids, barbs, and other South Ameircan, Southeast Asian, and West African fishes with a more natural, relaxed representation of the physical environments from where they originate?

One which can not only foster effective spawning, but can give the resulting fry protection, as well as  benefits from the microorganisms that arise from the decomposition of botanical materials?

With the introduction to the hobby of natural botanical materials, this is now possible in an easy-to-access, convenient-to-use, and economical format. 

I remember reading many years ago in aquarium books about using peat moss and to create "more natural" water conditions; mainly, softer, acid water and the benefits of humic acids and tannins that were imparted to the water from this material. We're a generation later, and peat is considered a non-sustainable and increasingly scarce resource; not nearly as pervasive as it once was in serious hobby circles.

Fortunately, we have all sorts of other more sustainable products at our disposal, including seed pods, leaves, and bark from plants which can perform many of the same functions that peat once did, with the added benefit of helping create of more aesthetically pleasing environment for both you and your fishes!

First and foremost is leaf litter. By using properly prepared leaves of the Indian Almond Tree, Guava, or other tropical trees, you can not only provide your fishes with a realistic and comforting representation of their natural environment- you can help reduce pH and hardness, and, as the leaves decompose, provide a natural supplemental food for fry in the form of "infusoria" and other small microorganisms. 

In fact, the use of leaf litter and other botanicals in your substrate is a perfectly acceptable way to create an environment for benthic organisms, that will benefit a wide range of foraging fishes, from Tetras to Loricariids.

(Awesome pic by  our friend, Andreas Melander!)

We love the idea of creating an aquarium environment that utilizes these materials to replicate the natural habitats of fishes. Imagine the benefits to your fishes! As we've discussed before, once you get the idea out of your had that "leaves and stuff" breaking down and sort of "evolving" in your aquascape is both natural and beneficial, it's much easier to appreciate them for all of the advantages they bring.

To summarize, the use of aquatic botanicals can benefit your spawning fishes in several ways:

  • Provide a more natural-looking environment, which may serve to stimulate social and spawning behaviors.
  • Impart tannins and humic acids to the aquatic environment, softening the water and lowering the pH, in addition to providing a visual tint to the aquarium that calms the fish.
  • The gradual decomposition of the botanicals fosters the growth and reproduction of beneficial microorganisms that are utilized by fry for supplemental early nutrition.

If you're attempting to breed some soft-water fishes and looking for an alternative to the sterile, highly controlled spawning aquarium, may we suggest that you try a more natural setup incorporate a dynamic selection of aquatic botanicals?

Give it some thought, and apply some of your creativity to the process, and let's see what happens!

Stay focused. Stay engaged.

Stay wet!


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


Leave a comment