After you've been working with aquatic botanicals for a while with your aquariums, you'll not only become more comfortable with them- you'll find uses for them that you never even contemplated before!
If you're like me, once you get a taste for "the tint", you'll want to make sure that you consistently provide your fishes with the "blackwater" conditions that they're used to.
And that starts with the source water.
One of the easiest ways we've found over the years is to simply steep some Catappa leaves in your water preparation and storage containers. Through much trial and error, I've found that 3 medium-sized Catappa leaves will do the trick in a 5-gallon "carboy" container. You may want more- or less- depending upon how much "tint" you want.
Like most hobbyists, I have a series of these containers for both top-off and water change water. Every other week, I replace the leaves, or, depending upon how accessible they are, I'll simply leave 'em in and add new ones, because they lose quite a bit of their "tint potency" after a couple of weeks of continuous submersion.
"Jungle Pods" are rather easy to get to sink. It takes anywhere from one hour to an hour and a half to get them to sink initially, followed by a "soak" of a couple of days in fresh, room temperature water. I did discover a rather annoying tendency that these botanicals have: Once they've been removed from water for even as little as a day, you'll typically have to re-boil them to get them to sink again.
So, if you're using them as a "spawning cave" and need to remove them from your breeding tank, I'd give them a good rinse, and put them in a bucket or other container of fresh water, and leave them there until you need them next...So you'll have "on demand" pre-sunk "Jungle Pods" next time you are ready to use 'em!
Coco Curls are quietly becoming one of our most popular botanicals! They sink pretty easily, impart a significant amount of tannins into the water early on, and last a good long time after submersion. In fact, they last almost indefinitely, in my experience, unless chewed up by a playful Pleco or Ancistrus!
One interesting think about these botanicals is that, after they've been submerged for a period of time (a couple of weeks or so), they soften to the point where you can flex them into a variety of shapes. Also, you can "shred" them by pulling the fibers apart, and utilize the fibers for a spawning substrate for killies, Rainbow fFshes, and even some egg-scattering Danios and Characins!
We love Catappa Bark! It's versatile, looks really cool, and can be used for a number of things. Such as, you ask? Well, to start, you can use it as a water conditioner in your top-off or make-up water containers, much as you would the leaves. They tend to last much longer, in my experience, retaining both their tannin-producing capabilities, and their unique aesthetics!
After you've decided to "retire" your bark from water conditioning duties, it can begin a new lifetime as a simple aesthetic complement to your aquarium. Scattered on the bottom, it creates a very natural-looking environment for your substrate. I've found that it also makes a really good....biological filtration media! Huh? Yeah, if you leave the bark pieces intact, or even if you chose 'em up- simply place them in your canister or power filter in a filter "bag", and you'll be surprised at how long they remain in solid form (like, indefinitely!). They will begin to recruit a nice coating of bacteria, with their porous structure and massive surface area. And, if a few more tannins leach out into your system while in this capacity- all the better, right?
There are many creative "secondary uses" for almost all of our aquatic botanicals. We've discovered a bunch over the years, and you- our customers have given us plenty of new ideas to keep utilizing them in ways we never even imagined! Keep 'em coming!
And Stay Wet.