In the world of botanical materials that we keep in our aquariums, some items are just solid, reliable, long-lasting, and beautifully "generic" in appearance. One of the "poster children" of this classification is our friend, the "Bael Tree Pod."
Actually, the dried fruit husk from the "Bael Tree" (AKA "Stone Apple" tree), Aegle marmelos of India, this remarkably functional botanical is perfectly suited for a wide variety of aquatic uses! Although native to India, it's found in other Asian locales, such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Malaysia. They hail from dry forests on hills and plains, also in mixed deciduous and dry forests...
(There fruit on the tree. Image by Forestowlet. Used under CC BY-SA 3.0)
Considered sacred by Hindus, the Bael tree is important in Hindu culture. The leaves are indispensable offerings to the Lord Shiva. The tree is commonly grown in the grounds of temples in countries such as India and Thailand, where the fruit is used to make a very refreshing drink for the monks.
The tree produces a fascinating fruit that lives up to the "Stone Apple" moniker: The fruit ranges in diameter from 2"-5"/ 5- 12cm. It is globose in shape, with a thick, hard rind and does not split upon ripening like most fruits The woody shell is smooth and has a gray or green color until it is fully ripe, when it turns to a light yellow color. Inside the fruit are up to 20 sections filled with an aromatic orange pulp.
(The hollowed-out shell and one continuing the fruit. Image by Asit K. Ghosh, used under CC BY-S. 3.0)
The fruit has been described as tasting sort of like marmalade! Boning (2006) describes the flavor of the Bael fruit as, "Sweet, aromatic and pleasant, although tangy and slightly astringent in some varieties. It resembles a marmalade made, in part, with citrus and, in part, with tamarind."
Yeah. Cool. Yet all we're interested in here is the husk, so I'll dispense with the delightful culinary review and move forward!
The shells of the dried fruits with the pulp removed are used as cups and small containers across their native range. Of course, us aquatic hobbyists, on the other hand, have found our own unique uses for them. Much-loved by frog keepers as a hiding place or water dish, they look pretty cool when used in the aquarium, as well! They're sort of reminiscent of the fruits and seed pods that fall into tropical streams and waterways where overhanging trees are abundant.
And of course, that's what we love so much about them...There is something about them. They're incredibly useful, albeit a bit "obvious-looking" spawning caves, hiding places, etc. They have a unique look about them which is definitely far more interesting than a flower pot, right?
Historically, they're a popular choice for frog enthusiasts! We almost always include a few when you ask us to create an "Enigma Pack" for you for frogs!
Now, the neat thing about these botanicals is that they are- wait for it- rather durable, even after being submerged for extended periods of time. That being said, there is a catch...They're incredibly buoyant, and a bit of a challenge to get to sink. You could boil them for an extended period (20 minutes is a starting point), followed by an overnight soak in tap water, perhaps weighted down with a small rock or something.
Bottom line: They won't always sink easily.
Of course, being persistent hobbyists, we don't give up so easily. You can always keep said rock in the cavity of the pod to hold it down in your tank after preparation; I know plenty of hobbyists who simply dig it into the substrate partially and call it a day, too! Herp people, of course, have it the easiest- you just plop it down where you want it. They serve as great "hide holes" planters, and even little water dishes/feeding stations for frogs!
The humble husk of this intriguing fruit holds many possibilities, making it one of our more popular, if not unusual, botanical items! Sure, it has a sort of "artificial" look about it; however, I think it's a great- if not temperamental alternative to the clay flower pots and spawning cones.
It's truly "sexy"- in a "utilitarian" sort of way! Not bad for what amounts to a humble husk!
What use will you find for the Bael Tree Pod?
Stay creative. Stay thoughtful. Stay curious. Stay focused...
And Stay Wet.