To discard...or not to discard? That is the question.

Today's topic was inspired by an email from a customer...and yes, my title, horrible as it may sound, definitely reeks of a poor attempt to pay homage to Shakespeare...

Nonetheless, this is one of those topics that we as "tinters" are all over the map on. One that. to the rest of the world is ridiculous...and proof that we are into really obscure stuff...perhaps pointless to some; downright important to US! 

What do you do with the "prep water" after you've boiled or soaked your leaves and botanicals?

We receive a lot of questions about this topic, and I always answer this honestly, based on my personal practices over the deuces with leaves and botanicals:

I use it to water the garden. 

Yes, I don't use the "tannin tea" as a sort of home-brewed "blackwater extract" in my aquariums. Why, you ask? Well, here is my "theory"- and it's really a theory, I admit...I have no rigid scientific study to back it up:

Although most of our botanicals are fairly clean when we receive them from our suppliers, You need to remember that they are natural dried materials which fall from trees, etc. As such, they may contain in their surface tissues atmospheric pollutants and dust, etc. from laying on the forest floor or in the facilities of our suppliers, etc.. Is this stuff "toxic" in some way? Unlikely, I suppose. However, it's on or in the surface tissues of the botanicals and leaves, right? At the very least, we always say to rinse stuff before you add it, and then boil or soak. (Oh, the 'just add the leaves to your aquarium without boiling" thing is something I've played with a lot over the years," just because"- and I admit I've never had a single problem.)

The main reason we boil is to break down some of the surface tissues of the leaves and botanicals, to make them more likely to absorb water and sink. And of course, during this process, any impurities bound up within them are released as well.

So, my theory is that your 'tea" consists of a lot of good stuff- like tannins, humic substances, etc from the surface layers of the botanicals or leaves, AND whatever pollutants (dirt, etc. as mentioned above) that were present in these tissues as well. DO you want to add this stuff to your tank? I personally don't. Or, should I say, I personally don't want to take the chance of adding concentrated dirt to my tanks.

Now, that's the old reefer in me...Cautious in many ways, reckless in others. I remember lots of stupid "post conference" chats with reefers until crazy hours of the morning. We'd always have discussions about the effluent from our protein skimmers...Some reefers tune their skimmers to remove dark, nasty "skimmate"; others run it "wet" and almost clear. Both sides claim they're removing "undesirable stuff" from their tanks. So we'd ask each other- would YOU add the "skimmate" to your tank? And the answer from all sides was always a resounding "Hell no!"


So, that's my mindset in a nutshell. It's less about an actual "detected risk" as it is about engaging in a practice that, to me, seems like your just adding some concentrated pollutants to your tank along with the desirable stuff. Trying to eliminate a possible cause of pollutants from going into my tanks. Yeah, and I know the usual response is, "Well, you're wasting a lot of the tannins when you dump out the prep water into the garden..."

My response? Well, if you follow my advice and dispose of the water, and then add them into some fresh water for a little "post boil soak"- see how quickly the water tints up like 90% of the time. IMHO, you're NOT wasting much tint-producing tannins at all.

Yet, we still go back and forth on this. 

I suppose there is no real "right or wrong" answer to the topic, exasperating though this may seem. It's really a matter of personal comfort, preference, and...habit. One could argue both sides of the better ones I heard was that when you boil stuff (and water boils at 212F/100C), you're wiping out most bacteria and possibly breaking down most why would this stuff be problematic at this point. Okay, my "C" average in chemistry becomes glaringly obvious at this point! My response? I don't have one!

I still just "go with my gut" on this one, and, by the way- our gardens have never looked better, lol.


What's your take on this...?

Stay consistent. Stay bold. Stay curious...

And Stay Wet.


Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


1 Response


November 19, 2017

I’m one of those “why boil it” people (large wood pieces being the exception) so I don’t have leftovers from that process, but I’ve been using my tinted water from water changes to water my plants, and the results have been amazing. “Slow growers” and dormant tropical plants have exploded with new leaves – which inevitably means more homegrown botanicals for my aquariums!

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