At Tannin, a healthy obsession with this vibe of wood, leaves, and botanicals has powered what we only half-jokingly refer to as the "New Botanical" movement in aquarium keeping. "New", because, even though materials like these have been used by aquarists for decades, it was more for a "utilitarian" purpose- such as lowering pH and imparting tannins to condition fishes, and to a lesser extent, for aesthetics.
Sure, there were plenty of "blackwater" tanks intended to create an aesthetic expression, but to me, it seemed like these tank were relegated to novelty status, or aquascaping competitions. Now days, we hear more an more aquarists saying, "I'm trying to keep Apistogramma ___________, and want to create a natural-looking display around them." Environment, aesthetics, and utility all coming together. A bit different, IMHO- and I like it! It's fun to play a small role in helping this resurgence evolve!
One of the things we love about this sort of thing is discovering, experimenting with, and offering botanical items that may have been previously hard to find, or not even available to hobbyists before. It's been particularly fun to experiment with leaves. As you know, we're huge fans of replicating leaf litter banks in our aquariums, for a wide variety of reasons!
Lately, we've been playing around with some different leaves, such as Mgnolia, in addition to the more common Catappa leaves and Guava leaves. We're finding that leaves, like other aquascaping materials, each "behave" differently when submerged, imparting unique aesthetics, levels of tannins, and other benefits to the aquatic environments in which they are placed. Experimenting with these new varieties has been great fun for us!
Not too long ago, our friend, our friend, aquarist/author Sumer Tiwari, turned us on to the leaves of the Jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus). This tree is very common in some parts of the tropical world, and the fruit and leaves have been utilized as a food and used in traditional medicines for centuries. They are particularly abundant in India, and that's where our story begins. Sumer told us how Jackfruit trees are often found overhanging rivers in India, dropping leaves into the water, and of course, imparting a brownish tint as they decompose!
They have been used by fish keepers in India to impart tannins into their aquarium water, much in the way Catappa, Guava, or other leaves are. Sumer tells us they work great with his killies and Dwarf Cichlids! As lovers of aquatic botanicals, and leaves in particular, we were immediately interested, and were able to secure a terrific source for these unusual leaves! To our knowledge, they've not been available anywhere else for aquarium use, and we were, of course, thrilled to be able to offer them to hobbyists!
Jackfruit contains phytonutrients, such as lignans, isoflavones, and saponins that have health benefits that are wide ranging for humans. There is some conflicting data regarding jackfruit's antifungal activity. However, the leaves may exhibit a broad spectrum of antibacterial activity. In traditional medicine these leaves are used to help heal wounds as well.
Do these properties transfer over to our fishes and shrimp? We are not aware of any scientific studies that have been completed to correlate one way or another, so for now, we're content to utilize these leaves for their aesthetics- and proven ability to impart a tannin "tint" into aquarium water!
These are nicely-shaped, high quality leaves that bring a very nice "tropical" aesthetic to the aquarium, as well as that tint we love so much around here! Jackfruit leaves look amazing as part of a mixed litter bed, and is "strong enough" aesthetically to stand on its own, too! They will last a pretty long time- not quite as long as Magnolia, but longer than Catappa and Guava, in our experience. When we tested them, after one month submerged, we found them to be almost as "solid" as the day they were placed in the tank! They will recruit biofilms on their surfaces, which ornamental shrimp love to feed on- as well as consuming the leaves themselves as they soften.
Although collected in an area that is free from pesticides or other contaminants, it's just good common sense to prep Jackfruit leaves before using in your aquarium. As with the other leaves we offer, we recommend that you rinse and/or steep them in boiling water before use, and add them gradually to your aquarium, at a rate of just a couple of leaves for each 10 U.S. gallons of aquarium capacity, so that you can gauge for yourself the impact they have on your water. Our experience shows that they have a "tint capability" somewhere in between Guava and Catappa, although your results may vary, of course.
We'll be launching these leaves this weekend, and ultimately, they will be included in our variety packs and the recently released (and amazingly popular!) "Re Leaf" pack!
As always, Tannin will keep pushing to bring you products that are interesting, useful, and unique. And of course, we'll always be looking for items that can help bring you "the tint!"
Stay engaged. Stay "tinted." Stay curious.
And Stay Wet.