If you do any reading on Bettas you will find serious breeders use IAL.. or Indian Almond Leaves with their fish. It was discovered that fish in waters where these leaves naturally fall are more resistant to disease, have stronger fins and scales and are healthier in general. So breeders use the leaves in their systems to bring the same benefits to their Bettas.
How are the leaves used? Very often a chunk of leaf, say 1″ square, is dropped into each Betta container and allowed to decay. Over time the water will turn a gold/amber color. With regular water changes the water does not really get the levels of tannins that would be beneficial to the fish. I also found that in siphoning gunk from the bottom I would suck up the leaf piece and I either had to fish the leaf out of the waste bucket or get a new leaf piece.
So, after doing some research on the net I decided to boil the leaves to make a tea. Most people take about 10 leaves and boil in 2 gallons of water and boil it down to a gallon. They then mix some of this into their water system as a tonic. I did this and found the tea to be a bit weak for my tastes.. and the leaves still could be boiled more and they would continue to release tannins. So I have started to boil 10 leaves all day [about 8 hours here at the shop] for about a week. I start with 2 gallons of water and keep adding water as it boils down to keep the water level around 1 gallon. I also add about 1/2 cup of salt since I am not adding any to my water at this time. When I get the fish room done we will figure out how much salt is actually added when we add the tea and add some additionl to be a better benefit.
After a week of brewing the tea is almost black. I pour it into a gallon container and it is kept in the fridge with notations on the container not to drink. I am aging my water in a 32 gallon trash can on wheels. When I add water I add the dechlor and 1 cup of IAL Tea. This ammount turns the water a nice light amber color. I believe the fish get the benefits of the leaves and I do not get the mess of decomposing leaves in the bottoms of the containers.
Although the leaves have been boiled daily for a week, they are still intact. I take the leaves and spread them out to dry. After they are dry I put them up and they are used in my spawn tanks. The males seem to like the leaves for spawning and I find the leaves are a bit quicker to decompose after the boiling. I like decomposing leaves with the young fry as they seem to pick at the leaves and the micro organisms that on on it.
- Sherolyn Craig. “IAL Tea” BasementBettas.wordpress.com, September 02 2009. Accessed – February 11 2013 <http://basementbettas.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/ial-tea/>