Ultra Rare Albino Redwoods

Are an Everwhite Mystery (Pics)

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California on 12. 6.10

albino redwood photo
Photo via KQED video

While they might look like flocked Christmas trees, these albino redwoods are anything but. The very rare “ghost trees” lack chlorophyll, the necessary chemical that makes plants green and helps them convert sunlight to food. So, the trees feed off energy from a host redwood. There are as few as perhaps 25 albino redwoods around the world, and eight in the Henry Cowell Redwood State Park in Northern California. Check out a video from KQED explaining how these albino trees function.

In an interview with NPR, historian Sandy Lyndon states, “Albinism is a genetic mutation that prevents cells from producing pigment. In humans and other animals, albinism is not necessarily such a big deal. But albino plants are unable to do the very thing that makes a plant a plant. Without chlorophyll, they can’t photosynthesize, meaning they can’t convert sunlight into energy. The only reason that albino redwoods survive at all is that they are connected at the root to a parent tree from which they will suck energy for their entire lives.”

Henry Cowell Redwood State Park docent Dave Kuty states that these redwoods are “thought to be the most adaptable tree on earth by being able to change their genes so readily… Albinos probably aren’t a particularly good modification, from the standpoint of the health of the forest, but they demonstrate there’s a lot of experimentation going on.”

While they’re a bright white, it seems incredibly easy to miss these trees — in the video below, most of them just look like a regular redwood turned bright by dappled sunlight, or perhaps simply dead.

Stanford University is busy trying to figure out the mystery of these rare trees that break so many of the rules of trees. The Vancouver Sun writes that the redwood’s cells hold a total of 66 chromosomes — in contrast, humans have only 23 chromosomes. The multitude of chromosomes makes figuring out the mystery much more complicated.

albino redwood photo
Photo by Cole Shatto via Wikipedia Creative Commons

Regardless of the reasons why, the mutation of the redwoods holds a certain fascination. First spotted in the 1890s in California, these “everwhites” are ghost-like, appearing next to a host tree, then weakening and shrinking down, then reappearing again. No matter Mother Nature’s reasoning behind them, they illustrate she is full of surprises and mysterious experimentation.

albino redwood photo

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Small Vegetable Plant

to Debut for Use in Restaurants

Jun 14, 2010 11:33 Chikara Nakayama, Nikkei Monozukuri

Dentsu Facility Management Inc will start taking orders for the “Chef’s Farm,” a small vegetable plant that can be installed in, for example, a restaurant, in June 2010.

The vegetable plant, which will be released in the summer of 2010 in Japan, was exhibited at International Food Machinery & Technology Exhibition 2010 (FOOMA JAPAN 2010), which took place from June 8 to 11, 2010, in Tokyo. It is priced at about ¥8.3 million (approx US$90,552). Dentsu Facility Management claims that it is possible to harvest 60 heads of lettuce per day (20,000 per year) and recoup the investment in about five years.

The Chef’s Farm comes with five nutriculture beds, each of which is 2,750mm in width and 1,270mm in depth. Each bed is installed with long and thin metal frames on which lettuce seeds can be planted in sponges (one piece of sponge for a seed).

The metal frames are moved from right to left by inches as the vegetables grow. Seeds are planted in the rightmost frame, and grown vegetables are harvested from the leftmost frame.

Though the metal frames have to be manually moved, they can be moved at the same time by using a chained mechanism. It takes about an hour to harvest 60 heads of lettuce, move the frames and plant seeds, Dentsu Facility Management said.

As lighting equipment, 12 40W fluorescent lamps are installed for each nutriculture bed. The lighting equipment, culture solution and temperature can be controlled for each bed. Therefore, five different vegetables can be cultivated by using the five beds.

The size of the Chef’s Farm is 3,940 (W) x 1,460 (D) x 2,330mm (H) including the air shower unit. The cultivation space can be slid forward to make a space behind the nutriculture beds.

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha

Scientists Test

Australia’s Moreton Bay

as Coral ‘Lifeboat’

Science (Aug. 13, 2010) — An international team of scientists has been exploring Moreton Bay, close to Brisbane, as a possible ‘lifeboat’ to save corals from the Great Barrier Reef at risk of extermination under climate change.


In a new research paper they say that corals have been able to survive and flourish in the Bay, which lies well to the south of the main GBR coral zones, during about half of the past 7000 years.

Corals only cover about 1 per cent of the Moreton Bay area currently, and have clearly been adversely affected by clearing of the surrounding catchments and human activities on land and sea, says lead author Matt Lybolt of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland.

“The demise of tropical coral reefs around the world is due mainly to overfishing, pollution and climate change. There is also plenty of historical evidence that coral reefs can move from one environment to another as the climate and other conditions change,” Matt explains.

“In view of this, various places — including Moreton Bay — are being investigated as possible refuges in which coral systems can be preserved should they begin to die out in their natural settings. Indeed, some people have even talked of relocating and re-seeding corals in other locations that better suit their climatic needs.”

The team’s study of Moreton Bay reveals that it is not exactly ideal coral habitat, being cold in winter, lacking sufficient direct sunlight, subject to turbid freshwater inflows and — more recently — to a range of human impacts.

“Even before European settlers came on the scene the Bay underwent phases in which corals grew prolifically — and phases in which they died away almost completely. We understand what causes corals to die back, but we are less clear about what causes them to recover,” Matt says.

“Broadly, the corals seemed to do well at times when the climate, sea levels and other factors were most benign and stable — and to decline when El Nino and other disturbances made themselves felt.”

The Moreton Bay corals have been in an expansionary phase during the last 400 years, initially dominated by the branching Acropora corals but, since the Bay’s catchment was cleared and settled, these have died back leaving mainly slow-growing types of coral.

“Under climate change we expect winters to be warmer and sea levels to rise — and both of these factors will tend to favour the expansion of corals in Moreton Bay,” Matt says.

“However this expansion of corals may not occur unless we make a major effort to improve water quality in the Bay, by not allowing effluent, polluted runoff or sediment to enter it, and also by regrowing mangrove forests and seagrass beds within the Bay. ”

The team concludes that Moreton Bay’s potential as a good ‘lifeboat’ for corals is limited by four major factors:

  • It is highly sensitive to what the 2 million residents of its catchment do that affects it
  • It presently has very few branching corals left
  • The area on which corals can grow is limited, both naturally and by human activity
  • Finally, the historical record suggests the Bay is only a good coral refuge about half of the time.

Matt says that there is nevertheless scope for changes in the management of the Bay and its surrounding catchments that can improve its suitability as a coral environment. “The reefs of today don’t look anything like they did in the past, so it’s really a question of ‘What sort of coral reef do you want?’,” he says.

However there needs to be a clearer scientific understanding of the drivers that have caused corals to boom and bust within the Bay over the past seven millennia before we can be sure it is worthwhile attempting to make Moreton Bay a ‘lifeboat’ for the GBR, he cautions.

Matt noted that there are very few suitable coral habitats south of the southern end of the GBR to which corals can migrate, should the northern parts of the reef become untenable for corals due to the impact of global warming.

Their paper “Instability in a marginal coral reef: the shift from natural variability to a human-dominated seascape” by Matt Lybolt, David Neil, Jian-xin Zhao, Yue-xing Feng, Ke-Fu Yu and John Pandolfi appears in the latest issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Environment.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Sterilizing, not killing, weeds suggested


WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. Agriculture Department scientists say using herbicides to sterilize instead of killing weedy grasses might be more economical and environmentally sound.

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service said exotic annual grasses such as Japanese brome, cheatgrass and medusahead are harming millions of acres of grassland in the western United States. But herbicides used to control the invasive grasses also sometimes damage desirable perennial grasses.

In contrast, when used properly, scientists said growth regulators don’t greatly harm desirable perennial grasses and can control broadleaf weeds in wheat, other crop grasses and on rangelands.

ARS ecologist Matt Rinella and colleagues said they knew when dicamba and other growth regulator herbicides were applied to cereal crops late in their growth stage, just before seed formation, the plants produced far fewer seeds.

The scientists decided to see what occurred on the invasive weed Japanese brome. They found picloram (Tordon) reduced seed production nearly 100 percent when applied at the late growth stage of the weed. Dicamba (Banvel/Clarity) was slightly less effective but still nearly eliminated seed production, while 2,4-D was much less effective.

Rinella said since annual grass seeds only survive in soil a year or two, it should only take one to three years to greatly reduce the soil seed bank of annual weedy grasses without harming perennial grasses.

The research appeared in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management.

Received and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010

Microbes galore in seas; “spaghetti” mats Pacific

HUGE MATS OF TOXIC BACTERIA ON SEA BEDS


By Alister Doyle, Environment CorrespondentPosted 2010/04/18 at 1:09 pm EDT

OSLO, Apr. 18, 2010 (Reuters) — The ocean depths are home to myriad species of microbes, mostly hard to see but including spaghetti-like bacteria that form whitish mats the size of Greece on the floor of the Pacific, scientists said on Sunday.


The survey, part of a 10-year Census of Marine Life, turned up hosts of unknown microbes, tiny zooplankton, crustaceans, worms, burrowers and larvae, some of them looking like extras in a science fiction movie and underpinning all life in the seas.

“In no other realm of ocean life has the magnitude of Census discovery been as extensive as in the world of microbes,” said Mitch Sogin of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, head of the marine microbe census.

The census estimated there were a mind-boggling “nonillion” — or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (30 zeroes) — individual microbial cells in the oceans, weighing as much as 240 billion African elephants, the biggest land animal.

Getting a better idea of microbes, the “hidden majority” making up 50 to 90 percent of biomass in the seas, will give a benchmark for understanding future shifts in the oceans, perhaps linked to climate change or pollution.

Among the biggest masses of life on the planet are carpets on the seabed formed by giant multi-cellular bacteria that look like thin strands of spaghetti. They feed on hydrogen sulphide in oxygen-starved waters in a band off Peru and Chile.

“Fishermen sometimes can’t lift nets from the bottom because they have more bacteria than shrimp,” Victor Gallardo, vice chair of the Census Scientific Steering Committee, told Reuters. “We’ve measured them up to a kilo (2.2 lbs) per square meter.”

GHOSTLY MATS

The census said they carpeted an area the size of Greece — about 130,000 sq km (50,000 sq miles) or the size of the U.S. state of Alabama. Toxic to humans, the bacteria are food for shrimp or worms and so underpin rich Pacific fish stocks.

The bacteria had also been found in oxygen-poor waters off Panama, Ecuador, Namibia and Mexico as well as in “dead zones” under some salmon farms. They were similar to ecosystems on earth that thrived from 2.5 billion to 650 million years ago.

Overall in the oceans, up to a billion microbe species may await identification under the Census, an international 10-year project due for completion in October 2010.

Tiny life was found everywhere, including at thermal vents with temperatures at 150 Celsius (300F) or in rocks 1,626 meters (5,335 ft) below the sea floor. Many creatures lack names or are hard to pronounce like loriciferans, polychaetes or copepods.

One major finding was that rare microbes are often found in samples where they can be outnumbered 10,000 to one by more common species. Isolated microbes may be lying in wait for a change in conditions that could bring a population boom.

Ann Bucklin, head of the Census of Marine Zooplankton that include tiny transparent crustaceans or jellyfish, said the seas were barely studied even by the census.

“Seventy percent of the oceans are deeper than 1,000 meters,” Bucklin, of the University of Connecticut, told Reuters. “The deep layer is the source of the hidden diversity.”

Paul Snelgrove, of Memorial University in Canada, said one sample in the South Atlantic in an area the size of a small bathroom — 5.4 square meters — turned up 700 species of copepod, a type of crustacean, 99 percent of them unfamiliar.

Just finding Latin names for each find will be hard. Scientists had rejected the idea of raising funds by letting people pay to have a marine “bug” named after them.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 21st April 2010

Viruses Harnessed to Split Water

ScienceDaily (Apr. 12, 2010) — A team of MIT researchers has found a novel way to mimic the process by which plants use the power of sunlight to split water and make chemical fuel to power their growth. In this case, the team used a modified virus as a kind of biological scaffold that can assemble the nanoscale components needed to split a water molecule into hydrogen and oxygen atoms.


Splitting water is one way to solve the basic problem of solar energy: It’s only available when the sun shines. By using sunlight to make hydrogen from water, the hydrogen can then be stored and used at any time to generate electricity using a fuel cell, or to make liquid fuels (or be used directly) for cars and trucks.

Other researchers have made systems that use electricity, which can be provided by solar panels, to split water molecules, but the new biologically based system skips the intermediate steps and uses sunlight to power the reaction directly. The advance is described in a paper published on April 11 in Nature Nanotechnology.

The team, led by Angela Belcher, the Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, engineered a common, harmless bacterial virus called M13 so that it would attract and bind with molecules of a catalyst (the team used iridium oxide) and a biological pigment (zinc porphyrins). The viruses became wire-like devices that could very efficiently split the oxygen from water molecules.

Over time, however, the virus-wires would clump together and lose their effectiveness, so the researchers added an extra step: encapsulating them in a microgel matrix, so they maintained their uniform arrangement and kept their stability and efficiency.

While hydrogen obtained from water is the gas that would be used as a fuel, the splitting of oxygen from water is the more technically challenging “half-reaction” in the process, Belcher explains, so her team focused on this part. Plants and cyanobacteria (also called blue-green algae), she says, “have evolved highly organized photosynthetic systems for the efficient oxidation of water.” Other researchers have tried to use the photosynthetic parts of plants directly for harnessing sunlight, but these materials can have structural stability issues.

Belcher decided that instead of borrowing plants’ components, she would borrow their methods. In plant cells, natural pigments are used to absorb sunlight, while catalysts then promote the water-splitting reaction. That’s the process Belcher and her team, including doctoral student Yoon Sung Nam, the lead author of the new paper, decided to imitate.

In the team’s system, the viruses simply act as a kind of scaffolding, causing the pigments and catalysts to line up with the right kind of spacing to trigger the water-splitting reaction. The role of the pigments is “to act as an antenna to capture the light,” Belcher explains, “and then transfer the energy down the length of the virus, like a wire. The virus is a very efficient harvester of light, with these porphyrins attached.

“We use components people have used before,” she adds, “but we use biology to organize them for us, so you get better efficiency.”

Using the virus to make the system assemble itself improves the efficiency of the oxygen production fourfold, Nam says. The researchers hope to find a similar biologically based system to perform the other half of the process, the production of hydrogen. Currently, the hydrogen atoms from the water get split into their component protons and electrons; a second part of the system, now being developed, would combine these back into hydrogen atoms and molecules. The team is also working to find a more commonplace, less-expensive material for the catalyst, to replace the relatively rare and costly iridium used in this proof-of-concept study.

Thomas Mallouk, the DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in this work, says, “This is an extremely clever piece of work that addresses one of the most difficult problems in artificial photosynthesis, namely, the nanoscale organization of the components in order to control electron transfer rates.”

He adds: “There is a daunting combination of problems to be solved before this or any other artificial photosynthetic system could actually be useful for energy conversion.” To be cost-competitive with other approaches to solar power, he says, the system would need to be at least 10 times more efficient than natural photosynthesis, be able to repeat the reaction a billion times, and use less expensive materials. “This is unlikely to happen in the near future,” he says. “Nevertheless, the design idea illustrated in this paper could ultimately help with an important piece of the puzzle.”

Belcher will not even speculate about how long it might take to develop this into a commercial product, but she says that within two years she expects to have a prototype device that can carry out the whole process of splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, using a self-sustaining and durable system.

Funding was provided by he Italian energy company Eni, through the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI)

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 14th April 2010

Blueprint for ‘Artificial Leaf’

Mimics Mother Nature and helps to

turn water to hydrogen for fuel

ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2010) — Scientists have presented a design strategy to produce the long-sought artificial leaf, which could harness Mother Nature’s ability to produce energy from sunlight and water in the process called photosynthesis. The new recipe, based on the chemistry and biology of natural leaves, could lead to working prototypes of an artificial leaf that capture solar energy and use it efficiently to change water into hydrogen fuel, they stated.


Their report was scheduled for the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Francisco. It was among more than 12,000 scientific reports scheduled for presentation at the meeting, one of the largest scientific gatherings of 2010.

“This concept may provide a new vista for the design of artificial photosynthetic systems based on biological paradigms and build a working prototype to exploit sustainable energy resources,” Tongxiang Fan, Ph.D. and colleagues Di Zhang, Ph.D. and Han Zhou, Ph.D., reported, They are with the State Key Lab of Matrix Composites at Shanghai Jiaotong University, Shanghai, China.

Fan pointed out that using sunlight to split water into its components, hydrogen and oxygen, is one of the most promising and sustainable tactics to escape current dependence on coal, oil, and other traditional fuels. When burned, those fuels release carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Combustion of hydrogen, in contrast, forms just water vapor. That appeal is central to the much-discussed “Hydrogen Economy,” and some auto companies, such as Toyota, have developed hydrogen-fueled cars. Lacking, however, is a cost-effective sustainable way to produce hydrogen.

With that in mind, Fan and co-workers decided to take a closer look at the leaf, nature’s photosynthetic system, with plans to use its structure as a blueprint for their next generation of artificial systems. Not too surprisingly, the structure of green leaves provides them an extremely high light-harvesting efficiency. Within their architecture are structures responsible focusing and guiding of solar energy into the light-harvesting sections of the leaf, and other functions.

The scientists decided to mimic that natural design in the development of a blueprint for artificial leaf-like structures. It led them to report their recipe for the “Artificial Inorganic Leaf” (AIL), based on the natural leaf and titanium dioxide (TiO2) — a chemical already recognized as a photocatalyst for hydrogen production.

The scientists first infiltrated the leaves of Anemone vitifolia — a plant native to China — with titanium dioxide in a two-step process. Using advanced spectroscopic techniques, the scientists were then able to confirm that the structural features in the leaf favorable for light harvesting were replicated in the new TiO2 structure. Excitingly, the AIL are eight times more active for hydrogen production than TiO2 that has not been “biotemplated” in that fashion. AILs also are more than three times as active as commercial photo-catalysts. Next, the scientists embedded nanoparticles of platinum into the leaf surface. Platinum, along with the nitrogen found naturally in the leaf, helps increase the activity of the artificial leaves by an additional factor of ten.

In his ACS presentation, Fan reported on various aspects of Artificial Inorganic Leaf production, their spectroscopic work to better understand the macro- and microstructure of the photocatalysts, and their comparison to previously reported systems. The activity of these new “leaves,” are significantly higher than those prepared with classic routes. Fan attributes these results to the hierarchical structures derived from natural leaves:

“Our results may represent an important first step towards the design of novel artificial solar energy transduction systems based on natural paradigms, particularly based on exploring and mimicking the structural design. Nature still has much to teach us, and human ingenuity can modify the principles of natural systems for enhanced utility.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 9th April 2010

Seed of extinct date palm

sprouts after 2,000 years

June 12, 2005|By Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service

(06-12) 04:00 PST Kibbutz Ketura, Israel — 2005-06-12 04:00:00 PST Kibbutz Ketura, Israel — It has five leaves, stands 14 inches high and is nicknamed Methuselah. It looks like an ordinary date palm seedling, but for UCLA- educated botanist Elaine Solowey, it is a piece of history brought back to life.

Planted on Jan. 25, the seedling growing in the black pot in Solowey’s nursery on this kibbutz in Israel’s Arava desert is 2,000 years old — more than twice as old as the 900-year-old biblical character who lent his name to the young tree. It is the oldest seed ever known to produce a viable young tree.

The seed that produced Methuselah was discovered during archaeological excavations at King Herod’s palace on Mount Masada, near the Dead Sea. Its age has been confirmed by carbon dating. Scientists hope that the unique seedling will eventually yield vital clues to the medicinal properties of the fruit of the Judean date tree, which was long thought to be extinct.

Solowey, originally from San Joaquin (Fresno County), teaches at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura, where she has nurtured more than 100 rare or near-extinct species back to life as part of a 10-year project to study plants and herbs used as ancient cures.

In collaboration with the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Center at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, named in honor of its Southern California- based benefactor, Solowey grows plants and herbs used in Tibetan, Chinese and biblical medicine, as well as traditional folk remedies from other cultures to see whether their effectiveness can be scientifically proved.

In experiments praised by the Dalai Lama, for example, Borick Center Director Sarah Sallon has shown that ancient Tibetan cures for cardiovascular disease really do work.

The San Francisco Chronicle was granted the first viewing of the historic seedling, which sprouted about four weeks after planting. It has grown six leaves, but one has been removed for DNA testing so scientists can learn more about its relationship to its modern-day cousins.

The Judean date is chronicled in the Bible, Quran and ancient literature for its diverse powers — from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive — and as a cure for a wide range of diseases including cancer, malaria and toothache.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th April 2010

1899 : Bayer patents aspirin

On this day in 1899, the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin registers Aspirin, the brand name for acetylsalicylic acid, on behalf of the German pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co.

Now the most common drug in household medicine cabinets, acetylsalicylic acid was originally made from a chemical found in the bark of willow trees. In its primitive form, the active ingredient, salicin, was used for centuries in folk medicine, beginning in ancient Greece when Hippocrates used it to relieve pain and fever. Known to doctors since the mid-19thcentury, it was used sparingly due to its unpleasant taste and tendency to damage the stomach.

In 1897, Bayer employee Felix Hoffman found a way to create a stable form of the drug that was easier and more pleasant to take. (Some evidence shows that Hoffman’s work was really done by a Jewish chemist, Arthur Eichengrun, whose contributions were covered up during the Nazi era.) After obtaining the patent rights, Bayer began distributing aspirin in powder form to physicians to give to their patients one gram at a time. The brand name came from “a” for acetyl, “spir” from the spirea plant (a source of salicin) and the suffix “in,” commonly used for medications. It quickly became the number-one drug worldwide.
Aspirin was made available in tablet form and without a prescription in 1915. Two years later, when Bayer’s patent expired during the First World War, the company lost the trademark rights to aspirin in various countries. After the United States entered the war against Germany in April 1917, the Alien Property Custodian, a government agency that administers foreign property, seized Bayer’s U.S. assets. Two years later, the Bayer company name and trademarks for the United States and Canada were auctioned off and purchased by Sterling Products Company, later Sterling Winthrop, for $5.3 million.

Bayer became part of IG Farben, the conglomerate of German chemical industries that formed the financial heart of the Nazi regime. After World War II, the Allies split apart IG Farben, and Bayer again emerged as an individual company. Its purchase of Miles Laboratories in 1978 gave it a product line including Alka-Seltzer and Flintstones and One-A-Day Vitamins. In 1994, Bayer bought Sterling Winthrop’s over-the-counter business, gaining back rights to the Bayer name and logo and allowing the company once again to profit from American sales of its most famous product.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha 17th March 2010

What is it?

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Terminalia catappa is a species of tropical tree that grows in Asia. It is widely believed that placing the dried leaves of this tree in your aquarium (especially with Betta fish) causes the animals better health and therefore longer life.

Alternative Names

Indian Almond leaf, Ketapang, Wild Almond, Badamier, Java Almond, Amandier de Cayenne, Tropical Almond, Myrobalan, Malabar Almond, Singapore Almond, Ketapang, Huu Kwang, Sea Almond, Kobateishi, West Indian Almond, Umbrella Tree, Amandel Huu Kwang, Kottamba

Benefits

Unsubstantiated claims of a reduced presence of fungus, boosted immune system and helping skin problems in fish are also reported.

The leaves do contain several flavonoids (like kamferol or quercetin), several tannins (such as punicalin, punicalagin or tercatin), saponines and phytosterols. Due to this chemical richness, the leaves (and also the bark) have long been used in different traditional medicines for various purposes.

It is also thought that the large leaves (7-10″ long) contain agents for prevention of cancers (although they have no demonstrated anticarcinogenic properties) and antioxidant as well as anticlastogenic characteristics.

In fishkeeping the leaves are also used to lower the ph and heavy metals of the water. It has been utilized in this way by Betta Breeders in Thailand for many years. Hobbyists across the world also use them for conditioning the betta’s water for breeding and harding of the scales.

Studies of rotting plant material (see bogwood) have shown that the organic material releases minerals as beneficial fungi and bacteria decompose it. This provides food for infusoria which in turn shrimps and fry enjoy eating as a natural diet.

Does it work?

Scientific sources of the benefits of Indian almond leaves to humans are few and far between. Certainly chemical analysis of these leaves show a high degree of variety of chemicals. We can find no similar scientific studies on the benefits of this leaf in aquariums.

Perhaps similar benefits may also be seen if you were to use standard bogwood in your aquarium. Bogwood is well known at lowering pH and reduces the toxicity of metals. Which is an aid to lowering the presence of fungus and certain species of bacteria. The organic matter is also as a food source for catfish like Plecos and is a natural food for infusoria which invertebrates like shrimp and other small fish feed off.

The tannins and other chemicals which are dissolved in the water by the decomposition of organic material is called Blackwater. There are many companies selling Amazon and African blackwater bottles. So Indian almond leaves may simply be Asia’s equivalent.

Certainly aquatic animals evolved alongside trees growing next to them. Tree leaves falling in and decomposing will have released dozens of trace minerals that the animals will have naturally absorbed. In an aquarium these chemicals will be missing so it seems sensible to assume that adding these chemicals via blackwater or bogwood will potentially restore this imbalance. The trick is to obtain the same species of plants that grow in the wild animals locale.

Failing that, other plants like Green tea, Tree spinach, Dock leaves, Cranberrys, etc. are all well known for their health benefits. Oak leaves are often used in aquariums as an alternative.

Purchasing the leaves

The leaves are not generally sold commercially in aquarium shops, though there is one product we’ve came across – Bio-Leaf by Degen Discus. eBay and AquaBid often have sellers of these items. So we recommend you look there. The leaves are not expensive.

  • The leaves should be evenly brown on both sides with no signs of fungus mould (light grey patches). Give the leaf a rinse in tap water to remove any possible lingering pesticides, etc. before you add it to an aquarium is a prudent move.
  • Keep any unused leaves in an air and watertight container away from light and heat will ensure that any unused leaves will keep for at least 4-6 months.

Indian almond leaves and Betta fish

electric-blues

There appears to be word-of-mouth speculation of this leaf being used by far eastern aquarists for hundreds of years to harden the skin and increase the health of this fighting fish after bouts of fights.

Dosage

Assuming an average 6-10″ (15.2-25.4cm) long leaf, you use one quarter of this for every 4L (1.1 US G.) litres for Bettas or 1-2 leaves per 50L (13.2 US G.) for other species. Leave them in the tank for around 15 days in a filter bag or let them lie loose, they will sink after 2-3 days. Expect the water to tint slightly brown with the tannins.

  • Remove any active carbon before adding them. Afterwards carbon may be used to remove the tannins but this may impact on their benefit.
  • Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 5th Oct 2009
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