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The effect of sea almond leaves in aquaristics

Eddy. E.

Some time ago I had collected some information in a German aquaristic forum about the use of Catappa leaves in the aquarium and the associated effects. You can keep spelling mistakes as a gift ;-)

The sea almond tree, Terminalia catappa Linn, also known as the catappa tree, Indian almond, or badam, is a species of tree that ranges predominantly over Malesia (from the Malay Archipelago, through New Guinea, to the Philippines) as its natural range of occurrence.

Legendary medicinal plant?

When sea almond leaves are used, an almost legendary effect is attributed to them in aquaristics. They are said to have an inhibitory effect, i.e. they inhibit germs. External injuries and ulcers should heal better, an astringent effect, due to the tannins contained and thus provide protection against parasites, develop prophylactic effect against spawn fungus. And as an additional treat, it makes the colors of the fish even more vibrant and overall the fish should feel more comfortable.
Scientifically proven flavonoids, tannins, triterpinoids and saponins, are available as effective ingredients.

generally, the effect of flavonoids is anti-inflammatory and immune system strengthening. They are a secondary plant substance and also belong to the antioxidants.
In the case of sea almond tree, these are in particular Isovitexin (effect anti-motion, anxiolytic = anti-anxiety), Vitexin (effect antioxidant and calming), Isoorientin (effect anti-inflammatory and antioxidant), Rutin (effect antioxidant and anti-inflammatory), Quercetin (virus-destabilizing effect, protective effect against oxidative stress, strong anti-inflammatory), Camphorol (effect antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic).

there are extremely many reports about the effect of tannins in aquarium water. Their antiviral and antibacterial effects are indisputable. As a tannin, they have an astringent and coloring effect in the water and are said to have a mucosal protective effect. However, this effect is also achieved with alder cones, peat, the bark of the sea almond tree, as well as various extracts, so it is not limited to the leaves of the sea almond tree alone. Known active ingredients of the sea almond tree are Punicalagin (effect antiviral and antibacterial), Punicalin (effect skin-protective, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial), Terflavin A (effect anti-inflammatory, antioxidant), Terflavin B (active ingredient antiproliferative = tissue proliferation inhibition, apoptosis-inducing = programmed cell death), Tercatain (effect antiviral, inhibitory), Chebulagic acid (effect antiviral), Geranin (effect hemostatic), Granatin B (effect antioxidant), Corilagin (effect antiviral and antibacterial).

Saponins and triterpinoids:

Saponins (from Latin sapo = soap) are glycosides of steroids, steroid alkaloids (nitrogen-containing steroids) or triterpenes. Saponins are so named because they produce a soap-like foam when shaken with water. Plants, unlike vertebrates, do not have an active immune system and harmful organisms are often combated chemically. In plants, saponins serve as a defensive substance and they have a therapeutic effect, especially against fungal attack, they influence membrane permeability and complex cholesterol and they occupy an important place among the therapeutically active components of medicinal plants.
According to their great structural diversity, a large number of different biological-pharmaceutical properties are observed. Strengthening, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, expectorant/mucolytic, and hormone-stimulating properties, among others, are observed. Saponins are widely distributed in higher plants, especially in nutrient-rich tissues such as roots, tubers, leaves, flowers, and seeds, and in higher concentrations in bark. In vertebrates, saponin structures are used to anchor glycogen (carbohydrate storage form). However, the exact function of many saponins is as yet unknown. Saponins must not enter the bloodstream, however, because even in small quantities they have a hemolytic (blood-dissolving) property and destroy red blood cells.

The known contents are Ursolic acid (anti-inflammatory effect) and Oleic acid (inhibitory effect).

Therapeutic effect:
The following effects have not been proven on fish, since when sea almond leaves are used in aquarium water, the resulting solutions have not been studied. The fact is that it is not only the tannins and the tannins that are responsible as the main active ingredient.

Many ingredients of Terminalia catappa L. have an antibiotic effect. However, the flavonoids Camphorol and Quercetin, which have an antibacterial effect, should be mentioned here.

An antifungal effect has been demonstrated in Terminalia catappa L.. Within the literature can not be inferred which active ingredients are responsible here as the main active ingredient.

The anti-inflammatory effect is supported by many substances in Terminalia catappa L.
Secondary plant substances such as triterpinoids, which have a bioactive effect, various flavonoids and tannins play the decisive role in the interaction here.

As radical scavengers in the organism, antioxidants serve to defend against infection. The main causes here are the tannins Chebulagic acid and Corilagin.

This reaction is caused by polyphenols, which are exclusively present in plants as secondary plant substances and react with the protein of the mucosa. This process makes it more difficult, (not impossible) for ectoparasites to gain access to the skin.

Finally, it remains to mention that all the effects that sea almond leaves are said to have when used in aquariums can be found scientific evidence for them within the literature. However, this effect is not limited to tannins and humic acid. In order for a corresponding effect to occur, at least 5 large Terminalia catappa leaves are necessary per 26 gallons.


1. Hans-Walter Held & Birgit Piechulla: Pflanzenbiochemie, Berlin 2014.

2. Lee SW, Farhan R, Wendy Wee, Wan Zahari M, Ibrahim CO. The effects of tropical almond Terminalia catappa L., leaf extract on breeding activity of Siamese Gourami, Trichogaster pectoralis. Int J Fish Aquat Stud 2016;4(4):431-433.

3. Purivirojkul, Watchariya. “Potential application of extracts from Indian almond (Terminalia catappa Linn.) leaves in Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens Regan) culture.” Communications in agricultural and applied biological sciences vol. 77,4 (2012): 439-48.

4. Ahmed, S.M., Swamy, B.M., Gopkumar, P., Dhanapal, R., & Chandrashekara, V.M. (2005). ANTI-DIABETIC ACTIVITY OF TERMINALIA CATAPPA LINN. LEAF EXTRACTS IN ALLOXAN-INDUCED DIABETIC RATS. Iranian Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 4, 36-39.

5. Kinoshita, S., Inoue, Y., Nakama, S., Ichiba, T., & Aniya, Y. (2007). Antioxidant and hepatoprotective actions of medicinal herb, Terminalia catappa L. from Okinawa Island and its tannin corilagin. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology, 14(11), 755–762.

6. Yamamoto, Y., & Gaynor, R. B. (2001). Therapeutic potential of inhibition of the NF-kappaB pathway in the treatment of inflammation and cancer. The Journal of clinical investigation, 107(2), 135–142.

7. Hernández, A. Valadez Villarreal, E. Ponce-Alquicira, F. Cruz Sosa, and I. Guerrero Legarreta: Antimicrobial activity of flavonoids. In: International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 26 (5): 343-356. 2005.

8. Fan YM, Xu LZ, Gao J, Wang Y, Tang XH, Zhao XN, Zhang ZX: Phytochemical and antiinflammatory studies on Terminalia catappa. Nanjing, 2003.

9. Holetz FB, Pessini GL, Sanches NR, Cortez DA, Nakamura CV, Filho BP. Screening of some plants used in the Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2002

10. E. López Hernández, A. Valadez Villarrea, E. Ponce-Alquicira, F. Cruz Sosa, and I. Guerrero Legarreta: Flavonoid and carotenoid extraction and stability from Terminalia catappa leaves. Villahermosa/Mexico City, 2001.

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