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The Shrimp Farm, Aquariums  Dealers, Bloomington, IL



Leaf Litter

  • Using cholla wood in a shrimp tank

    If you've been keeping shrimp for a while you might have come across it at some point: cholla wood. It's all the rage in the shrimp hobby right now, but what is it? What are the benefits, and should you be using it in your own tank?

    Keep reading for everything you need to know about cholla wood and using cholla wood in shrimp aquariums!
    cholla wood

    What is cholla wood?

    Cholla wood is a type of wood usually sold in pieces of around 4-6". It doesn't come from trees but is actually a product of the cholla cactus. When these cacti die and dry out, cholla wood remains.

    Uses and benefits of cholla wood

    Although cholla wood is definitely a visually interesting addition to the aquarium, most aquarists don't use its for its decorative value. It's added to the aquarium because shrimp love it!

    Unlike most types of wood that are used in the aquarium, cholla is soft and breaks down over time. During this process all kinds of beneficial processes happen. As with Indian almond leaves and alder cones, tannins are released into the water. This can stain the water a slight yellow color, which some consider unsightly but actually helps imitate the natural habitat of many shrimp species. Most importantly, though, tannins have antibacterial and antifungal properties which help protect your shrimp against disease.

    As cholla wood breaks down a layer of biofilm forms on it. This makes it the perfect place for shrimp to forage; a piece of cholla wood will likely have a few shrimp on it at any given time.

    Lastly, because cholla is hollow and holey it makes a great hiding place for shrimp, which means you can use it as a natural looking alternative to ceramic shrimp flats. Shrimp will especially appreciate it while molting, when they're very vulnerable and like to be able to retreat to a safe place.

    How to use cholla wood

    Cholla wood isn't difficult to use in your shrimp tank at all. Just buy your cholla wood pieces and, if you're not happy with the size, saw them into smaller bits. This should be an easy task as the wood is quite soft and not too difficult to cut through.

    Like other wood types cholla doesn't immediately sink when placed into the aquarium; the waterlogging process can take a few days. If you don't want to look at a piece of wood floating around your aquarium during this time be sure to waterlog your cholla before placing it in the tank. This can be done by just putting it in a bucket of water until it sinks. Some sources also recommend boiling cholla wood to sterilize and waterlog it, but keep in mind that this does cause the wood to break down much quicker.

    Once you've placed the cholla wood in your shrimp tank you can just leave it there until it's fully gone (which can take multiple years with large pieces). As with other leaf litter the decaying process is not harmful to your livestock.

    Note: If you live in an area where cholla cacti naturally grow you might be able to collect your own cholla wood. Look for pieces that are already dead and dried out: you really don't want to come near live cholla spines and the drying process takes extremely long anyway.

    Buying cholla wood

    If you're not lucky enough to have cholla cacti growing nearby there are plenty of places where you can buy it for a relatively cheap price. The Shrimp Farm sells cholla wood in 4-6" pieces which you can order here.

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  • What do alder cones have to do with your shrimp?

    If you've been in the shrimp community for a while you might have heard of alder cones. These small black pine cone-like tree bits can be very beneficial for your shrimp. But what are they, what do they do and how do you use them?

    Keep reading for everything you need to know about alder cones and using them in your aquarium.

    What is an alder cone?

    Alder cones are the catkins of black alder trees (Alnus glutinosa). These trees naturally occur in Europe but are also an introduced species in many parts of the United Stated and Canada. Alder cones look somewhat like tiny pine cones and turn their typical brown color during Autumn. They contain the alder tree's seeds and can be picked from the tree or collected from the ground.

    What do alder cones do?

    After reading that last paragraph you might be wondering what use these little seed boxes could possibly have for aquarists. Well, as you might know, many aquarists go crazy over "leaf litter" and "botanicals". That basically means plant bits, most notably Indian almond leaves. We use these in our aquarium because they are good for our fish and shrimp.

    Botanicals and leaf litter contain tannins and humins. Tannins are naturally antibacterial and antifungal, which means any product containing them helps protect livestock. As the name suggests they also stain the water anywhere between yellow and very dark brown depending on the amount that is released. Humins are beneficial for plant growth and lower your pH. Both help imitate the natural habitats of fish that naturally occur in blackwater rivers, which stimulates spawning and reduces stress.

    Alder cones happen to be particularly rich in tannins and humins. Even a small amount of alder cones can give the aquarium water a nice natural stained look and offer all the benefits discussed above.

    Alder cone benefits for shrimp

    So, alder cones have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. This already makes them a great addition to consider for your shrimp tank(s), but there is more. The cones are also appreciated as foraging grounds, as they offer a great place for biofilm to grow and can be eaten by the shrimp when they start to break down. They also make great hiding places for fry and help to gently lower pH if needed.

    All in all, shrimp just love alder cones. If you use them in your tank expect some shrimp on there at all times!

    How to use alder cones

    Alder cones are not difficult to use at all. In fact, it can be as easy as buying a bunch and tossing them into your tank! That being said, most aquarists like to soak the cones beforehand, as they do float at first and can take a while before becoming waterlogged and sinking.

    If you don't want to buy your alder cones you can also head outside and hunt for some yourself. Alder trees are very common in Europe but you should also be able to find them in some parks in the US and Canada. Look for trees that aren't too close to any large roads and just pick the black cones off the ground or branches. Take them home, give them a short boil or bleach bath to clean off any nastiness and they should be good to go!

    Keep in mind that alder cones can be quite potent; don't drop a few handfuls in there at once. Try starting with one cone per 5 gallons. Wait a bit to see what happens and then work your way up from there if desired. The cones leach tannins for about a month, after which you can replace them or just leave them in for the shrimp to munch on.

    If, for any reason, you want the beneficial effects of alder cones but don't want the actual things in your tank, there are still a few options. You can boil your alder cones in a pot of water to create a potent alder cone extract that can be used in small amounts. Alternatively, if you use a canister filter you can just put the cones in there so they can release their tannins while remaining invisible. If you don't want to go through the hassle of using alder cones at all you can also just buy blackwater extract and go with that.

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  • Indian Almond Leaves

    Indian Almond Leaves

    Indian Almond Leaf Indian Almond Leaves

    The Terminalia catappa is a large tropical tree in the leadwood tree family, it commonly grows mainly in the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Australia. This tree is what produces Continue reading

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