I am actually a homemaker... who has become quite an expert on Terminalia catappa
leaves, having sold more than a million leaves to satisfied customers mostly through Aquabid and Ebay (read testimonials below).
I started picking and selling Ketapang leaves initially as a project for my children. You see, we want them to be responsible for their own pets (fish and hamster etc). So we thought of a way for them to earn their own pocket money to buy their pet supplies (of course we do not require them to pay for anything else -- we just want them to learn responsibility in regard to their pets).
Since my husband occasionally collects the Ketapang leaves for breeding his bettas and shrimps; we decided to collect more to sell. Not realising that there were others selling the leaves at much higher price, we began to sell it at a price we thought to be reasonable. We did not increase the price a lot even when we knew about other suppliers. So our price is extremely competitive for such good quality leaves – regardless of whether you are buying a few or in bulk.
Today my children still collect some of the leaves whenever they can, and my retired father has also joined in the effort. I reimburse them for whatever they collect. But I now do all the washing and the quality control… rejecting sometimes up to 80% of the leaves collected. These leaves that are rejected are thrown away if they are too bleached (and therefore thin and useless – will not tan the water) or too green (and therefore will pollute the water if used, or will become mouldy in transit). If the leaves are torn but still thick and useable, they are set aside for sale as low grade leaves (sold by weight).
The whole process of picking, washing, quality control and packing involves quite a lot of work and time. But it supplements our modest family income.
Ketapang or Sea Almond or Indian Almond or Terminalia catappa
leaves are known to most, if not all Asian breeders softwater / blackwater tropical fishes (including arowana, discus, apostos, bettas, tetras, plecos, killifish etc), to be one of the best water conditioners to promote healing and breeding. They are known to have antibacteria and antifungal properties. Bettas are known to be induced to spawn by just putting a few of the leaves into their tank. Fish suffering finrot or injuries (such as spawning injuries) will definitely benefit from having the leaves in their quarantine tub. But they can be used for the usual aquariums too.
When soaked in water these leaves will leach a strong brown dye that is full of organic acids like humic acids and tannic acids. These may be useful for inhibiting many types of bacteria as well as to detoxify harmful heavy metals found in the aquarium. But that is not all!
Referring to leaves from the Terminalia catappa tree, Dr Robert J. Goldstein (not the podiatrist- wannabe terrorist of Florida; but the aquarist and environmental consultant of North Carolina who wrote numerous book on fish-keepings), writes in his 2002 paper entitled “Water Conditioners and Additives”:
The large, leathery leaves are used in folk medicine to treat infections, indigestion, and other medical conditions. The water extract makes a pharmacologically powerful tea… In southeast Asia, betta breeders add a dried leaf to provide a surface for the bubblenest and to leach substances that protect the fry from diseases. As the leaves decay, they also provide detritus to grow extract-resistant infusoria for the babies. Of 35 aromatic (ring structure) substances identified from these leaves, noteworthy were benzene-acetaldehyde, acetones, and sabinen-hydrate. The first is strongly antimicrobial, and several of the 35 others destroy microbial cell membranes.
And he adds:
“So these leaves are not simply sources of stains and tannins and other acids as we would get from oak or hickory, but rich in many other kinds of complex and highly effective chemicals with a wide range of physiological and antimicrobial effects.”
Most of your leaves will be between 7-10" (and sometimes reaching up to 12"). They are selectively collected from leaves that have naturally fallen and of good quality. See my introduction above, and see photo for indication of quality (colour hue may vary from batch to batch, but all leaves that are greenish or smell green are rejected). And yes, in case you are wondering, the leaves in the photo are crispy dry.
You may wish to note that our leaves are selective picked from those that have naturally fallen from the trees after turning red in a natural chemical/biological process. These are the leaves that tan the blackwater streams in the forest where bettas and arowanas are found. We do not harvest fresh leaves from the trees and dry them. If we do that, the leaves will look very nice and indeed easier to obtain; but we doubt their efficacy for aquatic use. My husband will never use such leaves; and we do not know of any tropical fish breeder who will. All the breeders we know who use Ketapang Leaves will only use naturally fallen and dried ones. Indeed, if you try these naturally fallen leaves once, you will probably never go back to freshly harvested leaves! They have an aromatic smell that freshly harvested leaves do not have (it was this sweet smell that first led breeders and herbalists to suspect that they have beneficial properties), and they have a reddish tinge absent from freshly harvested leaves.
For bettas, put a 1-2 sq inch piece (or a quarter of a leaf) into each 1 gallons (4 litre) jar. For usual aquarium (with tetras, gouramis, arrowanas, apistos etc), put 2-3 leaves per 25 gallons (100 litres) of water for 14-21 days. Simply put the leaves into the aquarium. After 1-2 days the leaves will be water-logged and sink. Apart from their benefical effects on the water, they will tan the water slightly (to a clear amber) and provide a very natural stream-bottom look to your aquarium. Alternatively, you can boil the leaves to make blackwater extract and dose when you need. Soaking the leaves in a bucket for a week will produce a similar result.
All our leaves goes through a four-level quality control:
Our first level quality occurs at picking. We pick the leaves from 6 or 7 different locations in Singapore where in total there are more than a hundred catappa trees which bear good quality leaves (not every catappa tree bear such leave. Some bear only yellow or thin leaves). We only pick leaves that are are freshly fallen from the tree and are dark red or brown (not green) and not bleached (or weather-beaten), whole, and not torn or have large holes (Indian Almond is one of the most delicious trees, so they very likely to get infested by caterpillars which in itself is a good indication that the tree is not covered with toxic substances).
Our second level occurs at the washing and drying process. Leaves that are still fresh are shade-dried after washing. Some leaves are thrown away at these stage (e.g. leaves that are too dirty, green, or look/smell bad).
Our third level occurs at grade sorting. We are currently using a 5 grade system: Grade A Large (7"+), Grade A small (5-7"); Grade A baby (3-5"); Grade B Large (7"+); Grade C (anything else still usable). Grade A leaves are whole, dark and without holes. Grade B are large leaves which may have small holes or tears.
Our fourth level quality control occurs at packing. As each leave is packed into the ziploc bag, some leaves which passed through the third level are downgraded.
Grade C leaves are smaller leaves that have holes or large leaves that have larger holes or tears and so cannot be classified under Grade B, but are still usable.
We do not use any heating implements (hot iron or microwave or oven) to dry or prepare the leaves as they may destroy the beneficial properties of the leaves. We've always used our leaves as they are after washing and have never experienced any problem with bacterial or parasites etc.Handling & Shipping
The leaves have been washed and dried and are ready for delivery. They should arrive within 2 weeks for most destinations in US, UK and Europe. They may be used immediately upon arrival.
Utmost care is taken to ensure that your leaves arrive in a good condition. If I have to buy a bigger box or pay more for postage for this purpose, I will do so at no extra cost to you. This makes my profit margin very low especially after subtracting ebay and paypal charges. But my principle is: Customer First! However, occassionally some of the leave will suffer some cracks as they are thoroughly dried. Such cracks, of course would not diminish the efficacy of the leaves.
Your shipping cost is usually less than what I pay to the post office. Shipping is guaranteed through re-shipments at not extra cost to you. I have had customers who ended up with 2 packages at the price of 1 due to postage delays. I don't earn anything from postage (everything you pay goes to the post-office, plus I usually have to subsidise), but I try to keep the price of my leaves low to make it affordable to you.
I keep my price low as a principle (For the LORD our Creator provides the leaves freely, and all I do is select, wash, dry, sort, pack and send!). I also keep my price low by putting up only as many ads as I can be fairly confident there will be a buyer. I doubt that you can find the same quantity of similar quality leaves at a price (including Postage) that is lower than mine.
Why Buy in Bulk (100+)?
Not only is it cheaper and you do not need to keep buying, but the leaves have practically no shelf life. So I would encourage you to buy smaller quantities only if you are very new to the leaves and would like to try them out for yourself rather than relying on research or hearsay.
These are unsolicited comments that came through the email when my customers received the leaves. It may surprise you to learn that one of these comments actually pertain to my Grade C leaves! They are used here with their permission... though I have kept their name anonymous for privacy sake except for one who urged me to go ahead to use his name.
A customer from Italy wrote:
"As I'm writing, I have the two ziplock bags with the leaves in front of me. The leaves appear to be in perfect condition. The colour and scent are lovely, I'm amazed by the quality and the sheer size of these leaves...I think I now have enough ketapang to last for a lifetime! I want to congratulate you on your excellent job in selecting and packing the leaves. I am totally pleased with this transaction."
An Australian customer (of Melbourne) wrote:
"I just want to let you know that the leaves are fantastic. The smell and quality is unbelieveable."
A US customer (ebay id: Karmafarmaquatics) wrote:
"I got them!… They are PERFECT!! Exactly what I wanted. I am SOOOOOO happy with the leaves!... I will be buying more as soon as these are gone. I will NEVER buy from anyone else ever again! … The last person who sent me leaves sent TINY leaves that were still green!! What a waste of money..... the leaves weren't even mature! By buying from you I am assured that i am getting leaves that are MATURE, which have fallen from the tree naturally."
Another US customer (of Phoenix, Arizona) wrote:
"I just received your almond leaves... The size and quality of the leaves are excellent and my Bettas love them. I had two pair just spawn this morning after I put them in the spawning tank last night with a nice chunk of leaf. .... They really are the best I have seen -- rich and dark in color. Even the smell is a lot stronger than ones I have used previously. The other ones I have used never tinted the water but these do just like the Atison's Betta Spa I used to use."
Yet another US customer (of Naperville, Illinois) wrote:
Thank you for reading.
Thank you in advance for your business and your confidence.
I recieved the Indian Almond Leaves, yesterday. They are some of the best quaility I've ever purchased. When I am running low, I will be purchasing more from you, every time!
Yet another US customer (of Termecula, California) wrote:
I just recieved the almond leaves and i am so very pleased with them. They are truly enormous and give off a sweet smell. I just got done putting them away, when i got to the bottom of the bags there wasnt one single crumb. The leaves are so big,whole and clean. I am sure i will enjoy the leaves as much as my bettas will. The last ime a bought leaves from a person, they were all crumpled, crushed and were infested with bug. Your leaves dont even compare to his. Thank you so very much for the leaves and working hard to provide them as superior quality. Take care and keep up the good work Amy.
A customer from Ireland wrote:
Just to let you know the leaves arrived today and I'm over the moon with them, the quality is great and they're a lovely big size - thanks so much! Very well packed too. I'll be sure to buy from you again when these run out... I really am happy with the quality of the leaves (and of course, the price!) - I bought some a while back from someone else on eBay and they were awful little things.
A customer from UK, London wrote:
Just want to say thanks for the leaves, they arrived really quickly and are the best leaves I've seen! hope to buy from you again soon.