What are Alder Cones?

Alder cones are the catkins of black alder trees (Alnus glutinosa). These trees originate from Europe, but have also been introduced to many parts of the United States and Canada. They look like tiny pine cones and turn brown, their characteristic color, during the fall. They contain the alder tree’s seeds and can be picked from the tree or collected from the ground.

There are many reasons aquarists use these little cones, and our alder cones are collected just for us. They are found in areas that are free from pollutants, insecticides, and pesticides.

Tannins & Humins

While alder cones are often used for water conditioning, using them is also great for fish and shrimp. Aquarists are big fans of botanicals like the alder cone, since they contain highly beneficial tannins and humins. The properties of tannins and humins within the cones ensure the optimum growth and health of fish, shrimp, and plants alike.

Tannins are naturally antibacterial and antifungal, which means any botanical that contains these are helping to protect the livestock in your aquarium. Tannins also stain the water anywhere between yellow and very dark brown depending on the amount that is released.

Humins are helpful in plant growth and also lower the pH of your water. They also help to reduce the hardness of water. This creates a biotope for fish and shrimp growth. Tannins and humins help duplicate the natural habitats of fish that live in blackwater rivers, which stimulate spawning and reduces stress.

Other Benefits of Using Alder Cones

A small amount of cones added to your tank can give the aquarium water a nice natural stained look. With their natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, these cones offer a great place for biofilm to grow and can be eaten by the shrimp when they start to dissolve in your aquarium.

Alder cones also make great hiding places for fry (baby fish). They even are beneficial in that they help to lower pH if you need to and want it to be lowered naturally.

Alder Cone Benefits for Shrimp

If you have Amano, Crystal Red, and other types of shrimp in your freshwater aquarium, alder cones are sure to be a hit! Not only do they have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, alder cones provide a feeding station for shrimp.

These inverts will enjoy grazing on the biofilm that grows over the surface of the cones. (This coating contains bacteria, worms, and other tiny microorganisms which shrimp love to feast on.) Once you add the cones to your tank, you are likely to see at least one of your shrimp perched on an alder cone and grazing!

How Do You Use Alder Cones in Aquariums?

If you are new to the aquarium hobby, you’re likely wondering how alder cones should be used. When you initially place your alder cones in the aquarium, they’ll float at first. As they become water-logged, they’ll eventually sink to the bottom. Once settled at the bottom, you’ll see your shrimp and fish peck at the cones.

Another way aquarists use alder cones is by putting them into their filter and allowing the aquarium water to flow through them. (This is a good option if you don’t care for the look of alder cones in your aquarium, or if you don’t have shrimp.)

Alder Cone Tips

Pro-Tip #1

Because the cones can become waterlogged and may take a while to sink, many aquarists, including us, find it best to soak them or boil them before they place them in their aquarium. You can also put alder cones into your canister filter so that they can release their tannins, but they will remain unseen to aquarium viewers.

Pro-Tip #2

We’d recommend a starting quantity of about 5-8 for every 10 gallons of aquarium capacity, although there is no hard and fast rule about this. They can lower the pH of soft water surprisingly quickly, while imparting a nice brownish tint. Proceed slowly to gauge for yourself the effect that these little cones can impart into your aquarium water chemistry.

Please note that alder cones can be potent if you put too many into your aquarium. Try between 5 to 8 for every 10 gallons.

How Long Do the Cones Last?

At some point, your alder cones will stop releasing their tannins and humins. To ensure that your tank still has plenty of these in the water, you’ll want to replace them every month.

If you have shrimp in your tank, leave a few of the older cones since they are still a source of live food for your shrimp to eat. Keeping fresh cones in your aquarium will also keep the slight brown tint in your water.

Shop Alder Cones

If you keep a freshwater aquarium, or if you are just getting started in the hobby, you’ll want to consider using alder cones to naturally add tannins and humins to your tank. Shop AquaLife cones online.

SevenPorts is your online source for AquaLife alder cones, planted aquariums, and other products. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call us today! Our aquarium experts have decades of experience in the industry, and are looking forward to providing you with helpful aquarium, plant, fish, and invertebrate care.

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