Monday, March 10, 2008

A guide on how to make Ketapang Extract Singapore

Short Version
  1. Pick dried fallen leaves
  2. Wash Leaves
  3. Put 10 leaves for every liter of aged dechlorinated water (a teaspoon of aquarium salt for every liter can be added to extend the shelf-life of the Ketapang extract)
  4. Soak leaves for at least 24 hours, 72 hours of soaking is recommended.
  5. Filter and store Ketapang extract
  6. Add 5ml to 15ml of extract for every 1 liter of water.
Long Version
Ketapang (Sea Almond, Indian Almond, Tropical Almond, Lingtak) Tree is a prized procession for many Asian tropical fish hobbyist. It is said that the dried fallen leaves of the Ketapang Tree is used to enhance many tropical fishes color and immune system. Although not scientifically proven, fish farms in Singapore have been using it for a long time to breed, store and export fishes. So much so that a major fish farm in Singapore is commercially packaging and selling the extract of the Ketapang leaves.

The dried Ketapang leaves contains tannin and Humic acids; a mixture of organic acids. By soaking the leaves in water, these acids lowers the pH of the water and creates a more natural environment for tropical fishes, especially Bettas.

Finding a Ketapang Tree
The Ketapang tree is abundant in Singapore. It can be found in the following locations:
  • East Coast Park
  • Changi Beach
  • Beside Pan-Island Expressway (PIE)
Of course the location listed above are not exhaustive, if you would like to share any location, send me an email.

For a beginner, the difficulties in making your own extract is in identifying what a Ketapang tree looks like. Most pictures available online does not even come close in depicting the look of the tree. So has take the liberty to solve this problem by posting a Ketapang tree that reside in Singapore.
This is how a Ketapang Tree looks like from far.
A closer view at a different Ketapang Tree.
A picture of the Ketapang tree trunk and bark, so that you can confirm its a Ketapang Tree.
Another picture of a different Ketapang tree's trunk and bark.
A close up on the fresh Ketapang tree leaves.
I hope all these pictures are good enough to help a beginner in identifying a Ketapang Tree. Now that you know how a Ketapang tree looks like, you can go on an pick the dried fallen leaves.

How to Select Fallen Leaves
Do not attempt to climb up a Ketapang tree and harvest the leaves. For one very simple reason; it is ILLEGAL! Naturally fallen Ketapang tree leaves should contain more tannic and humic acid, thats the very reason why they turn brown and fall from the trees.

To ensure that you pick freshly fallen leaves, you should only select fallen leaves from the top layer of the litter. These freshly fallen leaves should be yellowish-red and still very soft. You can select those and bring them home to dry until it's crisp, which will take about a week at your window.
My suggestion is to pick crisp dried leaves that are from the second highest layer of the litter. These leaves are likely to have a darker reddish-brown tone than the freshly fallen ones. No need to dry, no need to wait, just bring them home, wash it and its ready to use.

Do not pick leaves that has lots of dirt sticking to it. These leaves will look light-brown in color and will have many tears and holes, a tell-tale sign that they have been lying there for some time.

A generally rule is; if it's red, pick it, if it's brown, leave it.

Preparation of Leaves
Once you picked the leaves, it is wise to give it a rinse to remove any debris from it. Tap water can be used to do so as it contains a little chlorine which will disinfect the leaves a little.

As soon as you start washing the leaves, you will notice the water starts to turn brown. It is advisable to rinse the leaves as fast as possible to avoid diluting the contents of the leaves. Please take note that tannin will stain your tiles or sink, so clean up after you rinse the leaves.

You can choose to dry the leaves after rinsing them although it is safe to use them immediately.

Basic Ketapang Extract Recipe
Now that you have the leaves and you've gave them a rinse, you can now make the extract. The recipe that I'm going to share with you is a basic Ketapang Extract. Everyone has their own recipe for their needs but this recipe is the most basic of them all.

What you need:
  1. A bottle of at least 1 liter
  2. At least 10 leaves for every liter of water
  3. 1 teaspoon of salt of every liter of water to extend the shelf-life of the extract.


  1. Crush the leaves slightly, like how you crumple a piece of parking fine.
  2. Place the leaves inside a container.

  3. Add water
  4. Add salt

  5. Soak for 72 hours

  6. Extract is now ready for use. It should have a sweet smell and carries a dark reddish-brown tone. The top layer of the solution should be clear, with a little debris at the bottom. You can leave soaking it for a maximum of 1 week. After a week the leaves will start to decay. So it is advisable to filter the solution and keep it in a air tight bottle within a week of soaking.
Do note that this is a Ketapang Extract and is not to be used without diluting. As a guide, for every liter of water, add 5ml to 15ml of the extract to it.

If you follow step 6, filtering the solution and storing it in an air tight bottle, the extract should last for at least a month if kept in a cool dry place. Refrigeration will extend the shelve-life to 3 months. Freezing the extract will keep it preserved until the next ice-age.

A generally rule is to smell the extract before you use it. If it still retains the sweet smell when you first prepare it, it is safe to use. If the solution turns cloudy AND smell foul, restart a new batch. Sometimes the solution will become cloudy (especially so if you use rainwater) but it doesn't smell foul. I have used it with no ill effects.

There are many recipe out there, some boil the leaves with water to disinfect the extract, some used rainwater, some add medication to their extract, some even add tobacco leaves to make the betta more aggressive. You can experiment with these recipes but do so at your own risk.

I hope this guide helps you in making your own extract.


Kewl Nitrox said...

Hey thanks for sharing that. I will go Ketapang leaves hunting today!

Rav Tan said...

My pleasure =) Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

what happen if i soak the fresh leaves just fall down? does it work at all?

Anonymous said...

Hey..what kind of salt do you use.

Anonymous said...

Aquarium Salt ??

Rav Tan said...

Yup aquarium salt.

Anonymous said...


Christopher Chua said...