I want a natural looking tank. When my cycle completes I was going to trade my plastic plants for some low light/maintenance plants. My local fish shop that I just found regularly carries IAL. Is it okay to use these all the time in your water? How do you use them? Do you just sit them on the surface or do you break them up? When do you change them?
I use IALs in most of my tanks as it gives my wild bettas somewhere to hide and seems to induce bubblenesting and territorial behaviour in my males.
For use with my splendens, I sometimes boil up a few leaves and create a concentrated extract that I add to their water after a water change. But mostly, I put a whole leaf in each week, and take it out once it starts to sink and go soft.
In my wild tanks, I let the leaves sink down to the bottom and break down naturally. I for one, have never noticed any discernible ammonia spike due to the leaves breaking down in the tank, and I've found this encourages the growth of microorganisms that helps feed my fry.
At the very least, the IAL darkens the water, mimicking the betta's natural environment and making him feel more secure. My guys definitely like building nests under them. There are a lot of different ways to use them: some people steep them to make an extract that they then add to the tank, some put IAL in the filter, and others just put them straight in the tank (which is what I do). I take them out when they start feeling slimy.
I have actually found that the water seems 'stickier' when I put my IAL in, like I've added Bettafix or something. Odyesseus's usually pathetic bubblenests are definitely more magnificent with a fresh leaf in there giving off leaf juice. :)