Judging Rocks For Aquarium Use - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-23-2016, 05:13 AM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb Judging Rocks For Aquarium Use

I have picked some rocks, and boiled them for several hours with salt and a little bleach. Then read about the scratch and acid tests, I am yet to locate some acid to use but I have put them in two piles based on appearance, safe and potentially not safe.

These rocks seem solid, consistent color and the internal grain where they have been broken proves this. I would assume these are completely safe.




These on the other hand I am leary about. I suspect they contain metals due to their orange-maroon coloration. The large one on the bottom appears solid until you see a metallic vain running along one side, and at least one of them smells like sulfur. What do you think?


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post #2 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-23-2016, 11:57 PM
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Someone may chime in a little more knowledgeable But you can use white vinegar to test the rocks, and if it fizzes it just means it will affect your pH. the ones with the Metals are a defiantly No.. I had found rocks that had Iron pyrite in them as well as some rust and was told they would affect my tank and be harmful to the fish. as far as your first set of rocks they seem fine. also something I learned in this hobby is you don't need to bleach everything to put into the tank. As I have figured anything that lives out of water can't live under water, and anything underwater can't live out of water. if you give some time to either affect. Bleach to me is a very dangerous thing to be using for anything in an aquarium. their are better ways to clean decor. also boiling is fine to do as well with out bleach. it just my opinion. but someone more knowledgeable on rocks maybe able to help you.

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post #3 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 12:22 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, the vinegar has a very weak percentage of acid and you need a magnifying glass to observe the reaction which is why most people do not use it from my research. Bleach from what I have learned begins evaporating from the water the instant you add it, so there is never any harm of it getting into your aquarium system as it dissipates very quickly. Helps remove tannins from wood very quickly I noticed.

I will avoid reddish-orange rocks due to iron from here on out.
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post #4 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 12:49 AM
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Your welcome, But I would be very cautious about bleaching wood, I was told by someone on this site who I respect a great deal who no longer is active, Name of Byron that Bleach can linger in wood for years and even if the vapors disperse from the water. the actual Chemical compounds do not. And that can be just as dangerous. I mean if you think about it when Bleach stains your cloths the compounds are left in the fabric. only the vapors disperse. Just one last example we use prime and other bonding agents to bond chlorine and chloramines compounds from our tap. it doesn't mean the chemical is actually out of the tank. its just less harmful. when you air out your tap water yes you make it safe to use but most of the compounds are still present. Of course I am no chemist and am only giving my opinion. But Byron taught me not to use it on wood due to the porous nature of wood and how it can trap in the wood for years. But again My opinion and I mean no offense if I seem pushy I Just Don't trust bleach.
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post #5 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 03:21 AM
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Carbonate reactions (fizzing) are unreliable which is why many don't use it. Anything with trace amounts of calcite will fizz even if it would be safe enough for a tank. Having no fizzing still doesn't mean that it is safe, but the acid test is really only useful if you know how to gauge the vigor. Here's a good explanation: http://geology.com/minerals/acid-test.shtml

Next time you do a water change, leave a bucket of water to sit a few days, test the ph and gh (and maybe tds), then put one of the rocks in, wait a week or two, and then test it again. This will give a general idea of what it will do in your tank.

As for the bleach conversation, I wouldn't soak driftwood or really porous rock, but a bleach dip with a good rinse or soak afterwards should be fine.

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post #6 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 03:35 PM
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The idea that bleach can linger in wood neads a bit of thought?

Simple bleach of the type we use, without color or scents, is made of three things, water, a form of salt, and chlorine. Can we accept that water and salt are okay but the chlorine is the thing we worry about?

So what can we find about chlorine? It is normally a gas and we have to do some tricks like tie it to salt to keep in the water longer so we can store it for a while. We also can read on chlorine and find it reacts very readily with organics. Organics in this use means carbon bearing compounds. Not organic gardening!
So can we agree that wood is an organic? So can chlorine that reacts with organics like wood stay in wood without reacting? Once chlorine comes into contact with wood, there is a chemical reaction until one or the other is depleted.
In most cases the chlorine is used up and gone before the wood. In the cases where we splash bleach on our shirt, it is often the shirt that breaks down first!
Unless somebody can show me a chemical reaction that can lie dormant for years and then suddenly come out when we add fish, I find chlorine is totally safe to use on tank stuff.
Another good indication that it is safe is the number of experienced hobby folks who use it all the time.
Unfortunately, there are those who have not used it and continue to spread what they have been told without thinking about it or trying it.
Don't simply something like this that you find on a forum. Do some reading and decide. Reliable info is out there for the reading. Here are a couple sites to check:
First paragraph, first sentence?
It's Elemental - The Element Chlorine

Less reliable being Wikipedia but still lots of info:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine
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post #7 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 04:23 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
The idea that bleach can linger in wood neads a bit of thought?

Simple bleach of the type we use, without color or scents, is made of three things, water, a form of salt, and chlorine. Can we accept that water and salt are okay but the chlorine is the thing we worry about?

So what can we find about chlorine? It is normally a gas and we have to do some tricks like tie it to salt to keep in the water longer so we can store it for a while. We also can read on chlorine and find it reacts very readily with organics. Organics in this use means carbon bearing compounds. Not organic gardening!
So can we agree that wood is an organic? So can chlorine that reacts with organics like wood stay in wood without reacting? Once chlorine comes into contact with wood, there is a chemical reaction until one or the other is depleted.
In most cases the chlorine is used up and gone before the wood. In the cases where we splash bleach on our shirt, it is often the shirt that breaks down first!
Unless somebody can show me a chemical reaction that can lie dormant for years and then suddenly come out when we add fish, I find chlorine is totally safe to use on tank stuff.
Another good indication that it is safe is the number of experienced hobby folks who use it all the time.
Unfortunately, there are those who have not used it and continue to spread what they have been told without thinking about it or trying it.
Don't simply something like this that you find on a forum. Do some reading and decide. Reliable info is out there for the reading. Here are a couple sites to check:
First paragraph, first sentence?
It's Elemental - The Element Chlorine

Less reliable being Wikipedia but still lots of info:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorine
I think you may have been the one who educated me on this back when I had my blueberry branch driftwood thread, using bleach there. From a pool-perspective I can not keep free-chlorine in my pool for longer than a week. In that sense concentrated chlorine that can fit in my hands, evaporated from a pool within a week. Boiling water with bleach in it I am sure speeds this process up dramatically.
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post #8 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 05:27 PM
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@PlantedRich; I never claimed to be a chemist, And honestly I have used Bleach before on items for a tank. when i was still new in the hobby, I bleached driftwood and other decor. was talked out of it. I'm not ignorant to the fact, But like anything in this hobby their are two sides. and a lot of debate on the bleach. Personally I just looked at the ingredients of bleach, and the 2 types that are used in households. Yeah sure they are salts, but do you still want the salts in a tank. esp.. if you have fish that are sensitive to salts. But it doesn't matter Honestly I'm not as ignorant to fact as you make it sound. and I guess, I did shoot off my mouth, (keyboard) But I can tell you I never trusted bleach. Because your still taking something and making it a harmful chemical with natural compounds, than expecting it to break down. back to a natural state. from what i read about it the chemical still remains in the salts after break down. even after it is gassed off, It may be safe to use. But really why take that chance. I'll man up and say I normally go by what I am taught and what i research, But That's the Key you have to research. Yea I took someones word for it when i was younger. and I do it again if it means I keep a chemical out of my tank even if their is still a hint of a chance it can be introduced in my tank. Why do i want the risk. And I still am learning in this hobby. But that's whats great about this hobby. I'm like everyone else here I only want the best for my fish, and Everyone has their own methods.

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post #9 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 05:47 PM
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I'll go along with Rich . I've been using bleach as a general tank / equipment / substrate(gravel) disinfectant for decades . Haven't found anything that it won't kill off . Just pull the fish and plants , dump some in the tank , let the filter run for a day or 2 . Drain , rinse everything REAL well , and you're back in business . Though I'd let wood dry out for a few days in the sun , just to let anything that's soaked into the pores outgas .

Quick thought ... Don't think I'd use it on stuff like Aquasoil , simply because I don't know for sure what its' made of .
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Last edited by someoldguy; 07-24-2016 at 05:50 PM. Reason: passing thought
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post #10 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 05:59 PM
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I do bleach dip my plants. But Only because I hate bladder snails. but than i QT my plants in a separate tank for a month. for 2 reasons. 1 to make sure the plants will survive. and also to make sure I never have any bladder snails.. But Never on any driftwood or rocks. I should add I haven't done it in a long time.

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post #11 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 06:23 PM
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@PlantedRich; I never claimed to be a chemist, And honestly I have used Bleach before on items for a tank. when i was still new in the hobby, I bleached driftwood and other decor. was talked out of it. I'm not ignorant to the fact, But like anything in this hobby their are two sides. and a lot of debate on the bleach. Personally I just looked at the ingredients of bleach, and the 2 types that are used in households. Yeah sure they are salts, but do you still want the salts in a tank. esp.. if you have fish that are sensitive to salts. But it doesn't matter Honestly I'm not as ignorant to fact as you make it sound. and I guess, I did shoot off my mouth, (keyboard) But I can tell you I never trusted bleach. Because your still taking something and making it a harmful chemical with natural compounds, than expecting it to break down. back to a natural state. from what i read about it the chemical still remains in the salts after break down. even after it is gassed off, It may be safe to use. But really why take that chance. I'll man up and say I normally go by what I am taught and what i research, But That's the Key you have to research. Yea I took someones word for it when i was younger. and I do it again if it means I keep a chemical out of my tank even if their is still a hint of a chance it can be introduced in my tank. Why do i want the risk. And I still am learning in this hobby. But that's whats great about this hobby. I'm like everyone else here I only want the best for my fish, and Everyone has their own methods.
The part I resist is the idea that chlorine is a "chemical" and too many people seem to imply that they put no "chemicals" in their water. What is there that is NOT a chemical or a group of chemicals. Rather than just saying we don't want chemicals in our tanks we need to think about chemicals and what they or don't do for us. We might say chlorine is bad but then we find that one of the most common places to find chlorine is salt (sodium chloride) Yet we can also find that salt is often using alone or in medicines for fish. Even the water is hydrogen and oxygen!
So rather than thinking blindly that a particular chemical is bad or good, I like to look at what it does or doesn't do that I want or don't want.
Take the hydrogen out of water? Not going to be good for the fish.
Take the O2 out of the air we breathe?
Take the chlorine out of the water we drink and it gets too nasty to drink.
So the point gets back to what we actually know about each chemical and how it is used. All of them are dangerous If used in the wrong place, amount, or time.
Time and experience has shown many people that bleach is a really good thing to sterile stuff. It isn't like it is some foreign item that is unusual and we should avoid it. It is the most commonly used thing to treat the water we drink or add to the tank. Avoiding chorine is not possible and we live with it. Lick the back of your hand and you will probably taste sodium chloride, so keeping chlorine out of a tank is just not going to work!
Millions of people world wide use it daily and find it is a good tool when you want something sterile.
I have a tub full of wood soaking in bleach water right now! All my rocks and wood have got the same treatment for many, many years.
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post #12 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 07:10 PM
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haha Drink bleach right out of the bottle and see how that affects you.. Lol no seriously don't do that. But I get what your saying. And yea we do need it for a lot of things. But I think I will go back and research Bleach and the home aquarium again. It has been years since I last researched it. and I'll man up and look at it again. Whether it changes my opinion. we'll see, If it does I'll let ya know. I won't hijack the Op thread any longer. I been wrong before And probably will again. But thanks for the school.

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post #13 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-24-2016, 08:41 PM
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Rocks are one of the good / bad things to clean with bleach. It gets them sterile so it does make many safe to use but then we often look for rocks based on appearance and soaking them in bleach water can change the appearance. Texas holey rocks are often sold for a higher price when they are a pretty white color. But that color can be changed when we take a rock that has lots of dark lichen on the surface and bleach it white. Take some very expensive rocks and soak them in strong enough bleach and you may not like what you have left.
So for the OP question of what is a safe rock or not, there is often a two part question. We can sterilize it and it is safe from that standpoint but still the effect it may have on our water is still there. Gets back to the chemical question again. Testing rocks or any other dealing is often a question of relative strength of the chemicals involved. Take a really alkaline rock like limestone and a weak acid may make it bubble or fizz. But a less alkaline rock will still bubble and fizz if you use a strong enough acid. It takes some judgement and knowing what strength of acid makes what amount of reaction. So it can be a handy test if you are used to doing it and know what amount of reaction to get before ruling the rocks safe/ unsafe.

Rather than suggesting a test of this sort to the person who has not used it before, I like to go with a test more specific to what the person may find in his water. Water can be anything from acidic to alkaline so if you want to know how it works out in your water, I suggest testing for change in that water. It doesn't really matter too much if it bubbles in acid if your water is always going to be alkaline, does it? But it does then involve the amount of buffering your water has. Little to no buffer and your rocks may make a major change. But if you have very hard alkaline water and throw an alkaline rock in, you may not be able to measure any change.

When faced with doubts of this sort, I go with letting the rock soak in the water I will use in the tank and then seeing what the result might be. Otherwise it is just going to be somewhere near a guess. For my personal use, I just go with making the rocks sterile and then wait and watch the tank water. It is not going to be a dramatic overnight situation in most cases but a slow creeping complication that you may/ may not need to change.
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post #14 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-27-2016, 10:01 PM Thread Starter
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Okay so clearly the better choice would be testing a bucket of water with the rocks in it. I will try this. In the meantime I have further suspicions that the test will likely not proove.

I have been sticking with these "blueish" rocks almost the color of faded pavement, since they have a solid consistent makeup. I am not worried about rust with these rocks, however there is some surface oxidation which I am suspicious came from other rocks in the bunch where they were dropped and it just stained the surface. On the other hand I see a teal colored patina that usually comes from copper....I think I would rather have traces of iron in my water than copper so now this is really concerning me.



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post #15 of 35 (permalink) Old 07-28-2016, 12:28 AM
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Maybe good rocks, maybe not? We get to do a lot of things that take a bit of guessing how it will turn out but thinking first is really a good step.
So what is the big thing to worry about? Do you plan on fish of animals that tend to be famous for sensitive? That takes a far different approach. But what I find is that rocks are out and about in the weather for a very long time and as such , they degrade very slowly in most tanks. What is your water like? Soft, alkaline water with little to no buffering makes things like choosing rocks and wood much harder. Things drift much quicker if the buffering is low.
I have almost always wound up in areas with hard alkaline water when keeping fish and that has made it easy to choose. Does your water tend to be like acid so that the rocks degrade quickly or is it less difficult so that frequent water changes takes care of any drift?
I think of rocks, rust and all the other pollutants as just another item to keep under control. If I have rocks with copper, I never see it due to buffering and water changes. Perhaps some study on the "what-ifs" might help? Cheap or expensive animals? What is the main driver of the worry?
Just for info, most common rocks are not rich enough in ore to make them valuable and the odds are good that your rocks are not poison as such even though they may tend to make the water parameters drift.
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