finding and curing preparing local driftwood - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-22-2017, 06:57 AM Thread Starter
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finding and curing preparing local driftwood

Ok guys sorry far all the newbie questions I have tons so bar with me...

part of what excites me about FW is sourcing local goodies for the tank.,or at least trying to anyway its always fun going out hunting for things.
so that said what's process for treading/curing driftwood and root stumps?
I guessing dry wood but not rotten right? any trees i should stay away from?
I read a beach bath
boiling

what about water logging them what's the process there? how long does it take?
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-22-2017, 02:37 PM
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Lots of ways to do it but I like to go the cheap, easy and simple way when it works. First is finding the "correct" wood. If you don't want to work with waiting or removing tannins that color the water, get the truly dry stuff. Tannin is found most directly under the bark and wood will dry from the outer layer to inner, so step one is often to avoid wood with bark. Wood lasts best if it is not starting to rot but that is also a matter of how you want to look at things. I do often pick some wood that is starting to rot but also remove the softer stuff as it may begin to turn loose and float around. Rot can work but it does promote more debris which is not a good thing for tank work?
I prefer to pick only that wood that is left up off the ground so flooded zones are good as it often leaves stuff, high and dry, hanging in trees, etc. Learning where to pick is helpful so I do some search on Google maps if I'm in anew area. I look for lakes where things pile up in coves. In much of the US, that is often the North and East side due to prevailing wind. If I can see wood piled in coves on the online maps, I look for easy, short access as I don't want to walk back 2 miles with wood on my back!
Know how to find the totally dry. Not just like dry last year but totally dry! Then I don't worry about the species. I do find I can use cedar and some of the trees we hear bad things about but it does have to be TOTALLY dry. I also have good, hard, alkaline water that gives me lots of buffer. Other water, the effect may vary.
I find dry wood is normally light colored, even in type like oak so I look for sun bleached white stuff that is lighter than when wet. I personally like the old gnarly weathered type that is really old. If in doubt, I cut and end off and look for a uniform color from outside to in as that is the way it dries. There will be places around knots which still have color but that is okay for my use.
I do a good long overnight bleach soak to assure it is safe just as if I were eating off it! Rinse and dry and good to go. No nonsense with things that soak in but don't dry out. That is promoted by folks who never washed and bleached diapers!
I add weight rather than wait for months for it to water log. I get free travertine tile from suppliers as they often have left over types that are stacked out in back. The travertine is expensive to buy but it is also very easy to drill!

Last edited by PlantedRich; 12-22-2017 at 02:40 PM. Reason: added info
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-22-2017, 03:01 PM Thread Starter
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perfect! thanks for the info I know of a few places to go look. hopefully its not covered in to much snow. come springs run off I see all kinds of fun driftwood maybe I will do a slow build till then who knows...

if you buy it do you still have to water log it? I do fancy the bonsai trees and might incorporate that in to my scape.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-23-2017, 12:48 AM
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perfect! thanks for the info I know of a few places to go look. hopefully its not covered in to much snow. come springs run off I see all kinds of fun driftwood maybe I will do a slow build till then who knows...

if you buy it do you still have to water log it? I do fancy the bonsai trees and might incorporate that in to my scape.
Most wood I see in stores is sold from a bin and dry, so they would need to be waterlogged or weight used to hold it down. I often use tile as handy to keep the wood set in the position I want but I also use rocks laid on top or monofilament fishing line is a way to tie weight to wood and not show toooo much.
I have to wait for so many things in the hobby. I wait for plants and fish to grow. I wait for some to decide if they want to stay and behave or leave. That all leaves me not wanting to wait for wood to soak enough to stay down!
Patience? Where is it? I'm about out!
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-23-2017, 06:17 AM Thread Starter
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would it be possible to glue the wood down to say a flat tile then dig it in the substrate?
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-23-2017, 03:09 PM
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Some people will drill a hole in a rock and using a stainless steel screw, attach the wood to the rock. The rock can be buried in the substrate, not buried, whichever you like.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-23-2017, 03:37 PM
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^ or you can drill that hole in the flat tile, slate, or even a piece of acrylic and cover that with substrate... A larger, more buoyant piece of wood would probably do better with rock or thick slate base though, for added weight. (and use the stainless screw) I'd be nervous that the glue may fail after you've set everything up and mess up your work

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-23-2017, 11:57 PM
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I DO NOT recommend glue for wood for a couple reasons. When we glue things it is normally a joint that can't stand much movement and when wood soaks up water it does expand which makes it move slightly. We might hope that something like silicone would hold but that is taking a chance that I do not want to take if the wood is very large. One of the things I hear about is the wood turning loose and coming up like a submarine broaching and it can wipe out whatever is overhead like lights, glass covers, etc.
For attaching wood to things, I do not worry the slight amount of steel in a few screws as the entire plumbing system contains metal including iron, brass and copper. So the thought that a few screws will change the water enough to bother is just not on my worry list. Compared to that big old water tank down the street and the fire hydrant out front plus my copper pipes, I just write off the little bitty screws like 2 inch long! Even my cheap plastic faucets are brass inside.
Maybe the screw rusts off in a few years but I assume the wood is pretty well ready to stay down if I leave a tank set in one spot that long?
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-24-2017, 11:27 PM
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I like to find a nice piece of hardwood. Hardwood has way more tannic acid so it resists rotting. Once you boil and soak it, it wont leach anymore into the water but it will still hold onto enough tannins so bacteria cant grow inside of it and rot it. I like white oak personally and i just happen to have two of them in my goat pasture lol. With mine, i debark and season it just like you would for firewood. Winter is actually a great time to do this because the air is so dry. Just find a sheltered area like a garage or carport and leave it outside until spring. Then after this you can boil it and soak it until it stops leaching its tannins. By this time it should be water logged as well. I know that seems like a lot of work, but imagine what companies do to the wood before they put it on the self at your local pet store.

As far as wood to avoid, i would avoid anything in the cedar or spruce family because the oils are very toxic to small animals. Also anything like maple or birch that has a high sap content. I would also avoid anything from fruit trees especially stone fruit, because they are known for harboring mold, bacteria, and fungus spores deep in the wood. Also look at the trees while you are out getting wood. If any of the trees have cankers, move to a different area at least a half mile away. Those trees are unhealthy and the spores that cause cankers can still be in the dead fall and they wont always die when you boil it. Another thing to look for while looking at trees if you happen to go out while they have their leaves, is fire blight. Its a bacteria that makes the young growing shoots look burned like theyve been set on fire. That bacteria enters through the new leaves and can infect the wood. These spores and bacteria wont hurt your fish but they can hurt your plants. Basically look for healthy hardwoods, no evergreens, and find some good looking dead fall on top of the leaf litter. A good time to go is after you get a good storm so you can find pieces that have just recently fallen off the trees. And most importantly, dont get actual driftwood thats been in water. Even if you bleach and boil it, you have no idea what little hitchhikers, or even chemicals that made their way into the water, are inside of the wood fibers. I hope that helps and best of luck to you.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-25-2017, 12:31 AM Thread Starter
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I like to find a nice piece of hardwood. Hardwood has way more tannic acid so it resists rotting. Once you boil and soak it, it wont leach anymore into the water but it will still hold onto enough tannins so bacteria cant grow inside of it and rot it. I like white oak personally and i just happen to have two of them in my goat pasture lol. With mine, i debark and season it just like you would for firewood. Winter is actually a great time to do this because the air is so dry. Just find a sheltered area like a garage or carport and leave it outside until spring. Then after this you can boil it and soak it until it stops leaching its tannins. By this time it should be water logged as well. I know that seems like a lot of work, but imagine what companies do to the wood before they put it on the self at your local pet store.

As far as wood to avoid, i would avoid anything in the cedar or spruce family because the oils are very toxic to small animals. Also anything like maple or birch that has a high sap content. I would also avoid anything from fruit trees especially stone fruit, because they are known for harboring mold, bacteria, and fungus spores deep in the wood. Also look at the trees while you are out getting wood. If any of the trees have cankers, move to a different area at least a half mile away. Those trees are unhealthy and the spores that cause cankers can still be in the dead fall and they wont always die when you boil it. Another thing to look for while looking at trees if you happen to go out while they have their leaves, is fire blight. Its a bacteria that makes the young growing shoots look burned like theyve been set on fire. That bacteria enters through the new leaves and can infect the wood. These spores and bacteria wont hurt your fish but they can hurt your plants. Basically look for healthy hardwoods, no evergreens, and find some good looking dead fall on top of the leaf litter. A good time to go is after you get a good storm so you can find pieces that have just recently fallen off the trees. And most importantly, dont get actual driftwood thats been in water. Even if you bleach and boil it, you have no idea what little hitchhikers, or even chemicals that made their way into the water, are inside of the wood fibers. I hope that helps and best of luck to you.

thanks for joining the thread.
well there is no hardwood out here just evergreens, aspens and cotton wood maybe a few other here and there but not that common. I was think of a nice root piece of pine. interesting you can say dont get driftwood. I find it hard to believe that bacteria can survive a good boil & bleach soak?

anyone else have thoughts on that?
not saying your wrong just asking
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-25-2017, 12:58 AM
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I know you can do pine and such as long as it has been water logged for a very long time. I don't know how useful a boil is but I have always just thrown my wood in my pond outside for months till I decided to move it to my tanks. I would imagine you could also bake the wood to make any sap come out and to make more wood than wood with sap. Also if a wet piece of wood has bark on it a quick bake would make the bark come off.

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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-25-2017, 06:18 PM
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well there is no hardwood out here just evergreens, aspens and cotton wood maybe a few other here and there but not that common.
I would think Manzanita would be native to your area?
Beautiful gnarled, twisted wood, it takes about two weeks for mine to become waterlogged.
it holds up fairly well too. One piece has been in my 65H now for 4 years, and is no worse for wear.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-26-2017, 12:08 AM
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A first point may be what you like the wood to look like as well as how it works? That seems silly if we only think of what WE like but then when I look at other folks tanks, there are lots of folks who don't like the same thing! I see lots of small twiggie type stuff that leaves me wishing for REAL WOOD! So what do you favor? A little twisted twig? A big old hollow log for fish to hide in? Or maybe something that looks a hundred years old, like it stood out in the weather for twenty years after it died so that it is all pitted and gnarly?
Thinking first about what you may want can save some time as you don't want to go to the high mountains and into the big trees to get the twiggies? But that a personal choice thing that I never try to change your mind on as it is hard enough for me to sort out what I like--even for myself!
But for the safety aspect, just do a good job of making sure the bleach soak lasts long enough to get into all the little nooks and crannies in the wood. We know that chlorine is a really good item to use to sterilize stuff. It's what they use to make our water safe enough to drink and my dishes safe to eat off, so I trust that it will make wood safe enough for my fish. Not even a snail shell will protect it from chlorine if we just use enough and let it soak long enough for the chlorine to react with the muscle holding the shell closed. Tiny bacteria, fungus and such are pretty easy to deal with compared to a snail wearing armor plate!
The reason driftwood is used so often is that it does bob around for long enough to take all the tannins off as well as it gets banged around and "treated" by nature so that it gets the "rough look many favor. Using driftwood or something still out in the woods is the same to me as I want to know that there is not something on/in the wood, so I sterilize it all. I don't like the idea of getting some tank of sick fish and wondering why. Treating the wood before use is one way to eliminate that random chance of getting some unknown thrown in. I go for the sure bet when I can?
Manzanita is a very commonly used wood and many do like it. There are so many who are so scared of breaking the rules that they never really ask WHAT the rules are in their area. I do work in the national forests and find the rangers are always there to assist any time I have questions about collecting wood, so if you are near a forest, take some time to explain why and what you might like to do and then LISTEN to the answers. If you are in an area where burning downed wood is allowed for campfire use, there is a pretty good chance you can also collect a piece or two for tank use. But it pays to ask as they may even point you to some good stuff---if you tell them what you want.
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-27-2017, 02:27 AM Thread Starter
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A first point may be what you like the wood to look like as well as how it works? That seems silly if we only think of what WE like but then when I look at other folks tanks, there are lots of folks who don't like the same thing! I see lots of small twiggie type stuff that leaves me wishing for REAL WOOD! So what do you favor? A little twisted twig? A big old hollow log for fish to hide in? Or maybe something that looks a hundred years old, like it stood out in the weather for twenty years after it died so that it is all pitted and gnarly?
Thinking first about what you may want can save some time as you don't want to go to the high mountains and into the big trees to get the twiggies? But that a personal choice thing that I never try to change your mind on as it is hard enough for me to sort out what I like--even for myself!
But for the safety aspect, just do a good job of making sure the bleach soak lasts long enough to get into all the little nooks and crannies in the wood. We know that chlorine is a really good item to use to sterilize stuff. It's what they use to make our water safe enough to drink and my dishes safe to eat off, so I trust that it will make wood safe enough for my fish. Not even a snail shell will protect it from chlorine if we just use enough and let it soak long enough for the chlorine to react with the muscle holding the shell closed. Tiny bacteria, fungus and such are pretty easy to deal with compared to a snail wearing armor plate!
The reason driftwood is used so often is that it does bob around for long enough to take all the tannins off as well as it gets banged around and "treated" by nature so that it gets the "rough look many favor. Using driftwood or something still out in the woods is the same to me as I want to know that there is not something on/in the wood, so I sterilize it all. I don't like the idea of getting some tank of sick fish and wondering why. Treating the wood before use is one way to eliminate that random chance of getting some unknown thrown in. I go for the sure bet when I can?
Manzanita is a very commonly used wood and many do like it. There are so many who are so scared of breaking the rules that they never really ask WHAT the rules are in their area. I do work in the national forests and find the rangers are always there to assist any time I have questions about collecting wood, so if you are near a forest, take some time to explain why and what you might like to do and then LISTEN to the answers. If you are in an area where burning downed wood is allowed for campfire use, there is a pretty good chance you can also collect a piece or two for tank use. But it pays to ask as they may even point you to some good stuff---if you tell them what you want.
thanks for the replay, just as I thought a good bleach soak for a few days then set out side to air out for a few days. collecting wood here is not big deal, alot of ppl heat there homes with it. I help friends cut wood every fall. I will go look and see what I can find. not sure I will find much as its all covered in snow but will give it a try. In the spring there are tons to be had...
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 12-27-2017, 03:21 AM
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Good hunting to you! Spring may be a long time coming but just think of how many nice hunks of wood it's working on to remove those tannins!! Pretty soon she will be hanging them up to get nice and dry, too>,.
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