"Wild Caught" Sun Bleached Wood for Tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-09-2019, 09:57 PM Thread Starter
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"Wild Caught" Sun Bleached Wood for Tank?

Found a Hickory tree native to my area today that was upturned years ago with roots exposed to the sun off the ground. I cut sections of the roots off that were accessible, they are all hard and sunbleached, no wet spots, they weren't in contact with the ground, no rotting spots on them, only a little bark left on them. And these were easily identified as hickory, common in this area and i am familiar enough to notice a hickory around here.

My question is, would it be deemed safe to use in a tank? Further more, what would be the safest route of action? I've heard of doing bleach dips and soaking periods and wondered if there was a typical process deemed most common?

Also if anyone has experience finding "driftwood" and has any recommendations that would be great. I've read that most hard wood deciduous trees are safe and I've heard of oak and such being used before and wondered if hickory was safe, it is a very hard wood quite similar to oak but a little harder.


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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 03:58 PM
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I'd shy away from it because it's a cousin to the walnut trees and those have a rather nasty chemical called juglone which is toxic to livestock. While I don't see anything specific to hickory trees I'd just find something else.

Nevermind, I found it. They do produce jugalone. https://extension.psu.edu/landscapin...oducing-plants

They don't go into at what point the stain becomes a poison.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-10-2019, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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Another tree native to the area is some white oak, would that be a better option to seek out? Pretty easy to identify as well.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-11-2019, 02:36 PM
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White oak is much better. Good for blackwater tanks since they produce some tannins.

I have MTS
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-11-2019, 03:10 PM
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As in most things we do---it depends!
I do a lot of wood collecting and I have used a number of the woods which we read ar not usable. Things like cedar! So I have a bit different thinking than what I often read as much of our info is based on the person writing the info and it is true that much of our info comes from areas where the water is soft and acidic with little buffering qualities.
I find that the wood is a primary factor but not due to which species as much as other factors like how it may hold the sap/moisture/tannins or whatever name we use. In that area just under the bark is where much of the sap is found in many trees and that also makes a difference in how the wood will react in our tank. Some woods like cedar, pine, and the "softwoods" hold the sap and are famous for lots of sap and not rotting. That's why we build fences from cedar.
But there are also some hardwoods which also hold the sap for a very long time if we get a really thick piece as the wood does dry from the outside to inner layers. The nut producing trees, hickory, walnut, and pecan, are some that give me somewhat more trouble. Not that they are unusable, just that I have to be more aware and careful when picking them.
Most will agree that some woods do have chemicals which may be a problem, so we need to look at what we can do to avoid that becoming a major problem enough to avoid that wood? Kind of like the hazard of crossing a street when I want to get to the other side, I need to figure out what to do? Still a hazard but not bad if I don't get killed!
I have learned to use the wood but only when I can avoid the sap and it sounds like you have a good start on knowing totally dry wood when you find it and that plus my water are the keys to being able to use most any wood I find. Hard, alkaline water has lots of buffering quality built in, so I have a good start there, so I move to finding totally dry wood. Too much sap added to the wrong water can give more changes, too quickly, while drier wood added to different water may only be a small irritation until the color clears in a few months.
I often am not able to define the species very well when the wood is totally dry as many of the ID markers like size, shape, leaves, bark, and location will often be gone but when looking for dry, those clues are always there. Drier woods give fewer problems, even in the worst species, while fresher wood with moisture left will give increasing odds of problems in the trees which dry slowly.
In my experience?
Walnut seems to be a problem way past reasonable, cedar has to dry for decades, pine, too soft and never while pecan and hickory can work, depending on size and bulk, truly dry oak is fine and smallish sticks of various types are often usable as they are thin and dry quicker.
I judge the wood, not the species and the worst case I find is that I may have tea colored water which prompts me to pull that wood out and replace it.
A good long bleach soak for at least overnight is my method for easy clearing any questions of "wildcards" being added.
Go for it!
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-11-2019, 05:48 PM Thread Starter
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I'll stick some in a tub of water and test the effects to see what happens in my water. My water is pretty hard as well with ph around 7.2. I could do the bleach method as you suggest first then do a soak to test parameters, leach tannis, and get it to sink so I coukd use it right away after testing if it seems safe.

Thanks for all the advice, I'd looked up a lot on here what I could and saw that you rich had commented on a lot of people's post concerning discovered wood for tanks and hoped you'd comment on mine.

Thanks everyone I'll try this out and try to update later, probably be at least a week.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-11-2019, 05:50 PM
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I pick up wood along the riverbank all the time without worrying about what kind. I figure if it's been underwater and debarked by the current most of the problems have leached away.

I do give a soak in bleachy water and rinse well before using. Small pieces I might even put in the microwave.

Hckorys are rare here. Truth I've yet to see one and I wander the woods but maps tell me they do exist. Pecans aren't happening, neither are english walnuts. Black walnuts are a real rarity. The lumber is too valuable and the moment they get to any size they are harvested.

Most off what I pick up is birch, poplar and alder. The local beavers are constantly cutting them. Apple wood is nice if you have a tree that isn't loaded with pesticides.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-11-2019, 06:11 PM
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The lakes in my area tend to rise and fall often, so that leaves me less prone to fishing it out of the water but there are ways to test what the real "wetness" might be. Just being wet as fromsetting in water is not so much a factor for me as how much of the natural sap/moisture is left so I sometimes doa test and cut an end off so that I can see what the deeper layers have. As wood dries most of it will change color and if we cut an end off and find a pretty uniform color all the way through, it says it has dried all the way through. There will often be some difference in color around knots and such but if the general look is uniform, it is more likely to be okay. I tend to shy away from wood with the bark still on as that is one of the first things to dry,crack and fall off.
This is an old piece of cedar that I cut to make a space for cichlids who liked to hide and breed in it and it is an example of what I want the inner layers to look like.
The second picture is the wood in use back before I got into REAL plants! Plastic? What was I thinking!!
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-11-2019, 07:51 PM Thread Starter
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When I cut the wood from the stump I made sure to get the pieces that were not in contact with the ground as that would lead to rot and bugs more so. But despite it not being near a water source it was debarked naturally over time and dry throughout, uniform color through the cut as you mention rich.

I'm relatively confindent it will all be okay, the other thing I was going to do before the test was pressure wash it with straight water to get all the soft stuff off and essentially give it a good scrub. Then overnight bleach, let dry put the bleach until no smell and then soak it and see what happens.

Bump: Additionally I'm not as worried about the jugalone in the trees as mentioned before, the article linked states it breaks down to tolerable levels for plants after 6 months, that tree has been there upturned for at least 5 years.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-01-2019, 01:30 AM Thread Starter
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sorry for the delay in an update, and this isn't much of one but im on here now so i figured id drop in. I did the bleach soak and let the wood dry again after that for a few days until bleach smell was gone, now i am soaking the wood and i tested the water today when i put the wood in for soaking and will check this weekend to see how it affected water parameters. are there parameters to look for mainly other than PH and Hardness and alkalinity?

Cordially,

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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-04-2019, 03:08 PM
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Those and color are about all we can check and those are the big ones that "might" change. Usually the PH and color are the first spotted if there is a really bad choice and I have made them at times.
But a big part of the process is determined by a number of things that only you can judge for each tank. One big one is how fast and how much it bothers each tank as we all have differing levels of what fish we keep and how we feel about tea colored water. How fast is changed by how much buffering the water has and some fish find the change good while others do not. It normally tends to make the PH lower, so if you want soft water fish and have hard water, that can be a good thing----or not!
This is a great looking piece that I finally traded to an orchid keeper as it turned my water totally black, even though I have great buffering and the wood is like a hundred years old::
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-04-2019, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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Well i have tested the water after a full week submerged and weighted down.
Ph has dropped at most 1 point. from what i can tell with a test strip more like from 7.2 to about 6.8 every other parameter seems unchanged really.
Color has changed slightly, i used an old 55 gallon that's all scratched up to soak the wood and even with all the wood i have shoved in there and half the tank filled it is only mildly tinged, hardly noticeable at first.

Plan is to wait another week and test, then is all seems well enough then i will wait for it to sink i think then rescape the tank when i add the wood.

P.S. Also forgot to mention before that i pressure washed the wood before the bleach soak to remove as much grime as possible. small detail but wanted to be sure to mention it.

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-05-2019, 01:30 AM
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Thinking about the how and why of what bleach does, it is often good to remove as much of the surface grime as practical. Since the chlorine in bleach does react with anything organic like wood and most dirt, getting the larger amounts of dirt out first just lets the chlorine work on what is left, rather than simply burning itself up killing dirt which isn't likely to hurt much.
Much of it is a bit of estimate as we want to do kind of like the wife does when she uses bleach on our white shirt. We want it to react with the ring around the collar which is grease but not eat up the shirt!
Fortunately we don't have to be too careful with wood as it takes lots and lots of bleach to eat the whole thing! It does sometimes make a dark wood come out of the soak looking close to chicken but that dark color comes back soon after we put it in the tank.
Clearing the bleach and chlorine out seems to be the main point that concerns folks but we can find some help if we think about the chlorine we use in a pool. We have to keep adding more chlorine as it either reacts with the stuff in the pool or it blows away and we smell it, so it does the same thing for a wood soak. The chlorine either reacts with the wood, so it is no longer chlorine, or if we let it dry, it blows away. If there was something in bleach to soak in and not come out, most of us would have had real problems when everybody washed cloth diapers in bleach water. Might have been hard on the family jewels, if you catch my drift?
I guess we could always hang the wood out on the clothesline to dry like Momma did the diapers!
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-12-2019, 01:55 PM Thread Starter
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Ph is holding steady at about 6.8, that's where it was at week and now still at 2 weeks, and this is with half a 55 gallon tank filled and with all that wood in it. tannins are present but i think acceptable again with the thought that i wont be putting all that wood in one tank, probably a small piece in a 20 and a 29 then a bigger one in the 55 i have now. there was a fuzz growing on the wood yesterday when i looked at it, it was the same color as the tannins, a brownish colored wisps around the wood here and there, i think it is on it's way out when i saw it because it wasn't everywhere and from what i've read it is normally white, so being that it is brown i imagine it is dying off. wood is less buoyant now but not staying sunk, might wait another week or so before adding to tanks because i have no way to keep submerged. tried finding natural slate but couldn't.

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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-12-2019, 02:10 PM
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I used wood off white oak and pin oak trees in my backyard, in my angelfish tank when it was first set up. I boiled the wood and let it soak in the tank, it sank after a few weeks. Didn't harm my fishes at all, and snails loved eating the biofilm and fungus- but I was disappointed after just a four months my sticks rotted- however they weren't as thick as yours, and probably not cured long enough in the weather, or I didn't take enough outer layers off.


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