Wood ? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 05:32 AM Thread Starter
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Wood ?

Is mulberry ok as driftwood?
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 12:35 PM
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A google search turned up no toxins associated with mullberry. It further turned up this link:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/2...lberry-dw.html

So yea, should be fine so long as its been dried long enough that it doesn't have sap in it. That means if air drying it needs to be off the plant (or dead) for 1 year for every inch of wood. So a 2" diameter branch needs 1 year to dry (since the dryness moves in from every direction at once). Hope that makes sense.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 02:40 PM
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How dry is the prime concern for me as the type matters very little once the sap/moisture/tannin are gone. I often use cedar once it is totally dry but the question of how long that takes is still an open question for me as conditions matter a whole bunch. What dries in a few years in Texas may take far longer in a climate where it is cool and humid. For large cedar, even in the local heat, it takes at least ten years to get safe and not bleed tannin to color the water. Along with tannin that color the water, aging removes the "toxins" that many fear in the softwoods like cedar and pine.
That leaves me to test before deciding. Since wood does dry from outer to inner, I look first at the outside and know that bark dries first and often peels or flakes off when dry. So is there bark still firmly attached? Odds are that the wood underneath is not dry and I don't bother to pick up that piece.
A second step is cutting an end off the larger part to get a look at the inside. Wood normally changes color as it dries so if I find a generally uniform color all the way through, I call it dry. Exceptions are around knots, etc. where it does dry slower but if there are not a large number of those places, the tannin content is also expected to be low.
What I don't want to see is a cut that shows an outer ring of one color and the center another which often indicates it is still "green" there. Some wood does have a center core that is different and it does take some judgement on what you are seeing.
It is my general idea that there are very, very few woods which are truly toxic but the sap is a totally different thing and I want to avoid it as it is just too much trouble on several points.

Dry cedar, cut and trimmed to add space for fish hiding when turned over. Second picture is the wood in use from my pre-planted days shows rainbow cichlids protecting fry in the little black gob under them. Grandpa visiting day, perhaps?
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 04:53 PM
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Color and bark are not a great way of determining dryness. I do woodworking as a side hobby and I have seen more then a few slabs still have bark firmly attached even after going through kiln drying. Additionally some hardwoods will have sap wood and hardwood of a similar color, but most actually have very distinct color change no matter how dry. The sapwood being on the outside and heartwood in the center of the tree. Most furniture builders are interested only in heartwood and have to either dye or cutoff the sapwood when making furniture. Weathering can make them look the same and decay will make bark fall off. But those are not good indicators of dryness either.

The 1 year per inch of dryness is a general rule used the world over for woodworking for hardwoods (not commenting on softwoods as I don't dry them). Its true that if you live in arid windy place it could go faster vs a humid location but the 1 year rule has the safety factor built in. I live in Maryland and it is quite humid here most of the year and 1 year is still adequate to dry the wood. However, if you wanted to be insanely careful you could buy a moisture meter which will tell you the % moisture of the wood. Cheap ones are mostly useless but the more expensive ones (a few hundred dollars) are pretty accurate. Air drying wood will get it down 20% or less depending on where you live. Kiln drying can get it down to 3-6%. Either would work for an aquarium however, boiling it is another way of drying it somewhat bizarrely. In boiling it you are getting rid of the sap that can mess with the aquarium. As it cools and air drys after boiling it won't go back up to the same moisture level from before it was boiled. Wood turners (people who use lathes) are typically the ones who boil wood these days since their wood tends to be small enough that it can fit into a pot.

For our purposes the wood we use is small enough you could bring it indoors. Putting in your basement on top of or underneath an air vent in a climate controlled house will also dry the wood faster then leaving it out doors but I would still wait the year to be safe.

Regarding cedar, I have never tried to dry it. The only time I have used cedar I wanted it to be as oily as possible because typically in woodworking when you use cedar you are doing so to get the smell. Aromatic cedar is known for having a high 'oil' content which is why it smells the way it does for so long after it has been dried.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 06:07 PM
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I stand by my advise and note that it is from many years of using various wood in tanks, and that is quite different than using wood to make furniture, etc. We will rarely find kiln dried wood when we are searching for driftwood, so knowing how wood dries in a kiln is not really likely to change what we find and keep for our tank use.
Perhaps step one for how to find driftwood should be to NOT go to the lumber yard? But then, I give most of you folks credit for knowing that!
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-11-2019, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
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Fyi mulberry is a softwood and will always be different colored orange center brown everywhere else
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 03:17 AM
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Fyi mulberry is a softwood and will always be different colored orange center brown everywhere else
Fully agree as many wood types are different colored at the core when they are still green. Cedar is also a softwood and it is a far different color in the center until it fully dries. But being a softwood doesn't automatically mean it is a bad wood to use, we just need to be more careful in choosing which item of that type we might use and since we often can't tell what species a piece is if we are picking it up out in the field, I rarely give it much thought as being dry and the appearance are the two main items I look for.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 08:53 PM Thread Starter
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Ok ive got a piece of maple its from a dead tree aswell its been dry for years.
Any wood i get will be from trees i cut ie the mulberry.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 09:09 PM
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Ok ive got a piece of maple its from a dead tree aswell its been dry for years.
Any wood i get will be from trees i cut ie the mulberry.
Either are likely to be quite safe to use but with knowing that there are some "difficulties" involved if we get it too green. Toxins are in a few plants but I generally find that is not a big problem as those woods that bleed anything toxic are more likely to color the water too much for me to leave it long enough for any potential toxins to build to dangerous levels. With many tanks, we change so much water that collecting enough pollution of some form is not as big a worry as it might seem. Fish and plants have coexisted in most places for a long time and we rarely hear of fish kills due to the surrounding foliage.
No guarantees on anything being totally safe but it isn't very often a problem if we do watch for anything like fish stress to begin to show.
My main point is that there are two parts to any wood. The hard dry stuff and the wet juicy stuff and if we wait for the juicy stuff to be gone, the hard dry stuff is left and doesn't go anywhere, just lays there! Water fills in where the juicy used to be and all is okay. But if we add the juicy, it can easily come out and mix with the water and cause color that most don't like except for the blackwater tanks.
As long as we go at it and keep in mind that things may need to be adjusted if there is trouble, I find little to worry about as that is true of almost everything in the tank world. We have to watch and if something does look wrong, we have to change things up.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 08:24 AM Thread Starter
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Ok thank you
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 09:28 AM
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If you see oak tree look for old dry dropped branches. Boil them and itís ready to go. Leaves can also be used same as almond leaves as water conditioner.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 12:48 PM
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If you see oak tree look for old dry dropped branches. Boil them and itís ready to go. Leaves can also be used same as almond leaves as water conditioner.
I have planned to go out this coming Saturday to specifically look for some oak and oak leaves for a blackwater tank rescape.


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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 01:19 PM
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Part of my reason for not caring much about the species of driftwood is due to the way we ID the stuff. When we want to sort out what species are tree might be, we look at things like leaves, size and shape. location and such that are often all gone when we look at driftwood. Some woods are distinct enough to be spotted but many times when we get a truly old piece, all the clues are gone. Was it an old twisted oak limb or was it a root from a cherry tree?
So I don't worry the issue as I find it doesn't matter as long as it's truly dry! I like to pick the shore of lakes and rivers when the wood gets tossed up after drifting around for years.
This is one of my favorite spots as it is so easy:
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 01:25 PM
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I like to pick the shore of lakes and rivers when the wood gets tossed up after drifting around for years.
I've gotten several pieces of driftwood from the South Shore of Lake Superior. The prevailing wind drives it up onto the beach during the storms here. I'd post a photo, but I'm on an office computer and not my laptop.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 02:57 PM
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I've gotten several pieces of driftwood from the South Shore of Lake Superior. The prevailing wind drives it up onto the beach during the storms here. I'd post a photo, but I'm on an office computer and not my laptop.
This brings up a good point when we start looking for wood as there are a number of points which we can use to make it quicker and easier to find the good stuff.
If we want the old gnarly "true driftwood" we need to have water but we can cut the chase a whole bunch if we do some advance work before heading out.
Think about the prevailing wind in your area and then go modern with the search. In the central US and much of the world that wind comes from the SW more than other directions. I use Googlemaps as a first stop when I'm not in home territory as it gives me a real advantage to save a lot of wasted time and effort. If you figure the prevailing wind, zoom in on the arms and coves on the shore mostly to catch the driftwood. If you see piles of wood on the banks of those areas, look for nearby access as you will not want to miles down a trail, find a great piece but not be able to carry it back! Much depends on what size and shape you are looking to pick but if I want a piece that can't fit on or in a backpack, I limit the hike to a mile or so!
A second good place to hunt are the spots where rivers flood and push stuff up into piles or hang it in trees as that leaves the wood up off the ground where it can weather and dry without being rotten or too bug eaten to be any good. Walking along through the forest may get something but the odds are pretty good that fallen branches will have too much ground contact to be what I want.
Enjoy the chase! It's lots more fun than going to the gym.
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