DIY Driftwood questions - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2014, 04:35 AM Thread Starter
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DIY Driftwood questions

My brother found some driftwood along the shore of our local reservoir. Most pieces are grayish in color (like pic below) & are very light weight .. like it hadn't been in water for a while. Does this mean it's old or seasoned enough to use (after proper disinfecting)? How can I tell which wood is safe when it's NOT grayish in color?

I didn't see any green, mold, soft or decaying stuff on any of the pieces. All pieces were dense .. I had to use a hand saw to cut a couple pieces & even the smaller branches wouldn't break off so it's not brittle.

On a couple pieces that weren't grayish in color several small areas had what looked like could have been some bark residue. ?? I scraped it off with my knife but it didn't come off very easily & some I had to whittle the wood to get it off. Are these safe to use? I'm pretty sure it's hardwood of some sort .. couldn't poke my fingernail into it if that is the only way to tell. ???

Is this cedar wood? It does have an aroma to it.




I've read Tom Barr's many posts saying no problems using cedar, if old or well-seasoned. Does the silvery/grayish color mean it's well seasoned?

I did a bleach soak & scrub of most of the pieces. They are now soaking in 30 gal Sterilite container in water that I heavily overdosed with Safe (powered Prime). For the number of pieces in the container (maybe 10 of varying sizes) it doesn't seem to have leached very much tannins in 24 hrs. I didn't boil them or use hot water though. What does that tell me, if anything?

I do 50% water changes weekly & not worried about tannins coloring the water just don't want to use something isn't "cured" enough, especially cedar if in fact that's what it is.

Sorry I know similar questions have been asked and I did read a lot of previous posts but I guess I'm just not sure how to tell seasoned wood from newish wood.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2014, 12:06 PM
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From your picture, the grey patina of the outside and the red color of the split section lead me to believe it's eastern red cedar. If well seasoned there is really no issue using it in a tank. Cedar is one of those woods that really isn't "hard" or "soft". It doesn't break down as fast as most softwoods do in water. If you cannot smell a strong odor from a fresh cut , then I would say it's pretty well seasoned. The problem with cedar is not with the wood itself, rather it's sap. This sap is what makes cedar rather rot resistant as it is a natural bug/bacteria repellant. I have a couple small interestingly shaped pieces of cedar in a tank with a Betta and cories, full of plants with no problems at all. I also use cedar trunks for fence posts around my property.


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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-05-2014, 04:47 PM
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This is an area where the terms "seasoned" and "dry" have lots of different levels. Judgement calls are needed.
Maybe first is a thought on what happens if we go really, really wrong on choosing wood. One you know about is color. More sap, more color. But then there are often big worries about killing fish or the wood changing the water. These can happen but then even that has lots of variables. How much sap and how delicate the fish are two. But then a big one in my experience has been the water you have. Hard alkaline water with lots of GH/KH for buffering? You may be able to throw most anything in and not see much difference. Buffering counts!
What happens if we mess up on the judgement and get the wrong wood? Nothing overnight. Wood does not dry quick and it also does not soak quick to release the tannins/sap. So if you are totally wrong, you get a condition that slowly gets worse over time. The worse the judgement, the quicker things go downhill but never so quick that you don't have a week or more to notice and pull the wood out. Maybe a lot more water changes to keep it all level? Upsets your carefully planned tank? Sorry, that is the price for being wrong. Not too big in most people's mind.
Your wood is most likely cedar that is pretty dry. Fully dry is more likely to have uniform color from outer to inner layers. The remaining bits of bark also tell on the age as bark is normally shed reasonably quickly. Could be a better choice but there are far worse!
Unusable, no, but it does deserve watching and doing a bit of testing the water more than if it were not there.
Many small ponds often have lots of cedar trees and branches in them and fish prosper.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-06-2014, 12:18 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. Been very helpful. Just need a bit more help.

Here's a couple more pics from when I changed the water today that I have questions about.

Here's the whole lot of wood in the 30 gal container .. that top piece looks burnt in photo but didn't look that way in person. Just looks like darker wood. If burnt I'm assuming that's bad ?? :



This one shows the color of the water with that amount of wood soaking for 24 hrs (should have used a white bucket to see it better). Container probably had about 10-15 gal of water. Does it seem they are leeching a lot of tannins or not much??:




This is one piece I really wanted to use .. it appears to be cedar too? It's not very silver/grayish so thinking it's not seasoned ??




Another angle of same piece:



Thanks for the help.

edit: I should mention my water is not very hard. I've been keeping a close eye on the KH, GH & PH in the tank I want to use this wood in because I recently changed substrate to Safe-T-Sorb. So far it's been holding steady at KH=4, GH=3, PH= 7.4. Fish are very hardy.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-06-2014, 02:06 AM
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I would guess for tannin, you are going to be okay. I find that wood that has burned spots seems to color the water, though. Not sure whty as it would seem to just be charcoal but you may want to try the others without that piece or someway seperate it to get a better reading on what colors you may get. Not a problem other than color, though.
The last stick may be a little too green for my choice. The outer to inner color difference is pretty strong. I suspect it may smell pretty strong, too , when not wet.
For color of the wood, be aware that it will not stay the silver/grey color but go back to a more natural "live" color.
This is a piece of small cedar that was totally grey at first but has been in tanks for several years now.

Kind of tough to take pictures at this time as my fish think it's chow time. Got everybody to leave except old Bristlenose.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-06-2014, 02:50 AM Thread Starter
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Ok .. thanks for confirmation on what I thought about that last piece. I really liked the wood grain/color & had another piece I was going to attach to it to make more branchy. What's weird is the other piece doesn't appear to be cedar but had same type of outter coloring so it blended good with that cedar piece. Ah well .. Think I'll leave it outside for a while until it ages more. Maybe use later date.

I really don't think that is is a burned spot. I didn't notice it looking burnt until I saw that photo. I'll inspect it closer .. thinks it's just be the way the wood looks. I'll have to see if I like how it looks in the water though since I don't like the way the photo makes it look.

Appreciate all the help! I have a much better idea of what to look for now.

edit: yeah I forgot to mention that last cedar piece is the one that smells strong. The one pictured in my first post I smelled it today & no odor from it at all.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-06-2014, 03:10 AM
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Cedar is indeed useable in a tank IF it does not have a strong smell

The large wood behind my pleco on the glass is a red cedar i bought from [Ebay Link Removed] The seller said it was submerged in a man made lake (formed by a damn) for over 60 years. When I got it, it did have a little bit of a smell, I soaked it for a month before it was bolted to a river rock and put in the tank (smell was gone unless a new hole was drilled into its core). The pleco reaps on it and loved to hide under it. Its been in there will him for 5 months, no issue.
Again I will emphasize, if it noticeably smells of cedar just as is.. its still fresh, and not a good idea to use yet, but it can be soaked (or even boiled) to age it and make it safe.
btw: this thing is for-ever buoyant =,=

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-06-2014, 03:22 AM Thread Starter
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I did want to use one of the other pieces to float at the top but it wasn't going to be that cedar piece .. too bad since it sounds like it would work good for that. LOL

Plan on attaching the floating piece to center brace (old Oceanic with glass brace). I need a hiding spot at top of water until plants grow taller.

Maybe I'll put the cedar piece in oven to help "age" it. Won't fit in pot & not gonna do the pouring boiling water on it .. not worth that much effort. LOL
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-06-2014, 03:29 PM
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Sounds like you have a plan!
My first advise to those thinking about adding wood is they should try it before rejecting the whole idea. There are just so many things we miss when we just don't try things.
Don't be afraid of wood. Even big cedar can work out great if you try it.
This is a picture from my pre-planted days. I had this large cedar stump in my breeding tank where there were 6 rainbow cichlids(herotilapia multispinosa). Obvious that cleaning the tank took second to breeding so just ignore the dirty glass and stand, please.

This older male was checking out the young breeding pair and their new fry. Notice the big cedar log seems to work okay?
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-09-2014, 12:24 AM Thread Starter
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@AquaAurora .. very cool looking Pleco and that driftwood is very nice too!

@PlantedRich .. appreciate your input. I'm definitely not giving up on that cedar piece. I really like the patina after it's wet & because it will blend good another piece I have that's not cedar to make a nice branchy piece.

I took that piece out of the soaking tub & after 48 hrs of drying back out it now looks like the pic in my very first post. Has that silvery/gray color (I thought it did before I started soaking it). The middle (heart) is a bit lighter than it shows in the photos in my 2nd post but that is probably because it's still wet there. It still has a pretty strong aroma. So I'm gonna "age" it just a bit more, than try it out.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-09-2014, 02:36 PM
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I find I often have a far more liberal view of using things in my tanks. Some have a dedicated plan but my tanks are all "works in progress" that change often. I find no harm at all in just shooting for ideas that might work. Wood is one that I can never say for certain that it will work for the long haul but I also find that it doesn't bother me at all to pull it out if I don't like what it is doing.
Many are afraid of wood, assuming it will do something really dramatic and in some way harm the tank. I never find wood to be quick. If it does color the water, it may take weeks, if it does change the water, it will be slow and I can change before any real harm. So rather than debate and worry or guess at potential problems, I find it far more productive to just go with an educated guess and find out for sure over time.
It's all just a learning experience for me.
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-09-2014, 09:36 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your additional thoughts. I didn't realize changes that driftwood might make could take that long.

Right now I'm still in the process of arranging stuff in my recently acquired used 75 gal tank. It takes a bunch of tinkering in order to break up territories & line of sight fights. I'll move a plant or piece of driftwood and see how it works out for a few days or weeks. If it's not working like I need it too, I'll do something different. For me it's all about keeping fish happy more than have a planted show tank.

It's all a balancing act. LOL
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 04-10-2014, 12:42 AM
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Sounds like you have it working on going the right direction. My biggie is that about the time it gets right, I decide I want something else!
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