Is this hardwood or softwood? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 01:52 AM Thread Starter
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Is this hardwood or softwood?

Hey guys could use some help identifying this piece of driftwood. Since I just got the 120 gallon tank I really am trying to find a local piece of large driftwood to avoid the outrageous cost of commercial driftwood. (if anyone has some let me know)


I found this piece at a local pond that flood's often and it looks PERFECT the shape and texture of it is amazing, almost as if it was MADE for a fish tank but I am not sure if it is HARDWOOD, I live in Massachusetts's if that help' identifying it at all.

Here is the wood :







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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 02:48 AM
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Unless you plan on having the tank for like 20 years, what difference does it make if
it's soft or hard wood?
When I take walks "out there" to collect various stuff the only thing I try to avoid is
Pine because Turpentine is made from Pine sap. Pine also degrades much faster than other woods do.

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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 03:42 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raymond S. View Post
Unless you plan on having the tank for like 20 years, what difference does it make if
it's soft or hard wood?
When I take walks "out there" to collect various stuff the only thing I try to avoid is
Pine because Turpentine is made from Pine sap. Pine also degrades much faster than other woods do.
I was always told you can't use softwood for aquarium because it will rot incredibly fast at temperatures of 72-80 and that bacteria grow inside it rapidly due to "open cell" structure compared to closed cell structured hard wood which protect's itself naturally in water from rot and bacteria?

If all the information I have read and have been told is wrong please tell me because I would love to use the drift-wood that I find after boiling/bleaching it!

How do i tell if it is Pine or an evergreen? I have no knowledge of wood's. This piece I found I can break the branches kind of easily I bent one and it just fell/broke off.
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 01:49 PM
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Looks soft to me. I'd spend $100 on Mopani driftwood. You are going to have a lot invested in a 120g tank. Do you really want to risk using some unknown wood?
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 04:04 PM
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You are correct to wonder about much of the stuff you have read. Start with the term softwood? That is not really the true definition of the term but a term used by lumber folks to describe how easy or hard it is to cut the wood. How the tree reproduces or how hard to cut the wood might be is not a real factor in our use of the wood. So we need to move on to what we do need to know. One reason to move on is that when the wood is close to being ready for our use, it is going to be really, really hard to tell what species it comes from in many cases.
If we were speaking of the wood being hard or soft, that is a factor. Don't use wood that is already getting mushy as it won't last long. But then you probably had that in mind already! Don't use wood that has lots of sap left as that is where color or something harmful might originate. Pine and cedar are often mentioned and they are considered "softwoods" by lumber folks. But the problem for us is that they also tend to have lots of sap and retain that sap for a long time. It is the sap content, not the species which is important. In theory, the species might have some effect on how long wood lasts but then you are talking about 10 years vs. 20 and it goes out too far for me to worry about.
I like to look at what does matter. How much sap is left?
Starting with how flexible is good. Any bark left may lean toward being newer but not a final answer. Is the piece lighter feeling than expected for the size? Weight is a factor as water weights far more than dry cellulose. Cutting to get a close look at the inside gives good info. Wood dries from the outside to inside and it can be expected to change color as it dries so if the total piece is pretty close to uniform color all the way, it is likely to be dry.
Don't buy into the idea that softwoods are not good. I often use some really large pieces that I know to be cedar and they last plenty long enough.

This is what totally dry wood should look like when cut through. The wet edges are from the piece being soaked. The wet spots come from out to in when you do the bleach soak but that is not the color to look at for our purpose. Look how uniform the color down through the center is. But keep in mind that this is wood that has been dead and weathered for a VERY long time not just 5-10 years.



This is a cedar or juniper log that I picked. It was longer but the fellow who wanted it had hollow and shorter in mind so I tunneled it out and cut it down to what he wanted.

Dry cedar is safe to use.
Rainbow cichlids ( herotilapia multispinosa) protecting fry. Note the large cedar log.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 04:20 PM
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Please note: cedar is only safe if it is very well aged (dead a long time) if there is sap still in it it won't be safe. I have a red cedar in my 55g, it was submerged in a man made lake for over 60 years before the seller pulled it out. I would not trust any cedar that still smells noticeably like cedar from a casual sniff

One way to tell if a wood is a hardwood or softwood is to press your fingernail against the wood, does it press in easily and leave an indentation (soft) or does the wood resist and not leave a notch from your finger nail (hard)?

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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 04:51 PM
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Not sure if Tom Barr still frequents this site or not. But, its worth reaching out to him if you're looking for driftwood. I believe his site is thebarrreport.com or something along those lines.
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AquaAurora View Post
Please note: cedar is only safe if it is very well aged (dead a long time) if there is sap still in it it won't be safe. I have a red cedar in my 55g, it was submerged in a man made lake for over 60 years before the seller pulled it out. I would not trust any cedar that still smells noticeably like cedar from a casual sniff

One way to tell if a wood is a hardwood or softwood is to press your fingernail against the wood, does it press in easily and leave an indentation (soft) or does the wood resist and not leave a notch from your finger nail (hard)?
Did you know balsa wood is a hardwood even though it's a soft wood?
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 06:32 PM
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Did you know balsa wood is a hardwood even though it's a soft wood?
I've not heard of balsa wood so no I didn't know that. Cedar is a soft wood thats considered hard enough to be OK for the aquarium too.

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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 10:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AquaAurora View Post
I've not heard of balsa wood so no I didn't know that. Cedar is a soft wood thats considered hard enough to be OK for the aquarium too.
Sure you have. Ever seen those wooden rubber band driven airplanes in the toy store?
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post #11 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 10:39 PM
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Balsa wood will rot pretty fast, its very porous.
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post #12 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-17-2015, 10:45 PM
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Hardwood = Angiosperm = Flowering plant
Softwood = Gymnosperm = Seed producing plant

http://science.howstuffworks.com/lif...uestion598.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardwood
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowering_plant


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post #13 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-18-2015, 08:17 PM
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That's where things get weird! There are softwoods which are hard and hardwoods which are soft. So unless you want to saw it, the issue is not really a practical thing to worry about. If it is getting mushy, don't bother with it.
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post #14 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-19-2015, 01:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys for all the information, I never imagined it would be so difficult to judge whether the wood is aquarium safe. I am thinking this is a soft-wood and even though it was washed up on the shore of a local lake I am thinking it probably isn't aged enough and not safe for use.
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post #15 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-19-2015, 02:36 AM
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Soak it in a tub. Drain and fill a few times. Then add some sacrificial fish and see how they fare. You may be surprised.

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