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Discussion Starter #1
Heloo yall,
So I recently collected several manzanita branches. While collecting, I ran across a question. How do I tell which branch is of good quality to put into am aquarium?

When I see videos and photos of people collecting and treating/preparing their manzanita, it always looks sunbleached and dry. But when I videos or photos of tanks with manzanita in them, the manzanita is always red or a similar darker color.

I attached some photos of the manzanita I collected. Some branches are dry and white, while others are still somewhat fresh. All the wood I collected was dead. I did not harm living plants.

On one of the branches there are some green leaves, but I didnt see them until after I took the branch.


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Collecting any wood has a few basic things that I keep in mind. One is that the drier the wood, the less likely to have the tannin/moisture or sap that may cause trouble. Kind of basic definition of dry, is that it lacks moisture?
So that leaves any wood to be more likely to do the things we usually don't want if it has more water. there is often mention of black water tanks and those odd things we DO want at times but for most of us, avoiding the color is better.
How to tell how dry?
One is the sunbleached dry look and that also means no leaves left! That on I might lay back for a few months or a year to give nature more time, just because it is suspect.
One way to get a better idea of what's inside is to cut a stub off the larger end and look at the colors as wood dries from outer to inner layers usually. If we see an almost uniform color, it usually means the wood is dry all the way though. There will often be portions around knots, etc where things are still a bit different but the fewer and less color the safer.
Dealing with nature always has some level of risk involved but we can slant the odds with a few basic things. I know cedar has a bad rep for tank use but I find I can use it if I am careful, so take a look at this picture of a big one I cut out to make a space for fish to go under for breeding as it does show the colors.
A big point on your question about the color is that wood losing color when dry but will almost always return to the "wet" color when it goes into the tank and gets fully wet again.
Compare the two pictures of this wood for what I find.
I feel I can use cedar because I do have very hard, alkaline water with lots of buffering to handle any small amount of moisture but I also choose totally dry wood. Not dry as in dying last year but dry as it gets after tens of years for cedar!

NOTE:
This was when I was breeding and before getting into plants. Just in case you don't recognize those! The fish? Those are rainbow cichlids whos used the wood for breeding space.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Wow. That is really helpful.

Holding the super dry ones in my hand, it seemed to be that they'd be releasing more tannins into the water. But that could possibly just be the outer layer and I can sandpaper it off or find a different method to clean them off.

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A look at tannin tells me it is often in the bark or the next layer in, so some things depend on what you feel you want, but one of the things I like is getting the wood which if often older and more weathered so that much of the bark is already gone. I've never used manzanita and not lived where I have much experience with it.
Does it dry and the bark split so that it can be shucked off pretty easy? As I said, no experience using it in tanks, so does it gradually fall apart and go floating around the tank if we leave it on? That is one that I don't like chasing!
I'm somewhat surprised that nobody has jumped your case and told you what an evil person you are and that collecting manzanita is such a criminal act! But that is often from folks who only read a little bit of the rules and not get down to real facts. My main experience with the stuff is from being in the mountains North of LA and getting closer to what really happens after a big fire kills a bunch of it and leaves it all over as tinder for setting the next fire!
We worked with the rangers and stayed in a campground called "manzanita campground" and found it was stacked and used as firewood as one way to get rid of the underbrush!
The dead pines were cut in chunks but hard to get started but the manzanita made good fire starters! :grin2:
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited by Moderator)
I'm somewhat surprised that nobody has jumped your case and told you what an evil person you are and that collecting manzanita is such a criminal act! But that is often from folks who only read a little bit of the rules and not get down to real facts. My main experience with the stuff is from being in the mountains North of LA and getting closer to what really happens after a big fire kills a bunch of it and leaves it all over as tinder for setting the next fire!


:grin2:
Yea, in Oregon it is legal to collect dead manzanita wood. If it's for private use (instead of commercial use) then most places don't require a permit. Some do , but i don't know which ones tho.

As for the bark, on my biggest dry piece, there is little bark left, but the wood itself has cracked in a few places.

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I sawed off one of the branches just now, and this is the cross cut


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It seems to me that the center has already started to degrade

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Depending how big, the cracks have some chance of going back together as the wood soaks and expands again. Two parts of most of the wood are water and cellulose, so when the water leaves, the wood often does shrink and that makes it crack. Add the water back and it sometimes goes back together!
But one way to tell wood is really dry is when it does crack.
Kind of a mixed bag of good and bad, huh?

Funny thing here! I thought I had sent a reply about the cracking but when I look in this morning the note is still here.
I think that means the post did not get sent because I failed!!

So part two? Lots of wood grows with a soft center and that may be true of manzanita. Others who have used it more may be able to tell you more about that.
Or it may be that you just happened to hit a spot where there was a void for some reason and the plant continued to grow and cover it? Just pure guessing but that center looks like it might be a hole that got filled with sawdust as you cut. Maybe doing some probing and dig the loose stuff out to see if it runs all the way up or only a small hole that doesn't hurt anything? Maybe cut it off an inch shorter and see how it looks then.
I'm not the best on manzanita for sure. My experience with it was when doing repair on electronics after fires and it was not a time when we were doing much study of the leftovers!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Yea, the whole isn't filled with sawdust. The center of the branches are filled with softer wood that i can easily pick or scrape out. Amd i havmt been able to find anything on Google about the vemter being soft.

When I cut a cross section of some greener wood, it didnt have a soft center.

Thank you for taking the time to help amd explain stuff. I knkw you havnt had much experience with manzanita, but your info was still helpful. I really appreciate it

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Always glad to try!
So then we get down to how bold you want to be, perhaps? Safer is to put it in some tub, etc. and let it soak for some time to see what it does but then the quicker way is to just go with it and see if it works out okay.
I'm not one to wait too long for answers as I like to move ahead with getting a tank ready and the truth is that I often go with some things that have lots of questions as long as it doesn't involve me killing my fish. I have kind of fallen into trying things but watching for something going bad and that lets me do a lot of things but other times, I have to tear it pretty well down and start over.
But one piece of wood may or may not be a killer for the whole plan. If you have access to lots of manzanita, the safer plan is to not start with one which is suspect, but that has lots of personal choice built in, like how hard it is to get a different piece, how long do you want to wait, how bad you feel if you do find it goes soft too soon and has to be removed.
My personal situation is that I don't mind going for things that may not work after a year or so because I know I have a history of my tanks not being set and stable for very long! Since I know that I will probably not have the same setup for too many years, I don't mind trying a wood that may rot out in two years as it is likely to be gone before that!!
I've made so many mistakes, that I just go for it and don't worry if I have to do it over. BAD attitude but it does let me do a lot of things that I did not do when careful---like keep African cichlids that dig in a tank with plants! I was told I could not do that but after a load of mistakes, I got it working for what I wanted.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Ok, then i think im just gonna soak it outside today for a few hours and see what's what.

And nice job on keeping plants with African cichlids! Thats not an easy thing to do

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