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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 90 gallon aquarium where I intend to make a thin rock wall from styrofoam and concrete.

I also have driftwood over 3 feet long with lots of small bits and bark flaking off (I picked it out of the river a few years ago, and it has been left outside for years). Were these pieces to be used, I would want to make them stable, so that nothing flakes off over the years that it would be in the aquarium. A challenge to this would be how to mount the wood all together and still get it into the tank. The center brace is in the way.

The bark flaking off of the wood looks interesting, and if covering the surfaces with clear epoxy would preserve the present state, I would like to do that. Since the wood is very dry, it would definitely float. Probably it could all be glued together into one piece and mounted to slate tile to keep it submerged, with the slate being covered by the sand/gravel substrate. Being able to get the whole thing into the tank may be possible if the final step of attaching the wood to the slate could be done in the tank with a stainless steel bolt or two and removable nut(s). I may want to rescape in the future, without destroying the piece.

Does anyone here have experience with clear epoxy resin, and whether it would work for this project? It would need to keep the flakey bits from being dislodged were the wood to need to be cleaned with a brush. Could epoxy resin be applied with a paint brush to achieve this?
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I believe that this discussion also has a similar topic if you want to check it out.
 

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Do not clear coat wood. It will ruin the wood.

The wood will definitely change when under water for long periods, but the good news is that those changes tend to enhance how the wood looks with it gaining texture etc. Bark should be removed in advance if possible since it contains a lot of resins that can mess with your water.
 

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I don't know anything about coating wood, I just wanted to say that that is a really cool piece! I can see why you want to use it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Do not clear coat wood. It will ruin the wood.

The wood will definitely change when under water for long periods, but the good news is that those changes tend to enhance how the wood looks with it gaining texture etc. Bark should be removed in advance if possible since it contains a lot of resins that can mess with your water.
How would clear coat ruin the wood? I expected that it would protect it against degrading further. I like the look of the old bark that is still barely hanging on. Tonight I picked up some Minwax Polycrylic that I am testing on a small piece that I wouldn't really miss if it came out unuseable. I thought I might use some clear epoxy resin to coat the wood once the polycrylic has sealed it up.

I don't know anything about coating wood, I just wanted to say that that is a really cool piece! I can see why you want to use it!
I didn't know anything about coating wood for aquarium use until the last couple days. So far, it appears that there are a few things that should be able to work, but it is difficult to find anything definitive.

I believe that this discussion also has a similar topic if you want to check it out.
Thanks for the reference. From that thread, those who commented mostly said not to clear coat any wood to go into an aquarium. One pointed out possibly using epoxy resin. What I have been seeing in my wide search is that epoxy resin should be be perfectly safe in the aquarium. I just haven't found anything referring to somebody coating raw driftwood for aquarium use. I may be the first.

I found three more smaller pieces of driftwood that I had picked up on that same excursion, that are even more sun-bleached from the years in the flower bed on the south side of the house. They actually look really good. My wife looked at all this wood that I loaded into the tank, and she thinks it is just too much. I may have to pick out some of the smaller pieces, keeping mainly the one big one. But if I end up liking all of it in the tank, then in the tank it will all go!
 

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How would clear coat ruin the wood? I expected that it would protect it against degrading further. I like the look of the old bark that is still barely hanging on. Tonight I picked up some Minwax Polycrylic that I am testing on a small piece that I wouldn't really miss if it came out unuseable. I thought I might use some clear epoxy resin to coat the wood once the polycrylic has sealed it up.
Definitely do not coat any wood you ever want to use in an aquarium. This is pretty important.

Anyway as to why it won't work, its because of the nature of the wood and the resin. First of all not all resins are created equal. Anything you find that doesn't say 'for marine use' is definitely not designed to be constantly submerged and will dissolve/fall apart in time and that will happen in your tank.

Secondly, even if you went out and bought some resin used in boat building you would still have the underlying issue that the wood itself will degrade over time and the resin will fall off. Even boats have to be recoated every few years if left in the water. So if you bought the right resin it would buy you a period of months to maybe a year or 2 before your tank is a disaster. Meanwhile once the resin starts falling off there is no making the wood look normal again. You can not undo this once its on. Resin is not a material that 'blends' one coat with the next so anywhere its gotten thin will show up as white lines on the wood so simply recoating is not a viable option either.

This all assumes that the resin itself doesn't off gas enough chemicals to sterilize all life in your tank which is frankly not a guarantee. There is no such thing as boat building crystal clear resin that is also food contact safe.

Sooooooo yeah, its your wood and you can do whatever you want to it but on a scale of 1-10 of bad ideas to good ideas this is definitely 1. Just boil the wood to make it sink and put it right into the tank. It will look great and keep looking great for decades. Yes any pieces of bark that are literally falling off will fall off sooner or later, but the rest of the structure will remain.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Definitely do not coat any wood you ever want to use in an aquarium. This is pretty important.
Is it safe to spray paint PVC pipes for overflow and return using Krylon? Is it only wood you would not coat?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I applied a couple coats of polycrylic to some of the pieces of driftwood that may go into this 90 gallon aquarium.
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Anyway as to why it won't work, its because of the nature of the wood and the resin. First of all not all resins are created equal. Anything you find that doesn't say 'for marine use' is definitely not designed to be constantly submerged and will dissolve/fall apart in time and that will happen in your tank.

Secondly, even if you went out and bought some resin used in boat building you would still have the underlying issue that the wood itself will degrade over time and the resin will fall off. Even boats have to be recoated every few years if left in the water. So if you bought the right resin it would buy you a period of months to maybe a year or 2 before your tank is a disaster. Meanwhile once the resin starts falling off there is no making the wood look normal again. You can not undo this once its on. Resin is not a material that 'blends' one coat with the next so anywhere its gotten thin will show up as white lines on the wood so simply recoating is not a viable option either.

This all assumes that the resin itself doesn't off gas enough chemicals to sterilize all life in your tank which is frankly not a guarantee. There is no such thing as boat building crystal clear resin that is also food contact safe.
What you said has given me pause about putting polycrylic and/or epoxy resin on the driftwood. The main piece is not touched, yet. Do you have any examples of the potential problems you mentioned? If it is from your own experience, can you tell more?
 

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What you said has given me pause about putting polycrylic and/or epoxy resin on the driftwood. The main piece is not touched, yet. Do you have any examples of the potential problems you mentioned? If it is from your own experience, can you tell more?
I do woodworking as a hobby these past 10 years. My experience comes from that. Additionally while I have not made my own boat I seriously considered it for a while and did a lot of research into epoxy for that purpose.
 
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