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Hello,

I'm starting a new tank. It's 17"x19"x28" tall. I'd like a nice tall piece of driftwood for a centerpiece though I am considering leaving out the driftwood and trying to grow a Tiger Lotus as a centerpiece.

My problem is finding a suitable 24" to 28" piece. I can order them online, but you never know what you get ordering from a store as they promise a size range only. It's a couple hour drive to a really nice aquascaping store in Seattle, but I fear they would be really expensive and the wife is already having second thoughts about the cost of this adventure. I live along the National Forest in the Pacific Northwest and can find an abundant supply of water-logged driftwood 10 minutes from my house.

If I find a suitable piece without any visible critters on it is there any reason not to use it in my tropical aquascape? Are there any precautions?

I'd like to start planting next weekend and because of the size, boiling it in a pot isn't possible.

Thank you
 

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I favor finding something. You do have a wide range of sizes and all are free---if you do a bit of hiking. I often collect wood as most of the wood in shops has to be collected somewhere, right?
So the precautions needed? We often hear questions of what type of wood is safe. For that I make it easy on myself and collect wood that is totally dry. That leaves it impossible to tell what species as all the markers like bark, leaves, etc. are gone. If in doubt as to how dry it is, cut an end off to look at the color. If it is pretty much uniform color from outside to inner, it is likely to be totally dry as wood dries from out to in. So once you have the special one that appeals, there is still the question of what it may have picked up like oils or pesticides while out in nature. There are few places left which somebody doesn't run a boat, jet ski or snow mobile, so I always think there is the small chance of pollution. The ocean is full of it. One sure way to deal with almost all those questions is a good bleach soak. Bleach reacts very quickly with organics. Oil, bugs, fungus are all included in this use of organics. I put the wood in a container and weight it down to cover it with water and add a half cup or so of cheap, no scent, no color bleach. We want chlorine bleach without wild cards. No special amount as we don't really know how much dirt and other organics are there. I let it soak like overnight to be sure it has time to soak into the little nooks and crannies, then take it out, rinse to dilute the bleach and then let it dry totally. Once the smell is gone, the chlorine is gone. The chlorine gasses off and when it doesn't smell it's gone.
Big warning is that you DO NOT want to let the bleach get on clothing!!
Lots of bogus stories about the hazards of bleach soaking in and not coming out but then bleach is made of three things. Chlorine, a form of salt to help keep the chlorine from gassing off, and water. No deep dark mystery ingredients there.

A good piece of dry wood. The deeper orange color is from water soaking in during the bleach soak.

 

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With proper respect for all the small things, I see no major difference in wood from any spot. Some is soft and rotted and not worth the effort. Some is green and full of sap so that it is a pain to deal with the color so I avoid it. But whether from the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific or all the other points, I treat the wood the same to slant the odds in my favor. Choosing carefully so that you do pick up a good item worth dragging home and treating is a good place to start. With all the good wood that nature has laid out to dry, I never feel the need to use wet stuff nor do I limit my choices to true "driftwood". Drifting can do a lot for rounding the ends and smoothing the wood but then that is a pretty personal choice item to me. There are even times when I drag home some wood that is rotting. Wood that is rotting in the center makes it real easy to hollow out the good hard shell and I like hollow wood.
A piece from the Gulf that I am setting up for planting in the hollow. It was a bit tight inside but the wood was soft so I made what I wanted.

 

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Soaking it a few times in hot bathwater seems to get it to sink faster than in cold water. Some wood sinks after 2 days, and other wood 2 weeks
 

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Wood adds so much to our tanks to make them look natural that I hate to see how much totally good wood is passed up just because the basics are not well understood. We get so much bad info on the internet and so much of it is really ingrained in the hobby that I am always ready to try to blow some of those myths away.

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/4...s-select-driftwood-now-stock.html#post9200769

I just read this on the general section of the forum. If you take a look at the really nice wood they are using and compare it to the first picture I posted above, you may get the idea of one myth I find in the hobby. Cedar is certainly not recommended by many who have heard forever that it is deadly. But then what is the difference in the great wood they have found and the cedar/juniper stump in my first picture?

Get the DRY stuff!!
 

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Some trees are resin based which protects them from extreme cold. These should be avoided.
 

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Wood that has questionable materials (saps, other) should be aged. Alternately wet and dry until it is thoroughly dried all the way to the center. This usually breaks down most of the sap or other things. I let wood sit out in my yard through a winter, and the alternating rain and sun does the job.

Wood collected from streams or lakes can indeed be bleached to kill potential fish diseases or parasites.
 

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Not the be the voice of contrarity, but I really cringe when I hear the phrase 'soaking in bleach' and driftwood being used together. Certainly there's a slight less toxic solution to be tried like Potassium Permangenate, or Hydrogen Peroxide.

I've collected and used driftwood for aquariums from a medium sized Willamette Valley river. My main concerns would be how pristine is the river or stream above the collection point, that there are no big communities of houses on septic fields or a wood mill/paper mill in it's past or present?

The wood could be of any species and the other respondents have legitimate concerns on how much resins or other possibly toxic compounds the wood collected has. It might take a bit of investigating your wood on how how dense or soft the wood is, does it smell like Cedar, etc. if you cut it open, and if you can identify if it's from Alder/Oak/Maple or Coniferous tree.

There also might be laws concerning collecting deadwood from streams as a lot of times the wood is considered part of a riparian repair or restoring old damaged ecosystems. I'd check with whomever might be over seeing the land/stream before collecting.
 
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