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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
i have a 30 gallon tank that is tall and i am looking for a piece of wood to put in there to fill up a taller space.

i can't seem to find anything like that at my lfs. i would like to get something from outside.

what are some do's and don't's for getting wood from outside? how should i prepare the wood to go in my tank? what type should i look for?

thanks!

(i hope i put this in the right forum)
 

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You generally want wood that has already fallen rather than green wood. If you take green wood from your tree you'll have to let it cure for some time (months) outdoors before trying to use it, though you might be able to cheat and boil the snot out of the thing instead.

Look for wood from deciduous trees rather than evergreens (which have lots of resins), and avoid fruit/flowering tree wood unless you know that the trees haven't been treated for insects in the past year or two. With that in mind, you can use maple, oak, ash, sycamore, poplar, willow, any fruit/nut tree, and many others.

Avoid wood that is very soft and decaying, as it will simply fall apart in the water. Small spots of decay are alright as long as the wood is sound overall though. Generally speaking that means finding wood that is fallen but not covered in leaf litter.

To prepare wood for my tanks, I try to do three things: sterilize the wood, waterlog it, and reduce the amount of tannins it will leach. Sterilization is probably not terribly important, but it makes me feel better and happens incidentally to waterlogging the wood in any case. To do this I boil small pieces in a large pot for half an hour, then change the water and repeat several times. The water should show large amounts of tannins (by being tea colored) but if the wood is particularly well cured it may have already leached away most of them. Boil it at least until the wood sinks, unless you want to silicone/screw the piece onto a stone or ceramic plate. For large pieces of wood you may be able to boil the ends separately, or you may be able to soak it in a garbage can filled with water until it is waterlogged (this takes a while.) You might also just be stuck with having to attach it to something dense and covering that portion with substrate.

Even after you've boiled most pieces of wood, they will still contain substantial amounts of tannins. You can remove more of these by placing the wood in a large garbage can filled with water and leaving it to soak. Change the water out whenever it gets dark, and try to keep the can in the warmest location possible to speed the process. Depending on the type of wood you've chosen, its thickness, and the amount of curing it has already gone through outdoors, this can take a very very long time. If you don't mind the wood discoloring your tank water (some people prefer it) then you can add the wood to the tank once it has been waterlogged by boiling. Whether soaked or not it will likely continue to yellow your water for some time after placing it in the tank. I've got one particular piece of wood (the root ball of a forsythia bush) that has continued to yellow my tank water for over a year now. The effect does decrease over time, and now I only notice it after water changes, but it's still happening.

Before putting the wood in the tank I spray it with a garden hose thoroughly to dislodge any small bits that have decayed or become loosened by the boiling and soaking so that I don't have a bunch of junk floating around in the water.

If you are breaking a piece of wood off of a larger piece, remember that each of the breaks might be visible. If you carefully saw off the individual branches with nice clean cuts and are unable to bury or otherwise hide them, the wood can look very artificial. It's also a good idea to take a bit more of the large piece than you think you'll need, as you can always remove some, but adding bits back on is pretty challenging (though not impossible.)
 

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To add to Jason's excellent information, around here downed wood around here will be rotted if the bark has come off so I used downed dead sycamore branches with bark that came down in a big storm. I started soaking it and if I had been patient for a week the bark would have slid off easily but instead I scraped it off with an old sturdy paring knife while Max was eating his raw dinner. I screwed the wood to a piece of acrylic with stainless steel screws so I didn't need to water log it and I don't think dry dead wood needs to be sterilized for aquarium use.

If you know a tree is poisonous, like walnut, don't use it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
awesome information guys! thanks SO much! :D

i was going to ask about the bark, thanks Kathyy!

i am off to check my yard for downed branches. it has been really windy lately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
thanks!

we don't have a pressure washer but a friend of ours does. i can borrow it :)
 

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i was going to ask about the bark, thanks Kathyy!
If the piece you find appealing still has bark, it will likely be removed at least partially while boiling/soaking the wood. If not, you can peel or cut it off, or just put it in the tank with the knowledge that it will come apart over time.
 

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I use beaverwood. There are a lot of large creeks and a lake around me. Just make sure you boil it a lot. I have been using driftwood found at the lake for years. And the bit about soft spots can be remedied by a knife. Just cut out all the bad spots and soak. If you cam stab it with a knife and it's easily broken off then remove it.


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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
thanks! :)

most of the driftwood that i can find around here is salty since it was in the ocean. there are tons of ponds around here too but it is not easy get to them. i will keep looking.

thanks for all your help!
 

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If the piece you find appealing still has bark, it will likely be removed at least partially while boiling/soaking the wood. If not, you can peel or cut it off, or just put it in the tank with the knowledge that it will come apart over time.
This is the best thing about the pressure washer, put the flat spray head on and it will just peel the bark off like butter.
 

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Most of the people using real driftwood haven't a clue as to the species of wood they are using and it is fine as naturally dead wood has lost the potentially nasty sap. Those pieces look very weathered, I am sure they will be just fine. They sure are nice looking!

Soak and boil to remove the tannins. Suspect the smell will let you know they are mostly free of potential nasty stuff.
 

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Juniper Driftwood?

Thanks. I'll sniff, boil, and soak. (I could even cut into a piece that I won't be using and see how strong the smell is.)

Most of the people using real driftwood haven't a clue as to the species of wood they are using and it is fine as naturally dead wood has lost the potentially nasty sap. Those pieces look very weathered, I am sure they will be just fine. They sure are nice looking!

Soak and boil to remove the tannins. Suspect the smell will let you know they are mostly free of potential nasty stuff.
 
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