Question about old driftwood - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 11 Old 06-05-2011, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
Question about old driftwood

In my old 55g tank it came with a beautiful piece of driftwood - but I've been having some problems with either fungus or bacteria lately (lost two precious fish) and I was wondering if it might be related...

This piece of driftwood is old - very dark brown and spongy - it falls apart when I try to move it to clean and I've been finding a lot of wood chips around the tank. (its a barebottom fancy goldfish tank so there are no plecos in there)

Is there a time that driftwood should be taken out and discarded? or should I just try to sand off the spongy parts? any opinions?
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post #2 of 11 Old 06-05-2011, 08:43 PM
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Not worth the risk, when a piece of drift wood becomes spongy then throw it out, drift wood should be hard and heavy. Don't know if thats whats causing your issue but its always best to error on the side of caution.
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post #3 of 11 Old 06-05-2011, 10:42 PM
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+1 sounds like it's just rotting in your tank. Time to replace it.
Not necessarily recommending this as the best source, but Petco is currently having a sale on their mopani wood in the store and on-line. I got a miss-marked large piece (10-12 pounds) today at my local store for only $7.89 including tax! The mopani wood has lots of tannins, so you'll probably need to soak and boil it a bit.

Some driftwood is soft, but the "spongy" doesn't sound good.
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post #4 of 11 Old 06-07-2011, 10:01 AM
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Agree. Wood that is soft and falling apart when it is lightly touched is past its prime and as it "rots" it may cause trouble.

One caution on mopani wood, it is known to carry various fungi, some of which are very toxic. I've had personal experience with this, and know others who lost fish.

I have never (yet) had problems with the very dark, almost black heavy wood. I have seen it called ironwood, jeti wood, mangrove root, malaysian driftwood. It is heavy, sinks immediately (no waterlogging at all), is light on tannins after the initial bit, and remains hard for years. You can see it in my aquarium photos. I won't buy any other now.

Byron.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #5 of 11 Old 06-07-2011, 02:29 PM
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Byron, thanks for the cautionary note. I have access to an autoclave (high-pressure steam sterilizer) at work, and the wood is going through multiple sterilization cycles before it goes in my tank! The process kills spore-forming bacteria and fungi, so I have an advantage most folks don't. The high heat, moisture, and pressure also seems to quickly move tannins out of other pieces I've sterilized.

My guess is the standard boiling routine does not penetrate into the mopani wood deeply enough to kill the fungus. Our autoclave runs at 121C, so it's actually above boiling and holds that temp for an hour at 20psi

Last edited by DKRST; 06-07-2011 at 02:38 PM.
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post #6 of 11 Old 06-07-2011, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by DKRST View Post
Byron, thanks for the cautionary note. I have access to an autoclave (high-pressure steam sterilizer) at work, and the wood is going through multiple sterilization cycles before it goes in my tank! The process kills spore-forming bacteria and fungi, so I have an advantage most folks don't. The high heat, moisture, and pressure also seems to quickly move tannins out of other pieces I've sterilized.

My guess is the standard boiling routine does not penetrate into the mopani wood deeply enough to kill the fungus. Our autoclave runs at 121C, so it's actually above boiling and holds that temp for an hour at 20psi
That may well do it. Just keep an eye on it once it's in the tank. Some of these fungi can be deep inside and only surface some time later.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #7 of 11 Old 06-07-2011, 03:52 PM
just out of curiosity for wood sterilization, cant you just microwave it?
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post #8 of 11 Old 06-07-2011, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron View Post
That may well do it. Just keep an eye on it once it's in the tank. Some of these fungi can be deep inside and only surface some time later.
Will do, thanks again!


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Originally Posted by SinCrisis View Post
just out of curiosity for wood sterilization, cant you just microwave it?
Hmmmm, good question! I don't know the answer to that one. Microwaves work by making water molecules vibrate, generating heat (so I have read, I'm no physicist!). That's why moist items heat better in a microwave than very dry ones. Assuming the wood was saturated, it should work, but you'd heat from the outside in with a possibility of burning the outside wood (fire hazard? ). You'd have to hold the temp high enough for a long enough time to kill any spores (again, that's my opinion - not based on any personal knowledge!).
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post #9 of 11 Old 06-07-2011, 07:14 PM
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Follow-up. My wife, who is a microbiologist, said microwaving should work EXCEPT for the potential of e-x-p-l-o-d-i-n-g wood and the potential fire risk I mentioned. Same reason you would not want to microwave or boil a rock. Microwaving converts the internal water to steam and...boom.
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post #10 of 11 Old 06-07-2011, 10:37 PM
well what if you microwave it by keeping the wood dry? Would radiation alone kill the bad stuff?
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