Is wood found around the yard ok for an aquarium?
I've recently found a few pieces of really interesting looking wood in my backyard. It would be perfect decor for my new aquarium, but I'm not sure if it is ok to use wood like this in an aquarium. Im not sure what kind of a tree it came off of, but given all of the sweetgum trees in my yard, it is most likely sweetgum. If it is alright to use this wood, is there anything I should do to prepare it?
Hardwoods are best for your aquarium. If the sweetgum trees normally produce a lot of sap, or if the piece that you found is easy to peel layers off, then it isn't good for your tank. Otherwise make sure to bake it for at least half an hour at 350 and you should be fine. You will also have to find some way to tie it down, or wieght it since wood doesn't really like to sink;-)
Be careful. There could be toxins in the wood, its impossible to know, and in time they could leech into the water and kill all the fish. I speak from experience.
Also boiling the wood will help remove some toxins and sanitize the wood, it will also remove any tannins
By "toxins" I was including other substances that might have been absorbed by the wood, and that you would never know about by studying the tree. Also, how many of us are biologists who would know what might or might not be toxic to this or that species of fish? You even have to be careful about wood purchased from an aquarium store.
In 1997 the fish in my 115g tank gradually became very sedentary and started to die; any fish added to the tank were dead within a day or two. I spent days trying to ascertain if something was wrong with the water (pH, hardness, dissolved minerals like copper, wastes accumulated in the substrate, etc), took the dead fish in to the lfs--no one knew what was wrong. I contacted the curator of freshwater fish at the Vancouver Public Aquarium, and we started examining for this and that, eventually coming to consider the bogwood (which had all come from a lfs). He suggested removing the bogwood and doing a 75% water change; I did, and the fish recovered instantly like you wouldn't believe. In about 5 days they again started showing the symptoms, so he said whatever it was it obviously came from the wood, and it would have become attached to everything in the tank, so on his advice I pulled the tank completely apart, cleaning the gravel, filter (new filter materials), plants, tank sides. I reset the tank (no wood, threw it all away) and returned the fish. No more problems since. He commented that after all we don't know where the wood comes from or what it may have been in contact with, just because we buy it in a store. He recounted his experience with leaves that he collected in South America along with a cichlid that spawned on leaves in its natural environment. He collected the fish and leaves and brought them back and set up a tank. All was fine for several weeks, then one day all the fish died. It turned out there was something toxic in the leaves that in nature was diluted by the stream water but in the closed confines of an aquarium built up until the fish were poisoned.
I think I know which piece of wood might have been the problem I had, so now I use mangrove root that I buy in a lfs. I would never risk using something I picked up outside. My fish are worth more to me than saving a few dollars on a piece of wood.
something else to think about is you never know what kind of weed killers have been sprayed that could have got on the wood found in yards that could kill the fish.
I recently wanted to use a beautiful piece of cedar driftwood in one of my tanks, so I began researching to see if it was safe. I found that cedar is toxic to insects and fungi and many believe to reptiles (maybe why my Bearded Dragon died) and rodents. Most also said it was toxic to fish, but others (including some well respected aquarists) say they have been using it for years with no problems. Many places sell it for aquariums, some say only certain species of cedar are toxic. I even found a picture of a spawning pair of discus in front of a large cedar stump. The one thing I never found was anyone claiming cedar had killed their fish. I'm curious if Byron's suspect piece of wood was cedar.
In the end (and very confused) I decided to be cautious and found a decent looking piece of mopani for cheap at a petco. But I still have that piece of cedar and may someday give it a try, as a similar piece of mopani would easily cost $40-50 at my lfs.
I have heard that boiling wood breaks down the cell structure and makes it rot faster, but I cant say for sure if its true.
sweetgum maple is used to make turpentine (from the sap) and is not used for outside woodwork as it rots very easily i dont know how much of an effect these things would have on its use,but if it rots fast outside it would probably fair poorly underwater in an oxgen rich aqarium ,also trees with a high suger sap tend to cause bactiria/fungus to grow i did a few experiments with woods in the summer using both sycamore(maple family) and apple both went fluffy/slimy underwater
the best woods for aqarium use are the tropical hardwoods like mahogany which is what most bogwood is ,ebony and ironwood pop up sometimes but are expensive due to there weight and way there sold(by the lb/kg)
i have used outside wood for aqarium use i experimented with a few in a an old 20g in the greenhouse last summer, i wanted a "twiggy" wood over the bulkier bogwood i found that birch was best plus if boiled the bark comes off leaving the wood cleaner, it has now mostly rotted away or been eaten by shrimp and pleco but it has had no ill effects
i think most pine/conifer family are fairly toxic due to there high acidity and the number of chemicals they manufacture in there tissues they tend to kill surounding plantlife too via there acidic leaffall and anything that can kill/sicken terestrial animals is only going to have its effects increased in a closed water enviroment
I did read some time ago never to use cedar, even though it is frequently found in rivers and streams around here, as it rots very fast and leeches stuff into the water that is not healthy. I wouldn't risk it with fish.
I wouldn't put any wood you get from an urban area into a fish tank. The chemical soup some people apply to their yards isn't something I'd want in my tank. Even if you don't do that to your yard you don't know if the person who lived there did, or the guy next door does. Airborne pesticides are often sprayed by cities to control flying insects as well. On the whole it's impossible to know what the wood has been exposed to and what could potentially leech into the tank.
I'd be more inclined to use wood from forested areas and trees that I know for certain are aquarium safe.
If you're still not sure just buy some from the LFS. That's the best odds you'll have to get an attractive and safe piece of wood.
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