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Discussion Starter #1
I'm new to planted aquariums and to this forum. I'm making a new planted tank only half full of water. The idea is to have an aquatic area with some plants and fish and a dry area with plants and maybe some frogs later. I cut the roots of a tree that was taken down and wanted to use them in this tank. Part of them would be inside the water and part of them outside. I have read some about diy driftwood but still have some questions:

1 - Is it necessary to take off all the bark? I like the looks of it and would like to use it.

2 - The wood is very green, I think the tree was taken down only a few weeks ago. Can I use it anyway? Is there something I have to do to treat it besides boiling and soaking it?

3 - I was thinking about sealing it completly with some furniture barnish in order to keep the bark and avoid any sustances to get in the water. What do you guys think about this?

Thanks in advance for your responses.
 

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Hi patonzon,

Welcome to APC, hopefully you will enjoy this forum as much as I do. Lot's of friendly people with good advice.

That being said, do not use that wood! When we refer to driftwood we are typically referring to old pieces of wood that have been submerged in freshwater for l-o-n-g periods of time to season and reduce the organics that could decompose and fowl the aquarium. "Green" wood is filled with sap that could leach into your tank. This could cause cloudy water, as well as fish death from the toxins. I'm sure others will have opinions and share them as well.
 

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I agree with Seattle. The bark will rot (at least the part in the water), and the 'green' wood is a BAD idea. It needs to be weathered, aged wood that has leached out all its contaminants. Varnish could kill the whole system. You could have it coated in a plastic resin, but you have to make sure it's completely dry before putting it in the tank, and then it just won't look natural.

Are there many tree/forested areas where you live? That's agreat place to start looking for old driftwood.

By the way, welcome to the forum! :D
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I understand, I wont put green wood into the aquarium just like that. I just cut two small peaces of root, cleaned them and dry them in the oven. I work at a furniture factory,so tomorrow I'm taking them with me and I'm going to apply several coats of barnish in order to completly seal them. The barnish I'm talking about is actually a type of resin, polyurethane, and once it's dry I don't think it can harm neither the fish or the plants,it becomes an stable plastic. I'm going to put them in a flower pot with aquatic plants just to make sure.

On the other side on saturday I'm taking your advice and going to a nearby river to colect some real driftwood.

Thanks a lot for your replys Seattle aquarist and davemonkey and greetings from Mexico City.
 

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I understand, I wont put green wood into the aquarium just like that. I just cut two small peaces of root, cleaned them and dry them in the oven. I work at a furniture factory,so tomorrow I'm taking them with me and I'm going to apply several coats of barnish in order to completly seal them. The barnish I'm talking about is actually a type of resin, polyurethane, and once it's dry I don't think it can harm neither the fish or the plants,it becomes an stable plastic. I'm going to put them in a flower pot with aquatic plants just to make sure.

On the other side on saturday I'm taking your advice and going to a nearby river to colect some real driftwood.

Thanks a lot for your replys Seattle aquarist and davemonkey and greetings from Mexico City.
Or you can just go to a nice LFS and try to get one that is already treated… you can find a variety of colors and forms. Btw, I bought one like 6 moths ago, and I spent about 2 months soaking and boiling it until it stopped leaching the tannic acid into the tank water (red color). So, even when you get it from the store, you still will have to do some soaking and boiling until you don't see this red liquid leaching into the water anymore. But whatever you do, DO NOT put anything that you find in your backyard before properly treating it and making sure it wont change/affect you water and livestock.
 

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Or you can just go to a nice LFS and try to get one that is already treated… you can find a variety of colors and forms. Btw, I bought one like 6 moths ago, and I spent about 2 months soaking and boiling it until it stopped leaching the tannic acid into the tank water (red color). So, even when you get it from the store, you still will have to do some soaking and boiling until you don't see this red liquid leaching into the water anymore. But whatever you do, DO NOT put anything that you find in your backyard before properly treating it and making sure it wont change/affect you water and livestock.
I've had better luck with stuff I've found outdoors in the wilderness. I've collected 4 pieces that way and found that there was little/no leaching (they had already leached out over time, naturally), so I just boiled them for a couple hours. The larger pieces I soaked in a tub with a 19:1 water:bleach solution for a couple hours and then rinsed/washed in water w/dechlorinator.

To me it's fun to collect driftwood. IT gives me a chance to get away from the computer, :ranger: and it gives my tanks a more personal touch. :D

-Dave
 

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I used freshly cut tree roots for my old paludarium, but these roots were sticking out of a river bank and submerged. I just rinsed them off well and made sure that at least 6" of the top of the roots were out of the water. No fouling or mess, The roots started putting out leaves above the waterline and grew quick!

I would not try this with roots pulled from soil though, they are not adapted to life under water and if the roots die they will create huge problems quickly.

If you want to collect driftwood, find a quick flowing river or creek with no pollution (higher ground away from civilization). Make sure the wood is hard and has no bark at all when found, and test it in a bucket. Does it get mushy or stinky? Throw it out! Does the water get cloudy? Throw it out! Old driftwood from flowing water has given me the least amount of problems and tannins. The African driftwood or mopani sold at petstores works good too and is completely safe, but it takes a while to leach out all of the tannins... Have fun!:cool:
 

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I used freshly cut tree roots for my old paludarium, but these roots were sticking out of a river bank and submerged. I just rinsed them off well and made sure that at least 6" of the top of the roots were out of the water. No fouling or mess, The roots started putting out leaves above the waterline and grew quick!
How cool is that!? The root actually sent up shoots?! (As a horticulturalist I find that fascinating.) What species was it? :p

-Dave
 

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That's a very nice idea! I bet if you can get it done your aquascape is going to look great!

If you are going to try coating with Polyurethane it may work, I would also suggest trying Polyacrilic as this is also water resistant (Mate, No gloss to try to keep natural look), however it would be a better idea try to find something similar close to a river as the wood really needs to be exposed to weather for long time, and even do it needs to be treated anyway as it will leach in some degree.

I have use dry wood collected in the desert with success. I treated it the same with a bleach/Water solution for several days (about two weeks or more) rinsing and bleaching again several times and finally long freshwater rinsing with dechlorinator. this method has also work for me with initially stinky pieces of wood (It takes longer but It worked for me in a piece that I really like so I made it work ;), I am really stubborn and have time [smilie=l:)

Whatever you do, try it separately in your tank, don't add fish or plants until you know for sure that the driftwood is not leaching, decomposing or altering in anyway your water chemistry.
 

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I wish I knew what species of tree it was, all I remember was it had leaves and half of the roots were growing in the riverbed! Cypress roots would be perfect for this, when I set up my big tank I want to try those.

When I used the roots I didn't know much about planted aquariums or how bad decomposing stuff in the water can be! I just wanted a natural root look and had no idea the roots would live! If they died things would have got ugly quick.

Just as everyone else has said, try prospective roots or driftwood in something other than your aquarium. A 5 gallon bucket will work perfectly for testing roots, just use a swing-arm desktop lamp, put roots in the bucket with the tops out and tape the "trunk" above the waterline to the sides of the bucket. Throw in a betta to provide fertilizer and call it a day. If you have large pieces of wood a plastic trashcan or plastic kiddie pool would work well, just net out mosquito larva before they get the best of you!:laser:
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Thanks a lot for you comments guys. Here is an update on my case:

I coated some of the roots with varnish (it's semi-gloss, didn't have any matte) and they look good. I'm going to put them in a bucket and see what happens.

On Saturday I went to a small river close to the city, collected a LOT of driftwood and took them home. I found different types of wood, some still had the bark, some didn't, a few don't float but most of them still do, some are roots, some are branches; but all of them where in the water when I picked them up. I really enjoyed the experience.

Once I got them home I laid them on the floor to select the pieces that would fit best my aquarium. I forgot to mention this, but I'm building a paludarium as well as a normal aquarium, so i need some wood for each. I ended up selecting a beautiful piece of root for the aquarium just for it's great looks and because it fits perfectly in the tank. The downsides of this one is that it still has all of the bark and it's very light, so it floats. It even seems like it wasn't in the water, maybe it only had a few days there. Anyway, I cut it to give it shape, cleaned it a little bit with a brush, filled the tank with water (it's brand new, so I still don't have anything in it) and a little bleach, then I submerged it with the help of some weights. I did this last night and this morning the water was still very clear. I'm going to wait and see what happens. I hope in a few days I can remove the bark and that it starts to sink on itself. I really want to use this piece. I might be able to get a big pot to boil it to speed up the process.

For my paludarium I selected a branch with great ramifications. This one has almost no bark left, it weighs a little more but doesn’t sink. I put it in the tank with the other one. I’m not sure about using it because I’m not really convinced it’s what I have in mind for my layout, but I’m going to treat it anyway just in case.

I might go to the LFS (see, I’m learning already ;) ) to see if they have a piece of driftwood I really like, and maybe I’ll return to the river next Saturday to look for some more wood.

What do you guys think about the piece for my aquarium, do you think I can make it work? If it helps I could upload some pictures.

Thanks again.
 

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Your doing it good! I never did the bleach treatment myself, just make sure to soak it well in clean water for awhile afterwards. If the water becomes heavily stained with tannins (tea color) than change out the water, this will speed up the process a little bit.

Be patient, some of the wood will sink in a week and some took me a month to sink, for difficult pieces just weigh them down with a rock.

Hopefully your favorite pieces will work out! The only real way to tell if they will is by doing what your doing, I always get twice the amount of driftwood I think I might need because some of it won't work out. To tell the truth I always grab any cool driftwood I find! I take it all. I am a driftwood junkie! There....its out.. sorry for being longwinded!

PS: When you start finding the good stuff by the river and compare it to the prices the petstores sell, you will be shocked!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Hi, my name is Patonzon and I'm a driftwood adict. I understand you perfectly zerOzax, I just did it once and now I can't wait to do it again the next weekend.

It's been two days of soaking the wood and the water remains very clear, I can barely notice a sutil yelowish color ¿How long it takes for the tanins to start leaching out? I just wish I had a big enough pot to boil that piece.
 

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How long it will take to leach out it certainly depend of the driftwood itself, you have to bleach treat them as much as needed until it stop leaching, changing the water speed up the process as ZerOzax said. Once tannins gives up, keep them in the solution for a couple days, rinse them, put them in water again and then leave it there for a week, do an ammonia test, if you got some reading, take the driftwood and smell it, if it stink it is the source of the ammonia, you may bleach treated again but chances are that this is not going to work, you may try it as it can give up an work.

As you said, this process is fun in all its phases and actually will make you proud once you finish up with a nice scape, and then you ending up adding a hobby to the hobby :D
 
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