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Collecting Wood for the Aquarium

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    How do you guys go about collecting and treating wood for the aquarium? Obviously, well decayed wood and fresh wood are both inappropriate for the aquarium; is there a sweet spot of “deadness” you have too look for? Which trees have wood that lasts long in wet environments than others? Does it depend on where the wood comes from on the tree? I would think roots would do better in wet environments. Can you do anything natural to the wood that will delay decomposition? Should bark be removed because I have never seen wood at the store with bark on it.


    Sorry for all the questions! Thanks!



    Every guide I have seen recommended stripping off bark. Also, IMHO pieces with cracks and holes in them are best avoided (although regularly seen in shops) because cleaning is problematic. I think in terms of lasting in an aquarium wood that already was waterlogged for a long time prior to collection has proven itself suitable. That’s why people often look on the riverbanks and in swamps. In general soft wood such as pine does not tend to last in such conditions and is not likely to last in an aquarium.





    Hi there Nannostomus,

    first I’d like to say that I don’t think there’s any need to be sorry for asking questions. As I understand it, that’s exactly what this forum is about and even the most experienced of fish keepers will have the odd question every now and then. 🙂

    Now let me add a few things to Jakubs great reply.

    The bark should come off, not because it is harmful as such but it’ll rot a lot sooner and faster than the wood itself, no matter which wood you choose.

    Any wood WILL rot if submerged in water (with the exception of extremely acidic and/or extremely cold water, which only a handfull of fish species would survive), one type will rot quicker than the other depending on their respective density. So as a general rule one can say, The heavier the wood (thoroughly dried) the longer it will last when submerged.

    The “sweet spot of deadness” is simply “thotoughly dry to the core”.

    As of now, I never had a problem with wood of any trees, which we eat any part of, e.g.. fruit trees. Add to that any timber that’s used for boats, jetties and similar constantly submersed constructions.

    I don’t think that roots are significantly more durable than any other part of a given tree (except leaves of course). I believe it’s their shape , which makes them more desirable for use as aquarium decoration. However, in the “wild” you won’t find many submerged roots since it is the branches, twigs and leaves that break off and fall into water.

    Whenever I don’t have a chance to collect wood myself I use grape vine with great results. The main reason here ist that I can get enough of that stuff to equip about 10 large tanks for less money I’d have to pay for a small piece of mangrove or bog wood.

    If you plan on collecting the wood yourself you should of course know your trees, only pick wood that doesn’t show any signs of rotting, think ahead and pick up suitable pieces even if you don’t really need them right there and then and please don’t break off “live” branches just because they look cool.

    There are a few things you can do if the wood isn’t dry to the core yet. Smaller pieces you could quickly dry in a convection oven at about 80° C (which could however result in a couple of harsh words from the master of the appliance:D), for really large branches, trunks or roots you could check if there’s a sawmill somewhere close by. If asked nicely they’ll often allow you to add your wood to their drying chamber.

    And last, now that you have a thoroughly dry peace of wood, you have to water it for a couple of days to weeks depending on size.:? Change the water every time you notice a skin on the surface but latest every second day. Hot water will speed up the process.

    Concluding and to perhaps put your mind at ease let me say that e.g. a branch of grape vine about 6 – 7 cm in diameter will, if cosen according to the rules stated above, outlast most fish species, all your plants and sometimes even the tank itself. Even though grape vine is, by many fish keepers, not really regarded as one of the more durable choices of wood.

    Hope that helps






    With regards removing the bark…


    I feed my L330s with bark from various trees – mostly beech (Fagus sylvatica). So I collect fallen wood that is dead and throw it in the tank, no cleaning, no stripping, no waterlogging. They sink within a week or three and the Plecos much the bark off leaving some nice shiny branches that a shope would sell for silly money LOL


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