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Old 02-24-2007, 10:42 AM   #1
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DIY Driftwood?

ok say i was walking though the woods and came across a nice piece of wood, hardwood like oak or maple, is there a process i can use to make it into aquarium safe "driftwood"?

if so could i use "live" wood freshly cut from a living tree or would i have to look for dead wood?

the reason why i am asking is i want a rather large piece of wood to put in a 75 gallon Discus tank i am going to set up, and i have yet to find a large piece of wood in the store that has any "Character" not to mention it is expensive
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Old 02-24-2007, 11:27 AM   #2
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You need dead wood (green one has sap that might cause problems), preferably ones that had aged a few years & free of bark. And if you can find one in the bottom of a stream or something, then you save yourself a lot of trouble sinking & leeching it.

I collected all my driftwood from a remote stream in BC. You want to go somewhere with NO farm runoff (risk of pesticides that can stay for years & kill your fish/plants).

Once you find a piece you like, you will need to clean it. Remove all loose stuff, rotting wood, etc. I use chisels, scrapers, wirebrush & pressure washer (no soap). Then you sterilize it. There are different ways .... Heat is the most common - boiling it for a few hours, heating in oven or BBQ, etc. Big pieces that don't fit into your pot, can be sterilized by soaking. You can soak it in brine, bleach, or Potassium permanganate. This gets rid of surface stuff, but can't get at stuff inside the wood. With all soaking methods, you will need to rinse very well. I also leave the washed/rinsed wood in the hot sun for several days to sunbake & to remove/break down any residual bleach.

Finally, you will need to waterlog the wood & leech out the tannins. Weight down the wood in a big barrel of water. Change the water every week or so, and soak until the wood sinks on its own & no more tannin comes out of the wood (ie your soak water is clear). This will take a few months. If you don't mind the tannin colour in your tank (it is harmless), you can weight down the wood in your tank instead. As said before, if you find pieces from the bottom of a pond or stream, it would already be waterlogged & mostly leeched of tannis so the soaking need will be minimal.
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Old 02-24-2007, 11:32 AM   #3
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You'll probably want to boil or bake whatever wood you use. If it's too large to bake or boil, use a hacksaw with a metal cutting blade to cut it into smaller pieces that can be boiled. I forget where I read that at, but it said that using a hacksaw will make the cut line less noticeable when you re-assemble in the tank.

Personally, I would stay away from "live" wood, but I bet there are others that have used it. As for "dead" wood from the forest floor, it's most likely going to have a great deal of insects and larvae in it.

The DW in my tank was too large to boil but I was able to bake it. I baked it for about 7 hours at 200*F. As for tannins, none yet. The piece is sycamore. So, I dont expect much in the way of tannins. Will I get it to sink on it's own? That's a whole other story.
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Old 02-24-2007, 12:20 PM   #4
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cool, all good things to know... next time i visit my parents place i will look in the woods behind their house, i also know of a stream that runs near their home i can look in. i was also thinking of taking a weekend trip to Lake Superior near Duluth, MN (about 3 hour drive from where i live) to look for driftwood and some good water polished rocks for my malawi tank
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