November '01 - Woodscapes!
When trying to add a more natural touch to a setup, to me driftwood is the highest-impact piece of decoration you can add, in the sense that it normally takes several pieces of well arranged rocks and plants to achieve a good result, while a single, well chosen and well placed piece of driftwood can create an incredible effect! But of course, the best results are more easily achieved with a balanced combination of these three items - plants/rocks/wood - or at least two of them. This month we show three examples of the natural beauty that can be achieved with such combinations using wood. It's very important to realize, however, that not any piece of wood can go into an aquarium.
Ron Reisdorf´s 340 Liter Planted Tank (Canada)
Unlike aquatic plants and rocks, wood is made of non-living, organic matter and therefore is usually subject to decay when placed under water. Its surface and interior may also be host to many types of non-aquatic microorganisms which will die in the water. So, a recently submerged piece of wood will, in general, rot and pollute the aquarium. The ideal piece is one that has already been submerged for a long time (months) in nature, so that anything that was subject to decay has already done so, and what's left is a more neutral/resistant structure that can be safely added to the tank. It will also have had the time to soak completely and become sinkable (most natural wood is lighter than water and floats). Some types of bog wood and roots, however, are naturally resistent to the effects of water decay, and can be added without the need of aging under water. These are usually more dense types of wood too, so that they will sink immediately or after only a couple of days in water.
Matthius Lettington´s 320 Liter Planted Tank (Canada)
There are two routes you can take to get your hands on a natural piece of wood for your aquarium: you can buy one from a local fish shop/website, or you can go out and hunt for one yourself. The first option is, of course, safer and more convenient, because good fish shops buy from professional wood collectors, who know what can or can't be used. You also have someone to blame besides yourself if you end up with an inappropriate piece :-). The second option is cheaper and more rewarding to those who enjoy going into the wild (DO NOT collect pieces from polluted waters near the cities!), but of course it's more risky.
Alex Lai´s 72 Liter Planted Tank (Hong Kong)
Regardless of where you get it, it's always important to treat the piece before it goes into the tank. Scrub it under tap water to remove dirt and other unwanted attachments. Then place it in a bucket of water for a few days to soak it and to see how it behaves under water (some people add salt to the bucket water, which helps sterilize the piece). Most pieces of wood will taint the water yellow and slowly decrease the pH, due to the release of organic acids called tanins. These are generally not harmful to fish, and some species actually prefer water like that (such as Neons and other Tetras). But if you don't want that in your tank you can boil the piece for several hours - which not only sterilizes it even further but also accelerates the release of tanins and the soaking. Adding activated carbon to your tank's filter will quickly remove the tanins as well. Happy woodscaping!
If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.
Photos taken by their respective authors and displayed here with their permission.