How Safe Is Decor Used From The Wild?

KelberiFishLover19

Jack Dempsey
Original poster
MFK Member
Aug 10, 2018
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Aquarium decor can be expensive. I want to know how safe things like bigger pieces of stone, rocks, and sticks from the wild like in the woods or my backyard are for my aquarium. I have been trying to add more to my tank but I’m just not sure how safe it is and I don’t want to risk my fish’s lives just for some decoration. Can I get some suggestions like how to know what is safe or how to prepare those things for my aquarium?
 

Stephen St.Clair

Piranha
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Jul 2, 2017
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Check out your local rockyard & Landscape companies. The different types of rock are already separated, with a huge selection. It's usually very inexpensive.
I bought over 200 lbs. Of Texas Holey Rock for 20 - 25 cents per lb. From a couple rockyards near me.
 
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Lepisosteus

Potamotrygon
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May 20, 2014
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I’ve never had an issue with collecting my own rocks, wood, substrate. Most will say boil it/bleach it but I have never personally done either. For wood I would remove the bark and wash it with a hose, for rocks just wash off dirt.

Collect from a clean location and you won’t have a problem.
 
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KelberiFishLover19

Jack Dempsey
Original poster
MFK Member
Aug 10, 2018
173
82
31
I’ve never had an issue with collecting my own rocks, wood, substrate. Most will say boil it/bleach it but I have never personally done either. For wood I would remove the bark and wash it with a hose, for rocks just wash off dirt.

Collect from a clean location and you won’t have a problem.
So I can just go I’m my backyard, which is a clean location, and get some rocks and sticks and not worry about it affecting my water parameters.
 

Lepisosteus

Potamotrygon
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May 20, 2014
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So I can just go I’m my backyard, which is a clean location, and get some rocks and sticks and not worry about it affecting my water parameters.
Don’t collect rocks that contain sulfides if you are doing a reef and don’t collect rocks that contain carbonates if you don’t want kH/dkH affected in freshwater. To test this, scratch the rock so it creates a bit of powder or a fresh surface and drop vinegar on it. If you can see or hear a fizz don’t use it as it contains carbonates. If you can’t even scratch the rock or create a powder then it’s safe to use as you likely have a quartz/feldspar rich rock. Sandstones, mudstones, shales, volcanic rocks all make great freshwater decor. Pretty much any rock that has gone through prograde metamorphism will be safe to use (ex. Marble from limestone, slate from mudstone/shale).

For sticks collect the dead ones (not green). The sticks will release tannins and may lower pH momentarily but won’t harm inhabitants. Will be back to normal after a few water changes.
 

tlindsey

Silver Tier VIP
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Aug 6, 2011
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Just make sure that the wood is from dead hardwood tree's also suggest not collecting items from area where fertilizer was put down.
 
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Lepisosteus

Potamotrygon
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May 20, 2014
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Softwood is still fine to use if it is dead. It has to be truly dead though. You don’t want it to be rotting, if you find a pine stump in the lake I would use it without question. Just let it dry off in the sun.

The problem with softwoods is they do release chemicals when alive that can be harmful and they break down faster than hardwood.

There is little supporting evidence to support the negative impact of softwoods on organisms within an isolated system such as a fish tank. It has been one of those past down “don’t do’s” in the aquarium hobby.
 

Lepisosteus

Potamotrygon
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May 20, 2014
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I put it in a tub and soak in boiling water. I do the vinegar test on rocks.
If there’s a bunch of bugs on the piece I usually pour boiling water over top before blasting with hose/pressure washer. Anything I miss becomes a nice snack for the fish in the tank.
 
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