Woods such as bamboo, brushwood, and cork bark will need preparing before use. Dry woods such as these may contain fungal spores and are prone to rotting when wet. If they are placed in the aquarium without prior treatment they quickly decay, producing bacterial blooms that will appear as a slimy film over the wood and/or cloudy water. Fungal blooms (normally white or
orange patches) may grow on the wood itself. To prepare brushwood and bamboo, coat the surface of the wood with a clear polyurethane varnish. It is important to use only clear varnish, as colored varnishes may contain chemicals harmful to aquatic life.
The inside of larger bamboo pieces contains a protective layer of film; remove this before varnishing. Also scrub the wood clean (using only water) and dry it before varnishing. Once the wood has been varnished and is dry, soak it for up to a week to make sure it is ready for the aquarium.
Bark does not normally need to be varnished as it is unlikely to rot underwater, but it will need to be cleaned and soaked before use. All dry woods will float and will take a long time before they are fully waterlogged and begin to sink. To solve this problem, the wood can be slliconed to rocks or to a flat piece of glass that will sit underneath the substrate, acting as an anchor to keep the wood down.
Over time, even well-prepared and varnished wood will rot and start to fall apart. When this begins to happen, the wood will need to be removed and replaced, although it normally takes at least a year for this to happen.
Fake or synthetic decor can also be used as part of the design, and many synthetic rocks, tree roots, and caves will look very realistic once they are established and a slight algal growth has lent them a weathered appearance.
Below: Artificial equivalents of natural decor make safe, although initially expensive, alternatives for planted aquariums. Once established, they can look very realistic.
Artificial wood can look attractive in the right setting.
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