Ever looked in an aquarium and wondered what it took to set up such beauty? The casual observer would see it as nothing more or lesser than a water tank with fish and plants in it. Well, you will be amazed at how much you don’t know.
Aquascaping has become an increasingly popular craft in recent years. While combining extensive scientific research with profound creativity, aquascaping demands a great deal of commitment and patience.
Don’t worry, all you need do is follow a few simple principles and widen your artistic imagination, and you are well on your way. This begs the question of “What exactly is Aquascaping?”
Remember horticulture? Growing plants (or flowers) nicely and in an aesthetically appealing manner? That is what aquascaping is—but underwater. For better understanding, think of it as “underwater gardening”.
But in this case, “underwater” does not refer to the bottom of an actual ocean. You create your own designed replica of what you find under the sea; into a glass tank as seen below:
For your work of art to come to life, you need a careful selection of aquascaping elements; notably the plants, stones, rocks, and wood. Not all types of wood are safe for aquascaping; the last thing you want to do is create an aquarium that will be toxic to its inhabitants.
The diverse kinds of wood that are used in the aquascaping hobby are broadly categorized as “driftwood”, and we are going to look at a specific wood in aquascaping called Spiderwood.
Spider Wood Overview
Interesting name, isn’t it? Curious as to why it is so-called?
Imagine a spider and its legs scattered? That is what spider wood looks like and that is where the name hails from. It has aliases like “Azalea Roots” and “Redmoor wood”.
Each name represents a species of the wood, with colors typically ranging from reddish to light brown, or in some cases…beige. Spider wood is smooth to the touch and very branchy, making it perfect as an ornamental centerpiece for your aquarium.
Spiderwood comes to us from the dense forests and shrublands of North America and Asia; from a species of perennial shrubs within the genus “rhododendron”.
The proper irrigation and sufficient sunlight in these areas nurture the growth and spread of shallow roots beneath (and sometimes a little above) the soil.
Spider wood branches grow randomly; can be straight (as seen above), curled, or twisted. You decide which is best for your dream aquarium!
Spider Wood & Aquascaping
Owing to some of its marvelous features, spider wood is becoming popular in the aquascaping niche. With intricate; sometimes twist branches, spider wood makes for perfect use in setting up nature aquariums. Your plants get plenty of room to cling on to and spread, giving your aquarium the aesthetic character.
Another important feature of spider wood is its incredible lightweight and softness. These can prove to be as advantageous as they are problematic. Why? Building an aquarium means that all your elements need to be submerged in water; you don’t want any of them floating atop your glass tank. This makes the use of spider wood a tad tricky. It is easier for heavyweight objects to sink in water once they get in; we don’t make the rules, physics does.
If you are a beginner aquascaper or aren’t very familiar with the use of spider wood, the following steps will give insight on how to handle and successfully install spider wood in your aquarium. The process is divided into three stages for easy understanding, so follow along!
Where to purchase Spider Wood?
There are two ways to purchase spider wood; it is available on sale in online stores, and if you live around regions that they grow in, you can pick one up during your next hike!
However, if you are not conversant with the niche or with spider wood, it is recommended by experienced aquatic hobbyists and experts that you purchase from a trusted and credible supplier. Feel free to check out Amazon.
While the other option is cheaper, with little or no practical knowledge about this driftwood, you may wind up selecting pest-infected or bacteria infused wood. This will render all efforts counterproductive.
Preparation needed to use Spider Wood
Having purchased your presumed quality spider wood, you need to ensure that it is completely harmless and free of toxicity. It is risky to keep this step; whether it is bought or hand-picked.
Aquascaping has been established as one that takes effort, dedication, and time. Therefore, you mustn’t be at any point casual or careless. Spider wood is naturally mild, but exposure to bacteria and pests can render it very harmful to your aquarium inhabitants.
To avoid this, it is advised that spider wood be well-prepped before installation. How?
The two common methods of prepping spider wood are cleaning and boiling; yes, you read that right. Cleaning your spider wood is aimed at removing excess dirt and sand (remember, it’s a root plant. They come with lots of sand! ).
This can be done by light brushing; it is smooth softwood, you don’t want to deform it by overdoing it or using too harsh brushes. This step is simple, yet makes all the difference! Too much sand and dirt will pollute your aquarium; shake off all that grime and get too careful brushing.
Boiling is a deeper method of cleansing your spider wood. While it is very potent for sterilization by killing unseen bacteria that may be in the wood, it is a delicate process. You want to boil long enough to kill bacteria, but not to the extent which it begins to break apart.
To reduce the possibility of things going wrong, it is highly recommended that you use a large pot with enough space for the wood to sit in.
This process; if observed is trusted to virtually eliminate dirt, bacterial and fungal spores that are threats to aquarium inhabitants; plants, and fish alike. Your spider wood is ready for installation!
How to Spider Wood inside Aquascape Aquarium
There practically is no such thing as the “most important” of these three steps, but this is not to take away from how much attempt goes into the hands-on setup of your aquascape aquarium.
This stage prominently features your imagination and showcases your creativity. You call most of the shots at this stage; especially regarding the choice plants and their arrangement. For this article, however; the steps will be specifically tailored to the needs of the subject matter: spider wood.
A challenge unique to spider wood at this stage is sinking. It has been denoted that spider wood is very lightweight; sinking it into your glass tank may take extra time and effort.
Aquascaping hobbyists suggest that you pre-soak your spider wood so it slowly drifts to the bottom of the tank—where we want it to be.
To hasten this process, it is best to hold down the wood with a clean, heavier object—perhaps another element to be used in your aquarium; a slate rock will suffice for this purpose.
The rock will gently drag your spider wood to the desired depth underwater. This may seem like such a chore, but it is worth it in the end!
Other items needed for the set up of your aquascape aquarium include but are not limited to: a nice, transparent glass tank (they come in different shapes and sizes), substrate; which serves as the base to your aquarium.
A careful and well-informed choice is recommended, clean water and water filters, lighting for prettifying your aquarium and test kits for monitoring the hygiene and quality of water, etc.
Spider Wood influence on Your Aquascape Aquarium
In effect, spider wood rarely affects other elements in the aquarium. As has been repeatedly emphasized in this piece, this kind of driftwood is hardly toxic, except after being exposed to bacteria and pests.
As a sidebar, spider wood contains flavonoids (Plant Chemicals), which have distinctive antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and hepatoprotective abilities. It is also famed for typically producing a sort of whitish, gooey biofilm shortly after immersion; to the horror of the uninformed.
Not to worry, it is harmless and clears out eventually. It has almost no significant effect on the PH of your aquarium, but its secretion of mild acidic tannins gives your water a yellowish tint; not enough to discolor water, though. Also worthy of note is the fact that spider wood is not compatible with hard water.
Spider Wood: Pros & Cons
At one point or the other, we have highlighted the pros and cons of spider wood. However, they all must be summarized for better absorption. Knowledge of this is essential to avoid the frustrating problems that are associated with setting up aquascaping aquariums.
- Spider wood is very lightweight, making it handy and easy to clean.
- Spider wood is about the softest of driftwood used in aquascaping and can serve as food and shelter for fish in your aquarium.
- The branchiness of spider wood is another distinctive feature that provides aesthetic detail and a 3D outlook to your aquascaping.
- The brilliant variants of colors of spider wood give immense visual beautification to your aquarium; with proper lighting and the right contrast with dark substrates and the background of your aquarium, spider wood is guaranteed to glow!
- Spider wood has minimal effect on your aquarium. Once well treated and prepped, it exists as a friendly element in your aquarium; rarely majorly affects PH or watercolor.
- A common problem associated with the use of spider wood in aquascaping is that of decay. Advantageous as its softness may be, it poses a problem after being submerged for months. The smaller branches begin to break off the main and decay in your aquarium—not exactly a pretty sight. You may have to consider replacing it with a fresh set of roots after about 12 months.
- Buoyancy is another problem that the spider wood species pose. Due to its dried state, it is very difficult to get it submerged in water. Note that it is difficult but very doable; all you need is extra prep time and a bit more patience.
- For newbie aquascapers, the gnarly structured spider wood may seem too complex to work with; especially in an attempt to piece the parts together into a whole. It takes a bit of getting used to and you’ll find it to be one of the best canvases for many creative aquascaping.
In totality, the said cons of spider wood do not render it unusable. Its features are such as can be both advantageous and the opposite. With the right knowledge and attitude, you are likely to find the spider wood species to be your favorite driftwood. We highly recommend it!