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Polyurethane Sealer & Tongue Oil Fumes


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When last I sealed my wood floor I had no fish tanks in the house. The fumes were enough to strip the first and second layers of skin off my eyes, and it left me in no doubt as to its toxicity to fish.

The time has come to strip and seal my floors again, and last weekend I moved out my 400 L Tropheus tank (fun - not) out into the garage.

It is obvious that this process of stripping and sealing will be one that will need to be repeated in the future, and as I am presently seeking to not only replace my Tropheus tank with a 6 by 2 by 2.5, but also increasing the number of tanks in my house to also include a 3 meter, 2000l tank, the next time I strip and seal I WILL NOT BE MOVING MY TANKS. Hence my questions to the company who will be doing my floor in regards to the pros and cons of a polyurethane sealer verses a tongue oil in relation to fish tanks. I have been informed that tongue oil is not as aromatic as polyurethane, but as these people are not “fish people”, it is impossible for me to gauge how bad tongue oil will be.

Hence my question on the SCP.

Are there any fish keepers out there that have a tongue oiled wood floor?

If so, what were the fumes like?

Did you keep your tank in there when the floor was done?

What affect if any did this have on the fish?

Any other information would be appreciated.


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Hi Craig - I had my timber floor sealed twice in 1 month with tongue oil which is next to my tropheus tank with no problems at all........smell was very toxic though

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I would believe that Tongue would give of less toxic fumes than any polyurethane.

Tung Oil is from the tung nut, native to China. Most products that claim to be 100% tung oil are not but a mixture of oils and waxes. Pure high quality tung oil is around $40 per litre and if applied correctly should give you many years of good wear and tear.

In saying that it is natural, the tung nut oil is quite toxic until it is neutralised by air when drying.

Will your tanks be ontop of the oiled floor and will the floor get wet as tung oil is slightly porous and if left to pool, the water will seep through the oil barrier and stain the underlying timber - not what you want, were polyurethane is water proof. So they say, but again all you need is a split in the surface coating and water will penetrate and stain especially if you have Australian hardwood flooring.

I have used both products extensively in furniture making. I started of using oils, but to time consuming, moved to polyurethane system for five years. During that time, the chemicals had built up in my body and I had to stop using them. You be amazed at the types of chemicals found in these products. Dried polyurethane is stable and non toxic, however while wet it gives off heaps of nasties.

I moved back to oiling all products as it gave a better finish and was safer to all and could be easily repaired.

If I was you I would oil the floor, make sure it is done correctly and on a cool day as to allow for maximum oil penetration into the timber. In future when recoating, completely seal the tank, run your air pump outside and cut a small hole in seal for air to escape.

I hope this is off some assistance.


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What a fantastic couple of replies thumb.gif .

Thanks guys, greatly appreciated clap.gif .

tung oil is slightly porous and if left to pool, the water will seep through the oil barrier and stain the underlying timber - not what you want,

Agreed! The tank will be sitting on the Australian Iron Bark floor, and at some stage come into contact.

How long can water sit there before it starts to soak in?

Will it Bead on top for a while??


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  • 2 weeks later...

Had my floor sanded back yesterday with one coat of tung oil applied. The smell was nowhere near as toxic as polyurethane, and I knew immediately that I had made the right decision as I'll have no qualms when in the future I need to reapply the tung oil.

One more coat of tung oil tomorrow tongue.gif .

Thanks again for your comments Jim and Satanoperca, they were a big help clap.gifthumb.gif .


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