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Re: Varnishing floors near a fish tank

Amy Ayukawa wrote:

> I have a 55 gal and a 30 gal in my living room. We have parquet
> floors, 
> which over the years have become strippped of their lacquer and now
> look 
> kind of dirty. My husband wants to have the floor resanded and 
> polyurethaned, but I'm concerned that the vapors from the
> polyurethane will 
> kill the fish.
> What's the best way to sand and lacquer the floor without harming the
> fish?
> Thanks,
> Amy

The mineral spirit fumes from polyurethane will linger a long time. 
The kind of polyurethane that cleans up mineral spirits actually
"dries' by curing when exposed to oxygen.  The curing involves forming
crosslinked molecules.  that's what makes that kind urethane so tough. 
But it means that it "dries" from the top down and, as it skins over,
it tends to block oxygen from the urethane underneath making it harder
(take longer) to fully cure.  That's why it "dries" so slowly.  Mineral
spirits are bad for fish.  You could try to keep the tank covered but
deprives it of fresh oxygen if done for too long.

You can try so-called water-based urethanes.  These clean up with water
and are actually glycol and ethanol based.  The urethane is already
cured and ground into microscopic powder then emulsified in the
alcohols.  The "varnish" dries much much more quickly -- basically, the
alcohol evaporates and the "varnish" dries with minimal cross-linking. 
The fumes last for much less time.  You could cover you tank, provide
good ventilation after the polyurethane skins over, and probably be
just fine without moving your tank.

Fresh high quality carbon in the filter can remove volatile organic
compounds (whether mineral spirits or alcohol) that get into the air
and thereby into the water.  With water-based urethane the risk is
moderate if you have good ventilation, but balance the risk with the
price of your fish.

Scott H.

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