Driftwood – Everything You Need to Know

Driftwood - Everything You Need to Know

A few things add to the aesthetics of the aquarium, and Driftwood is one of them. Adding Driftwood to the tank can transform its look and give it a complete makeover. If you are an aquarist who loves aquascaping and exploring the different decor items, Driftwood is your go-to option.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about Driftwoods- their types, benefits, and how you can use them in the tank to bring charm into it.

Benefits of Driftwood

Driftwood, just like aquarium plants, gives a natural look to the aquarium. It makes the fish feel at home and more connected to the tank. Apart from glorifying the tank and adding to its beauty, Driftwood helps in the following ways:

  • It provides a spot for fish to hide and play
  • Serves as a site for spawning
  • Serves as food for algae and other microorganisms
  • Helps to alter water chemistry
  • Used as an anchor for attaching many aquarium plants

However, you need to be extra cautious while adding wood as not every wood suits aquarium and fish health.

As already said, wood can change the water chemistry; sometimes, it may turn out to be a disadvantage, especially when the wrong wood type is added. Newbies often make the mistake of adding any random decor item into their tank without knowing whether it is suitable for water chemistry or not.

So, before you buy wood or any decor item for your aquarium, read about it online, research beforehand, or consult an experienced aquarist. Once you have a thorough knowledge, maybe you will find suitable wood in your garden or near the pond or lake.

Note: Introducing wood collected from sea beach into your freshwater aquarium is not a good idea. Woods present around sea beaches are usually useful only for marine water tanks. So, think before you select the Driftwood, and be mindful about the type of tank you own- freshwater or marine water.

You can also visit an aquarium shop and talk to the owner to know if a particular wood is appropriate for fish health and water chemistry.

Now, let’s take a look at the different types of wood that can be used in an aquarium.

Types of Driftwood

  1. Bogwood

One of the most popular Driftwoods used all around the world is bogwood. It results from anaerobic conditions that make it suitable for later use. Bogwoods are generally hundreds or thousands of years old, created from tree trunks lain in bogs or bog-like conditions like the bottom of rivers, lakes, or swamps.

As the wood remains deprived of oxygen, it undergoes the process of fossilization, resulting in bogwood. The tannins found in the bog make the wood discolored, giving it its unique color and characteristic.

Such wood comes from trees like pine, oak, and yew. Likewise, the color of the bogwood may differ from jet black and red to hues of brown and yellow.

Since bogwood takes a long time to form, it comes with a hefty price tag. These days, finding genuine bogwood is hard, especially due to its expense. Therefore, shopkeepers often sell different types of wood that mimic bogwood. However, they are dried under the sun without the true fossilization process of a genuine bogwood.

Benefits of Bogwood

Bogwood offers every typical advantage of Driftwood, like giving a natural look to the aquarium and providing playing, hiding, and spawning space for fish. Apart from these, some other benefits include the following-

 It stains water

If you want to give your tank a typical Amazonian black water look, Bogwood is the best option. The long process of fossilization embeds organic material and tannins into the wood. As you introduce bogwood, the tannin leaches into the water, giving it a tea-colored stain.

Since we don’t know the amount of tannin present in bogwood, we don’t know how much stain will occur. So, if you are looking for less stained water, dip the bogwood into a bucket for an hour so that extra tannin leaches out, and later transfer it into the tank. However, if you think the color is still darker than what you require in your aquarium, change the bucket’s water and let the bogwood stay inside it for another hour before you finally introduce it into the tank.

Tannin is an organic material and completely safe for aquarium fish. If you don’t want bogwood to discolor your aquarium water, keep changing the water until you see no more leaching and clear water. You can also use activated carbon in your filter for better results.

It lowers water’s pH

Tannin reduces the water’s pH, taking it toward the alkalinity side. So, if you want to reduce the acidic content in your aquarium, bogwood is a good option.

It has antimicrobial properties

Bogwood is reported to have mild antibacterial properties that may help keep the water hygienic.

Disadvantage of Adding Bogwood 

Things that are beneficial for some may prove to be disadvantageous for others. For instance, changing water color and pH may become undesirable qualities of Bogwood for many aquarists. Apart from this, another drawback is the growth of white fungus in the bogwood once added to the tank.

Even though this white fungal growth is completely harmless, it may reduce the aesthetics of the tank. So, once you start seeing the white fungal growth, remove the wood and scrub it off. Or else, if you have algae-eating fish in your tank, let them do the needful by eating up all the fungus.

  • Discolour water
  • Leaches tannin
  • Changes water chemistry
  • Develops white fungus

So, if you decide to have bogwood in your aquarium and give it an alluring view, make sure you pre-soak it in the bucket before introducing it to the tank. It will ensure that you won’t get too much tannin or sudden and drastic fluctuation of water pH.

Mopani Wood

The mopani tree (Colophospermum mopane) gives Mopani Wood that comes in two different color tones and looks extremely beautiful. The wood is native to Sub-Saharan Africa and is usually found in desert areas.

Mopani wood looks unique due to its characteristic knotted and twisted appearance. The wood is so hard and dense that even termites are not able to feed on it. It is the reason why Mopani wood is considered great not only for aquarium decor but home decor too. You may find many sculptures and lamps with the wooden base of Mopani.

Just like bogwood, Mopani wood also leaches tannins that develop on it over a period of time. Besides, it also develops fungus that can be removed in a similar manner as told for bogwood.

If you visit a store to purchase Mopani wood, check if it is sandblasted and all its bark is removed. It is the only way to give this wood a unique two-colored appearance. Once purchased, dip it in a bucket full of water to get rid of extra tannins before adding it to the aquarium.

Redmoor Wood

Another beautiful and attractive wood that can make a place in your aquarium is Redmoor wood. As the name indicates, it has aesthetically pleasing reddish hues that give a contrasting appearance to the planted tank. Additionally, the tangled root appearance adds to the beauty of the tank, making it one of the best centerpieces of your aquarium.

One thing that makes redmoor wood better than bogwood and Mopani wood is it doesn’t leach tannin. At the same time, fungal growth is very less in redmoor compared to what’s found in other types of wood. However, due to these benefits, redmoor wood prices are more than bogwood and Mopani wood.

Once you think about adding this aesthetically pleasing wood into the aquarium, make sure to soak it in a separate bucket to get rid of tannins, if any. You may find redmoor wood taking some time to sink in properly as it is less heavy or dense. Sometimes you may even need a rock or any other hard thing to properly hold redmoor wood soaked inside.

Sumatran Driftwood 

Sumatran Driftwood is one of the popular Driftwoods, well-admired in escaping. You may find this amazing aquarium decor easily in pet shops and online. It is available in a variety of shapes and sizes and gives a unique appearance to the tank.

Driftwood is usually harvested from dead trees, cut in different sizes, followed by sandblasting that gives it a very smooth surface. It can be found in varied sizes ranging from as small as 25 cm to as big as 150 cm. It is often used as a centerpiece of aquariums- big or small.

Like redmoor wood, driftwood also doesn’t leach tannin, which is considered an advantage. However, it may develop white fungus over a certain period that will require scrubbing to get rid of.

It is advised to soak driftwood for at least 24 hours before introducing it inside the tank. This wood may take a few days and sometimes weeks to sink in properly.

Cholla Wood

Have you ever thought about having cactus in your aquarium? Isn’t it a unique idea?

Cactus is usually regarded as a plant that grows in dry and desert areas, but here it is- the Cholla wood, a wide, straight variety of cactus you can use in our aquarium. However, the catch is you can use it only after the plant dries and is converted into a wooden tube.

Also popular as a ‘walking stick,’ this cactus can grow up to 13 feet, thus suitable for big tanks. As the plant dies and dries, it turns into a long, brown-colored wooden tube that is full of holes.

Aquarists often use cholla wood in shrimp tanks due to a few good reasons-

  • It creates a living biofilm around it that shrimps love to feed on.
  • The holes in the wooden tube make an excellent place for the shrimps to hang out.

Apart from shrimps, fish also find moving around the wooden tube fun and exciting. Therefore, it could be a great addition to an aquarium.

Cholla wood releases tannins, so make sure you put it in a bucket full of fresh water and treat the wood beforehand to make it suitable for an aquarium. Soaking is also necessary to ensure the wood doesn’t stay afloat.

Saba Wood

Another popular Driftwood that trends among aquarists is Saba wood. It comes from the saba mahogany tree. The color of this wood varies from tan to brown, giving a spectacular view of the water. It makes the aquarium look natural and artistic at the same time.

Saba wood works great when you want to give a typical river-like effect in the tank. The best way to use saba wood is to place it at the bottom of the tank in a half-submerged condition. The brown color, going deep on the broad-leafed top, brings alluring effects.

So, if you are into acquascaping, try out saba wood and give an artistic appearance to your tank.

Marsh Root

As the name indicates, Marsh root is soaked in marsh, that is, wetland. As the roots of hardwood trees stay soaked in boggy conditions or inside a marsh for too long, they turn dark, giving an artistic view suitable for aquascaping.

Usually, marsh roots are dark in color, with tannin as high as it becomes unable to leach. While escaping marsh roots are usually placed against the light-colored substrates, making them visually appealing.

Marsh roots are available in a variety of sizes. They sink as soon as introduced into the water without discoloring it. Also, it doesn’t change the water’s pH. Due to these alluring factors, marsh roots are often used by aquarium enthusiasts to make the tank look attractive.

Azalea Root

Another popular name for Azalea root is spider wood. With an attractive shape and golden brown color, it looks so stunning that you would love to have it in your tank. Azalea got its nickname name due to its tangled look that resembles a spiderweb.

The best thing about Azalea wood is it doesn’t change the water pH or leach tannin. However, you may experience fungal growth on the roots that remove easily by scrubbing. Sometimes it also creates biofilm, making the water look slightly dirty.

Usually, Azalea roots do not sink but float. Therefore, you may need some hard and heavy things like a rock to keep it sinking. Apart from giving an interesting view to the aquarium, spider wood also gives a great place for fish to hide, play and swim around.

So, these are some of the most popular wood types that you can use in your aquarium to make it more attractive and beautiful.

Now let’s find out how to prepare wood for aquariums.

Collecting and Preparing Wood for Aquarium 

If you are a nature geek, you must have encountered different types of wood in the forest and wondered if you could add them to your tank.

Yes, you can introduce wood collected from forests into your tank; however, you should keep in mind that not all woods are suitable for aquariums, and the suitable ones also need prior processing.

Here are the steps involved-

  1. Collecting Wood– Check for woods that are dry and free from mold and fungus.

Remember, the best time to collect wood is late summer because it is when the trees give up their naturally old and dry branches to keep up with dehydration. Such branches are also preferred because they are dropped recently, and the chances of rot or fungus in them are low.

Another good time to collect wood is after a storm when some branches fall off due to high air currents. If you like a particular wood, you may also take cuttings and dry it.

  1. Drying wood– If you are taking a cutting, keep it outside, preferably under the sun, for a few days until all its sap has dried. If there are sharp edges, you may need sandblasting to make the wood even.
  2. Soaking wood– The next step is soaking the dry wood in a bucket full of water. It ensures that the wood will sink inside the tank. If you are removing the bark, soaking will help in the process.

Once you have soaked the wood, it is good enough to introduce into the aquarium.

How to attach aquatic plants to Driftwood?

Aquascaping has opened a wide scope of decorating the tank in different ways wherein the wood is used as the focal point of most tanks. If you have live aquatic plants in the tank, wood can be used to attach them, giving an artistic appearance.

Live aquatic plants attached to wood create a 3-D appearance. From giving a bonsai or old tree look to a flowing river or fountain view, a lot can be done with woods in the tank. For aquascaping with woods, the sky is the limit; all you need is to be a little creative.

Here are a few aquatic plants that readily attach to the wood surface and grow easily-

  • Water Fern
  • Microsorum pteropus
  • Christmas moss (Vesicularia dubyana)
  • Anubias barteri
  • Bucephalandra
  • Taxiphyllum barbieri

Can I collect driftwood from the beach to use in my aquarium?

If you are on a beach and tempted to see beautiful driftwood floating along the shore, it may not suit your aquarium for a few reasons. Firstly, it may contain salt that may make your freshwater tank adulterated, thus resulting in a change in pH.

Secondly, the driftwood may contain pathogens that can contaminate the aquarium’s water and may result in fish death. Also, driftwood is often seen floating in the water in the sea or ocean; thereby, it won’t sink in the tank. You would require some heavy object to let it sink inside.

However, if you are adamant about using driftwood sourced from the beach, we would advise immersing it inside a bucket full of fresh water for at least a month. If it sinks in a month, probably the driftwood is fine to introduce in the tank. Still, there could be some pollutants that may cause a few uncertainties. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

The best way of getting driftwood is from some reliable online aquarium or pet shop. Such places offer perfectly prepared driftwood for aquariums. Using it will avoid the chances of any mishap like a change in water chemistry or fish death.

What woods are safe for aquariums?

Woods that are commonly found and you can use for aquarium after preparing or treating include apple, oak, pear, cherry, heather, birch, beech, sycamore, hawthorn, and alder.

What woods are not safe for aquariums?

Taking wood from trees like cedar and pines that are evergreen and coniferous should be a complete no. Besides, certain woods not suitable for aquariums include cypress, spruce, walnut, horse chestnut, etc.

Likewise, you should also check if the wood is easily rotting like a grapevine. Another thing to consider is the toxicity of the wood; for instance, the wood of lilac, yew, and ivy are poisonous; therefore, they are not suitable for aquariums.

Final Thoughts 

Aquarists love giving a makeover to the tank. From adding different live aquatic plants and decor pieces to introducing woods and creating three-dimensional effects, hobbyists try all the possible ways. However, it is essential that you know the pros and cons of every element you add to the tank.

When it comes to wood, every wood is not safe and suitable for fish’s health. So, choose wisely and ensure that the wood is processed and treated correctly. Also, make sure that you identify the wood correctly to avoid using any toxic or poisonous wood in the tank.

We hope this guide has helped you regarding the right wood selection and its preparation. Make the most of the Driftwood and give an arty appearance to your tank.

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