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Driftwood: Why it’s beneficial, how to get it tank ready, what’s safe and what to avoid.

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Driftwood is more than just an added decoration to your aquarium. There are many great reasons to add it to your aquascape. Driftwood can be harvested from any body of water or the shore line. Another way it is sourced is through conditioning dead wood. When collecting wood to use from dry land never cut a piece of live wood. Instead look for broken off branches or dead and dried out trees to harvest from.

When collecting driftwood from a body of water or the shoreline, or other dry land sources it is critical to clean and sanitize it before adding into your setup. First you soak in hot water and scrub with a stiff bristled nylon brush. After scrubbing rinse off using a hose with pressure nozzle. After this you will soak it in a weak bleach solution for 24-48 hours. After bleaching you must rinse throughly, small pieces can be boiled to rinse and sanitize. Rinse until there is no remaining chlorine scent. Before adding to your aquarium soak in a de-chlorinator such as prime for 48 hours doing a water change and adding more prime at the 24 hour mark. Or alternately you can leave the wood outside to dry for 2-4 days. Wood can then be secured to a piece of slate or other aquarium safe rock and placed in your tank. Another option is to cure the wood. Fully submerge wood in water and let soak for 1-2 weeks. As tannins leach out and darken the water or every 2-3 days continue to do water changes and rinse off the wood before refilling. Some pieces of wood may take longer to sink and/or be free of tannins.

Driftwood will make your aquarium inhabitants feel more at home. The wood provides beneficial tannins to the water. To avoid this from happening you can soak the wood in a tote for 2 - 3 weeks with frequent water changes to expel the tannins. It also provides fish with more options for hiding, a live food source of algae and diatoms, a place to deposit eggs and a nursery for their fry. Also Plecos need wood in their diets it provides them with bulk fiber. You can buy supplements for this but nothing beats the nutrition of rasping on actual wood.

There are many types of aquarium safe wood to choose from. Cholla Wood is a common go to for shrimp keepers. It is sourced from dead schools Cactus found in the SouthWestern United States. One it has dried there are a series of holes and the wood it hollow in the middle. It makes a perfect hiding spot for moulting or shimplets. Will release some tannins. Manzanita is sourced from select evergreen shrubs in Oregon, Texas, California and New Mexico. Seeing that it is hardwood it will not rot and lasts for years. Does not release tannins but does have a long curing process due to high buoyancy. Sumantran Driftwood is sourced from Mangrove root systems. Most commonly used in bigger tanks and gives fish a Labyrinth of hiding spaces and releases minimal tannins. Mopani Wood is sourced in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Angola and Malawi, South Africa. Due to harsh environments it grows to be a shrub. It’s a beautiful sand colour with darker markings. A very heavy wood that should sink quickly. It will leach tannins makes a perfect addition to a blackwater setup. These are just a few of the many examples of driftwood you can use.

Bleach Solution:

1/4 cup bleach for every 5g of water


2 teaspoons bleach for every gallon

Aquarium Safe Wood:



















Unsafe Aquarium Wood:



Douglas Fir




Horse Chestnut





Live Oak / North American Oak Tree








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