After aquascaping myself for a good few years now I have bought lots of driftwood and spent a great deal of time digging through reviews to weed out the best options in terms of quality as well as cost.
Table of contents
- 1 What Is Driftwood?
- 2 Benefits of Using Driftwood In An Aquarium
- 3 Best Driftwood For Aquarium: Top 10 Reviews
- 3.1 1. Zilla Malaysian Driftwood
- 3.2 2. Estes Gravel Malaysian Driftwood
- 3.3 3. Large Cholla Wood +6” Natural/Organic Untreated Driftwood
- 3.4 4. Fluval Mopani Driftwood
- 3.5 5. 3 Pieces Long Natural Cholla Wood (5-6 inches)
- 3.6 6. Blue Ribbon Driftwood
- 3.7 7. Driftwood 6″ Aquarium Ornament – Tree Trunk Decor Fish
- 3.8 8. JBJ Lighting JB7369 16.9 to 20.5-Inch Malaysian Driftwood
- 4 9. Fell Malaysian Driftwood
- 5 10. Sinking Malaysian Driftwood
- 6 Types of Aquarium Driftwood
- 7 What to Look for When Buying Driftwood
- 8 Commonly Asked Questions
- 8.1 How do you prepare driftwood for an aquarium?
- 8.2 How long should you boil driftwood for aquariums?
- 8.3 Do fish like driftwood?
- 8.4 Will Driftwood rot in an aquarium?
- 8.5 Is Mopani wood safe for aquarium?
- 8.6 What does Driftwood do to aquarium water?
- 8.7 Why is my driftwood turning white?
- 8.8 Where To Buy Driftwood For Fish Tanks
- 9 Conclusion
What Is Driftwood?
Driftwood is simply wood that has washed up on shore from an ocean, river, or lake, by the force of the tide or the water current.
The vast majority of driftwood consists of the remains of trees which have been broken or snapped off due to high winds, weather, rain, and other weather factors, and has subsequently fallen into a nearby body of water.
Of course, driftwood occurs naturally for the most part, but when it comes to driftwood for aquariums, it may have been created artificially, or in other words, wood has been specially treated to resemble driftwood and to be aquarium safe.
|Zilla Malaysian Driftwood||Authentic Wood||9.7/10|
|Estes Malaysian Driftwood||Naturally Lowers pH Levels||9.4/10|
|Cholla Wood||Great Natural Anchor||8.9/10|
Benefits of Using Driftwood In An Aquarium
You might be wondering why you would choose to put driftwood in your aquarium. Well, there are actually a few benefits which you may have never thought of.
1. Protection Against Bacteria
One benefit that comes with putting driftwood in the aquarium is that wood releases natural substances known as tannins into the water.
These are a bit acidic, and this acidity which gets released into the water helps to slow down the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses in the tank.
In other words, a bit of tannin releasing driftwood in the tank can directly affect your fish’s immune system and their overall health.
Driftwood can indeed help to stop your fish from developing potentially fatal diseases.
2. A Natural pH Treatment
On that same note as before, you probably known that fish need a certain level of acidity to survive.
This is measured in pH, which ranges from 1 to 14, with 1 being very acidic and 14 being super alkaline.
If your fish tank is too alkaline, and your fish need the water to be a bit more acidic, those acidic tannins which the driftwood releases into the water might be the only pH treatment you need.
Driftwood can lower the pH level to the more acidic side of things by quite a few points, therefore eliminating the need for potentially dangerous pH treatment chemicals.
3. Allows for Beneficial Bacteria Growth
Driftwood can be quite coarse, depending on what you get. The coarse nature of driftwood allows beneficial bacteria to grow on the surface.
Every fish tank needs beneficial bacteria in order to break down ammonia and nitrates into less harmful compounds.
Fish tanks should not contain any of these substances, and the less the better, so the more beneficial bacteria you have in your tank, the faster and more efficient this nitrogen cycle will be, therefore keeping your tank clean and your fish healthy.
4. You Can Use it as a Plant Anchor
If nothing else, driftwood that sinks to the bottom of the tank can be used as an anchor for various plants.
If you want aquarium plants that require you to tie them down to something, then driftwood is the perfect option. Driftwood is perfect to get your carpeting plants started. If you have floating driftwood, you can also tie floating plants to it as well.
5. Fish Like the Privacy & Adventure
Finally, many fish like to explore aquariums, especially hollow areas like driftwood. It gives fish something to do and places to explore.
Moreover, if you have a heavily stocked fish tank, having some hollow driftwood where fish can swim into for privacy is not a bad idea either.
Best Driftwood For Aquarium: Top 10 Reviews
Here is a summary of each of our top 10 unique picks;
1. Zilla Malaysian Driftwood
I really love this wood because it is made out of real and authentic wood. Nobody wants fake wood and thus this is great option. I also really like the fact that this type of driftwood is long lasting, both underwater and on land.
I find that this makes for a great piece of wood for a fish tank because it sinks to the bottom by itself, but it doesn’t scratch the glass in the process. Not only is it great for fish tanks, it’s actually really convenient for reptile tanks too.
This particular piece of aquarium driftwood acts as a bridge from the water to the land, making it perfect for tanks that are only partially filled with water.
Perhaps my favorite part about this type of driftwood is that it is hand picked out of nature, therefore no two ever look alike. Overall this particular one is our top pick for the title of best driftwood for aquarium.
2. Estes Gravel Malaysian Driftwood
In my opinion, one of the best parts about this particular piece of aquarium driftwood is that it contains natural elements which function to soften hard water and to lower the pH levels in the water. This is great for anyone who has a fish tank that constantly needs to have water softeners added and pH changes to be made.
The Estes Gravel Malaysian Driftwood is a great addition to fish tanks because it sinks naturally and won’t float around everywhere.
In my experience, the fish that like this kind of wood the most are angelfish and discus fish.
That is because they can swim under and around it with ease. Of course it also works as a really good natural accent for a reptile tank too.
3. Large Cholla Wood +6” Natural/Organic Untreated Driftwood
This is because it is very fibrous and that is good because it actually gives your fish something to feed on, plus it looks cool too.
Something else that is very convenient about the large Cholla wood pieces is that they make for a great natural anchor that will keep your plants from floating away. It’s also great because it naturally buffers the pH level in your water to keep it at a moderate level.
These pieces are fairly large so they’re really only meant for bigger aquariums. That being said, they are great for aquariums, terrariums, bird cages, and rodent habitats too.
4. Fluval Mopani Driftwood
Probably my favorite part about the Fluval Mopani driftwood is that all of the shapes it comes in are very unique. When I ordered it I even requested a special shape and they makers delivered quite well. This piece of driftwood has even been sandblasted and specially finished so it won’t leach any contaminants into the water.
I really like this specific piece of driftwood because it works well in my big fish tank that is loaded with small fish.
They love to swim around it and they can even go into the little cracks as well. It’s also neat because moss tends to grow on it, making it a very cool looking addition to my tank.
5. 3 Pieces Long Natural Cholla Wood (5-6 inches)
This is a really great piece of wood to have in any aquarium because it is completely natural. It contains no chemicals or pesticides and that means you can feel safe when you put it in the water.
These things are great for a variety of small fish because they can swim through it and around it, plus nest in it too. Your fish will love it and will feel safe too!
This particular Cholla Wood is also ideal for fish tanks because larger fish as well as hermit crabs like to chew on it for the nutrients.
Plus a lot of microorganisms like to grow on cholla wood, yet another food source for the critters in your fish tank. This type of wood does need to be soaked in water for about 1 day before it is heavy enough to sink to the bottom.
6. Blue Ribbon Driftwood
I really like this piece of wood for one reason and that is the fact that it is big.
It’s around 20 inches long, making it ideal for very large fish tanks. It is a beautiful piece of all natural wood that won’t contaminate your water, plus it makes for a really great center piece too.
It’s actually a great piece of wood for smaller fish because it often has big cracks and holes in it, making it ideal for smaller fish to swim through and hide in.
7. Driftwood 6″ Aquarium Ornament – Tree Trunk Decor Fish
In my home I have both fresh and salt water fish tanks. That is exactly why I ordered 2 pieces of this wood, because it can survive in both of those types of water, something that not many other driftwoods can do.
This particular piece is made out of non-toxic poly-resin, meaning that it isn’t real wood. On the other hand, it looks like real wood and you really can’t tell the difference.
Even better is the fact that it won’t degrade under water because it’s not organic. To make it feel a little more real, I sometimes use some threat to tie moss or other plants to it (if you need some good compatible plant ideas then this article will help you out).
This thing also has a lot of color in it and comes in some really neat shapes. It’s a fantastic decorative piece for any aquarium. It also has a variety of holes in it which makes it perfect for small fish to swim through and around.
I really like this giant wood because it is perfect for my big aquariums, plus the fish love to swim around it too. You can use this type of driftwood for aquariums and terrariums too.
It actually releases tannins into the water which naturally softens the water and lowers pH levels too. It’s good for the fish and is also good for reptiles. Speaking of reptiles, this kind of wood makes a great water to land bridge as well.
One of my favorite parts about it is that it looks very natural, plus every piece is completely unique, almost like you found it yourself. Keep in mind that these pieces are big and thus not very ideal for small aquariums.
9. Fell Malaysian Driftwood
This is a great piece of large driftwood suitable for any type of aquarium.
It is very durable and will last under water for several years. The unique shape makes it perfect as a center piece, plus fish love to play in and around it too.
FELL Malaysian driftwood is also fantastic because many mosses, algae, and microorganisms can grow on it, making it both a good feeding and breeding ground.
This thing is fairly large and thus only suitable for aquariums equally as large.
10. Sinking Malaysian Driftwood
I really like the fact that this particular set of driftwoods came with several smaller pieces. This is great because I can use one for my smaller tank and then put the rest in the larger tanks.
It leaches some tannins into the water, which is fine if you need softer water with a slightly lower pH level.
These things are very beautiful and make my aquariums look very natural. Plus they are filled with cracks and holes which the little fish love to use as hiding places.
Types of Aquarium Driftwood
As we mentioned above, there are several types of aquarium driftwood, so let’s take a closer look at the most popular ones right now.
Cholla wood is a very popular option to go with, mainly because it is totally natural and contains no chemicals which can harm your fish or other aquarium inhabitants.
It is often quite thin and long, complete with tons of little holes. It looks almost like a combination between a small tree branch and Swiss cheese.
This is another all natural kind of wood that will not leach chemical into the tank and will not harm your fish.
This stuff is super ornamental, and although it is usually not hollow and does not allow fish to swim through it, it does look very nice. It’s wavy and jagged appearance entice many.
Malaysian wood is also natural and will not leach chemicals into the water. Moreover, this stuff is great for aquascapes and highly ornamental tanks, as it has a very jagged and dark appearance. It some cases, it can look almost like a sheetrock mountain.
This type of wood often comes in the form of large sticks or even branches, ones that come with many offshoots, with one larger branch leading to several smaller ones, and so on and so forth. It’s very functional and decorative too.
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like, a little bonsai tree used as wood. In rare cases, some people even manage to make these bloom and grow underwater. Simply put, they look great!
Fake Aquarium Driftwood
These are most often made of some kind of poly-resin, or various forms of plastic in other words. Companies do their best to make the fake pieces of wood water proof with special coatings. Fake driftwood may not rot, but it also fades over time, plus it just does not look as natural either.
These are made with materials and coatings that are sure not to leach into the water. Funny enough, fake wood can cost about the same amount as real wood, which is kind of weird if you ask us!
Anyway, our personal preference is real aquarium driftwood, but that is just because we like the way that real sounds. Generally speaking, both options will do just fine.
What to Look for When Buying Driftwood
Before you go out and buy any old wood for your aquarium, there are a few purchasing factors that you should keep in mind, so let’s take a quick look at these.
Floating vs Sinking
One thing to look for when buying aquarium driftwood is if it is the floating variety or the sinking variety. This is purely a matter of personal preference.
Would you rather have the wood stationary on the substrate, or would you rather have some wood floating around?
If you need some tannins in the water to make things more acidic, whether as a natural pH treatment or to keep viruses and bacteria at bay, then wood that will leach tannins into the water is fine.
However, if you do not want the pH level in your tank to be altered, you need to look for wood that has been specially treated so that no tannins leach into the water.
Related to that previous point, you do also want to make sure that the wood in question is aquarium safe.
You don’t want it to contain any substances, or to be treated with anything that will leach dangerous compounds into the water.
For the most part, this means that you should purchase special aquarium driftwood. You really cannot just pick up some wood from the beach and use it as is.
The Color & More
Of course, wood comes in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and more. Yes, what kind of driftwood you choose is totally up to you and what you want for your tank.
On a side note, if you want your fish to be able to swim through the driftwood, you will need to get something that has a hollow cavity.
The Type of Driftwood
This is something that we are about to touch on below, but that said, there are different types of driftwood that you can consider for your aquarium, with some being better and some being not so ideal.
Commonly Asked Questions
How do you prepare driftwood for an aquarium?
First off, you want to use a pretty rough brush to thoroughly brush and scrape the wood in order to remove any debris and contaminants on the wood.
Keep in mind never to use any kind of soap or cleaner, as residue will remain on the wood and then poison the aquarium.
Some driftwood needs to be boiled to be properly prepared for aquariums, although store bought options should be ready to go.
You may then also need to soak the driftwood in water to let it saturate, so it’s heavy enough to sink in the aquarium.
How long should you boil driftwood for aquariums?
If you are planning to boil the driftwood in order to disinfect it, about 10 minutes will do just fine.
If you are looking to get rid of the tannins in the wood, which may be quite important, it can take up to 2 hours of boiling before the wood is ready for an aquarium.
You may even want to change the water halfway through. Once the water does not change color anymore, or at least not much, then the tannins are more or less all gone, and the wood is ready for the aquarium.
Do fish like driftwood?
Yes, fish do like driftwood, and it’s why we put it into aquariums. Fish like driftwood because, for one, it mimics their natural environment.
Second, fish often love to pick at driftwood, maybe not to eat, but they still do it. Also, fish like driftwood, especially hollow driftwood, because they can go inside of it, swim through it, and it provides them with a hiding place too, some privacy.
Not all fish love driftwood, as it does depend on the type fish. For instance, you wouldn’t put a piece of wood in a coral reef tank.
Will Driftwood rot in an aquarium?
Yes, technically speaking all wood rots, and that goes for aquarium driftwood too. However, if you buy yours from a store, and you get some high quality stuff, the best wood for aquariums will take years and years to rot.
You probably won’t notice any big changes yourself unless you decide to use the same pieces of driftwood for longer than 2 or 3 years.
Is Mopani wood safe for aquarium?
When it comes to types of driftwood, yes, Mopani wood is completely safe for auqariums, and may just be the best option out there.
This stuff tends to be super dense, so it sinks fast, and often does not need to be soaked or saturated in order to sink.
Moreover, it’s so dense, and if treated right, it should not rot, or at least, it will take a super long time to decompose.
What does Driftwood do to aquarium water?
Wood is known for releasing tannins into the water, and the slightly acidic environment they create may strengthen the immune systems of fish.
That said, too many tannins are bad, and it will cause pH imbalances, so be careful with this. Other than that, driftwood looks good and fish seem to love it too.
Why is my driftwood turning white?
If your driftwood is starting to turn white, it means that it is slowly starting to decompose. If your driftwood is starting to turn white, you may want to consider getting a new piece.
Where To Buy Driftwood For Fish Tanks
Buying either real or fake aquarium driftwood is definitely doable. You should not have any trouble finding this stuff as it is extremely common.
You will be able to find aquarium driftwood for sale at your local pet stores, specialty fish keeping stores, and various other online super stores and pet/pet supplies retailers too.
When it comes to driftwood for your aquarium or even your terrarium, in our opinion these 10 picks are some of the best options in terms of quality for your tank, and fish.