If you’ve been eyeballing driftwood in your local aquarium store or online, you may have wondered how to get driftwood ready to put into your tank. Preparing driftwood for an aquarium is a multistep process and will require some of your time, but it is not difficult to do.
Thoroughly preparing driftwood before adding it to your aquarium will help maintain the balance within your tank, keep your fish safe, and save you some major headaches. Here are two different options for preparing driftwood before you add it to your aquarium.
Preparation Option #1:
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Examine: When choosing a piece of driftwood for your aquarium, thoroughly examine the wood for any obvious signs of parasites or fungi. Also, verify that the wood is not treated with chemical agents and is aquarium safe. Examples of good wood for aquariums are spider wood, manzanita, cholla, bonsai, and mangrove roots.
Scrub: Use a clean brush to dry brush the wood. This will remove clumps of dirt and allow you to examine the wood more thoroughly. After this, use the brush and clean water to scrub the wood to remove any chemical agents that may have gotten onto the wood as well as dirt, fungal spores, and parasites. It’s important to make sure you are using a clean brush that has not been used for other purposes before. A toothbrush is a good option for this job, but it should be one that has not been previously used. If you use a cleaning scrub brush, make sure it is not one you have ever used with soap or cleaning chemicals before. Also make sure to use a clean bucket for the water. The bucket you use for your aquarium water changes will suffice. You just need to ensure you are not using a bucket that has had cleaning chemicals in it.
Soak: Most driftwood will still be buoyant upon purchase, which means it will float when you attempt to settle it into your tank. To prevent this, you will need to soak the wood in a clean bucket of water. It may take multiple days of soaking to saturate the wood enough to make it sink. Change the water out every day or two to ensure it does not begin to stagnate or attract pests like mosquitos.
Examine: Once saturated, check over the wood one more time. Make sure to remove or sand sharp edges or pieces that may cause injury to your fish.
Place: Place the driftwood in your aquarium wherever you want to see it live. If the wood still floats, then repeat step 3 again.
Preparation Option #2:
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Examine: Thoroughly check the wood over for parasites, sharp edges, fungi, and other obvious issues.
Quick Scrub: Use a clean brush to scrub the wood with clean water. This does not have to be a thorough scrubbing, just enough to remove dirt and fungal spores and get a better look at the wood.
Boil: Boil the driftwood until it is thoroughly saturated with water. This will keep the wood from floating when you attempt to put it into your tank. Depending on the size of the piece of wood and the type of wood, you may only need to boil it for 30 minutes or you may need to boil it for multiple hours. Keep a close eye on the wood while it is boiling to ensure the water level stays up. Top the water off as needed. Carefully monitor the wood to prevent a fire or scorching of the wood. Boiling will help kill off any spores, parasites, or bacteria that may be present on or in the wood, including things that are not visible.
Cool: Allow the wood to thoroughly cool before you attempt to handle it. Running it under cool water or placing it in an ice bath will help it cool faster. It’s important to make sure the wood is not much warmer than your tank water’s temperature before you add it to the tank.
Examine: Once you are satisfied with the boiling and cooling of the wood, examine the wood again. Check for any loose or splintering areas of wood that the boiling may have uncovered. Remove or sand these areas until smooth.
Place: Put the wood into your aquarium wherever you want it to sit. If it still tries to float, then repeat steps 3 and 4 again.
What You Need to Know about Tannins:
Tannins are naturally occurring chemicals that are derivatives of gallic acid. These chemicals are named for tanning, the practice of treating and softening hides to create leather. Tannins are present in wine and are the chemical component that gives different types of wines their “pucker” power.
Tannins are important to know about because they exist in bark and wood, which means they are present in most types of driftwood. Tannins will cause your tank water to become tea-colored. One way to avoid this is to soak driftwood for extremely long periods of time, weeks to months, before putting them into your tank. The easiest way to decrease tannins in your driftwood is to boil the wood.
Boiling driftwood speeds up the release of tannins from the wood, allowing you to put the wood into your aquarium with little to no change in the color of the water. Tannins are not harmful to your aquarium and some people don’t mind the tea-colored tank water, especially in blackwater tanks, in which varieties of tetras, cichlids, and catfish will thrive.
Once you have tannins in your tank from driftwood, the easiest way to remove them will be with regular water changes until the water clarity improves. Indian almond leaves are another common source of aquarium tannins.
Adding driftwood to your aquarium not only makes your tank more attractive, but it also helps create an ecosystem within your tank. Driftwood not only creates a more natural and safe-feeling environment for your fish, but it also encourages the growth of plants and algae that your fish and invertebrates will enjoy.
Make sure to thoroughly clean any driftwood before adding it to your tank. The safest thing to do when it comes to driftwood is to purchase driftwood only from reliable sellers, so you know you are getting a safe type of wood. Picking up wood in nature isn’t advisable unless you are certain of the type of wood and know that it has not been treated with any chemical agents.
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Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping has become a hobby of Brooke’s and she is continually learning how to give her aquarium pets the best life possible. Brooke enjoys plants and gardening and keeps a vegetable garden during the summer months. She stays active with yoga and obtained her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2020. She hosts a podcast focusing on folklore and myth and loves spending her free time researching and writing. Brooke believes that every day is an opportunity for learning and growth and she spends time daily working toward new skills and knowledge.