Driftwood for Aquarium: 17 Answers You Should Know

If you are looking for a natural piece to add character to your aquarium, driftwood is undoubtedly an amazing choice!

Driftwood is a pleasing decor in your tank, but you should be well-informed about its characteristics. Adding one can cause hitches based on the requirements of your fish as well as your personal preferences.

Is Driftwood Expensive?

Yes, driftwood is expensive.

As an added aesthetic to your aquarium, it is no secret that driftwood can cost a quite sum of money.

As a starting, a simple little piece of wood is priced at $3. And, a massive and unusual one can cost as much as $125!

Why Is Driftwood So Expensive?

Driftwood is expensive because of four factors – preparation procedure, shipping costs, supply and demand, and being a niche and rare product.

There are a couple of reasons why driftwood is not as cheap as others may contend with the thought of it being free if you will just pick one in a river.

Preparation Procedure

The preparation process of driftwood is not simple. Although it might just be a piece of wood for some, extensive labor is involved to get it ready for your aquarium which involves high costs too.

Sellers cannot just simply pick whatever wood that they see. They will search for the most appropriate one. The driftwood that they will choose must be cleaned thoroughly to remove undesired specks of dirt and might even need some cutting or shaping.

It must be cured as well where it will be soaked and boiled to eliminate its tannins for weeks or months. Tannins can bring dangerous effects to the water chemistry of your aquarium.

Shipping Costs

Driftwood is quite expensive to ship because of its size, weight, and structure. Some can be so heavy and require a bigger box to prevent any damages.

Some may even come from other countries which will surely be expensive even for just a small piece of driftwood.

Supply and Demand

The law of supply and demand plays a significant role in the pricing of driftwood. The higher the demand for a product with limited supply, the higher its price would be.

The sellers of aquarium driftwood have low competition among each other. There are only limited sellers so the supply cannot keep up with the increasing demand.

A Niche and Rare Product

Aquarium driftwood is a niche product that is specific to aquarium keepers. The sellers are targeting the niche market which is composed of owners that are willing to spend money to support their hobby and make their tanks exquisite.

As a niche product, driftwood is fulfilling a specific demand of these enthusiasts which makes it expensive.

Rare pieces of driftwood can also be charged higher by the sellers. The more exotic the driftwood is, the more expensive it is. Some customers certainly prefer to have special pieces that will make their tank more outstanding.

Will Driftwood Tannins Kill Fish?

No, driftwood tannins will not kill fish. Tannins are not harmful but too much of these can lower the pH level of water that can stress fish.

The brown water caused by driftwood tannins will not kill fish instantly. With proper maintenance, tannins shall not trouble your aquarium inhabitants.

One of the concerns of tank owners about tannins is the possible decrease of the pH level. Tannins will lower the pH, making the water softer that can be harmful and stressful for some fish.

If your fish are those used to or intended to live in hard water, driftwood is not recommended. However, if your tank has soft water already before adding driftwood (meaning your fish are used to low pH) you should not worry as long as you are supplementing co2 too.

Does Driftwood Rot In Soil?

Yes, driftwood rot in the soil. The period of its rotting depends on the type of the tree and its curing process.

Driftwood is a natural material that will eventually rot but is usually taking some time. It will not decompose right away – its form and its environment play a significant role in its crumbling.

Thick and hard driftwood such as Malaysian and Mopani will gradually decay in a slow process. In contrast, the softwood species will rot faster as it is not as solid as the hard ones.

If your driftwood is dried and cured properly, then you can anticipate that it will have a long life before getting signs of rotting.

What Is So Special About Driftwood?

Driftwood is so special because it can be an added decor, a source of food, and can alter water chemistry.

The most common use for driftwood is for aesthetic purposes. It is certainly a great element to add to make your tank resemble the natural habitats of fish. It can also be a hiding and playing area for your aquatic pets.

An additional reason that makes driftwood special is its assistance with your fish’s food. Some species like catfish are adapted to eating driftwood. 

The capability to change water chemistry is another advantage of driftwood. It can lower the pH of water which is beneficial for fish keepers using alkaline tap water. This is also perfect for fish that need slightly acidic water since driftwood can sustain this kind of water.

Yet, you should be cautious of using driftwood as some fish will get stressed having this in their tank. These fish are those requiring hard water or used to living at a higher pH level.

Why Does My Driftwood Smell?

Your driftwood smells because of the anaerobic bacteria growing on its lower part submerged in the substrate. This bacteria is converting nitrates to nitrogen gas.

If after pulling your driftwood out of the substrate, you suddenly smell a rotting or sewage-like odor, do not be bothered as it is totally common.

The lower part of driftwood compressing the substrate will be a little stinky due to anaerobic bacteria, especially if the substrates are not adequately stirred. Do not get worried as this will not cause any harm to your tank’s inhabitants.

You may see some slime under the driftwood which is probably bacterias. Some rotting can also be starting inside the wood which causes a bad smell.

Can You Have Too Much Driftwood In An Aquarium?

No, it is not recommended to have too much driftwood in an aquarium as it can affect the pH level of water and shall take too much space in your tank.

Though there is no standard amount of driftwood advised to be added in aquariums, it is always better to be cautious and research first if you plan on adding a lot.

The tannic acid from driftwood can make the water’s pH lower. The more driftwood you have, the lower the pH can be which can trouble other fish that are not used to this level.

Likewise, too much driftwood will overstock your tank which limits the space of your fish to swim and play around. This can cause stress especially if they are used to having big space or to those big species that need extra room.

Do I Need To Boil Driftwood?

No, you do not need to boil driftwood. Boiling it will depend on your preference, whether you want tannins removed or not.

Boiling driftwood is not necessary and aquarium owners have the option if they want to do it or not.

One of the benefits of boiling driftwood is the faster removal of tannins. Also, it sterilized the driftwood that prevents fungal spores and algal from clinging to it once soaked in the tank.

Some do not think of boiling their driftwood as they prefer to use the tannins for softening your water’s pH level.

Does Driftwood Need To Be Replaced?

Yes, driftwood needs to be replaced. It is a natural decoration, thus it will break down eventually.

Driftwood is an organic piece inside your tank that will eventually crack up due to various reasons.

One of these is age; you can already observe signs of decomposition once it reaches two years. Soon after, you will typically need to replace your driftwood once it reaches five years.

As it starts breaking down, its outer part will be soft and will depart as sloppy debris that will add to your tank’s waste. Deteriorating driftwood will surely require additional cleaning and will make your tank look unsightly.

How Long Does It Take To Waterlog Driftwood?

On average, it will take two weeks up to two months to waterlog driftwood based on its kind and porousness.

Different types of driftwood have different absorbing capabilities, thus, making them fully waterlogged will differ.

If you want the natural process to waterlog your driftwood, you need to wait for weeks or even months. The less porous it is, the longer is the waiting game for you.

If you want to speed up the process, you can do the boiling process. Your driftwood will be waterlogged as fast as two days to two weeks through boiling if it is highly permeable.

Does Driftwood Smell Bad?

Initially, driftwood has no smell but once you put it in the water, it may suddenly stink.

Upon buying driftwood in a local shop, it will just emit an organic smell that will not be an annoyance to your nose.

Yet, after submerging it in your aquarium’s water, you may notice that it will eventually have an unpleasant odor. It can smell bad but only the specific part that is beneath the substrate due to the anaerobic bacteria growing on it.

Can I Remove Tannins From Driftwood?

Yes, you can remove tannins from driftwood by boiling it.

Some aquarium enthusiasts dislike tannins from driftwood because of the yellow to dark brown color, just like tea, that it gives to the water.

If you also want to get rid of tannins, the easiest and most effective way is by boiling. You can boil it for 30 minutes or even a little more.

After boiling, let it cool, and then wash it off with hot water followed by just regular water. Lastly, soak it for at least 24 hours in regular water before putting it in your aquarium.

Why Is My Driftwood Not Sinking?

Your driftwood is not sinking because of its characteristics and if it is not waterlogged.

Driftwoods can vary from each other; they can be different types of wood that come in different sizes and forms. All these can all affect the sinking of your driftwood.

Some types are thick and heavy enough that they are naturally sinking the moment you put them in your aquarium.

Meanwhile, others need to be waterlogged. You can pre-soak or boil your driftwood before putting it in your aquarium. With these ways, you can make sure that it will sink right away as the trapped air in it will be flushed out.

How Do You Keep Driftwood From Turning Brown Water?

You can keep driftwood from turning brown water by boiling it to remove the tannins causing the tea-like color.

It is natural for driftwood to turn your tank’s water into brown, especially if it is just newly placed. This is caused by the tannins that driftwood has.

If the brown water is not a visual nuisance for you, then just keep with it as it will eventually be gone. Just do regular water changes especially if your fish are not used to lower pH.

Yet, if you want to dismiss the brown water right away, boiling driftwood is the faster process. As you boil it, the tannins will leach out faster, though one downside is losing some wood exterior.

Can Driftwood Cause Ammonia and Nitrates?

No. Driftwood will not cause ammonia and nitrates especially if it is properly treated.

You have nothing to fret about when it comes to ammonia and nitrates once you decide to add driftwood to your plain tank.

Driftwood will not cause any spike of these chemicals unless it is not accurately treated. Once all the unwanted things in it are gone and it is filled with water, rest assured that it will be harmless to your aquatic pets and plants.

Does Driftwood Make Water Cloudy?

Yes, driftwood makes the water cloudy because of the tannins that it has. 

Driftwood is an amazing decor that will give a more natural vibe to your tank.

Yet, one of its downsides is making the water cloudy. This is caused by the tannins it has which turn water into color yellow or even brown.

Your tank will be loaded with tannin if you have untreated driftwood that you can usually purchase online. If you happen to get this type of driftwood, what you can do to remove the tannins is by boiling it.

How To Stop Tannins From Driftwood

You can stop tannins from driftwood by boiling and scrubbing it regularly until it is not emitting brown color anymore.

Tannins are protecting trees against plant pathogens. Thus, it will always be present with driftwood.

You can only stop this from leaking out of driftwood with a proper treatment process. Boiling and scrubbing it continuously until it is free from tannins is the most effective thing that you can do.


Here is the list of some recommended driftwood that you can buy online.

  • Tfwadmx 5PCS Aquarium Driftwood Branches – $17
  • Hamiledyi Aquarium Driftwood Natural Wood – $18
  • PINVNBY Natural Aquarium Driftwood Assorted Branches – $20
  • WDEFUN Natural Coral Driftwood – $27


Waithaka, E. (2020). How do you keep driftwood from floating in an aquarium. AquariaWise. https://aquariawise.com/how-to-keep-aquarium-driftwood-from-floating/

Dockett, E. (2015, August 14). 5 cloudy fish tank water causes and solutions. PetHelpful. https://pethelpful.com/fish-aquariums/Cloudy-Fish-Tank-Water-Causes-and-Solutions

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