Driftwood brings a natural feel to the aquarium. Every driftwood piece is unique, giving the aquarist the chance to create something new and exciting with each set up. To start with, having a certain look in mind will make it easier to find a suitable piece. Browsing at pictures online or looking at pieces in a shop are great ways of getting ideas as to what type of driftwood you may end up using. There are many different types of driftwood to choose from.
Some examples of driftwood are; Malaysian, Gold Vine, Mekong Riverwood (Hornwood), Manzanita, Bonsai, Mangrove Root & Mopani. There are others but it will depend on what is available in your area. Once you have selected your desired piece, preparing it is the next step.
Getting your driftwood ready for the aquarium does not take much effort. Firstly clean the driftwood with a brush to remove any excess dirt or debris. Remove any loose pieces that may be about to flake off or any other pieces that aren’t firmly attached.
Some driftwood when purchased will need to be soaked so it can become waterlogged and sink. Driftwood needs to be waterlogged to stay submerged in the aquarium, otherwise it will float to the surface. Some driftwood sinks straight away where others will usually take 1 – 2 weeks, even up to a month. As driftwood absorbs water, it will leech Tannins back into the water.
Tannins (Tannic Acid) are a natural compound found in wood to help protect the tree from Fungi, bacteria and insects. Soaking your driftwood will help to remove any excess tannin. Tannins leech into the water staining it a light yellow to brown colour. The amount of Tannins leeching from the driftwood in your aquarium will not be enough to harm your fish. Although in the Amazon River in Blackwater habitats, the waters are extremely high in tannins and only certain fish can live in this environment.
To soak the driftwood, place it into a bucket or tub, making sure the whole piece is submerged. Use dechorinated water as you want to keep the driftwood as contaminant free as possible. Over time the driftwood will leech out the tannin. After a few days remove the water and refill. Each time this is done the water will become clearer and clearer. Once clear the driftwood is ready for the aquarium.
Boiling driftwood will speed up the process of removing tannins. The same action as having a cup of tea. Place the driftwood in a pot of dechorinated water and boil for 15-20mins. Remove the water and repeat the process. As mentioned above once the water is clear it’s ready for the aquarium. Boiling driftwood also helps remove any parasites or bacteria.
If you have put driftwood into the aquarium and it is still leeching tannins into the water, simple water changes over time will dilute it, completely removing it in the end. Some pieces may keep leeching for months so it is best to get suitable pieces that are light leaching.
Be aware that certain woods used for Reptiles and Birds are no good for aquarium use. When soaking for long periods of time under water they will simply rot away.
Some pieces of driftwood may exube a soft transparent jelly-like substance and even harder white substances. This is harmless to fish and can be easily cleaned off with a brush. Having Algae eating fish will also help remove this. This may grow back many times before it will eventually disappear.
Driftwood helps lower the pH of the water due to the tannic acid that is released. This is great for fish that love slightly acidic conditions. This is a more natural way of lowering pH in the aquarium. Driftwood makes a great place for fish to spawn on and also creates hiding spaces. Catfish will also find benefit by having a piece of driftwood in tank. Not only for eating off algae but knawing away pieces of it. This aids them in digestion.
Plants like Mosses, Ferns and Anubias are perfect for attaching to driftwood. Depending on the type of driftwood you are using you may be able to nestle the plants into the cracks of the wood, thereby not needing anything to tie it down.
When attaching plants to driftwood you can use fishing line, black cotton, rubber bands or cable ties. Fishing line and black cotton are the least obtrusive with cotton deteriorating over time leaving the roots completely attached.
There is no specific area in the aquarium to place your driftwood. It is more common to have the piece toward the back of the tank or in the corner, but it comes down to personal preference. Driftwood is a nice focal point and with the right piece and preparation, it will make an enjoyable addition to the aquarium.