Driftwood is defined by Webster's
Dictionary as "Wood floating in or washed up by a body of
water". To the aquarium enthusiast, it is sought after and widely
use for aquascaping. Driftwood can be an esthetically pleasing
addition to the aquarium environment.
There more than several types of driftwood that are readily available
for purchase in the aquarium trade. These include:
Standard driftwood - The most readily
available and most economical kind of driftwood. This wood
is commonly found in North America, besides other part of
the world. It is the remnants of trunks or branches that are
worn by water erosion or sandblasted by wind erosion. Standard
driftwood is available in an endless number of shapes and
sizes. It floats and can be sunk by two different methods.
The first method is letting it soak in the aquarium over time.
The length of time a piece of standard driftwood floats depends
on the piece of wood. Small pieces can take weeks, larger
pieces take months or even years! A much quicker method is
to use a piece of slate that has a hole drilled into it for
a screw. We recommend a stainless steel screw which won't
rust in the aquarium. The screw is simply fit through the
hole and then screwed into the wood. You can also use aquarium
safe silicone, but you will have to wait for the silicone
to cure. Once in the aquarium, the slate can be covered with
either rocks or gravel.
African or Savanna Root - This is probably
the second most common driftwood available. It is self-sinking,
therefore no slate mounting or extending soaking is needed.
It does not have the appearance of standard driftwood. Rather,
it is gnarly on one side and quite smooth on the other.
African Driftwood - Not to be confused
with African Root. African driftwood looks more like standard
driftwood but it's self-sinking. It's more intricate in shape
and darker than standard driftwood. Pieces can be quite hollow
or have a ribbed appearance. African driftwood pieces are typically
hundreds of years old. They command a high price when compared
to standard driftwood.
Malaysian driftwood - Another self-sinking
driftwood. Close in a appearance to standard driftwood, it typically
has elongated branches. An excellent choice if you are looking
to attach plants like Java Fern to a piece of wood. It is self-sinking.
Since driftwood is a natural product that
is usually found washed up on shores or laying on the ground,
it's important that it is "cleaned". The easiest way
to clean smaller pieces of driftwood is to boil it. Find a pot
large enough to submerge the your piece(s) in (large soup pots
and lobster pots work well). Place the wood in the pot and bring
to boil for about 15 minutes. Drain the water out of the pot,
refill it and repeat. After the second boil fill the pot one last
time, boil this for another 10 minutes. Let it cool off, drain
and your done. Of course, larger pieces of driftwood will not
fit in a pot, so boiling water will not be practical. The next
best thing is to scrub the driftwood using hot water. A potato
brush works rather well and they are usually available for a couple
dollars at your local grocery stores.
does to water
Boiling driftwood will have remove much
of the tannins contained in the wood. What are tannins? Tannins
are a natural compound contained in the driftwood and they are
released into your tank water as the driftwood soaks. Tannins
will stain your tank water a light yellow color or when concentrated
- the color of tea. The amount of staining depends on what type
of driftwood and how much wood driftwood you are using. Boiling
driftwood can be thought of as placing a bag of tea in a hot cup
of water. The longer the tea is in the water and the hotter the
water is, the more tannins that will be released.
Soaking driftwood in a container will
also help release the tannins before it is introduced into the
aquarium. This process can take quite a bit of time. It can be
weeks or even months before most of the tannins are released.
In all plants and trees, tannins are used
as defensive compounds that counteract bacteria and fungi by interfering
with their surface proteins. There are rivers in the Amazon that
are so filled with tannins that the water is stained to the color
of tea and very few organisms can actually thrive in this water.
These rivers are called "blackwater" habitats. It just
so happens that many fish from the "blackwater" habitats
of the Amazon seems more susceptible to disease. Coincidence?
We don't think so.
African Root - close-up
The most common question most cichlid
keepers have about driftwood is "how will it effect my pH?" Answering
this question is not easy, but there are a few things to consider.
Since driftwood contains tannins (which is also referred to as
tannic acid) it will try to lower your aquarium's pH. Your pH
may drop if the buffering capacity of your water is low (low mineral
content). If the buffering capacity is high, the chance of a piece
of driftwood causing a pH swing is minimal.
Driftwood will also tend to soften your
water. This is great if you are keeping softwater fishes like
Discus, Satanoperca daemon or Uaru Fernandezyepezi. It's not so
good if your water already has a low buffering capacity and you
are keeping fishes from Lake Tanganyika.
What's that fuzz on my driftwood?
Quite often after driftwood is added to
an aquarium, a white almost transparent fuzz will grow on it.
This fuzz can appear several weeks to several months after the
driftwood is added to the aquarium. Popular thinking is this fuzz
is either a fungus or a mold. Either way it's harmless, unfortunately
it's not pleasing to look at. Some people have had luck just brushing
it off. Others have had luck by introducing algae eating fish,
as they will actually eat it. Neither technique will guarantee
preventing this fuzz from recurring. The important thing is to
have faith, as it will eventually disappear.
Without proper preparation of your driftwood
and understanding the water requirements of your fish, driftwood
can do more harm than good. But when properly prepared, driftwood
can be a wonderful addition to your tank and make you look like
an expert aquascaper!