Can Any Wood Be Used In An Aquarium?

Adding wood to your aquarium can transform the entire look and feel of your fish tank. Apart from the aesthetics, adding wood can have a few other important benefits, too. Aquarium wood provides a place for a few fish species to live and hide. Fish tank wood can also serve as a spawning site for egg-laying species.

Wood also offers a food source of algae and other small microscopic animals. These foods are accessed by a few hard-to-keep catfish species. Wood can also help you alter the water chemistry, which enables you to set water parameters for species of your choosing, such as catfish.

But the main question is can you add any type of wood to your aquarium? Well, while wood is a great option for your aquarium, not every type of wood can or should be added to it.

There are a wide variety of wood types available that may be suitable for your aquarium. You can get them from different stores, retailers or even your own garden.

However, purchasing woods for decorative purposes from a specialist retailer will help ensure that the wood you choose is meant for a definitive purpose. You can also conduct a little more research to look for suitable wood species for your fish tank. This will allow you to collect the selected wood from within your garden or maybe some other place.

Driftwood for Aquarium

Various types of driftwood are suitable for fish tank use. Every type of driftwood has its own unique aesthetic, and a majority of them can even affect water chemistry.

In order to ensure the establishment of a super-healthy aquarium, you need to select the right type of driftwood. Here are a few types of driftwood that serve different purposes and are suitable for your tank.

Malaysian Driftwood

Found in Southeast Asia, Malaysian driftwood branches are dark in color, with stark and linear shapes. This type of driftwood can have a huge impact on water chemistry.

Malaysian driftwood helps darken the fish tank water and lowers the pH levels. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many fish breeds like tetras or dwarf cichlids like dark-colored, acidic water.

In case you have the aforementioned fish breed, Malaysian Driftwood will prove to be very beneficial for you. Unlike surface wood, this type of driftwood sinks in the water instead of floating around. Hence, you can easily position it in the water.

Mopani Wood

Mopani wood is also referred to as African driftwood. The Mopani wood bears a few similar properties to Malaysian driftwood. It is used to lower the pH levels of the water, but it is less effective than Malaysian wood.

If you don’t want Mopani to lower the pH level, then you can boil it before adding it to the fish tank. Mopani wood looks different from Malaysian wood as it has gnarled branches and significantly lighter coloration. This type of wood is also self-sinking so you don’t have to weigh it down.

American Driftwood

American driftwood is comparatively less expensive than any other kind of aquarium wood. This type of wood is very light-colored and can vary in appearance.

However, the problem is that this type of driftwood floats and has to be weighed down using some object. A few pet stores sell American driftwood along with slate pieces or other rocks in order to weigh it down so it doesn’t float in the aquarium.

Planted Driftwood

Planted driftwood is not a particular type of driftwood. It is driftwood that has plants secured around it. Various types of aquarium plants can attach themselves to driftwood.

Pet shops have now started selling driftwood that comes with pre-attached plants. Some of these plants include java ferns, mosses or even Anubis plants. These plants thrive under most aquarium conditions, even low lighting.

Coconut Husks

Pet shops also sell wooden husks of coconuts. These are used in fish tanks and aquariums. You can purchase them with or without the coconut fibers.

The coconuts are also cut in half, which turns them into tiny caves. They have very little or almost no impact on the water chemistry of the aquarium.

Maple Wood

Another type of driftwood that can be added in an aquarium is maple wood. It can be a great option to use in aquariums as they don’t affect the color of the water.

Since maple is naturally very pale in color, it doesn’t contain many tannins that can leach into the water.

Woods to Avoid for your aquarium

Selecting wood for your aquarium is not that easy. You have to be really cautious when choosing it. Wood purchased from pet shops is usually safe because it is meant for specific purposes. However, obtaining wood from other sources can be pretty risky. If you choose to collect it yourself, then be very careful.

The driftwood may have been exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals. One of the biggest problems faced with using natural wood is that chemicals can start leaching out into the aquarium water. Store-purchased bogwood, Mopani, Red Moor or Manzanita can be pretty expensive— but they are safe options.

Wood purchased from the hardware store might have poisonous chemicals that are designed to preserve the wood. There are some types of wood that are naturally poisonous due to their chemical composition, like creosote woods.

Softwoods shouldn’t be used in an aquarium. For example, Vivarium wood, like Grapevine, is too soft and will start rotting rapidly once it is placed in a fish tank.

Another type of wood that should be avoided is oak as it can leach a lot of colors. Similarly, Conifers contain an abundance of resins within them. They can’t really be leached out even with excessive weathering. Even kiln-dried conifer lumber leaks resin even long after it turns into lumber. Many woodworkers face a problem with this.

Very rarely will you come across chunks of cedar that possibly work for a tank. However, you might not want to risk it by including such wood in your fish tank.

Wood types like Bogwood and Mopani are considered pretty risky as well for your tank as they are known for leaching tannic acid into the aquarium water.

This issue needs to be addressed before the wood is placed inside the aquarium. It’s better to keep the wood soaked in water until it stops leaching before placing it into the tank. Depending on the piece of wood, the processing time will vary. Dense pieces of wood may require multiple weeks before they stop expelling acids that are visible as brown discoloration.

The Weeping willow tree, in addition to other willows, can rot rather quickly. A rotting willow tree branch can cause a serious mess in your aquarium. Live willow twigs are also pretty easy to root in water and also grow pretty quickly, but they can suck up too many nitrates if you place them in a tank.

The wood available at shops can be rather expensive, which is why people go looking for free wood. While sometimes this can work out, it won’t be like this every time. While wood can and is widely used in an aquarium, not every type of wood will be suitable for your fish tank. So, in order to avoid any complications, it’s best that you purchase wood for your aquarium from a pet store.

Reasons Not To Use Some Woods

While there are woods that you can use in your aquariums, not all types of woods are useful. Here are some reasons you may want to avoid using wood in your aquarium.

Potentially Toxic

Many plants contain various toxic elements. A few tree species are widely acknowledged for their high toxicity levels. One such tree is the walnut tree.

Dust isn’t good for your lungs so you have to take extra precautions when dealing with walnut dust. These types of trees secrete a highly potent toxin called a juglone in the soil, which poisons the surrounding area, making it impossible for anything else to grow nearby.

Any trees from the ’walnut’ family are to be avoided at all costs.

Pollution of Water

Any wood that is green in color is not safe to use and is not recommended at all. If you have green wood, you can’t put it in your aquarium. Such wood has to be weathered outside for at least a year before its deemed usable.

Greenwood consists of resin and sap. This carries the food within a tree and comprises an abundance of starches and sugars. Sap can pollute the fish tank water and create foaming and other unpleasant problems within it.

Weathering this green wood will leach out all the resin and the sap. You can then use the wood for your aquarium.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that wood can transform a mediocre aquarium into a gorgeous biotope, but you have to be careful while you are choosing a piece of wood for your tank.

Many types of hardwood mentioned above are safe to use in your tank, while others will have to be weathered before you can add them to your tank. Just remember to take a few precautions before introducing a piece of wood in your aquarium.

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