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Tips on selecting wood for fish tanks, and types of aquarium wood

Brief Description

Wood pieces act as creative and decorative sculptures in many aquariums but they serve as more than just ornaments in these underwater structures. They help to anchor various plants and lower pH levels in the water. Aquarium wood also functions as a mimic to the natural environment where fish originally come from. It provides a place for fish to hide, breed and spawn.

What to look for:

When looking for a new piece of wood for your aquarium you’ll want to know what you are looking for.

  • You want a very hard, dense wood. Soft wood decays too quickly and is not very practical for keeping a clean tank.
  • Look for unique shapes that you can set up alone or together with other pieces and plants. If you have several pieces you can lean them against each other to create more crevices and places to hide in the aquarium. The right layout can maximize your aquarium’s visual appeal. I like to place one or two larger pieces in my tank and create the rest of the décor around it.
  • While looking for your wooden structure keep in mind the size of your fish and the size of your tank. You won’t want to select pieces that will over-crowd your aquarium but you will want to provide adequate space for you bigger fish to hide. If your fish feel safe they will be a lot happier.


Finding that perfect piece of aquarium wood is easier said than done. When you go to an aquatic retailer, they may have a variety of wood to fit your needs. That is because professional gatherers know exactly what types of woods are useable and what types are not. However, some of us like to go out and find our own pieces in nature. It’s great when you find that perfect sculpture but there are pros and cons to this method. Be aware that wood can absorb and hold onto poisons such as weed killers or fertilizers which are very lethal to fish. Be careful not to use wood that have been found too close to cities or polluted water. Salt levels in marine drift wood can also harm your underwater pets. A few days of soaking can remedy this problem and your wood will be ready for use.


No matter where the wood comes from it should always be soaked in water for an extended period of time. Change the water every day or every other day until the water is clear and there is no debris floating to the surface. Be patient because this may take up to a few months. Even then it wouldn’t hurt to let it soak a few days more.


Pieces of wood that have not been soaked for very long will leak tannic acid turning your aquarium water a yellowish-brown color. This is perfectly ok and some fish will actually feel more comfortable but it does lower the pH level of your water so you’ll want to monitor the acidity.

Varieties of Wood:

  • 1.Mopani wood is a dense, hard wood that can be found in parts of Africa. It is known for having unique shapes and interesting color patterns. With grains of chocolate brown contrasting with light, sandy streaks, this wood is one that is highly desired for many aquariums.
  • 2.Malaysian Driftwood is really popular among aquarists. Coming from Asia this wood is very, very dense which causes it to sink nicely to the bottom. This wood comes in many unique shapes and is the most readily available in tropical aquatic retail stores.
  • 3.Bog wood is a wood that has already been soaked for years and years. No one can really say exactly how long it has been soaking. Bog conditions work as a natural preserve for wood and other things. When bog wood dries it starts to decay and split. Splitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it might add more character to an already interesting piece.
  • 4.Poly-resin driftwood is not real wood. It is a synthetic resin molded and painted to look like real tree roots or hollowed out logs. You can find these decorations with or without fake moss or plants, depending on the theme of your aquarium. They come in all different shapes and sizes. This type of wood is used for aesthetics and hiding spots in an aquarium. It does not change the chemistry of the water and it will not produce debris. This will allow your tank water to remain clearer for longer.

Wood plays an important role in many aquarium environments. Carefully, well-selected pieces will benefit your fish community more than you’ll ever know.


Aquarium wood, 1 Aquarium wood, 2

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