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Driftwood in an freshwater aquarium can look stunning and offer lot of options for designing your aquarium. They can make some really amazing aquascapes, especially heavily planted ones. We need to be careful in our driftwood selection process though.
Today’s post discusses the best driftwood for aquariums. Much like the best aquarium rocks post earlier, driftwood is not as simple as picking it out of of your local pond or aquarium. Driftwood if not selected or prepped properly can have disastrous results in your aquarium.
This is why this post is going to focus on commercial selections for driftwood. I’m not going to be talking about DIY options as they can be risky and something only someone with experience should handle. I’m going to discuss the types of driftwood available then go over several recommended options. In the post, there will be affiliate links where I may get a commission should you choose to make a purchase at no charge to you. With that disclosure provided, let’s go ahead and get started.
What Is Aquarium Driftwood?
Aquarium driftwood is wood that has been washed over through a beach, river, or a lake. This driftwood provides shelter and food for inverts and fish in freshwater aquariums. They also provide cover and a source of food for birds that live near the waters. Most driftwood are the remains of trees. Driftwood has also been discussed in Norse mythology. In the mythology, the first humans were formed out of two pieces of driftwood made of ash and elm by the god Odin.
The Trouble with Tannins
Before I go over the types of aquarium driftwood, let’s talk about what Tannins are a natural compound contained in driftwood. They are released into your aquarium as the driftwood soaks. When tannins are released into your aquarium, the compound will discolor your aqyuarium water. At low levels, it will look like a light yellow color and at high concentrations, it will look like the color of tea (as showed by the fishlore forum member GreeksGills) . While tannins will not harm your fish, it is not very pleasing to the eye.
There are ways to mitigate tannins in your aquarium. The first is to boil your driftwood before it goes into your aquarium. You can also add carbon media to remove the discoloration. I will go more into Driftwood prepping later in this post.
Types of Aquarium Driftwood
Before we look at a list of driftwood we can buy, let’s talk about the types of aquarium driftwood available in our hobby. They all have different looks and characteristics.
Bonsai Driftwood is a designer driftwood that is handcrafted by artisans to create unique works of art. These wood pieces resemble a bonsai tree. They are amazing piece alone in an aquarium and are eye catching with live plants growing on them. The favorite type of plant to grow on this driftwood are mosses. They are sharp and not ideal for Fancy Goldfish or Betta Fish Care. They are pricey and each piece is unique. They contain a moderate amount of tannins and will lower pH.
Cholla driftwood is one of the cheapest and readily available driftwood you can find. It is native to the Southwest United States. It is actually the dried remains of a Cholla Cactus. It is one of the go to driftwoods for Freshwater Shrimp Tanks. The reason why is because the Cholla wood surface is ideal for harvesting biofilm. It has a moderate tannin count and takes some time to get waterlogged.
Manzanita Driftwood is becoming a highly desired aquarium driftwood for aquascapers. It is wood that comes from shrubs native to Oregon, Texas, California and New Mexico. It has many advantages over other types of driftwood. It has a low tannin count and looks amazing. It has a branch like structure, which creates unique looking scapes. It waterlogs the fastest among all other driftwood available. It is one of the few driftwoods you can buy that is pH neutral. No pH change is a big game changer for those who want driftwood but may have fish that are not compatible with lower pHs. It is very resistant to decomposition. This makes this driftwood very long lasting and strong.
It really is in my mind the driftwood of choice. What’s the catch? Well, it’s difficult to find. The best sources are going to be smaller sellers online.
Mopani is a unique looking wood comprised of 2 tone color combinations. It will lower your pH and has a high tannin count. It is becoming a more popular driftwood for aquariums as larger aquarium brands are starting to sell in in stores. It is a readily available driftwood. They are imported from the plains of Namibia by local tribesmen.
Spiderwood is well known for its varied branched appearance. It is found in Mongolia and looks like a spider (hence the name). It matures into a beautiful Mahogany color in the aquarium. This wood has a low tannin count and is quick to get water logged. Since this is an imported wood, it is usually on the cheaper end compared to others.
Tiger wood derived it’s name by its shape. It looks like the strips of a tiger or the claws of one. It is pale in appearance and has a branched look that is thicker than most branch type driftwood. They generally are only available as larger show pieces. This type of driftwood is ideal for attaching ferns and mosses. It has a light amount of tannins and will get waterlogged quickly.
Now that I have gone over what driftwood is and the types available for sale, let’s talk about the best ones to buy. Below our my recommended picks.
In a hurry? I recommend Manzanita Driftwood!
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|Buce Plant WSYIWYG Driftwood|
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|Fluval Mopani Wood|
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|Koyal Wholesale California Driftwood|
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|NiloG Cholla Wood|
Best For Shrimp Tanks
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The Top 9 Choices (2023 Update)
Let’s go into further details with each product
1. Manzanita – The Ultimate
Manzanita offers it all. Great shape, low tannins, quick to water log and reasonably priced. It's the ultimate driftwood!
Manzanita driftwood is friendliest driftwood to work with in the industry. This wood from Buceplant has it all. It is well priced, looks amazing, and the support team at BucePlant are the best in the business. You can’t go wrong with them. They sell small and medium sizes. These are valued priced pieces that offer all the advantages of Manzanita.
Like many Manzanita sellers, availability is limited. I would suggest jumping on a purchase if pieces are in stock.
- Manzanita Driftwood
- Large Pieces
2. Tiger Wood – Amazing Showpiece
Tiger wood offers the same great benefits as Manzanita with more varied shapes. Well priced and easy to find
More aquascaping goodness with these amazing show pieces by BucePlant. BucePlant arts offers tiger wood in all sizes. This driftwood has thick branches with great shapes that will look great in longer and larger aquariums. Because of tiger wood’s low tannin count and ease to water log, it is easy to prep for aquarium usage.
Because Buce offers these in all sizes, there is a tigerwood piece available for any aquarium setup
- Amazing show pieces
- Unique branch structures
- Easy to prep
- The look is not for everyone
3. Spider Wood – At a Jaw Dropping Price!
Spider wood is a unique shaped and affordable driftwood. Available in many sizes
If you are looking for spider wood, I would highly recommend Buce’s Spider Wood. These pieces are offered at various sizes from 4 – 18″. There are even massive showpieces available for sale on their site that are simply amazing! They are offered at super low prices. It’s really hard to find something of similar quality at the price these are sold for.
- Exotic looking pieces
- Great Price
- Sizable pieces
- The look is not for everyone
4. Buce WYSIWYG Wood – Showpieces for Award Winning Aquascapes
What You See Is What You Get!
Buce offers a WSYSIWYG show pieces. Great for aquascaping. They make your aquascapes pop like no other!
Are you looking for top quality aquarium driftwood pieces? If so, BucePlant is where you want to go. This is a WYSIWYG vendor with large and impressive show pieces for sale. Every showpiece they offer has low tannins, won’t alter pH, and easy to place.
The other thing I love is this is the only vendor on our list that offers truck style driftwood. If you know anything about nature aquascape, truck style driftwood offers amazing forest like backdrops.
All the pieces they offer are giant pieces. Make sure you take your measurements on your aquarium before purchasing.
This is the some best quality driftwood you can buy online. It has a high price tag as a result and expect slower shipping times due to their size.
- Lots of selection
- Gigantic pieces
- Slower shipping
5. Bonsai – Create An Underwater Japanese Garden Today!
Bonsai driftwood offers a unique looking background in your tank. With the proper plants attached to it you can truly get a forest like look in your tank
These Bonsai Driftwood pieces offered for size are amazing looking in your aquarium. They have the added benefit of lowing your pH and softening your water, making them ideal for the vast majority of planted tank setups.
Bonsai trees cans be different to aquascape. They require a high amount of touch not only to get the moss down correctly, but also to keep them well groomed. If you are up for the challenge and want something stunning, this could be the wood piece for you!
- Amazing looking
- Lowers pH and softens water
- Takes skill to aquascape properly
6. Fluval Mopani Wood – A Trusted Brand
Backed by a quality brand name, this Mopani wood are high quality specimens that will show off in your display tank
The Fluval name brand enters our list with their Mopani Wood product. This is the same Mopani Wood you saw me explain earlier, but backed by the Fluval name. The result is you get high quality specimens that are well picked by Fluval. You also get a competitive price due to Fluval’s scale of operations. They offer both small and large sizes so you can find the right size for your aquarium in their selection.
The only thing I do not like is the Mopani wood itself. Mopani is notorious for its tannin leeching. Fluval puts in their product description that it “adds a slight tint water, creating a more natural looking water conditions.” Honestly, that is just covering the for the tannins here. Take your time to prep this wood and have your carbon ready if you want to use this driftwood. They are great looking pieces if you can handle the tannin leeching.
- Fluval Name
- Well picked specimens
- Great price
- Tannin leeching from Mopani
7. Koyal Wholesale California – Old School Bogwood
A throwback to the old bogwood setups. Koyal is a name brand and offers driftwood at competitive prices
Koyal Wholesale’s driftwood pieces are known in the wedding industry due to the hit wedding TV show My Fair Wedding. However, these pieces are also great for aquariums. This product from Koyal reminds me a lot of the old bogwood pieces that used to be offered at fish stores. There is also a Grapewood Branch variant that is offer that looks more like the the other driftwood pieces on this list.
Given the popularity and supply of the product, they are offered at a competitive price. They are sold at 12″ pieces, which should be fine for most aquariums. The major complaint with these have been the wood takes a long time to water log and there have been shipping mishaps.
- Old school bogwood look
- Shipping issues
- Takes long to water log
If you are looking for budget driftwood these pieces from Hamiledyi are what you are looking for. They are ideal for smaller tanks and the pieces have good variation. The price is very reasonable and wood is lightweight.
Hamiledyi does not state the origin of this driftwood. From what we know from the review this is a high tannin count wood. It is likely this wood is a variation of Malaysian Driftwood, which is a common wood found at local fish store. Given it’s budget price, it’s not a finished wood as well. Expect to sand down edges to make it smooth to the touch.
- Small Sizes
- Good variation
- Mixed Driftwood – you do not know the type or source
- High tannin count
- Raw wood
9. NiloG Cholla Wood – The Choice for Freshwater Shrimp Tanks
Cholla is best known for being an excellent wood for pet shrimp
If you are looking for wood for a shrimp tank, this is the product to buy. This Cholla Wood by NiloG is a great buy. It is cheap and your shrimp will love you for it as they feed off it all day.
Cholla wood is not for every fish tank. It decays fast and needs an inhabitant that will happily eat it while it decomposes. This is why they are ideal for species of shrimp like Cherry and Amano Shrimp as they will scavenge off the remains.
- Great for shrimp tanks
- Decays fast
Our Expert’s Choice
There are so many quality driftwood to pick here it’s really hard to pick a winner. Let’s separate these into separate categories as there is a piece for everyone’s needs here.
- Editor’s Choice – Manzanita
- Best Value – Tigerwood
- Budget Option – Spiderwood
How To Prep for Tank Usage
So now that you know what the best driftwood is to buy, let’s talk about getting them into your aquarium. There are two things we want to do to prep our driftwood for aquarium usage:
- Removing Tannins
- Waterlogging the wood
There are two options two achieve both. One would be soaking the driftwood. This takes a long time, usually 2-4 weeks. While this may work for very large show pieces, it’s not a fun method for the those of us excited to scape our tanks. Boiling would be our next option and the preferred way of prepping our aquarium driftwood.
The video below by Long Island Fish Guy illustrates the process. When boiling, you want to boil until you the water in the boil pot is clear. You will also want to utilize carbon media to mitigate any residual leeching of tannins afterwords.
If you have a large piece of driftwood, you can boil it in sections boil. Put what you can fit in your pot as you go. If the wood is very large, you may have to consider the soaking method
One thing to note is Tannins do have benefits in an aquarium. It just doesn’t make your aquarium look pleasing to the eye for most. My preference is to purchase driftwood with low tannin count like Manzanita or Spiderwood. This helps with ease of prep and keeps your aquarium clear of that tea color.
How To Attach Live Plants
Attaching live plants to your driftwood really makes your aquascape come alive. There are two type of live plants that are ideal for attaching to driftwood.
- Moss like Java Moss
- Column feeding live plants Like Anubias Nana.
For moss, you can use super glue to attach the base of the moss to your driftwood. Below is a great video by Roma Aquatics that shows how to do this. What I love about attaching plants on wood is you can do this outside of your aquarium and take your time with it.
The next video by Fishaholic shows how to attach a column feeding live plant to driftwood. This example is Java Fern. You can do this with any other column feeding live plant. Both methods I’m showing here are done with super glue. I prefer this method over fishing line or tiebacks since glue is invisible and easier to work with in my experience.
What Kind is Safe For Tanks?
The safest driftwood are ones sold are pet stores, local fish stores, and online stores. Common trade names that are safe are Manzanita, Tiger, Spider and Bonzai driftwood.
Which Wood Is Ideal?
The best wood for driftwood are the ones sold at pet stores. Of these, Manzanita and Tigerwood are the easiest to deal with because they produce low tannins and waterlog quickly
Is It Good For Freshwater Tanks?
Yes – driftwood is good for freshwater aquariums. Driftwood lowers the pH and softens the water, which most tropical fish and live plants prefer. Your fish see it as a natural habitant and will feel safe with it around them. You can also attach plants and moss to the driftwood to produce a stunning planted structure!
Does It Cause Ammonia?
Driftwood can cause ammonia, if it hasn’t been treated. Untreated wood can contain organic matter that will decay in the aquarium and spike ammonia levels. To avoid this, you can boil driftwood as a safety precaution even if the wood has been treated.
Driftwood adds a lot of beauty to your aquarium. I hope through this post I was able to help you make an informed decision on what the driftwood you want to purchase for your aquarium. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. Thank you for reading and see you next time!
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.
What kind of driftwood would be the best for a betta? I guess if any driftwood is okay at all.
Manzanita is the easiest for an aquarist to handle. Just make sense it has smooth edges. You can go with driftwood with a high tannin count, but I prefer to use almond leaves for that.
Are you able to supply driftwood for export?