I have recently found a large piece of driftwood on the bank of my local river. I'm not sure what kind of wood it is since there is no bark on it. I have two concerns. 1 is that it is too large to boil so how can I be sure it is safe for tank use? 2 Are there any types of wood that should never go into a tank? Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Poll: How long should I soak my driftwood before it is safe for my tank?
February 9, 2017
How long should I soak my driftwood before it is safe for my tank?
AD Admin
Hey Adam, Welcome to AquariumDomain!
Ideally you would definitely want to boil any wood you find outside, usually they have been exposed to pollutants or toxins and will contain both algae spores and fungus that you will not want to introduce to your tank. So if at all possible, boil the wood for 1.5 to 2 hours in order to completely clean and cure it. This will also help remove the tannins in wood, which will discolor the water in your tank.
If at all possible boil the wood, but if you can't I would suggest letting the wood air dry, scrub it very well with soap and water and a coarse scrubbing brush, rinse it, let it air dry again and then add it to the aquarium.
Also, unless you want to increase tannins in the water, it is best to soak the wood in tub, trash can, etc. with a powerhead and activate carbon to remove excess tannins and chemicals released from the wood.
As far as wood that should never go into an aquarium, you don't want to put any wood that has not already been submerged in water for a long time ie. nothing from the yard. Wood with sap or softwoods are also don't do well. Any hardwood that you find submerged in rivers and has already been "processed" by nature so to speak, should be OK after cleaning and sterilizing.
If all of the bark is gone from the wood that is a good sign that nature has done its job in preparing the wood. I was thinking that maybe if the wood is too big to boil that it could be baked in the oven at low temperature to kill the bad stuff on the wood but not discolor or catch the wood on fire.
I have pulled quite a few pieces of driftwood out of the brackish waters off the Chesapeake Bay near my home that were well aged and submerged in either saltwater or brackish water. Boiling is the best method by far, but I have had plenty of pieces that were too big, so I pressure wash them with a cheap home depot pressure washer and them scrub them down with soapy water and a potato brush. Then just rinse them off really well before putting them in your tank.
I have probably added about 12 to 15 pieces of wood this way over 20 years and never had a problem.
After adding the wood you may see a fuzz grow on it after a few weeks to a month after the driftwood is added to the aquarium. Folks in the aquarium club I belong to say it is either a fungus or a mold, but either way it's harmless. You can either brush it off or algae eating fish will actually eat it.