Driftwood is popular among aquarists. But any organic matter that’s not living can decay. So, does aquarium driftwood rot?
Aquarium driftwood usually doesn’t rot. It can only rot if it’s not dried or cured correctly. The wood-decaying fungi need dampness and oxygen to thrive. Since driftwood is submerged underwater, it’s too wet for the fungi to live. Moreover, aquarium driftwood is usually treated and too dry to rot.
If completely rotten, driftwood can be harmful to the tank inhabitants. So, let’s understand everything about the rotting of aquarium driftwood.
What Causes Wood To Rot?
The primary reason for wood to rot is moisture and fungi (microscopic organisms). Lingering moisture on unprotected or untreated wood allows the fungi to grow, resulting in wood rot.
Wood decaying fungi thrive on moisture and oxygen. They digest the moist wood causing it to rot.
For fungi to proliferate and colonize, excessive moisture over the fiber point in wood is required. When this condition is met, the wood fibers start to deteriorate, causing it to rot.
Also, the wood needs to be continuously damp for the fungi to thrive as they feed on the moisture for growth.
The fungi don’t grow on dry wood. Hence, the wood that’s properly treated and dried is rot-resistant compared to the untreated ones.
The same thing applies to aquarium driftwood as well. However, you may not often come across aquarium driftwood that rots. So, let’s understand the reason behind it.
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Why Doesn’t Driftwood Rot Quickly In Aquariums?
Oxygen and moisture are the two critical factors for wood to rot. Wood-rotting fungi need around 35% to 50% moisture to flourish.
Driftwood placed in aquariums is entirely submerged in the water. So it’s too wet for the fungi to live.
Also, the rot fungi need oxygen to oxidize sugars, which they utilize for energy supply and growth.
However, the cell spaces of waterlogged driftwood are filled with water. Therefore, the air supply inside the wood is cut off, and the growth of rot fungi is subsequently stopped.
The rot fungi don’t survive if there is no exchange of air. They also perish in the presence of carbon dioxide. Moreover, adequately treated driftwood is too dry to decay when placed in aquariums.
All these reasons prevent the driftwood from rotting in aquariums.
Alright! Now that you know why aquarium driftwood doesn’t rot quickly, let’s also understand which driftwood is rot-resistant and safe for aquarium use.
Which Driftwood Doesn’t Rot Quickly?
Driftwood forms the basis of aquarium hardscape and also adds character to an aquarium. However, not every driftwood is safe for aquarium use as some can rot quickly.
In addition, different types of wood vary significantly in their resistance to decay.
Most of the hardwoods are durable and don’t rot quickly. For example, Mopani and Malaysian driftwood are popular and widely used in most aquariums. They are very dense and rot very slowly.
Spider wood is another wood that doesn’t rot quickly. Manzanita is also one such driftwood that’s tough and rots slowly. However, if this wood has slender roots, it will rot faster.
Softwoods rot quickly compared to hardwoods. However, Cedarwood is an exception. Cedarwood is relatively soft, but it is naturally rot-resistant. Hence, it’s also preferred by many aquarists.
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How To Prevent Driftwood From Rotting?
Driftwood needs to be adequately preserved to increase its lifespan and prevent rotting.
Given below are numerous ways to prevent driftwood from rotting.
- Driftwood needs to be thoroughly cleaned to remove any fungi or bacteria that can make it rot when placed in the aquarium.
- Bleaching also helps make the driftwood durable and safe for aquariums. It will help eliminate all the harmful organisms present inside the wood. After this process is complete, wash your driftwood thoroughly under running tap water before placing it back in the aquarium.
- Driftwood needs to be dried thoroughly to prevent it from rotting in the aquarium.
- Driftwood that’s not cured or appropriately treated can rot when placed in an aquarium. So treating the driftwood before placing it in the tank is essential to avoid immediate rotting.
- Boiling the driftwood helps eliminate microorganisms present on the wood. This prevents it from rotting.
- Avoid usage of driftwood that shows signs of mold or mild dew.
- The freezing temperature slows down the rotting process. So, driftwood placed in cold water tanks doesn’t rot quickly.
- Another way to prevent driftwood from rotting is by using a type of wood that doesn’t decay quickly, such as Mopani and Manzanita wood.
What Happens When Aquarium Driftwood Rots?
You should never use driftwood if it’s rotten or damaged. It may harm the fish and plants in the aquarium.
If you notice any signs of damage on your driftwood, immediately remove it from the tank. If left untreated, it can start decaying very fast, causing more problems.
Completely rotten driftwood may disintegrate and release toxins in the tank water. This can be harmful to the fish and can also affect the overall growth of the aquarium plants.
Also, when any organic material like wood rots, it will release harmful material that can alter the water chemistry. Any sudden change in water chemistry can prove detrimental to the fish and plants.
Moreover, the decayed driftwood can contain parasites and other pathogens that can infect fish and plants.
Hence, it’s vital to keep track of the condition of your driftwood at regular intervals. In addition, you must ensure that the driftwood remains healthy and free from any damages.
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Is Driftwood Fungi Harmful To Fish?
Driftwood fungi are not harmful to fish. It’s normal for them to grow on a new wood placed in a new aquarium.
Driftwood fungi or molds form a white to greyish film that grows on newly installed driftwood in aquariums. They grow on driftwood immediately within few days and last for almost a month before perishing by themselves.
The fungi grow on driftwood in new aquariums because the conditions are conducive for them to thrive.
The tank water usually has a lot of beneficial bacteria. So when you introduce driftwood in the tank, the fungi find a place to grow and colonize.
Moreover, driftwood releases excess carbohydrates and other nutrients that feed the fungi. Although the fungi are not harmful to fish, they can make the tank look unattractive.
So you can remove the fungi with a toothbrush. Alternatively, you can boil the driftwood or soak it in a bleach solution.
If you bleach the driftwood, ensure to rinse and soak the driftwood in clean water to remove all traces of bleach. Also, dry it completely under the sun before placing the driftwood back in the aquarium.
Fish like bristlenose plecos, otocinclus catfish, and snails love to munch on these fuzz. So, if you have one in your aquarium, they can clear it for you.