Aquarium driftwood lasts for a decade if it’s maintained properly. However, it may show signs of deterioration after being submerged for around 3 to 5 years and may need replacement if it gets damaged. Cheap driftwood is more likely to decompose at the surface sooner than high-grade driftwood.
Many factors determine the longevity of driftwood, like its quality and maintenance. However, the good thing is that driftwood lasts longer with proper care. So, let’s see how to keep and preserve aquarium driftwood for a long time.
How To Keep Driftwood In An Aquarium So That It Lasts Long?
You can keep driftwood in the aquarium for a very long time.
However, you should always check the condition of the driftwood before adding it to the aquarium.
You must ensure that there are no signs of rot or decay.
Driftwood purchased from reputed stores is usually aquarium safe.
So, there’s no need to treat them before placing them in the aquarium.
However, it’s always better to sterilize the driftwood to ensure there is no debris, dirt, or harmful bacteria that harms the fish.
The problem with sourcing driftwood is that it can be pretty expensive.
Moreover, you may not always get driftwood of the right size and shape that easily fits into your aquarium.
So, if you don’t wish to buy driftwood and instead want to use the one found outdoors, it needs to be treated appropriately before placing it in the aquarium.
First and foremost, the driftwood picked from outdoors needs to be from a hardwood tree.
This is because the hardwood trees’ driftwood doesn’t break easily and so doesn’t affect the water quality, unlike softwood.
Follow the below steps before placing the outside driftwood in the aquarium.
1. Clean the driftwood.
Cleaning the driftwood is essential as it will help remove impurities such as algae, moss, fungi, harmful bacteria, pollutants, tannins, etc., that are detrimental to the fish.
Use a soft brush to remove unwanted and harmful materials from the wood.
After cleaning the wood, wash the wood in hot water and rinse it thoroughly.
Ensure that you don’t use any soap or other cleaning products that can harm the fish and the aquarium water.
2. Soak the driftwood.
Driftwood is usually buoyant, which means it will float when you place it in the aquarium water.
To prevent floating, you need to soak the driftwood in clean water for several days.
Multiple days of soaking is required to saturate the driftwood thoroughly to make it sink in the water.
Also, you need to change the water every couple of days to ensure it doesn’t attract any mosquitoes or other insects.
3. Remove the sharp edges.
Once the driftwood is completely saturated, you should examine it.
It shouldn’t contain any sharp edges that can injure the tank’s inhabitants.
If there are any sharp edges, they need to be smoothened with the help of sandpaper.
4. Sterilize the driftwood.
It’s imperative that you sterilize the driftwood, whether it’s collected from outside or store-bought, before placing it in the aquarium.
Sometimes, simply cleaning with a soft brush is not sufficient to remove all the bacteria or germs present on the wood.
In such a situation, sterilizing the driftwood helps remove the stubborn dirt, debris, toxins, bacteria, parasites, etc., from it.
For sterilizing the driftwood, you can boil it for a couple of hours.
The boiling time will vary depending upon the size and density of the driftwood.
While boiling the driftwood, the water level should be above it. You can top up the water as and when needed.
Boiling helps eliminate the bacteria and parasites that may be inside or on the surface of the driftwood.
After boiling the driftwood, allow it to cool down completely before handling it.
5. Leach the driftwood.
Leaching is the last step before the driftwood is ready to be placed in the aquarium. Tannins are commonly found in all woods.
So, if you directly put the driftwood in the aquarium, it releases tannins that may make your tank water appear brownish.
Although tannins don’t harm the fish, they lower the pH level and soften the water.
The leaching process helps strain out most of the tannins from the wood so that it doesn’t lower the pH level or discolor the water.
Leaching also helps saturate the wood so that it sinks in the water on its own without any anchoring.
However, some woods don’t sink naturally and need to be anchored, no matter how long you keep them in the water.
Leaching the driftwood is a simple process, though it may be time-consuming.
The time taken to leach your driftwood will depend on the type and size of the wood.
However, the process remains the same for all woods.
All you need to do is submerge the driftwood in a large water container and leave it for a couple of weeks.
Then, you can check the color of the water regularly.
Once the water darkens by the release of tannins, you can replace it with clean water.
You need to continue this procedure until the water stops getting darkened by the tannins.
Once the darkening of the water reduces significantly, the driftwood is ready to be placed in the aquarium.
What Happens When Aquarium Driftwood Deteriorates?
Just like any other wood, aquarium driftwood also deteriorates over time.
As the driftwood begins to deteriorate, its outer side becomes soft and starts to fall apart in the form of muddy debris.
This debris looks similar to fish waste and starts building up on the aquarium substrate.
If the debris is not cleaned, it gets sucked into the filter and clog the filter media with dark brown mud.
This can prove detrimental as the water will get contaminated and affect the health of the fish.
So, if you find that the aquarium driftwood has deteriorated, it’s better to replace it.
How To Preserve Aquarium Driftwood?
Driftwood needs to be preserved so that it lasts longer.
Unfortunately, its preservation is a lengthy and time-consuming process.
However, it’s necessary so that the driftwood doesn’t decompose quickly after adding it to the aquarium.
You can do the following things to preserve the driftwood.
1. Clean it.
The first step toward preserving driftwood is cleaning it thoroughly.
Make sure that all the dirt and debris have been removed from the driftwood.
You can immerse the driftwood in the water and use a soft brush to remove the mud, dirt, and decaying wood.
Then pour boiling water on the driftwood to remove any remaining bugs.
2. Bleach it.
Bleaching the driftwood makes it attractive by removing stains and discoloration.
To prepare the bleach solution, mix about four teaspoons of bleach per two gallons of water.
You can soak the driftwood in the bleach solution for about 15 minutes and then scrub it with a soft brush to remove the stubborn dirt and debris.
Then soak the driftwood in a bucket full of water treated with a de-chlorinating agent for about 15 minutes.
Soaking is crucial to ensure the bleach residue is completely removed from the driftwood.
3. Trim and sand it.
You can cut any uneven pieces from the driftwood and discard them.
Trimming the driftwood will make it easier to handle while sanding it.
This way, you can avoid damaging the surface of the driftwood.
You can then sand down the rough edges to make them smooth.
This will help make the driftwood more attractive and give it a smooth and soft texture.
4. Seal it.
Sealing the driftwood is another way to preserve it. You can seal the porous wood to protect it from absorbing moisture.
The best thing about sealing the driftwood is that it makes it waterproof.
You can identify the weak spots on the driftwood and coat it appropriately with the sealant.
As the sealant dries, it will harden the driftwood and make it resistant to water damage.