Hi, this is your friend Clifton Ervin, the founder and chief editor of this site, Aquariumwolf. I completed my graduation in marine biology and became...Read more
People just don’t put fish inside their aquariums. Driftwood is just another addition to make the tank more habitat-worthy for the fish. Properly placed driftwood increases the beauty of the aquarium and gives space for the fish to hide. However, some aquarium driftwood problems can be annoying and harmful to your fish.
Common problems with driftwood are water pollution, low pH, harmful bacteria, and brown or yellow water. You might also notice floating, rotten, or broken driftwood, creating an unpleasant smell. Change the water, sterilize it by boiling it, use a water clarifier, or mix dolomite chippings to fix the issues.
You can try manual cleaning with a brush or razor to clean the algae from the driftwood surface. But always choose the best driftwood for your aquarium to avoid any subsequent issues.
Is Using Driftwood Bad For Your Aquarium?
Driftwood is not bad for your aquarium. In fact, they are used to make a friendly and natural environment for the fish and to make the aquarium look more aesthetic. So, it’s not necessary for your fish tank. It’s just for decorative purposes.
However, it can cause problems if you don’t care for the aquarium and the driftwood. It would help if you cleaned the driftwood whenever you get a chance.
Don’t forget that it’s a suitable breeding ground for fungi and other harmful bacteria. They can quickly grow on the driftwood inside the water tank. This would affect the overall environment of the aquarium and make it uninhabitable for your fish.
On top of that, sometimes the driftwood rots because of moisture and salt chemistry, making it challenging for the fish to be around. But it’s supposed to be a natural hiding place for fish, giving them a homely vibe in its clean state. Clean driftwood also contains good algae and bacteria, which act like micronutrients for fish.
What Are The Common Aquarium Driftwood Problems?
Despite the enormous advantages of driftwood in the aquarium, they have some drawbacks and can create problems. And it would be best if you dealt with them as quickly as possible, or else you will have to face the consequences. Here are some common problems with aquarium driftwood:
1. Water Pollution
Driftwood can make your aquarium water dirty and cause water pollution. Such cases occur, especially when you take driftwood from the beach or riverbanks.
They contain a lot of dirt and debris. And sometimes they don’t get away even if you clean them before putting them into the water tank. As a result, the water becomes inhabitable for the fish.
Driftwood can also carry many pollutants like bacteria and harmful algae. So, you must be careful where you pick the driftwood for your water tank. Otherwise, your fish’s life might be in danger.
When you pick driftwood from random places, you need to check on the fish and the water tank frequently. Here are the possible solutions you can come up with:
Whenever you collect driftwood from riverbanks, ponds, or beaches, you must clean it thoroughly before you take it into your aquarium. Get a clean brush to rub vigorously to remove the debris and dust. And you need to ensure that you don’t use chemicals or soap while cleaning the driftwood.
It would be best if you sterilized the driftwood properly before submerging it. And to do that, you can use heat. So, put the driftwood to boil for 2 to 3 hours.
To distribute the heat properly, you must put the driftwood in the middle of the heat. Otherwise, the piece won’t sterilize correctly. The heat will destroy most of the bacteria.
2. Lower pH
The pH of your aquarium must be normal for certain plants and aquatic animals to survive in the aquarium. Any alteration to the pH can make it challenging for them to survive.
But using driftwood can change the neutral pH of the water tank. It’s because driftwood softens the water and makes the pH lower.
The effect can reverse if you take the driftwood from the beach. Beach driftwood contains salt that can increase the pH of the tank water. Therefore, it won’t be suitable for the creatures of your aquarium.
It’s a serious issue when it comes to maintaining the pH of your water tank. Here’s the solution you can try to control the pH:
Dolomite is basically limestone (calcium carbonate) pieces. You can use it in your aquarium to maintain the pH. Just get some dolomite chippings and place them inside your aquarium. It would lower the pH without affecting any other habitats of the surroundings.
Crushed coral pieces are like natural filter that contains calcium. It’s super helpful to lower the pH. However, it would help if you considered keeping the fish out of the aquarium while doing the water treatment.
3. Broken Driftwood
Broken driftwood can be a problem for your aquarium. Sometimes the fractured pieces just float around or stay at the mid-water level. It creates trouble for the fish to swim around.
Most driftwood breaks down after prolonged use. They show signs of deterioration just after two years of use. In the process of decay, the outer part of the woods will get soft and fall away. It will form a fluffy and muddy substance like debris in the tank environment.
On top of that, these fluffy things can suck into the filter and clog the pathways. It can also create a foul smell inside the tank.
It would help if you didn’t tolerate such deterioration inside your water tank. Whenever you notice such a situation, here’s what to do:
With the broken pieces of driftwood, it will be tough to maintain a healthy environment inside the tank. It would be best if you took it as a sign to remove and replace it with a new one.
But first, you need to remove the broken pieces and the old driftwood from the tank. Please don’t wait to let them rot inside.
It would be better to make a water change during the replacement too. Ensure the new driftwood is adequately cleaned, chemically inert, and suitable for the aquarium environment.
4. Harmful Bacteria
It’s common to have bacteria issues in your aquarium when there is driftwood. That’s because a piece of wood always contains several bacteria. Such problems are more severe when you pick the driftwood piece from the riverbank or beach.
Some of them are good for your tank because they will feed your fish. But others are harmful to the fish and tank ecosystem. It can wreak havoc on the tank without you even noticing. Your fish can be sick or dead in a short period.
Sometimes they can cause bacteria to bloom inside the tank water. So, the effect of the availability of dangerous bacteria can’t be ignored when you have driftwood in your aquarium.
To get rid of the harmful bacteria, you need to take action. Whenever you notice any of the following symptoms of sick fish, jump into these solutions:
The harmful bacteria can cause several diseases but not when they are low in number and the fish’s immune system is strong. However, you can use an ultraviolet sterilizer to kill the microorganisms and algae from the driftwood. It would keep the water crystal clear and healthy.
Boil Driftwood Before
If you can’t afford an ultraviolet sterilizer, you can boil the driftwood for a couple of hours. It will also help to sterilize the driftwood and kill the disease-causing bacteria. Make sure you keep it in the middle of the heating point.
Regular maintenance can keep the effect of bacteria at a lower level. Therefore, a water change can stop the blooming of the bacteria.
Before submerging the driftwood, you must clean it to the core. Use a stiff brush to remove unnecessary upper layers from the driftwood. And then it will be ready for the aquarium.
5. Driftwood Is Floating
Driftwoods have several types. Some of them are lighter than others and very buoyant. They can easily float on the surface of the water. But it will constantly hit the aquarium glass, which is not good, especially when the tank is not strong enough. It can reduce the tank’s lifespan.
Such frequent movement is also dangerous for your fish. They can get hurt from the broken pieces or the entire driftwood. A wrong choice in driftwood can create such a situation.
Well, a wrong action can’t be undone, but it can be fixed. Here’s what you can do about the floating driftwood:
Whenever you have such floating driftwood, you can waterlog it before use. It means you need to pre-soak the dry driftwood in water for a few days so that it can absorb all the water it needs. Then, the driftwood will become less buoyant. As a result, it will stop floating at the surface.
Mount On A Slate
Another trick to avoid floating driftwood is to make it sink forcefully. For that, you need to mount it on a piece of slate. You can also use rocks or inert objects to weigh the driftwood down. After that, it will absorb water eventually.
There’s also an option for aquarium sealant to glue down the driftwood that floats at the surface. Make sure you choose the correct position for the driftwood because you can’t just move it now and then when you glue it down.
6. Brown Or Yellow Aquarium Water
Sometimes yellow or brown aquarium water is not bad. But you must check the pH whenever you notice the water color change. It’s because of the tannin acid from the driftwood.
Tannin is a pretty common substance in all types of wood. They can lower the pH and make tank water acidic, which is unsuitable for aquatic animals. However, if the driftwood is in the water for a long time, the tannin acid would wash away (most of it).
But when they leech into your water tank, it discolors the water and makes a yellow-brownish appearance. Though they are not harmful, they can affect the hardness of the aquarium over time.
Here are some possible solutions to reduce the effects of tannin acid from the driftwood:
Using the water clarifier is a good idea because it can effectively reduce the coloring effect of tannin. All you need to do is drop a few drops in the water and wait for a couple of hours. It will make the brown or yellow color disappear.
Boiling And Soaking
Boiling and soaking is the most effective way to remove tannin leach without dropping the pH of your water tank. It sterilizes the wood and hastens the tannin-releasing process. Just boil the driftwood for a couple of hours.
To deal with the yellow-brown watercolor, you must change the aquarium’s water. The change is temporary because driftwood will continue to emit tannin acid. However, if you continue the changes, the tannin release will diminish over time, and the water’s color will gradually become normal.
7. Unpleasant Smell
The driftwood takes up a massive space inside the water tank. Therefore, it can be a storage place for uneaten food, organic compounds like algae, decaying plants, etc.
When the organic matter builds up to exceed the limit, it emits an unpleasant odor. You can quickly notice the smell whenever you are in the room. But the most crucial fact is that these rotten organic matters are unhealthy for your fish. It can cause several deadly diseases.
Here’s how you can remove the unpleasant smell caused by driftwood from the aquarium:
Drain The Tank
All these organic matters are inside the tank in soluble or insoluble condition. So, it would help if you drained the tank quickly. You can use a siphon to drain the water. But make sure you stir the water while removing it. This way, a lot of debris will get out of the tank.
Take your fish and driftwood out of the tank. And then, remove the water and clean the underneath of the tank. Most of the filth will be at the bottom. So, make sure you give a good rub. Use a soft scrubber brush to clean them.
You also need to remove algae and other organic matter from the sides of the water tank. Use a razor blade to remove the algae. It would be best if you cleaned the plants, filters, and other decorations. And then fill the tank with clean water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still thinking about the driftwood problems? It can be somewhat of a headache if not chosen right. Here are some common driftwood-related questions that might arise in your mind:
Is Putting Driftwood In The Aquarium Necessary?
Well, it’s not utterly necessary, but driftwood in the aquarium can add an aesthetic look to your aquarium. They are an excellent aquarium décor. However, they block a large portion of the aquarium and can be somewhat troublesome to maintain.
Does The Changed Water Color Indicate Bad Signals In The Aquarium?
No, the changed water color in the aquarium doesn’t refer to any bad signals. That’s because driftwood naturally changes your aquarium’s color from yellow to brown. It’s not bad as long as your fish’s or plant’s health is good. Crystal-clear water in the aquarium is just dull.
What’s The Most Suitable Place To Put Driftwood In The Aquarium?
The corner of the tank is the best place to put driftwood in the aquarium. Select the spot where you will have no problem maintaining your aquarium. Make sure it’s in the background. And don’t change the position of the driftwood if your fish gets accustomed to its place.
Do I Need To Clean Driftwood?
Yes, you would need to clean the driftwood often. But it’s super easy because you only need a scraper tool or a knife to remove extra layers over the driftwood. And for safety reasons, you can boil it or put it in a salt solution for a few hours.
Can I Use Driftwood From The Beach?
Yes, you can only use driftwood from the beach if the aquarium is brackish. However, all driftwood found on the beach contains salt, and they are absorbed in it. Such salt amounts can affect the chemistry inside the aquarium. But if you want one from the beach, use it on a secondary one first.
Driftwoods make your aquarium look beautiful. It also helps the fish to play around and hide. They can occupy a vast space inside the water tank. But placing the driftwood will increase the maintenance work, especially when you choose the wrong one to put in the aquarium. However, some precautions can save you from the troubles.
Hopefully, the discussion on aquarium driftwood problems and their solution has covered all the answers to your query. So, don’t ignore the symptoms of the driftwood problems, and pay attention to your fish while applying the solutions. Take care of your fish!
Hi, this is your friend Clifton Ervin, the founder and chief editor of this site, Aquariumwolf. I completed my graduation in marine biology and became an Ichthyologist. One of my favorite hobbies is aquarium keeping; therefore, I love to talk about fish keeping, breeding, food behavior, etc., and much more relevant to aquarium maintenance. I have created this site Aquariumwolf, to share my 20 years+ of experience and knowledge with all new to this journey.More Posts