How to Make Driftwood for Aquarium

Driftwood is a type of wood that has been washed up onto a shore of a beach. You don’t know where the wood has come from or what it’s had to endure to get up to the shore, making it one of the most interesting and intriguing types of wood available. 

For this reason, driftwood is very popular among fish owners. It makes a great ornament in a fish tank; however, there are often some steps that you need to take to ensure that it is ready to be introduced to your fish tank.

Below we’ll be looking into these steps to make sure that your driftwood can be placed into your tank safely. This will avoid your fish from freaking out about a new large piece of wood obstructing their swimming path. 

Let’s get right into the prep work, shall we?

Step One: Take a Step Back

We’re guilty of rushing ahead and thinking after we’ve actually done something and let us tell you that it’s almost never the right way to go about things. Instead of dropping the wood right into the tank, first, you need to consider where you want it to go and how you want it to look. 

Consider different ways of positioning it so that you can get a clear image of how you want it to look once you’ve placed it into the water. This will avoid you causing unnecessary stress to the fish by disturbing the water too much. 

You might have to cut the driftwood down so that it can fit into the tank. To do this you can use a saw to chop it to size. Once you’ve done this, take a piece of sandpaper and smoothen out the cut edge. 

Driftwood is often so smooth because of the corrosion that it’s been through in the saltwater. The smoothness and lack of splinters is the primary reason why it can safely be used in a fish tank, so you want to make sure that this is consistent even if you cut it to size. 

Don’t cut corners on the sanding process, as the safety of your fish could be dependent on it. 

Step Two: Cleaning the Wood

Now that you know where you’re going to put it in the tank, and you’ve cut it down to the size you want (and sanded it!), you need to make sure that there are no harmful bacteria residing in the nooks and crannies of the wood. 

Use a scrubbing brush to work your way around the wood, leaving no area unscrubbed. Make sure that the bristles of the brush are tough enough to dislodge any dirt or debris in the wood, but not too harsh that it could cause splinters to form. 

When cleaning, only use the brush with water and no other chemicals such as soap or detergent. The chances of you getting all of this off before putting it in the tank are very slim and therefore the chemicals could harm your fish. 

So, scrub the wood with water and a brush and move onto the next step. 

Step Three: Saturating the Driftwood

Driftwood can sometimes float on top of the water rather than sink to the bottom, which is unlikely the look that you’re wanting to go for your tank. To avoid this, soak the wood in a bucket of water for around one to two weeks so that the wood is completely saturated. 

Driftwood also has the ability to leak color and therefore discolor your aquarium. To avoid this, make sure that the water is changed every time it becomes discolored while you’re soaking it. 

Once you’re happy that the wood is not leaking out any more color over a few consecutive days, you can move onto the next step. Just make sure that this is after a week or two; however, as the driftwood still needs time to completely saturate. 

Step Four: Boiling the Wood

Boiling the water is the final step before you can place the wood into the tank for the first time. This removes any of the final colorings that may have been left in the wood, and it also kills any bacteria or fungus that has been residing in the wood. 

To do this, put the driftwood in a pan of boiling water and leave it in for around one to two hours. This will be enough time to ensure that everything harmful living on the wood has been killed. 

Once you’ve finished boiling the wood, you can leave it to cool down for a few hours. Once it’s cooled, it’s ready to be put into the tank! 

Step Five: Introducing it to the Tank

Remove the fish and ornaments from your tank and change the water, leaving a third of the old water behind. Place the wood into the tank and decorate around it with all of your decorations. Make sure that the wood is stable and not likely to fall over and trap your fish. 

Add the water back into the tank and introduce your fish to their new tank mate. Thanks to your planning from step one, you’ll now be left with a lovely-looking tank with minimal stress put on your fish, as well as minimal stress put on your bank account - hooray! 


That concludes our guide on how to make driftwood for aquarium use. Whether you find a piece of driftwood washed up onto a shore or bought it in a beach-themed store, it is very simple to get it ready for your fish tank. 

Simply clean it with a brush, leave it to completely saturate, and boil the wood before placing it into the fish tank. Make sure that you have a good idea where you’re going to position it in the tank before doing so as to not upset your fish too much. 

Another thing to consider is cutting the wood to size. It is vital that you sand down any rough edges to avoid your fish harming themselves unknowingly.