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Driftwood Page

Updated on July 3, 2013

     Welcome to the Driftwood Page. We hope you will find the information on collecting and working with driftwood useful. The natural beauty of driftwood is unsurpassed when used in aquariums as part of your aquascaping. The same can be said of its uses in terrariums and furniture. No two pieces are alike and this uniqueness makes your creations a one of a kind.

Driftwood Gallery

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Some common varieties of driftwood that is suitable for the aquarium includes:

Hardwoods: Ash, Basswood, Beech, Birch, Cherry, Cypress, Elm, Gum, Hackberry, Hard Maple, Hickory, Pecan, Poplar, Oak, Sassafras, Sycamore, Walnut and Willow.

Malaysian Driftwood: Imported from Asia this wood is extremely dense and will sink to the bottom of the aquarium on its own even when dry. It has a deep rich brown color and is available in many unique shapes. It’s ideal for Plecos and other fish that like to nibble on driftwood. This wood is extremely popular among aquarist.

Mopani wood: This wood comes from Africa and is another extremely dense wood found in the aquarium trade. It to is available in many unique shapes and is a dark brown color with occasional streaks of lighter shades of brown running through the wood. Mopani driftwood will leach tannins into the water and some aquarist may not like the effect. This will gradually fade with time.

Bog wood: This is wood that has been submerged for years. Perhaps even hundreds of years and the Anaerobic conditions have preserved the driftwood. Keep this driftwood submerged and never allow it to dry out. Drying out may hasten the deterioration of the wood in the aquarium especially if it’s a softwood.

Aquarium Gallery

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Collection and Preparation

     When collecting your driftwood its important to keep in mind, exactly what you plan to use the pieces for. If they will go in an aquarium or terrarium with live animals you will want to avoid any areas that may have been exposed to chemical fertilizers and pesticides since this will be detrimental to the inhabitants. If your collecting bog wood, do not collect any that may have come in contact with industrial waste, agricultural run off or from stagnant bodies of water. These issues aren’t as important if the driftwood will be used in furniture or any other item that will not come in contact with live creatures. Salt can also be a problem for certain freshwater species. If the driftwood was exposed to salt water the cleaning process and subsequent soaking should take care of this.

     Once you’ve collected the driftwood and get back home you can begin the cleaning process. Scrub the driftwood with a brush to remove any dirt and debris that may have settled on it. Next, soak the piece in a solution of one cup of bleach per five gallons of water for 4 - 5 days. You may have to weight the piece down if it was dry when you found it. Once finished, rinse thoroughly with fresh water and allow it to soak for one week, replacing the water at least every other day. If any discoloration in the water is noticed, don’t be alarmed. This is natural and its only the tannins leaching out from the wood.

Notes for aquarium use: As an added precaution you may want to filter the water the piece is soaking in with a good resin filter medium like, Boyd’s Chemi pure or Seachem Purigen to remove any possible toxins that may still be present.

Tannins: Tannins from the driftwood may give your water an amber color. This is normal and probably makes the fish feel more at home. If you want to minimize the effect, you can boil the driftwood and rinse it thoroughly to reduce the tannins in the wood. A good resin-based filter medium will also help. Do not seal the wood with a varnish since some fish will graze on the driftwood and cold ingest the varnish, thus poisonings themselves.

     When the rinsing process is finished, you're ready to prepare the piece for its intended use. If it’s a piece of bog wood and intended for an aquarium, keep it submerged. Do not let it dry out. Depending on the type of wood, this could ruin it since it will immediately begin to deteriorate when re-submerged. If its an ordinary piece of driftwood and intended for aquarium use you will need to keep it soaking till its water logged which could take months depending on its size or attache a weight to it so that it will stay down.

Masonry drill bit
Masonry drill bit

Attaching a weight.

     If the piece of driftwood needs to be weighted down you can attach it to a slate base of sufficient weight. Depending on the size of the piece, you may be able to get by using silicone to attach it. If so be sure to use a silicone intended for aquarium use or a food service grade. It’s a good idea to filter the piece with a resin-based filter medium for 24 hours before placing in the tank just to be safe. If the piece is too large for silicone to hold, you will need to attach it with a lag bolt to the base. Use a stainless steel bolt not a plated one since these will eventually corrode and can introduce harmful chemicals into the aquarium.

Lag screw
Lag screw

     To drill the hole in the slate use a standard masonry drill bit. Use a regular drill and take your time. You will get better results this way than using great pressure and forcing it through quickly. Do not use a hammer drill since this can cause chipping or even crack the slate base.

Terrariums and Furniture

For a terrarium you can go ahead and add the driftwood when the rinsing is finished. For furniture or novelty use allow the piece to dry thoroughly since its shape and size may change some in the drying process.

Terrarium Gallery

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C.C.2.0 van swearingen's
C.C.2.0 van swearingen's
C.C.2.0 van swearingen's

Driftwood Furniture and Accessories

     Driftwood can be used to create some very interesting pieces of furniture such as tables, chairs and lamps to name a few. If the piece is large and offers enough surface area you can create a driftwood table like the one above. Another option would be to create a free standing lamp from  a tall piece of driftwood. Drill bits are available in lengths in excess of 24" in length and can be used to drill through the piece so that the pipe and wire can be inserted. You can also combine a bunch of small pieces to create some interesting lamps or tables. There are so many possibilities. All it takes is a little imagination and effort to create your own one of a kind driftwood masterpiece.

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Images used are c.c. and photobucket


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    • milynch43 profile image

      milynch43 6 years ago from Philippines

      Either by sanding or a planer. Finish with a fine paper to produce a nice surface.

    • profile image

      joy 7 years ago

      how do you level out the table? flat top and bottom after it is cut?

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 8 years ago from Hawaii

      I love driftwood, and see them as works of art. What a lovely hub. I enjoyed learning about the many varieties.