How to Determine What Wood is Safe for Planted Tanks?

How to Determine What Wood is Safe for Planted Tanks?

When preparing a planted aquarium and looking into designing a remarkable aquascape, there are several aspects that must be considered when determining what type of hardscapes to use. What should you be focused on, is ensuring a healthier life for your fish and plants? Here we are aiming to educate you with figuring out what type of woods are safe to use in your tank. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have learned enough to make an educated final decision before spending money or introducing something deadly into your tank.

There are different types and categories of planted tank woods each of which has its own benefits. Aquarium wood gives your fish their own hiding place along with enhancing beauty as well. Furthermore, wood is also known to act as a sheltered place for fish to lay eggs periodically.

For people who have a high interest in building a beautiful planted tank on their own, this article will surely assist them in selecting the proper wood for your tank. There are numerous types of wood that can be prepared either from your LFS and/or pet store or from the wild depending on your true level of knowledge.

It is recommended to spend some time researching suitable wood and hardscape types for your aquarium. So, if you are excited about decorating your new fish tank, we hope after reading this you will be able to make a sound selection on what driftwood belongs in your tank.

Selecting the best Driftwood for your planted tank

With the never-ending health and environmental benefits of using driftwood in your planted tank, selecting the right one, however, may prove to be harder than it sounds. Along with stones, rocks, plants, and fish, wood is also used in designing incredible aquascapes and beautiful sceneries.

There are several types, shapes and colors of woods that can be used in your planted tank to enhance the beauty of your tank and also double up as a secure habitat for fish and other livestock. However, not just any type of wood can be chosen for use as aquarium driftwood because it needs to be submersible and cured. There are also some wood types that excrete harmful toxins and may discolor tank water, not to mention contaminating the water too. Whether you found your drift on the side of the road or purchased one from your LFS, definitely make sure that it is properly clean, even if they tell you it is.

To assistance our readers in this, we are going to mention a few popular types of driftwood for planted tanks that can be used in your tank when it comes time to consider aspects of your aquascape when planning your planted tank. Before you purchase any wood type, make sure it does not cause any harm to your fish tank.

Most of the pieces found outdoors are not cured and will most certainly cause damage to your fish species. Make sure each piece is clean, dried, and properly cured so that the tank water does not become contaminated. Also, try to avoid large pieces of driftwood as they retain buoyancy and can bring instability to your tank too. Even after proper soaking and drying, driftwood might discolor your tank water and release tannins into your water, which affect the water chemistry.

Suitable wood species

When talking about the best plants which can grow healthy along with a driftwood in your tank, Java Fern and Java Moss create an enhanced carpeting and natural beauty and elegance. Once the plants are properly grown and effectively combined to the driftwood, your planted tank will certainly become worth noticing, especially if you have added fish to increase the overall scenic effect of your tank. Now that you know of a few harmful side effects of using ill-prepared driftwood, maybe we should show you a few great choices when looking to use driftwood to enhance the overall visual appearance of your planted tank. Before we talk wood, keep in mind that the best woods for aquariums are hardwoods.

Mopani Wood

Originated from the Sub Saharan Africa region, Mopani Wood is definitely a solid choice when choosing driftwood for your tank. It is very hard and sturdy, this type of driftwood is so hard that it is considered termite resistant. Due to its decorative appearance, Mopani Wood is also used for making everyday items like sculptures and lamps, in addition to the structural quality it provides to your aquascape and planted tank and is available in most LFS.


Being the most preferred aquarium driftwood amongst planted tank enthusiasts, Bogwood is similar in appearance to Mopani wood and is preserved to give the best protection and bacteria removal. Available in different sizes and shapes, you can find a variety of pieces at varying prices that will work perfectly for your tank. When searching for other benefits of Bogwood, we found that they also provide a solid shelter for reclusive species making it easier for them to lay eggs, relax, and feel more secure. It can also be considered to find a use as anchor points for attaching various aquarium plants such as Anubias barteri and Java Fern to increase the beauty of your planted tank.​


This planted tank wood is considered a solid wood to use in aquascapes. It is dense and will sink down on its own. Additionally, Corcovadowood is not known to discolor your tank water.

Manzanita Branch/Root

This is a popular wood for two reasons. Since some woods have to be weighed down, Manzanita branch and roots are great because of their density and natural ability to sink down without the need for weights. Secondly, Manzanita wood also releases fewer tannins, which are responsible for water discoloration and changes in pH. However, the Manzanita wood does leak tannins for a long period.

Spider Wood

Receiving its name mainly from its appearance as it does have a longer twisted and spidery like branches. Even though it does not leak a lot of tannins, Spider wood can take a moment to sink but has killer visual effects on your scape when properly layered and coated.

Cholla Wood

Believe it or not, Cholla is really a type of cactus wood and will start to deteriorate inside of your aquarium after a while, but it is not known to be harmful to the tank. Cholla wood is great for shrimp tanks or breeding tanks, mainly because it provides a place for them forage for food and to hide when they feel skittish.

Types of wood which must be avoided

One thing to be on the lookout for is 'BAD WOOD' because using the wrong piece of driftwood can cause irreparable damage to the health and environment of your planted tank, which is why making a decision after proper research will take you a long way and will give you real benefits from your driftwood instead of disasters.

If you are about to collect planted tank wood on your own, make sure it is chemical free, resistant to diseases and properly dried. Some of them might also contain natural chemicals or poisons so it is recommended to properly study or collected wood before introducing any new elements into your planted tank. Furthermore, leftover wood from beaches and forests must also not be used for your aquarium as they might contain serious infectious bacteria and dirt which could kill the plants.

Once you have selected the perfect driftwood for your planted tank, next comes the process of correct placement and decoration. You can also refer to different sketches and plans which are designed by tank owners for further help and inspiration.


Selecting a safe wood for your planted tanks can become a daunting task if you do not know what to look for so for a final decision to be made, there must be ample research done to ensure you are not making a mistake and choosing the wrong wood. With a number of different kinds and species available in the market, make sure you are aware of your tank structure, environment and fish preference before making a choice. A poor choice in driftwood can result in damaging the growth of plants and fish, which will then require some sort of relevant treatment and medications to rid yourself of such issues. Also, the types of wood species discussed in this article are the two most used and recommended by aquarium owners, mainly because of their depth of character and how easy they are to implement and build around.

In closing, driftwood is placed in planted tanks to increase the health benefits for your fish and aquatic plants, while also enhancing the beauty and appeal of your aquarium. Just by placing a piece of driftwood in the perfect location can make all the difference in your tank's appearance. So, if just obtained so new driftwood or found some you would like to use, please keep in mind there are several factors to think about before plopping it into your planted tank. What wood works for you?