Aquarium Driftwood Buying Guide: Types Of Fish Tank Driftwood / Fake Vs Real

Why is aquarium driftwood great for your fish tank?

In the world of aquariums, there is a significant amount of misinformation about driftwood. If chosen correctly, driftwood can be a fantastic addition to your aquarium.

Like all aspects of aquarium keeping, however, not all additions suit all types of aquarium environments. Additionally, there are both benefits and drawbacks of adding driftwood to an aquarium.

Here’s what you need to know before adding driftwood to your tank.

Best Driftwood For Aquarium

Manzanita Driftwood

  • An attractive and popular tank driftwood
  • A size to fit in most tanks
  • Can be expesive to buy
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Cholla Driftwood

  • Great for fish fry to hide in
  • Many lengths for all aquariums
  • Reasonably cheap
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Mopani Driftwood

  • Store bought usually sand-blasted to remove all debries
  • 4 x 10 inch standard size
  • Also good for terrariums
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Malaysian Driftwood

  • Good for many types of tanks
  • All sorts of shapes and sizes
  • Cheap driftwood for aquariums
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Spider Driftwood

  • One of the most interesting looking driftwoods
  • Every piece very unique
  • Expensive as it's a rarer type of driftwood
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The benefits of adding driftwood to your tank include:

  1. It wildly boosts the visual look and appeal of the tank
  2. Driftwood has mostly smooth edges and, unlike many other tank elements, looks more like a fish’s native environment
  3. Fish tend to prefer these natural touches as well
  4. Having an aquarium consisting of only plastic or machined elements has a stylistically cheesy feel
  5. Some types of wood release tannins which can slightly brown the aquarium’s water enhancing the natural look of the tank
  6. Some fish, especially river fish or those from warmer regions, prefer these tannins in the water
  7. For others, they may be able to glean additional nutrients from driftwood that they may not be able to access via fish foods
  8. Driftwood is easier to maintain than other elements and it can be moved or rearranged quickly

Finally, depending on where you live, driftwood can be free to add to a tank.

Obviously, you should thoroughly clean the wood to make sure it does not add contaminants to your tank. Compared to other, more expensive tank elements and decorations, this is an attractive option.

There are also drawbacks to adding driftwood to an aquarium, though we think the pros outweigh the cons.

Driftwood, like other natural additions, can change tank chemistry.

Over time, certain types of driftwood can lower an aquarium’s pH and increase the acidity of the tank. Usually, this can be managed through routine tank maintenance.

With sensitive environments and fish, however, driftwood may be an unsuitable addition to a tank.

Some of these effects can be reduced with proper driftwood preparation. These preparations can include washing the wood or even boiling it.

Fake Vs Real Driftwood

different types of fish tank driftwood

We’ve taken a look at the pros and cons of real driftwood in an aquarium.

Another option for your fish tank is to use fake driftwood.

Fake driftwood:

  • will not require cleaning, soaking, or boiling
  • can be bought and rinsed and added to a tank with little effort or risk
  •  no need to weigh down a piece of legitimate driftwood

For convenience, and to prevent cloudy fish tank water, fake driftwood is likely the better choice.

For every positive of fake driftwood, however, there is also a drawback. This is not unlike the discussions surrounding nearly every element of tank construction.

One of the most simplistic benefits of real driftwood is cost.

In most regions, suitable driftwood can be found outside for free. Sure, there is some preparation required for this wood but for many, this outweighs the relatively high cost of fake wood.

Additionally, many tank owners prefer the aesthetic of real wood.

Even the best pieces of fake wood lack the detail of real driftwood. Some aquarium owners prefer to use real wood because it can be a surface to grow moss or other plants.

Depending on the type of fish that are in the tank, this can help create a fantastically healthy environment.

Different Types Of Driftwood

There are 5 main types of driftwood for aquariums.

They each have a different look and style, with different sizes and prices available:

  • Manzanita
  • Cholla
  • Mopani
  • Malaysian
  • Spider

Let’s find out more about each.

1. Manzanita Driftwood


Manzanita driftwood is the most well-known and commonly used in aquariums.

It comes in variable shapes and sizes, so there is likely a piece that can fit into most tanks.

Buying Manzanita driftwood pieces can be pricey, however, especially when compared to other types of wood.

It is not recommended that you add Manzanita to a tank without preparing it thoroughly first.

2. Cholla Driftwood

real driftwood for aquarium

Cholla wood boasts beautiful patterns and shapes that are elegant additions to a tank.

For those who want the look of a massive log in their tank, without the size, of course, this is a great choice.

Like Manzanita, Cholla is more expensive than other woods. It also is fragile and will dissolve incredibly quickly; usually within a year.

3. Mopani Driftwood

best aquarium driftwood

Mopani driftwood is not technically driftwood.

These large pieces are a better choice for big tanks from 10 gallons in size. It’s suited for aquarium owners who curate plant life in their tanks.

They are structurally sound and can support the weight of nearly any plant.

However, Mopani releases more tannins and acid that can change the pH balance of a tank much faster than other types of wood.

4. Malaysian Driftwood

malaysian driftwood for fish tank


Malaysian driftwood has a unique orange shade with a log-like shape.

These are another great choice for support plants, as their robust shape can more than support the weight.

Malaysian wood increases the acidity of the water more than other forms of driftwood as well.

This type of wood absolutely needs to be treated before being added to an environment. When properly prepared, it is said to be a good choice for betta fish tanks.

5. Spider Driftwood

spider drfitwood review


Hence the name, Spider driftwood looks incredibly spidery.

Small, spindly branches provide a unique look that fish will love swimming into.

Unfortunately, these are delicate pieces of wood. They cannot hold plants and they will likely dissolve within a year.

Preparing Aquarium Driftwood

best driftwood for aquarium

Good driftwood for your aquarium can be found online if you don’t live near the beach.

If you find your own driftwood, be sure to verify its species to ensure that it isn’t toxic to your fish.

Regardless of whether you found the driftwood or bought it, it can only be added to a freshwater tank.

Most aquarium experts agree that real wood shouldn’t be added to a saltwater tank, especially with reefs.

Saltwater tanks and the fish or plants that are kept in them are significantly more sensitive to the changes in pH.

Thus, the risk posed by wood and the potential contaminants is too great.

To prepare driftwood:

  1. Rinse and scrub it thoroughly in water
  2. Don’t use soap or chemicals as they can soak or leak into the wood, contaminating your tank
  3. Following this, soak the wood in water for several days
  4. Every time the water becomes discolored, change it for fresh water, which will limit contaminants
  5. Once the water remains clear for days, it is safe to add it to a tank

Alternatively, boil the wood and change the water after a color change to expedite this process.

This freshwater testing kit is good for those wanting to monitor parameters in a freshwater tank.

Real Aquarium Driftwood

Using real aquarium driftwood is our preference wherever possible.

The easiest way to get the best-looking piece that may already be prepared for the tank is by picking it up online.

But if the real stuff isn’t going to work for your tank choose from this great range of fake driftwood.

Whether you have a shallow reef tank or a 75-gallon aquarium, a good piece (or two) of driftwood can really help make your tank that much better.

Let us know your thought in the comments down below!

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