Decorating with Driftwood
Some utilitarian ways to make your aquarium look better 

 
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LA 
Very dense driftwood -- bog wood with Java lance fern stapled to it.

Introduction:  Not everyone strives for a “natural look” in their aquariums.  Those that do owe much of their success to their use of driftwood.

Disadvantages.  Even driftwood fanciers recognize the disadvantages built into driftwood:
    Expensive;
    Hard to find;
    Tends to float;
    Takes up room;
    Colors the water.
  

Expensive.  No doubt about it.  Good driftwood costs money.  You think driftwood grows on trees?  So make sure you pick out a piece you like.  Don’t pick a piece you dislike just because it costs less.

Hard to Find.  Some intrepid souls go out along the river and capture their own.  Great exercise.  It also helps you realize that most wild driftwood looks almost good enough to use as firewood.  What the heck?  You learn to appreciate good-looking driftwood after you sort thru a carload of “wild wood.”

Tends to Float.  They call it driftwood because it drifts (floats).  They make boats out of this stuff.  Most wood floats unless you weight it sufficiently with slate or tie it to your filter plate.  Or you can pile rocks on it till it waterlogs.

LA
You want your driftwood piece big enough to notice.

Takes up Room.  Dramatic driftwood pieces dominate your tank (and take up room).  It does reduce your water volume.

Colors Your Water.  The tannins and humic acids in wood leach out and color your water yellow or brown.  The fish like the natural dyes -- just like Tetra’s Black Water Tonic.  Most aquarists do not.  Carbon takes out colors.  Frequent water changes also help control colors.  Or, soak your wood in bleach water first.  This will get rid of most of the unwanted color.  Pre-soaking (with a big rock on top of your wood) also helps your wood sink faster.  Or, wash it in a dishwasher.  The heated cycle (without soap) also helps to waterlog your wood.

LA
Driftwood in this corner weighs in at 19 pounds.

Bog Wood vs. Driftwood.  Bog wood sinks like a rock.  It feels like a rock when you lift it.  Driftwood floats like a cork until you make it sink. Most woods will eventually waterlog.  Most bogwoods sink from day one.

LA
We hang much of our driftwood from the ceiling on chains.

Grapevines.  Most people use grape vines for reptiles.  The heavier looking ones make good aquatic pieces.  However, they take a long time to waterlog. 

LA
You want driftwood with "character."
 

Mopani Wood.  From Africa, these gnarly pieces have lots of interesting knots.  Best of all, they sink like a rock.

LA
Heavy Singapore driftwood.

Singapore Wood.  These pieces also sink like a rock.  They look as if someone twisted a tree and literally tore out unusual shapes.

LA
Red Cedar driftwood.

Red Cedar.  Driftwood pieces from  North Carolina were harvested from reservoirs where they were submerged for decades.  They waterlog fast and leach colors much less than most wood.

LA
Once it dries, cypress driftwood needs slate on the bottom until it re-waterlogs.

Cypress Wood.  These were harvested from bodies of water in Florida.  Some pieces are centuries old.  They leach very little.  Evidently harvesting new cypress wood is prohibited by Federal law.  These pieces were blown into the water by long forgotten storms.

Wisconsin Wood.  These make interesting pieces, but float like a cork.  We like them better for reptile cage decor.

LA
These "faux driftwoods" sink instantly and do not leach colors into the water.

Fake Driftwood.  Not bad.  Underwater it looks very real.  Costs much less and comes in pieces that fit small tanks.  We like these better than sunken ships.  (We carry them, too.)

LA
Driftwood makes the easiest focal point.

Focal Point.  Pick a BIG piece of driftwood at least a third the size of your tank.  Your wood should dominate your aquarium.  Push your wood into the gravel just a bit off center.  Pull it up a little so it appears to be emerging from the bottom.

Frame Your Wood.  Put smaller plants in front of your wood and larger plants in back to frame it.

Bubbles.  Bubbles coming up in back of your wood will also frame it.  Bubbles coming from the middle of your wood would add an interesting effect.

LA
Driftwood works well with cichlids -- including American but especially African cichlids.

Security.  Catfishes and other fishes that like hiding places cannot resist a craggy piece of driftwood.  Cave-spawning cichlids also like driftwood.

LA
If you anchor an established Java lance fern "Plug" on your driftwood, it spreads rapidly.

Add Live Plants.  Many plants will root into or anchor to wood if you first lash them down with monofilament fishing line.  Or even a rubber band.  The best candidates:  Java lance fern, Java moss, bolbitis, and riccia (crystalwort).

Add Plastic Plants.  A drill bit enables you to anchor plastic plants to your wood.  Drill the holes in straight or your plants won’t look quite right.  Some of the fake woods now come with fake plants already attached.

LA
And never forget how well driftwood works with reptiles -- snakes as well as lizards

Summary.  Driftwood adds that natural look to your aquarium.  It sets your decor apart from the “also rans.”  It turns your aquarium into an attractive show tank that catches even the non-fishkeeper’s eye.  LA.

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