5 Best Aquarium Safe Woods in 2022 – Buyer’s Guide

Oct 13, 2020

5 Best Aquarium Safe Woods

The list to choose an aquarium safe woods from for your tank is pretty long. But so is the list of toxic woods. The wooden ornaments available commercially through stores and online channels are treated—so they’re perfectly fine to include. However, if you add an un-treated or unsafe aquarium wood, the consequences can be grave. That’s why, today, I’ve brought you my pick of 5 best aquarium safe woods and everything you should know about them. 

Five Best Aquarium Safe Wood 

  • Koyal Wholesale Grapewood Branch 
  • EmoursTM Aquarium Sinkable Driftwood Fish Tank Decoration
  • Marina Décor Mangrove Root
  • Fluval Mopani Driftwood
  • Bonsai Driftwood Aquarium Tree 

My Top Choice 

As for my choice, I would go with the Bonsai Driftwood Aquarium Tree. The number one reason is it’s absolutely beautiful. 

At this price point, getting a natural bonsai replica is a pretty sweet deal.

Adding aquatic plants like java moss on and around it will only make it look even more real. Plus, the tree will fit any theme you’d like to give your aquarium—whether it’s a jungle book look or a mysterious wizard castle. 

If you have fish that require alkaline water or simply don’t want to take risks with tannins, go with artificial aquarium safe wood. The one by Marina Décor is realistic-looking, safe, and reasonably priced. 

Now let’s head over to the comprehensive reviews of aquarium safe woods to choose from. 

1. Koyal Wholesale Grapewood Branch 

Sourced from the famous Californian grapevines, every single grapewood branch by Koyal is uniquely shaped and true to the nature’s twisted design. If you’re looking for a branch with an attractive appearance and versatility, this could be the right pick for you. 

What’s most notable about this product is that its shape isn’t manually manipulated—it comes in its true, raw that took many years to form. 

This sandblasted grapewood’s structure is especially suitable for reptiles and terrariums. The colors may vary from a light ivory hade to darker honey, while for sizing, you can choose from 4 different options. 

Even though the wood is somewhat light, it has a thick and sturdy look to it. Nonetheless, it can ensure a perfect balance when placed in the tank.

You can add aquarium safe plants around or through it to make the piece look more appealing. 

Based on hundreds of reviews online, we’ve come up with a list of curated pros and cons for you:

Pros:

  • The shape hasn’t been modified—has a natural look to it
  • Available in four different sizes 
  • Sandblasted, so requires less pretreatment
  • Suitable for fishes, reptiles, and terrariums 

Cons:

  • Since the shape isn’t manually modified, might need sanding or cutting in some areas 
  • Prone to mold growth 

2. EmoursTM Aquarium Sinkable Driftwood Fish Tank Decoration

This particular aquarium safe wood by EmoursTM is quite popular among aquarist circles. After all, it’s affordable, durable, beautiful, and, most importantly, will last longer even in arid environments.

What I liked about this driftwood is that the quality of the wood is quite good, which helps it survive well even in arid and submerged environments. 

Its natural color and texture and the unique shape will surely make it the focal point of any aquarium. Since no two pieces are alike, it will help create a distinct and natural variation in your aquarium. 

Lastly, the wood’s structure makes it a great hiding place for your smaller and shy fish.

Based on hundreds of reviews online, we’ve come up with a list of curated pros and cons for you:

Pros:

  • Made with good-quality, tough driftwood 
  • Provides a safe hiding place for shy creatures 
  • Compatible for reptiles and terrariums as well
  • Can endure rugged and submerged environments 

Cons:

  • Comes with a few tiny wood pieces in the package
  • The mini pieces that come with it are harder to sink

3. Marina Décor Mangrove Root

The only artificial aquarium safe wood in our list, Marina décor by Marina, is visually stunning, to say the least. 

This intricately designed piece is a stunning natural replica of a mangrove root, which will help you create a natural-looking environment for your tank in an instance. 

Since it is made with non-toxic polyresin, it won’t mess with the water chemistry. Likewise, its natural brown color and grey accents make it look lifelike, in addition to blending smoothly with the other elements of the tank. 

Its size and structure also make it a great toy, allowing the little aquatic creatures to pass through it easily. You’ll, too, have a great time as you watch your fish rest beneath and pas through their new hiding and breeding area. 

Based on hundreds of reviews online, we’ve come up with a list of curated pros and cons for you:

Pros:

  • Looks very similar to an authentic mangrove root
  • Made with non-toxic polyresin
  • Sturdy and well-balanced
  • Also doubles as a toy for your aquatic friends 

Cons:

  • The paint is prone to chipping after prolonged use 
  • Suspectable to fungus 

4. Fluval Mopani Driftwood

Fluval is a household name in fishkeeping. As such, this finely crafted aquarium safe wood from Fluval doesn’t disappoint at all. 

The wood ornament itself looks very natural, which will help you mimic your tank inhabitants’ original habitat. It also adds a slight color to the water, once again contributing to achieve a more natural-looking environment. 

This piece by Fluval is extensively cleaned to make sure that it doesn’t contain any extraneous material, ensuring safety for both aquariums and terrariums.

Its strong structure and base keep it well-balanced in the tank. Hence, you won’t have a hard time getting it to sink. 

The bi-tone hues and nodule-like developments will sure make mopani driftwood a stellar piece. 

Based on hundreds of reviews online, we’ve come up with a list of curated pros and cons for you:

Pros:

  • Dual tones help to create a dramatic effect 
  • Resistant to termites 
  • Safe for fish, invertebrates, and reptiles 
  • Great for freshwater fish that require acidic water 

Cons:

  • Will leach tannins when not pretreated properly
  • Not suitable for creatures that require water with a pH level 7 or above

5. Bonsai Driftwood Aquarium Tree 

Sourced from genuine driftwood and crafted to look like a miniature bonsai tree—what else could be a better combination?

If you are looking to create a natural environment in your fish tank, Bonsai Driftwood will make a stunning centerpiece. No two pieces are the same—every single piece is handmade and unique as the size and shape depend on the available driftwood material. 

The replica tree releases tannic acids in a moderate amount, which helps maintain water’s pH level. Additionally, it also regulates the levels of ammonia and nitrites. 

Thus, it’ safe for most fish, turtles, and shrimps. 

Lastly, it can be used along with aquatic moss species to accentuate the look further. 

Based on hundreds of reviews online, we’ve come up with a list of curated pros and cons for you:

Pros:

  • Softens the water and reduces the pH level
  • Sturdy and doesn’t move in the tank
  • Looks great with Java Moss and Bucephalandra 
  • Gives a stunning facelift to your tank

Cons:

  • Size can be a bit small for big tanks
  • A bit difficult to clean 

What Should You Know Before Adding Wood In Aquarium?

Adding wood to the aquarium obviously has an aesthetic benefit to it. In an instant, it will give your aquarium a facelift that’s not only pleasing to the eye but also make it seem native and untamed for your aquatic creatures.

And while it may seem like a simple task to dunk a piece of wood into the tank, there are many things to consider. 

For starters, ask yourself these questions and answer them with Google’s help before adding any wood:

  • Will it release toxins into the aquarium? And how much?
  • Is it sharp or have a jagged surface?
  • Is it consumable?
  • Will it degrade in the water?
  • How will it change the chemical balance of the water?

While we’re at it, let’s quickly go through the aquarium unsafe woods.’

Aquarium Unsafe Woods

  • Yew (toxic)
  • Walnut 
  • Cedar (anything evergreen/coniferous is bad for the tank)
  • Grapevine (degrades fast)
  • Spruce
  • Pine 
  • Lilac (very poisonous) 
  • Cypress 
  • Ivy (very toxic)
  • Horse chestnut (the plant is safe but not wood)

Now you may have noticed pine and yew in forms of bogwood. So, why didn’t they cut is as aquarium safe wood? That’s because it will take hundreds and hundreds of years to recreate the situation/environment that has made them safe in nature. 

When you add the right kinds of wood, it offers several benefits. But the list of harms can grow quite long too if it’s the wrong type. Let’s have a quick run-through of the pros and cons of using woods in your aquarium. 

How To Pretreat Aquarium Safe Wood?

No matter what the seller claims, it is still important to thoroughly pretreat the wooden ornament to mitigate any potential risk. Basically, there are two ways you can pretreat the woods. You can use either one of them or both. 

Method 1:

Fill up a plastic bucket with enough water to completely submerge the wooden piece. Tie it to a rock or something heavy so that it doesn’t float. 

Let it submerge a few days or weeks. Check the water every few days to see the extent of discoloration. You can also change the water a few times. 

Method 2:

Boil the wood for several hours multiple times until it is water-logged, or until you are satisfied with the amount of tannins released. 

Note: Most aquarium safe woods will come with clear instructions from the company on how to and how much to pretreat it. 

Advantages of Aquarium Safe Wood

  • Balances the water chemistry
  • Provides natural food supply
  • Promotes aquarium health
  • Serves as a hiding spot for your fish

Balances The Water Chemistry 

Specific kinds of wood can change the water parameter in your aquarium naturally without the chemicals. Depending on the fish you have, it can be a good or bad thing. 

But suppose you’re continually battling alkaline tap water. In that case, driftwood’s addition will help buffer and balance the pH level, making it more home-like for many species. 

Most species need slightly acidic water. Thus, adding driftwood is a natural and inexpensive way of replicating the natural environment for them. 

However, some species like Rift Valley cichlids need to be in alkaline water. So, in that case, avoid driftwoods that alter the pH level.

Provides Natural Food Supply

Some fish species like to eat the algae off the wood in their real environment. While others, like some species of catfish, like to eat the wood itself. 

Adding wood pieces in the tank will not only help them practice their instinctive habits but also provide a natural and nutritious diet source. Driftwood is a good source of nutrients like cellulose and lignin that boost digestion in fish. 

Promotes The Aquarium’s Health

Aquarium safe wood stimulates and maintains the tank’s ecosystem. Like substrate and filter media, driftwood helps foster the growth of good bacteria in the tank. In turn, these bacteria break down the fish’s excretion into less harmful compounds.

Thus, through beneficial bacteria, wood helps reduce the levels of ammonia and nitrites from your tank—both of which are toxic to fish. 

Serves As A Hiding Spot For Your Fish

Many fish species need to hide from their surrounding time and again to feel secure. Whether it is to lay eggs or simply calm themselves, aquarium wood gives aloof fish species a place to hide and live.

Your secretive fishes will feel more secure and swim around more often than they used to in response. Woods with gnarled, twisted shapes are the best hiding spots for your fish. 

Disadvantages of Aquarium Wood

  • Makes it difficult to clean the tank
  • Can create a messy look
  • Can lead to algae outbreak
  • Not suitable for fish that need alkaline water

Makes It Difficult To Clean The Tank 

If you go overboard with the number of driftwoods you put in your aquarium, the cleaning process will not be enjoyable. Uneaten food and debris will often deposit in cracks and corners. And it’s going to be exactly easy to vacuum without removing everything.

So, make sure that you’re changing the driftwoods’ position within the tank occasionally.

Can Create A Messy Look

If not treated and managed correctly, woods will make your tank look messy instead of adding an aesthetic appeal. 

For example, if the tannins aren’t released properly, the wood will stain your water and make it look muddy. Now, if you’re looking to achieve a blackwater aquarium look, that might be a good thing. 

However, in most cases, it’s not. 

Can Lead To Algae Outbreak

Woods provide an additional and favorable surface for algae growth. Now we’ve talked about how some fishes love to eat that, and it’s okay—but large clumps of algae are a big no-no. 

To avoid that, make sure to remove and clean your wood ornaments every once in a while. 

Not Suitable For Fish That Need Alkaline Water 

While most fish species thrive in slightly acidic water, some like African cichlid prefer a high pH level. In such cases, adding driftwood pieces can backfire. 

With regular maintenance, the effects driftwood create on water’s properties can be kept under control. Still, we’d recommend you to choose ‘invasive’ driftwoods minimally or avoid them at all if your fish needs alkaline water.

Bottom Line: Five Best Aquarium Safe Wood 

As buyers, what we need to understand is buying a wooden ornament is like buying a lottery.

You don’t really have power over what you are getting. 

However, keep an open mind, tweak the piece a little if you need to, and, most importantly, pretreat it meticulously. 

Wooden ornaments can really make or break an aquarium. So, make sure to only buy an aquarium safe wood.

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.