how to prepare driftwood for aquarium

Driftwood is a great addition to an aquarium. It gives your pets a place to hide and adds to your tank’s aesthetic. Driftwood is also a great way to grow plants in your aquarium. If you want to add driftwood, it is important to know how to prepare driftwood for your aquarium.

How to prepare driftwood for an aquarium?

The key to preparing driftwood for an aquarium is soaking it in water. Smaller pieces can be soaked in boiling water, while larger pieces can be soaked in tubs.

Soaking driftwood before putting it in your aquarium is a must for 3 main reasons:

  • It helps destroy disease-causing microbes and bacteria
  • Prevents your aquarium water from turning brown by removing tannins that are in driftwood
  • Waterlogs the driftwood so that it sinks when you put it in your aquarium.

If you are more of a visual learner, you can check out my video below to see how to prepare driftwood for an aquarium.

Now that you understand the importance of preparing driftwood, lets get started.

Step 1: Surface clean and scrub

Before you soak the driftwood in water, you should perform a surface level cleaning. You should remove any dirt, cobwebs, or bugs that might be present on the driftwood. For smaller driftwood you can use an old toothbrush, while larger pieces might require a bigger brush.

If you have a really large piece that you found outside, you can go even more extreme and rinse it with a power washer.

Whatever method you use, once the surface is cleaned off, you can move to step 2.

Step 2: Submerging the driftwood in water

The steps you take here will depend on the size of your driftwood. If you have a piece that can fit in a pot, you should do the boiling water method.

Boiling water method

preparing driftwood for an aquarium

Start by boiling a pot of water. Then, place the driftwood into the boiling water and let it sit for around 1-2 hours. You might have to hold the wood down with a pot cover at first, because the air pockets will cause the driftwood to float. After a couple minutes, hopefully the driftwood will start to sink.

After you have boiled the water for an hour or two, you can dump out the water.

You will probably notice that the water is brown. This is a good sign, as it means the brown tannins are being removed from the wood. If you skip this step, it will cause your aquarium water to become yellow.

If you want to be extra careful, you can put the driftwood back into a pot of boiling water to help ensure all of the tannins are removed.

Now your driftwood should be good to go, and you can place it into your tank.

If you have a piece of driftwood that sticks out when it is in the pot, you can follow the same steps above but just flip the driftwood over every 20 minutes or so.

boiling driftwood for aquarium

Now if the driftwood is way too big for a pot, you will have to do the submerging method below.

How to prepare large driftwood for aquarium

For large pieces of driftwood, you should place them in a big bucket or carton and fill it up with water. There is a good chance the driftwood floats to the top, so you might want to weigh it down. You want to make sure that the entire piece of driftwood is submerged under water.

how to prepare large driftwood for aquarium

I also suggest you put some hydrogen peroxide into the bucket. It doesn’t matter how much, because the hydrogen peroxide dissolves pretty quickly, so it won’t be harmful by the time the driftwood enters your tank. Some people use bleach, but I advise against this because wood is very porous and some of the bleach can get trapped inside.

You should let the driftwood soak in the container for a day or two. You should notice that the water turns a brown color, which is a sign that you are cleaning the wood.

preparing large driftwood for aquarium

After a day or two, you should replace the dirty water with new water. I suggest that you put some water conditioner in the second batch of water, as it can help breakdown chlorine that is found in tap water.

You should wait another two days, and then your driftwood should be ready to go. Simply take it from the bucket and place it in your aquarium.

If you want to buy driftwood, you should read my article on the best driftwood for turtle tanks.

If you want to take your aquarium to the next level, you should consider making an aquarium bonsai tree.

Other things to keep in mind

If your aquarium initially turns brown, there is no need to panic. The brownish color should be removed after the tank water cycles in a day or two. As long as you have a filter in your tank, your fish should be fine.

Be mindful of the places where you search for driftwood. Stay away from driftwood that is in insect-infested areas.

If you notice at any point in the process that your driftwood has any bugs or parasites in it, I suggest you choose another piece of driftwood. Many parasites can’t be seen by the human eye, so there still might be some hidden in the wood even if you think you’ve removed them all.

If you do notice parasites in your aquarium after you put the driftwood in, you should check out my guide on how to get mites out of a tank.


Whether you have fish or a turtle, driftwood is a great addition to your aquarium. Just make sure that you take the proper steps to prepare and clean the driftwood before you place it into your aquarium.

cheap turtle supplies