Does driftwood rot?
As nothing is immune to the passing of time, neither is driftwood. Depending on the characteristics of the wood itself, the way it has been treated, and how it’s used, driftwood can last a long time.
So, driftwood does rot – meaning that bacteria and fungi will colonize its surface and eat away the organic material, leading to the deterioration of the material. A number of factors determine the speed at which this happens, like the ones mentioned above, temperature and how long it is spent in water also play into this.
How long can I keep driftwood?
The lifetime of driftwood mainly depends on the way it’s used. As rot requires two main things – air and humidity, a piece of properly treated and prepared driftwood can last almost indefinitely if used as decoration in a dry place. If used in an aquarium, on the other hand, deterioration is inevitable. Due to the nature of driftwood, you can generally keep it in an aquarium for 2-5 years before it starts to show signs of it, and needs replacement.
How do I keep driftwood from rotting?
Depending on the application, there are various methods to ensure the longevity of your driftwood.
First of all, any piece of driftwood you plan on using should be properly inspected and cleaned. Remove any loose or sharp edges from the piece of wood, and thoroughly clean it under a stream of water. If you notice any insects, you can seal the piece of driftwood in an airtight bag and leave it for a few days. You can also apply an insecticide into the bag, but this is not recommended if you plan to use it in an aquarium.
There are a few ways to properly clean and disinfect driftwood:
- Thoroughly cleaning it with a brush and soap
- Letting it soak in a nine to one ratio of water and bleach for a few hours
- Soaking it in a solution of cleansing soda for at least 48 hours
- Boiling or baking driftwood for 1-2 hours at 200°F
The goal of these methods is to remove any bacteria or fungi on the surface of the wood, minimizing decay.
Check out my post Your Ultimate Guide to Learn How to Clean Driftwood for more details.
If you’re planning on using it for decorations, woodworking, or a similar project, after cleaning and disinfecting the wood, you can apply either varnish, the clearcoat, or any other sealant on its surface. Painting the wood will also seal and protect the driftwood and practically eliminate rot.
If the driftwood is meant for use in an aquarium, be sure to clean it after using bleach or cleaning soda, as these might be dangerous for your fish. It is also recommended to let the driftwood sit in distilled water for a few days before introducing it into the aquarium.
You also shouldn’t apply any chemicals like paint or varnish to the driftwood if you plan on using it in an aquarium, as these chemicals can be harmful for the quality of water in your tank and to your fish.