If you live anywhere near water, you will find that branches and trees suddenly start washing up all along the shore at random times throughout the year. Many pet owners first wonder if this driftwood is safe to use with their birds or even in their fish tanks.
Fresh driftwood is not safe for birds to be used as perches or toys, as the wood can have parasites and chemicals that are dangerous to their health. Pet stores have treated and cleaned driftwood that is safe for most pets, with different treatments for each type of pet.
Living next to the ocean can be frustrating, and seeing amazing pieces of driftwood that would fit perfectly in your bird’s cage or aquarium goes to waste. Knowing how to treat driftwood can be a good skill to have for life and may enrich the overall experience your pets have at home.
Should You Use Fresh Driftwood For Bird Perches Or Toys?
If you have picked fresh driftwood from the ground around a lake, beach, or river, you cannot use it as a perch or toy for your birds. The wood needs to be cleaned and treated to ensure that no chemicals can hurt them and that there are no parasites that will infest the birds.
Some processes can clean out driftwood to make it completely safe to be used by your birds for anything from perching to eating. The cleaning process for almost any piece of driftwood should take just over one full week and require bleach to kill any bacteria on or in the wood.
Many people only use driftwood to decorate their house specifically because getting the wood clean enough to use with your pets can be challenging. However, if you are willing to go through the process each time, your birds will enjoy having a constant source of fresh, dry wood.
Is Driftwood Safe For Betta Fish?
Fresh driftwood is one the most dangerous things you can put in any fish tank, as the untreated wood can wreak havoc with the levels of your aquarium. Even betta fish cannot survive the chemical imbalances created by adding untreated driftwood to your tank.
Further, you cannot use just any piece of driftwood from pet shops in your betta’s fish tank, as many driftwoods are chemically treated after being cleaned. Driftwood meant to be used with lizards or snakes is specially treated to prevent them from being hurt by the wood.
When using these pieces of driftwood in your fish tank, you can cause many toxins to leak into the water, requiring you to do a complete tank flush at best. At worst, you won’t catch the problem in time, and the betta might die owing to the toxicity levels in the tank rising rapidly.
How Do You Make Driftwood Safe?
If you still want to go through with driftwood for your betta or birds, you will need to know how to get the wood safely. Generally, there are only two things that you can do to get driftwood completely clean and safe to be used with either a bird or with your betta.
We’re going to go through the most basic steps of preparing your driftwood treasures into the perfect pieces of wood for your betta or bird. A general rule of thumb is to start with salt water driftwood is infinitely safer than almost any other piece of driftwood you can find.
Soaking In Fresh Water
The first step to preparing your driftwood is to get it cleaned out completely using fresh water; you can use running water and a scrub brush to get all the worst bits off the wood. Once you have done this, the wood needs to be in a freshwater bath that gets changed once every one to two hours.
This removes the worst things growing in and on the wood while also soaking it in clean and clear water. If you have ocean driftwood, the water will soak out all of the salt that can cause damage to your betta tank or cause your bird to consume too much salt.
Cleaning With Bleach
Soaking the driftwood in fresh water should last for one to two days; once you are certain that the wood has fully absorbed the water, we need to move on to bleaching. The purer the bleach you use is, the better, allowing you to kill any organics living inside or outside the driftwood.
We recommend using a bath or large tub and filling it with enough water to where the driftwood is barely fully under the water. Once this is done, empty your bleach bottle into the water, stirring it with a brush or spoon until you are sure the water is fully saturated, leaving it to soak for 24 hours.
Resoaking In Fresh Water
If you have done it right, the water with the bleach should no longer be clear, and there should be a layer of grime floating at the top of the water. It is now time to remove the driftwood and remove the bleach that has soaked into the wood.
Drain your tub or bath and clean it with hot water and sponges, ensuring no more bleach is present. Then repeat the first step of filling and draining the tub with clear fresh water; you can use hot or cold, repeating the process once every hour or two, for two days at a minimum.
Letting It Dry On Sun
Once you are satisfied with the wood and no more discoloration or smell comes from the water used to soak it in, you can put it out in the sun to dry. Ensure that no insects, animals, or rain can get onto the driftwood as they may recontaminate the piece of driftwood.
Leave the piece in bright sunshine for at least a full week, turning it every morning to ensure the sun can reach every corner. It should now be safe for your bird to use as a toy or perch, while we recommend running it in a separate aquarium first to test its impact on the water before adding it to your Betta fish tank.
Why Do You Need To Clean Driftwood?
By its very nature, driftwood has been exposed to many chemicals, each absorbed by the wood, ready to be released whenever possible. Driftwood in freshwater also has many parasites, bacteria, and plants growing on them that can infect your loving pets.
Further, driftwood from the ocean has been saturated with salt, which has helped preserve them but also makes them dangerous. When used with your bird, it can cause their salt levels to rise just because they are licking and cleaning themselves after playing on the wood.
Saltwater driftwood in your betta fish tank will cause a complete disaster with the water balance in your tank. Causing the water to become too salty, killing all freshwater fish and heavily stressing out any fish that may be able to survive in saltier water, like betta fish.
Driftwood you bought from a trusted pet store for specific purposes will have been cleaned and treated for that specific use. Whereas driftwood you find along the shore of a lake, river, or ocean will cause you much more trouble than it can ever be worth.
Always remember that when you have a pet bird or betta fish, they depend on you making good decisions!