Why Doesn’t Driftwood Rot?

Driftwood rot resistance

Driftwood has been used for decorative purposes in all sorts of places, especially aquariums. Many people use driftwood in the aquariums to lower the pH of the water and create beautiful aquascapes. And you might have planned to buy one as a decoration piece for your home too, but many people wonder if driftwood ever rots. The answer to this depends on the type and species of the wood. To learn more, take a look below. 

Is driftwood rot resistant?

Driftwood is not completely resistant to rotting; however, it has pretty good resistance and holds up for a longer time as compared to other woods. Driftwood is specially collected to be used in the water bodies like aquariums. However, there are some factors you must know before plunging it into your aquarium. 

This wood has been living in water for such a long time that it has become better at withstanding humidity and moisture. To be exact, driftwood does rot, but it is such a slow process that you are very less likely to see it. 

Driftwood can be used for many years before you start to see any visible change because of rotting. The speed of the wood-decaying also depends on its species and its condition when it was wet. Furthermore, the rotting process of woods is also affected by their shape and size. Here are some facts about different wood species and their speed of rotting as driftwood:

  • Most of the driftwoods for aquariums are made from Malaysian or Mopani wood. These woods are hard and dense, with a slower decaying or rotting speed. 
  • Spider wood, manzanita, or azalea are other species that are very tough and rot quite slowly. 
  • Many softwood species don’t last long as driftwoods. However, Cedar is one species known to be quite soft yet naturally rot-resistant. It can last a very long time as driftwood without rotting. 

The temperature and pH level of water also plays a role in the speed of driftwood rotting. 

Is rotting driftwood beneficial?

It is probably okay to leave your wood in the aquarium if it hasn’t rot too much. However, if the rotting is substantial, it can increase the toxins and organics, causing problems for fish. So, it is suggested to replace the driftwood once it starts to crumble at the slightest touch. 

It is advised to prevent using rotten driftwood in your aquarium as it can be more harmful than beneficial. The wood can release tannins in the water and give it a yellowish-brown color. Moreover, it can also lower the pH of the water, which can be beneficial for some fish. The main issue, though, is the danger of parasites. If the wood has been used for a long time, there are lesser chances of parasites. But if not, these parasites can harm the fish and affect the purity of water. 

In short, if you can scrape off the rotten part and see a solid wood underneath, it is safe to keep using the driftwood. But if it is breaking apart at the slightest of touch and crumbling everywhere, it is time to replace it. 

What to consider when buying driftwood?

Driftwood, as mentioned before, is made from different wood species. Furthermore, they are used for different purposes other than aquarium decorations as well. Due to this, they are also treated and preserved in different ways for different uses. 

You cannot use all types of driftwoods in the aquarium. Some of them are harmful to aquatic animals as they release toxins when submerged in water. Buy driftwood with lower levels of tannins, such as Manzanita.  

Some driftwoods may release tannins even after being cured and soaked. In such cases, it is better to use filter media to keep the tank safe for fish and keeping the water clear. 

If you want to give a tea-stained effect or Amazonian Black Water effect, you can place the driftwood in your aquarium after a short soak and scrub procedure. Such aquariums are suitable for bight-colored Tetras such as Rummynoses, Bleeding hearts, cardinals, and Neons. 

How can you tell if driftwood is rotting?

Usually, driftwood pieces can last anywhere from 2 years to up to 5 years. After some time, the wood might start to rot, and you can tell it by touching or scraping the wood. 

Most of the time, you might have noticed how a soft layer of the wood comes off when you take it out of the water after months or years and scrape it. And the soft layer reveals a solid wood underneath. Well, the soft part that you scrape off is the rotten wood. 

Another thing about driftwood is that the part of the tree or branch also affects how long it takes to rot. Heartwood, the inner and denser portion of the trunk or branch, is more resistant to rotting. While sapwood, which is the outer and less dense portion of the wood, decays sooner. 

To be able to know when your driftwood is rotting, you need to check for flakes of wood in the water. Rotting driftwood often leaves debris in the aquarium water, and you might need to do more water changes than normal. 

The debris of rotting driftwood can build up on the substrate of the aquarium and ook like piles of fish waste. This debris can get sucked by the filter and clog the machine. If this happens too frequently, making the maintenance process difficult, it is time to get a new driftwood piece for your aquarium. 


Driftwood is mostly used in aquariums, but it has a wide range of uses. It is also used in sculptures, furniture, and artworks. Driftwood rots like every other wood, however, slowly. You can do different preservation techniques to keep the wood safe. Though where you want to use it can limit the available preservation options for you. 

With all things considered, driftwood can be a beautiful addition to your biotopes. Through regular care and maintenance, you can make the wood last longer and be beneficial for your fish too. 

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