How To Make Your Own DIY Aquarium Driftwood

bettafishy diy aquarium driftwood

How To Make Your Own DIY Aquarium Driftwood

One thing that I’ve never really grown out of is the terrible habit of walking on the beach looking for pretty things to pick up and bring home. Doesn’t really matter if it’s broken up pieces of sea glass or an interesting seashell, driftwood or sand dollar. It’s on the beach and for whatever reason stands out as different among the rest, more than likely it ends up in the gigantic plastic bin that’s making an entire room in my house smell like old ocean stuff.

Away I try to redeem my packrat nature with ocean trinkets and treasures is by repurchasing these little things found on the beach and turning them into, at least what I consider, priceless home accessories, wearables and aquarium furniture. And you know what? Driftwood is among the most satisfying projects to take on in preparing it, cleaning it up and making it betta fish friendly. Believe it or not, it’s actually not a very easy task to take a piece of driftwood and make it suitable as a betta aquarium accessory. Believe me, there is a lot of work that goes involved. In my own opinion though, it’s well worth it. Every time I look in my aquariums I can see the driftwood and in my minds eye attach it to the beach that I picked it up from. It’s kind of cool to see the fish swimming around it as I tell myself fish in the sea of the same with that particular piece of ocean wood. So with that being said let me show you how to go about making your own driftwood accessory for your betta’s aquarium

Freshwater Aquarium Driftwood Dreams

Freshwater Aquarium Driftwood Dreams

One thing you definitely don’t want to do is take a ”raw” piece of driftwood that’s fresh off the beach and place it straight into your aquarium. You have no idea (nor do I actually) what terrible microbial monsters are lurking inside and on that cool looking piece of driftwood you so desperately want to add to your aquarium. So, what you want to do… Actually, I’m gonna back that up a bit. First what you want to do is you want to make sure that you have a piece of driftwood that can end up fitting in your aquarium. Take a good long look your aquarium and comparing it to the driftwood that you have on hand is a good place to start. You definitely don’t want to have a big log inside of your aquarium and a fish fighting for space.

You want to try to minimize how much and how often you’re going to disturb the fish inside of your tank.

Why don’t you start by doing something like drawing out a basic sketch of what your aquarium looks like and what your ideal aquarium driftwood accessory would look like inside of that aquarium. You want to try to minimize how much and how often you’re going to disturb the fish inside of your tank. Doing something like drawing a sketch and visualizing on paper, or even in your mind’s eye, is better than constantly plopping in new “furniture” and moving things around. This is exactly the opposite of how I rearrange furniture in my own house. But I suppose betta fish are more sensitive to giant hands entering their home moving couches and things around. Once you get a good idea of how you want things to look in your bettas aquarium, we move on to the actual cleaning of the freshwater aquarium driftwood.

But before we jump into that, let me leave you this really special link. Remember it’s here for later because, once you see how much is actually involved in prepping your personally picked up piece of darling driftwood… you may want to see how incredibly cheap the suff is to buy all pre-prepped and ready to go. And actually, sadly too, the freshwater aquarium driftwood forsale that you can easily just go out and buy is pretty much always fancier than the things I’m able to find on the seashore. It just doesn’t carry with it the sentimentality I suppose.

Betta Clean Dirty Driftwood


Okay now we can go into the part where we talk about cleaning out all the creepy crawlies and microbial nightmares living inside of your pretty piece of what used to be drifting wood. Assuming that you made all your modifications to the piece of driftwood, such as cutting it to size or sanding it down further than the ocean already has, you want to start by scrubbing your chosen piece of driftwood like there’s no tomorrow. Find yourself a good sturdy brush with hard bristles and just are going at it. Do not, I repeat, do not use any sort of cleaning agent. No soap. No bleach. Nothing chemical in nature. The reason for this is that you will never be 100% certain that you got all of the toxic chemicals out of the driftwood before placing it in your bettas aquarium. A scrub brush and a bucket of water is really all you need and is really all you should be using. Mind you scrubbing is only gonna get the surface stuff off. We’re going to treat the inside of that piece of driftwood later on.

Un-Drift Driftwood Cure

Un-Drift Driftwood Cure

One thing that driftwood is notorious for is its magical ability to float. You probably want to stop that from happening. In order to do that you have to do what is called “curing” the driftwood. Basically all this means is that you want to submerge the driftwood in a bucket of clean water and let it soak for a very long time. You want to find a way to keep the driftwood from floating to the top while it’s soaking in the water. You can pile something heavy on top of it or you can try to tie it down somehow. I generally stack things on top of the, would be, floating Driftwood.

Generally speaking, I’m not a very patient person and this part is the hardest part for me. It can take up to two weeks for a buoyant piece of driftwood to become fully waterlogged and no longer float. So, make sure that wherever you have your driftwood soaking isn’t a high-traffic area. Because it can be sitting there for a long time.

Driftwood is like a giant teabag. It’s full of tannins that will cause the discoloration of whatever body of water it’s in.

While you have it sitting in a bucket of water waiting ever so patiently for this log to become fully saturated, you might notice that the color of the water is changed. Driftwood is like a giant teabag. It’s full of tannins that will cause the discoloration of whatever body of water it’s in. In general, these tannins will not necessarily harm the creatures inside of your tank, but your pH levels will start declining over time. Why driftwood is soaking, some of the tannins are to leach out of the water, which is a good thing in my opinion. Not all though, but working to take care of the rest of them (them being the tannins) in another extremely necessary step.

Over the course of a few weeks as the driftwood soaks, it’s a good idea to keep checking in on the water level. Depending on where you live, you may find that your water evaporates more quickly than not and have to remedy that situation. On top of evaporation, changing the water with clean water regularly will help leach out any of the bad stuff remaining inside the driftwood. The fresher you can keep your clean water in the bucket you have your driftwood soaking in, the cleaner the piece of driftwood you will be left with. It’s not that hard of a thing to replace the water in the bucket once a day. And if it is hard to do, it’s not the end of the world, just try to do it often as you can.
Eventually what you’ll be left with at the end of a few weeks should be a non-floating piece of driftwood in crystal-clear water. The two weeks, mind you, isn’t a hard and fast rule but rather a general guideline of time. It will take as long as it will take. It might take only a week. It might take a solid month. They really just depends on the driftwood and how frequently you change the water it’s soaking in. But, when you finally do end up with crystal-clear water and a piece of driftwood that no longer floats on its own… It’s time for the next step. Boiling!

Betta Boil that Driftwood

Remember that Driftwood teabag reference just a bit up above? Yeah, working to continue along with that for a bit. You want to boil that sucker next so, look for an appropriately sized pot. What we’re trying to do and we boil the driftwood is get rid of most of the rest of those tannins that could possibly leach out in your aquarium, and kill off any microbial monsters that are just waiting for a betta fish dinner.

Now, some people actually skip the curing process and the two week wait time outlined above and head straight for the stockpot and the stovetop burner. I don’t like doing this for a couple reasons. One being that the amount of old oceans smell that invades your house for weeks after boiling is intensified by many multiples if you don’t cure it first. Another reason being that if the piece of driftwood is fully waterlogged, fully saturated all the way to the very innermost fibers, boiling at that point will be far more effective in killing off whatever was using the driftwood as a host to begin with. Things like algae and bacteria and fungus and mermaid poop. Yeah, you basically fished out this piece of driftwood from Neptune’s porta potty. Keep that in mind while you wait patiently for your piece of driftwood to finish boiling.

At a full boil, and depending on the size of driftwood you’ve chosen for your betta tank, you are going to want to boil it for about two hours.

At a full boil, and depending on the size of driftwood you’ve chosen for your betta tank, you are going to want to boil it for about two hours. If you went through the curing procedure first, that would be the bucket of cold water for two weeks thing, you may end up being done boiling in about an hour. If you went against all of my sage wisdom and advice and decided to skip the two week waiting period of curing… I boil for at least two hours. Boy will your house smell lovely!

After it’s done boiling you can cool the driftwood down pretty much whatever way suits your fancy. Personally what I would do is dump the hot water down the sink, carefully use some kind of tool to remove the driftwood from the pot and insert into a bucket of fresh and clean cold water. One thing you definitely don’t want to do is let your perfectly sterilized, fully waterlogged, patiently waited for and completed piece of driftwood to air dry outside. Or air dry anywhere for that matter. If you let the peace of driftwood air dry for too long you will end up having to go to the waterlogging procedure all over again. Granted, it probably won’t take as long as two weeks this time… But you been patient enough so try to skip making that mistake. Like I said before, what I would do is transfer the boiling hot to driftwood into a bucket of cold clean water to cool down in.

Driftwood can retain heat on the inside for an incredible amount of time. It might be cool to the touch, but that doesn’t mean the insides not really really hot still. So, try to make sure that you let it soak in the cold water for at least an hour. Honestly, if you have the extra patience, letting the “aquarium driftwood to be” soak overnight in the cold water would be just fine and ensure that no part of it is hot anymore.

Driftwood Aquascaping

After that you’re pretty much done. Well, minus actually putting it in your betta tank and arranging it ever so perfectly and meticulously as specified by your betta’s demands. You did make sure to ask your betta’s opinion first right? After all, it is his tank.

One last thing to mention is that even after following all of the above information meticulously and to a T, given enough time having your piece of driftwood soaking in your bettas aquarium, you may find out that the driftwood is still leeching tannins into the tank. Believe it or not, these tannins will not harm your betta fish, so don’t really worry about that part of it. If anything, the discoloration will just irritate you personally. Betta fish come from naturally tinted water called “Black Water” and there are actually products on the market made specifically for betta fish that release tannins into the water that will give off this tinted coloration. If you’re not all about tannins in the water, filtering your water through activated charcoal filters will clear up your water. Now, more than likely do the whole curing process in the boiling process and everything this piece of driftwood is gone through up to this point, you are more than likely not to have a tannins in the water at all. But sometimes it does happen and I thought it worth mentioning.


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