Can You Put a Tree Branch in an Aquarium? (2022)

Can You Put a Tree Branch in an Aquarium?

When you are putting together an aquarium, you want the inside to look unique and be an excellent place for your fish. Many tank owners opt for plastic castles and rocks, yet more individuals wish to make the aquascape appear as natural as possible.

While rocks are a common addition and plants are also popular, there are still the aquarium owners who want to go one step further. You often find one of the more common questions being as follows.

Can you put a tree branch in an Aquarium? It is possible to add wood to your aquarium, yet finding a piece while out walking, and dumping it in your tank would be a huge mistake. For any wood to go in an aquarium, there has to be some consideration, and things to think about.

Here, we will look at the kinds of wood you can add, and what you need to do for preparation if you find a tree branch that has a unique shape. You can also learn how adding woods to your tank can help or change water conditions.

Why Add a Branch to an Aquarium?

The main reason for adding wood to your aquarium is the aesthetic qualities they bring to your tank. Tree branches can offer places to hide, areas to lay eggs, and even be a place where algae can grow to provide something for algae loving tank residents to eat.

Here are some more advantages of adding wood to your fish tank.

  • Some specific tree branches can change the parameters of the water inside your aquarium. This can be beneficial if you would otherwise have to add chemicals to do the same thing. A prime example being driftwood, which can lower the pH level of water, along with acting as a water softener.
  • The addition of wood increase the surface area where nitrifying bacteria can colonize. With this comes an increase in the areas which can help reduce nitrites and ammonia inside your tank.
  • If you use wood rather than plastic additions, this is more natural for fish, and more like their natural habitat. Doing so can help reduce the stress in fish.

Disadvantages of Adding Tree Branches to your Aquarium

Tree branches can bring many benefits to an aquarium; however, it can also have some downsides.

  • Cleaning aquariums can be harder with the addition of wood. You may need to remove the wood to access the areas you need to.
  • If you need to catch fish or to remove dead ones, this simple task can become much harder, depending on the wood you have in your aquarium.
  • If you add the wrong kind of wood, it can have a detrimental effect on your water parameters. For instance, if you add driftwood into a tank with African cichlids, it can change the water away from a high pH to a more acidic environment.
  • Some woods can stain your water if they are not correctly prepared. The water stains come from tannins that leach into the water.

Disadvantages of Adding Wood to your Aquarium

Suitable and Unsuitable Woods for Aquariums

Before looking at the preparations of woods for use in an aquarium, we will look at which are ideal for use. Here are the most suitable and the most unsuitable woods you can find for use in your tank.

  • Apple
  • Beech and Birch
  • Cherry
  • Hawthorn and Heather
  • Oak and Pear
  • Sycamore

Some woods are unsuitable for various reasons, so here are the ones you should be sure not to use.

  • Cypress and Cedar (Never use coniferous or evergreen woods, includes Pine)
  • Horse Chestnut
  • Spruce and Walnut
  • Yew – has toxic elements

Suitable Woods for Aquariums

Collecting Tree Branches for Your Aquarium

Aside from all the things to be aware of with picking up wood from private property etc. There are some other things to consider.

One of the main things is not to use green wood; these are filled with resins and saps. You find these compounds are made up of carbs and sugars, besides this, you can face foaming water or other issues once these saps begin leaching in your fish tank water.

Any wood that hasn’t been sufficiently weathered shouldn’t be used. If you have a piece of green wood, you can follow these preparation steps, yet you will have a long wait because it can take over 12 months to prepare.

Green wood needs to face the elements from every season, so leave it in an exposed area. There will be weathering and interaction from bacteria and insects, so over time, the sap from the wood will be destroyed or taken.

You need to remove any bark, even though this may be one of the beautiful parts of the wood. Once underwater, it rots quickly and will cause lots of issues in your fish tank.

Once your wood has sat for over a year, you still have further preparation, and this involves sinking the wood.

If you try to add your wood to your tank, you will see it doesn’t sink, and instead, it floats. There are two ways to do this, although one approach can also rid the wood of most tannins.

You can soak your wood, or you can boil it to speed up the process. For use in a tank, your wood needs to be waterlogged so it will sink on its own accord. Instead of just soaking in a large plastic tub, the boiling releases tannins faster and also helps to eliminate any stubborn pests or bacteria still in the wood after it has been weathered.

One thing to note is, it can take months to waterlog a piece of wood. However, weighing it down, so it sits under the surface can help speed up the process.

Once the wood sits at the bottom of your soaking tank without any assistance, it is ready for use. If you are storing it for later, you, unfortunately, need to dry it and soak it again.

Buying Aquarium Wood

Many tank owners wonder if you can add wood found in the countryside, because of the cost from specialist retailers. However, once you learn how long it takes to prepare a piece of wood, the more suitable option may be wood that falls under the exotic wood umbrella.

To a certain degree, these are nearly ready to go into a tank with far less preparation. However, this will depend on the specialist store which you approach.

Here are some of the exotic woods, and a few of their features;


Once you do some research, you will see this wood is the most popular in aquariums. Bogwood comes from sitting for hundreds, if not thousands of years in a bog, and stands out because of its coloring. The leached tannins in the bog will stain the wood.

It is hard to find, and many places offer woods for sale that are dried yet come without bogwood’s preservation. If you do find real bogwood, you can find it contains tannins that can stain your water, though many tank owners like this.

Mopani Wood

Mopani has a two-tone appearance, which makes it look unique once underwater. If you manage to find this, you can see it is termite resistant and is often sandblasted to remove the bark. It originates from sub-Saharan Africa and is usually classed as bogwood, yet it never goes anywhere close to a bog.

Buying Aquarium Wood

Redmoor Wood

Many aquarium owners love this wood because of its aesthetic qualities. It delivers reddish hues and does produce a great focal point. In many cases, it is considerably more expensive, and won’t leach as many tannins into your water. Because it isn’t overly heavy, you may find you need to anchor it in position with a rock.

Marsh Root

If you have a light-colored substrate, then this can deliver a striking contrast with its dark appearance. It originates from Eastern Europe and does come from hardwood trees that are found soaking in boggy conditions. In comparison to genuine bogwood, it hasn’t been preserved for anywhere as long.


Taking into account all the above information, you can see it is possible to add wood to your aquarium. The most significant downside is the amount of preparation time it takes if you manage to find a piece laying around.

Even the ones you can purchase still require soaking until they are thoroughly waterlogged. While some places do sell pre-soaked options, these are becoming less common because of the amount of time it takes to ready these pieces of wood prepared for aquarium use.