How to make driftwood for an aquarium using birch

Updated February 21, 2017

Adding a piece of birch driftwood to an aquarium is an easy way to enhance any fish tank. Driftwood gives aquariums a more natural appearance and provides the fish with a more natural environment. Driftwood you might find at pet and pond stores can be very costly. Save money by prepping and curing a piece of birch driftwood yourself. Read on to learn how to make driftwood for an aquarium using birch.

Select your piece of birch. Choose a piece of wood that does not come from a polluted area because the toxins can leach out into your aquarium water and harm your fish. Make sure the piece of birch fits inside your aquarium.

Strip the birch of any loose bark with a hard-bristled wire brush. Sand down any sharp corners that could damage fish scales and eyes.

Boil the birch driftwood in a large pot of water for two hours to kill any parasites and microorganisms living in the wood. Boil larger pieces one section at a time. Place one end of the driftwood into the pot and then boil it for one hour. Then flip the wood over and boil the other end for one hour. Dump out the water and scrub the birch with a hard-bristled brush to remove loose bark and pieces of wood. Repeat the boiling and scrubbing process three times.

Dry the birch in the sun for two weeks. The driftwood must be completely dry both inside and out. Check the dryness of the birch by breaking off a small piece. Make sure the birch is not "green." If it is soft and pliable instead of brittle, then it needs more drying time. Place the driftwood in the sun for two more weeks and then check the dryness level again.

Soak the birch in a small tub of water. Make sure the driftwood is completely submerged. This soaking process helps remove tannins, which are natural compounds found in all wood that will leach out and cause "black water." Soak the birch for one week or until the "black water" effect is lessened. Change the water every other day.

Place the birch driftwood in your aquarium. Enjoy.


Check the pH of the aquarium water regularly because the tannins in the birch will soften the water. A lower pH level can cause stress in some fish species, although tropical varieties tend to do well.


Do not use chlorine bleach to clean your driftwood. Bleach is a harsh chemical that can leach out into the water and harm your fish. Do not use any type of soft woods such as pine or cedar in your aquariums. Soft woods decompose quickly and can leak sap into your aquarium water.

Things You'll Need

  • A piece of birch
  • Hard-bristled wire brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Large pot
  • Small tub
  • Water
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