Malaysian Driftwood For Your Aquarium
There's something very special about Malaysian driftwood when it comes to using it in aquariums or terrariums. We use driftwood for all sorts of artistic purposes, both inside and outside. Perhaps it's because each piece if driftwood is in many ways unique, and there are so many pieces to choose form, whether the driftwood is being purchased or collected from a beach.
A Freshwater Driftwood - One reason for using Malaysian driftwood in a freshwater aquarium is that it comes from freshwater swamps in Malaysia, and to place a piece of saltwater driftwood in a freshwater aquarium would likely have a negative affect on the pH of the water, and a potentially negative affect on the marine life. Also, if one picks up a piece of driftwood from just anywhere, be it saltwater or freshwater, what may lurk in the wood in the way of chemicals or bacteria is an unknown, and we don't like the idea of putting unknowns in with our favorite tropical fish. Using driftwood in a terrarium is somewhat of a different matter, but still we like to think that it is free of bacteria, or other harmful agents.
Beautiful Works Of Art - The other reason for purchasing a piece or two of Malaysian driftwood becomes apparent from looking at images of pieces that are for sale. Malaysian driftwood, at least those pieces offered for sale, are for the most part individual pieces of art, sculpted by nature and not by man. They are simply beautiful to behold, and become even lovelier once immersed in water. Some tropical fish fanciers claim their fish, particularly Angelfish and other members of the cichlid family, seem to favor Malaysian driftwood, not because of where it comes from of course, but because of its many shapes which often include the cavities and passageways that fish seem to enjoy.
Most driftwood contains tannins, or tannic acid, which will tend to lower the pH of aquarium water somewhat. This may or may not be of any concern but is something that needs to be taken into account. On the positive side, tannins tend to prevent organisms from thriving in water, and consequently a piece of driftwood will tend to counteract potentially harmful bacteria rather than introducing them.
Making Tannin Tea - Freshwater driftwood, including Malaysian driftwood, often is too rich in tannins to be of use in an aquarium. This problem is solved simply by boiling the driftwood, which release the tannins turning clear water into a dark "tea". If not boiled out sufficiently, the tannins in a newly introduced piece of driftwood may turn the water in an aquarium a yellowish color, not to mention possibly upsetting the pH of the water. Driftwood sold on the market, and especially Malaysian driftwood, is almost always treated beforehand to remove as much of the tannins as possible. The same applies to another popular type of driftwood found on the market, African driftwood.
It Sinks - Another reason for purchasing Malaysian driftwood is that it sinks, and therefore does not need to be weighted down. The driftwood we find by lakes and streams here in North America, called standard driftwood in the trade, will sometimes sink, but at times needs to be submerged in water for a lengthy period of time before that will happen. Soaking a dry piece of driftwood to make it waterlogged to the point it will sink can take days or weeks, and for some pieces, months or even years. If you don't have the time to wait, and most hobbyists don't, the recommended approach is to drill a hole in a piece of slate heavy enough to submerge the driftwood when the slate is screwed to the wood. The preferred approach for many, though a bit more expensive, is to purchase a piece of Malaysian driftwood.