Do Guppies Like Driftwood?

There are endless possibilities regarding aquascaping a guppy tank, and driftwood is often the go-to element for many aquarists. But why is that? In this article, we will discuss the benefits of driftwood in guppy tanks and how to make the wood safe for your fish.

Is Driftwood Safe For Guppies?

Yes, it generally is, but it depends on the type, where you got it from, and whether you’ve treated the piece before use. Using driftwood you just happened to find in the wild isn’t quite ideal, especially if you don’t know how to prepare it to make it safe. Wild driftwood can contain a variety of microorganisms, larvae, parasites, and bacteria that could transfer to your tank.

They may also display high contents of noxious chemicals, especially near urban areas, around pollution points. Including highways. At the same time, some types of wild driftwood are naturally toxic. If you don’t know how to identify them, avoid getting your driftwood from nature to begin with.

So, always get the driftwood from trusted sources that can guarantee for the wood’s quality and lack of any traces of contamination.

Also, many aquarists tend to pain the driftwood to make it more appealing, which is almost always a fatal mistake. The chemical compounds in the paint will poison your guppies and kill the entire population fast. Only treat the driftwood as necessary to make it safe for your guppies, and don’t use any chemicals to sterilize or change its color.

What Type of Driftwood Should You Use?

Yes, there are several types of driftwood, and while all are feasible to use for aquariums, not all fit the needs of a guppy community. Some types of aquarium driftwood may even be dangerous to guppies, and I will explain shortly why. Until then, let’s take a gander at some of the best types of driftwood to use for your guppy tank:

– Mopani

This Sub-Saharan piece works great for most larger tanks, displaying a desert-specific look with warm shades of brown and yellow. It has a bulky appearance with no branches, as it mostly consists of knots and thick tubercules. Furthermore, Mopani has a high tannin count, providing it with higher flexibility in terms of the number of aquarium settings it can fit.

It’s great for guppies as well as many other fish species, but you may need to boil it before use. The process will eliminate some of the tannins in case your guppies aren’t too fond of the tea-like water.

– Cholla

This is a readily available and cheap piece that packs a unique esthetic punch. Cholla driftwood comprises of a hole-based structure, and it’s generally hollow, but you can also find it in fuller variations. Cholla makes for a perfect addition to a shrimp or small fish tank, allowing the tank inhabitants to swim through it.

It is nothing more than the dried-out remains of cacti succulent, which explains why it has a shorter lifespan. This type of driftwood will initially float in the aquarium and will take 1-2 days to sink it. The problem is that it will decay over time, generally taking between 1 to 2 years to become unusable.

But during that time, Cholla will beautify your aquarium like few other driftwood types could.

– Manzanita

This species of driftwood is unique in several ways. First, Manzanita is a great addition to tanks with a lot of vertical space. Second is the fact that it has a low tannin content and a neutral pH. This is great if you’re planning to set up a community tank, and now all species appreciate extremely low pH values.

Guppies typically require pH levels around 6.8 to 7.6. If the water’s pH tends to rise for some reason, Manzanita might not be the perfect choice for you since it doesn’t affect pH values. Other than that, it will make for an amazing addition to your aquarium with the right preparation.

Naturally, not all types of driftwood will work for your guppies. Bonsai driftwood is a good example in this sense. Although it can be quite imposing, with great esthetic weight, it may not be safe for your guppies due to the sharp branches. Several other driftwood types showcase the same issues, like spider and tiger versions.

How to Prepare Driftwood for Guppy Tank?

The preparation process is vital since it can prevent a variety of problems, including polluting the tank water and infecting the fish with several deadly pathogens. To make your driftwood safe for guppies, you should:

  • Eliminate pointy tips – This is a vital point. Many pieces of driftwood, including the safer types, come with sharp edges or small point tips. One tiny sharp branch could slice your guppies’ fins or tail, leading to infections and possible death. To prevent this, trim any dangerous edges and remove pointy branches that could cause unforeseen accidents. Be thorough about it. You may sometimes have tiny tips hidden inside the driftwood that will hurt the guppies trying to go through.
  • Brush the driftwood – This step is meant to eliminate all debris and dirt, which is you’ll have plenty of in case of wild driftwood. You can easily skip this phase in case of purchased driftwood, especially if it looks clean.
  • Cure the driftwood – The curing process aims to clear the driftwood of excess tannin. Tannins are chemical compounds known to change the water’s color, bringing it to a tea-like nuance. The more tannin present in the driftwood, the darker the water will get. It’s not dangerous to your guppies, but it will alter the water’s appearance. If the type of driftwood you got has too much tanning, the curing process is a must. This simply refers to placing the piece in a bucket of water, fully submerged, and keeping it there for 1-2 weeks. This timeframe is enough to eliminate most of the tannin. Make sure you change the water several times during this time. If the water gets clearer, your driftwood is ready for placement.
  • Boil the piece – Boiling driftwood is basically a method of shortening the curing process. By boiling the driftwood, you eliminate more tannins faster and sterilize the piece at the same time. You only need to boil the driftwood for about 1-2 hours to sterilize the material and kill all fungal spores, bacteria, parasites, and algae deposits that could transfer to your tank.
  • Mount it carefully – Placing the driftwood adequately in your tank is trickier than it seems. Especially if you have some bottom-dwellers that could unearth the piece and cause it to tip over. Depending on the type of driftwood, you want to make it fit perfectly within the environment while providing your guppies with open swimming room as well. Position your driftwood according to its size and shape and fix it in place to prevent any instability problems. You can use rocks or other heavy tank decorations as leverage to stabilize the piece.

Benefits of Driftwood for Guppies

Driftwood has many benefits for all tank fish, most of which are present in all types of driftwood. The most relevant driftwood benefits include:

  • Esthetic effect – There’s no denying that driftwood packs an impressive esthetic punch, both in terms of shape and by altering the water’s composition. Driftwood is often used to make the aquatic environment seem more natural, which helps the fish feel more comfortable in their habitat.
  • PH reduction – The tannins in driftwood will change the water’s color and pH, which is great for guppies since they prefer more acidic environments. If the tannin content is too high, you can always cure or boil the wood to eliminate the excess.
  • Supporting the plants – Plant species like java fern, java moss, and others will benefit from having a strong support to rely on. It’s common for your driftwood to become covered in plants over time, enhancing the tank’s esthetic appeal even further. Driftwood will also protect the plants from more aggressive bottom-dwellers that could unearth them during their rush for food.
  • Environmental asset – Driftwood allows for a more heavily planted aquarium, improving the water’s dissolved oxygen. This will work in conjunction with the tank’s filter to create a well-oxygenated environment, ideal for guppies and other fish species alike. Driftwood will also provide guppies with a variety of hiding spots and areas to explore, keeping them active, busy, and energetic throughout the day.

In short, there’s no reason to avoid driftwood for your guppy tank.

Problems with Driftwood for Guppies

I could mention 2 primary problems with driftwood in a guppy tank, both of which are easy to fix:

  1. The risk of mechanical injuries – We’ve already explored this aspect which refers to a suboptimal driftwood type and shape. If your driftwood has too many sharp branches, it could poke, stab, or slash guppies as they swim nearby. In this case, trimming the driftwood carefully before adding it to the tank is a necessity.
  2. The risk of drastic changes in water chemistry – Here, we include aspects like driftwood contaminated with artificial chemicals, paints, or other pollutants from various sources. The contamination is mostly present in driftwood collected from the wild. Another problem would be the risk of excess tannin, dropping the pH levels beyond the guppies’ comfort level. In the first case, avoid collecting the driftwood yourself unless you’re sure it has not been contaminated. In the second one, you can easily remove excess tannin via curing or boiling the wood.

Other than that, there’s no reason to avoid driftwood, provided you take all the precautions necessary.

Can Driftwood Kill Guppies?

Yes, it can happen. This is mostly the result of painted or contaminated driftwood containing a variety of chemicals. Many of these have soaked into the wood due to prolong exposure with no visible sign of their presence. These chemicals will act as silent and invisible killers once placing the driftwood into the tank.

If your guppies show signs of discomfort, specifically gasping for air, the cause may be the driftwood. Especially if their behavior appeared shortly after introducing the driftwood into their aquarium. In this case, you may need to remove the driftwood and quarantine the fish while you test the tank water. You may need to perform a larger water change and use activated carbon for immediate chemical filtration if necessary.

Only add the guppies back into their tank once the water parameters have fallen back to normal.

Driftwood can also kill guppies via mechanical means since driftwood-related cuts and punctures can infect and threaten your fish’s life. We’ve already discussed how you can prevent this problem.

Does Driftwood Affect Water Parameters?

Yes, driftwood will influence the water pH. How much the pH will drop depends on the tannin content in the driftwood. If you don’t want the water’s pH to change at all, boil the wood prior to using it.

This will dilute the tannins in the driftwood significantly, lowering or removing the wood’s ability to change the water’s chemistry.


Driftwood makes for a great decorative piece in pretty much any fish tank, including guppy environments. Just make sure you get your driftwood from reliable sources and test it for any dangerous chemicals and pollutants.

Treat the wood accordingly before use, mount it in a safe area of the tank, secure it in place, and Mother Nature will do the rest.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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