Why is Aquarium Driftwood Expensive?

If you’ve ever thought about adding aquarium driftwood to your tank, you might have been surprised by the cost of a single piece. But why is aquarium driftwood expensive? The answer is surprisingly complicated.

The price of aquarium driftwood depends on supply and demand, shipping and import costs, and all the work that goes into finding, cleaning, and preparing the wood before it gets to your local fish store or online seller. And those prices vary widely depending on the type of wood.

For example, a piece of Malaysian Driftwood that’s 10-15 inches long can range from $25-40. The same size piece of Mopani Wood sells for around $10-15. So why is there such a big difference in price?

Read on below to find out more.

Why is Aquarium Driftwood Expensive?

Aquarium Driftwood Expensive

Supply And Demand

The law of supply and demand is a core concept in economics, which states that as supply increases, price decreases.

In other words, as businesses produce more products and make them available to the public, competition forces them to lower prices in order to attract consumers.

As businesses increase production and lower prices, consumers have greater access to the product. They can choose from a wide variety of products, and because there are many companies offering similar goods or services, they can negotiate for lower prices.

When demand is high, however, businesses will produce less of a product or not increase production at all. This makes the product scarcer and more valuable, so they can charge higher prices. In this case, consumers have fewer options and may have to pay more for a product.

Driftwood Prices Are Affected by Weight and Shipping Costs

When you’re deciding whether to buy aquarium driftwood, there are two factors that influence the price of driftwood:

  • The weight of the wood.
  • The shipping cost of the wood.

Shipping costs for driftwood are higher than for other products. Some types of driftwood can be very heavy, and most shippers charge by weight. This is especially true for international shipments. For example, a piece of Malaysian Driftwood that weighs 5 lbs can cost upwards of $20 to ship internationally, which is a hefty amount to pay on top of the purchase price of the wood itself.

If you’re buying from an American seller, shipping prices will be much cheaper – but still aren’t as cheap as shipping other items like plants or small rocks and gravel. This is because many shippers consider large pieces of wood to be bulky and difficult to handle – especially if they’re heavy too!

Preparing Driftwood For Aquariums

While some driftwood sold specifically for aquariums may be safe to use right away, most of the driftwood available for sale needs to be prepared for aquariums. This process is called “curing” the driftwood. It makes the wood safe for your tank and its inhabitants by removing any remaining chemicals or impurities from the wood and leaching harmful tannins that could alter the water conditions in your tank. That can take several weeks (at a minimum), depending on the type of wood and what has to be done.

The seller should tell you if it’s been cured and if there’s anything else you need to do before putting it in your tank. If not, ask! They should also be able to tell you what type of wood they have, because not all woods are suitable for aquarium use.

The best way to cure driftwood is to boil it first. This kills any microorganisms that might live in the wood and removes any impurities or chemicals such as pesticides or fungicides that could harm your aquarium life. It also removes any tannins that could leach into your tank water, which would alter the pH balance in your tank and make it unsuitable for certain fish or plants.

Why Is It Important to Cure Driftwood for your Aquarium?

Driftwood can make a beautiful addition to an aquarium. It not only adds an aesthetic appeal, but it’s also great for fish. Certain species of fish use driftwood as a place to hide and breed, so having driftwood in your tank is a great way to create a natural environment for your fish.

However, before you put driftwood into your tank, you’ll want to make sure that it’s properly cured. Un-cured driftwood contains tannins and other compounds that could affect the water quality of your tank.

If you buy uncured driftwood, various things can happen to your tank, none of which are good. The wood itself might rot within the tank, defeating the whole point of putting driftwood in there in the first place. Furthermore, as driftwood rots, it releases ammonia, which might hurt your fish.

Un-cured driftwood can also stain the water brown or yellow as the tannins leach out into the water over time.

How to Prepare Driftwood for your Aquarium?

Preparing your own driftwood is not as hard as you think. There are a few things that you need to do before and after you collect it. I will outline each step below. Although this process may seem long and arduous at first, once you start doing it, you will see that it is really quite simple.

Step 1: Use sandpaper

Driftwood is a natural product and may contain sharp edges and or nails, hooks or other metal hardware. Use sandpaper to smooth and round the edges of your driftwood piece. This will also help remove any splinters or loose wood from the surface.

Step 2: Remove any dirt

Use an old toothbrush/brush to remove any dirt or debris from the driftwood piece. If you can, soak the wood in a bucket of water for about an hour before cleaning it. This will help remove some of the water-soluble impurities that are on, and in, the wood.

Step 3: Bleach

Fill your spray bottle with undiluted household bleach. Spray the entire piece of wood with bleach and allow it to dry completely before continuing with your project. The bleach will kill mold and mildew that may be in the wood. It will also eliminate any unwanted smells that may have been absorbed by the driftwood while it was in the ocean or river.

Step 4: Rinse off

Soak your driftwood piece in a bucket of fresh water for several hours to rinse off any residual bleach and to dilute any remaining impurities that may be inside the grain of the wood itself. Rinse as many times as necessary until no trace of bleach remains on or in the wood.


There are several things that make driftwood so expensive, including:

  • Supply and demand: As with any product, the law of supply and demand can dictate price. If a product is in low supply and high demand, the price will be higher than if there were plenty of it to go around. Aquarium driftwood is no exception.
  • Shipping/import fees: The cost of shipping from overseas can add to the price significantly, especially if you live in an area where there aren’t any local vendors. The shipping fee from Malaysia to Thailand is going to be significantly less than from Malaysia to California, for example.
  • Preparing the driftwood: Preparing driftwood to be safe for aquariums is the most important thing that a seller can do, and is probably the biggest factor in the price of the wood. If the wood isn’t cured, it can create issues in your tank, like ammonia spikes from rotting wood, harmful bacteria, and discolored water (read more about why this happens here).

Driftwood is a popular choice among tropical fish enthusiasts, but is often expensive. We hope that now you know a little more about the process, and how to purchase driftwood that is safe for your tank, you will be able to make better decisions about purchasing this material and have a healthy tank for years to come.