Why is Aquarium Driftwood So Expensive? Explained

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We cover the 6 main reasons why aquarium driftwood is so expensive, and why it's so special and desirable for your fish tank.

Why is Aquarium Driftwood So Expensive? Explained

If you are setting up a new aquarium or just upgrading an existing tank, something you always want to consider adding into the mix is some driftwood. There are many kinds of driftwood, and it can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

A big issue with driftwood however is the price. So, why is aquarium driftwood so expensive? Well, the high cost of aquarium driftwood is associated with;

  • The preparation process.
  • Shipping costs.
  • Supply & demand.
  • It’s a niche product.
  • Certain types are very exotic.

6 Reason Why Driftwood Is So Expensive

cost of aquarium driftwood

There are several reasons why you might end up paying a big chunk of change even for a single piece of driftwood.

Let’s take a look at the main causes of why this stuff is as expensive as it is.

1. The Preparation Process

One reason why aquarium driftwood is so expensive is due to the preparation process. Although it might look like regular wood, this stuff has actually undergone an extensive process to get it ready for aquariums. First, sellers have to choose the right pieces of driftwood for aquariums.

Then, once the pieces are selected, they may need to be cut down to size or into various shapes. After this has been done, the driftwood needs to be cleaned and scrubbed in order to remove dirt, algae, bacteria, and more.

Once this is done, the driftwood then needs to be cured, a process of soaking and boiling the wood in order to remove the tannins that can affect aquarium water chemistry, a process that can last weeks, sometimes months.

As you can see, there is quite a bit of labor involved in preparing driftwood, and this is where a lot of that high cost comes from.

Related: Our Glue picks for Driftwood.

2. Shipping Costs

Another reason why aquarium driftwood can be so expensive is due to shipping and handling costs. Driftwood for larger aquariums can be big and heavy, and if you know anything about sending parcels, especially overseas, then you know just how expensive shipping costs are.

A decent size piece of driftwood on its own may not cost all that much. Let’s assume that a piece of driftwood costs $40. However, due to its size and weight, the shipping and handling costs can easily be another $40, if not more.

Of course, the buyer, or in other words you, are the one to cover this cost, not the seller. Even smaller pieces of driftwood can have some significant weight to them, so even those can end up costing you a good deal of money in terms of shipping costs.

3. Supply & Demand

Another reason why aquarium driftwood can be so expensive is simply due to supply and demand. There are a whole lot of people out there who want driftwood for their aquariums, and only a limited number of people who sell it.

According to the law of supply and demand, the more a certain product is in demand, and the more limited the supply of that product is, the more expensive the cost will be. The rarer the piece of driftwood, the more a seller will charge for it.

It’s quite simply due to one of the main laws of economics. This also has to do with limited competition. Although there are quite a few sellers of aquarium driftwood, the supply doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with the demand, or at least just barely.

Related: Our Top 10 list of aquarium driftwood.

4. People are Willing to Pay

This point is related to the third one discussed above, but it has to do more with the demand side of things rather than the supply side. Quite simply, people seem to be willing to pay the very high costs associated with some types of driftwood.

As long as people keep purchasing driftwood at such outrageous prices, sellers will keep charging those high prices. Moreover, the more people are willing to pay the current high prices, the more likely it is that sellers will actually continue to raise the prices of their goods even higher.

If people are willing to buy a $50 piece of driftwood no questions asked, then sellers have no reason to lower the price. The only way that sellers will lower their prices is if it becomes clear that people are no willing to pay those high costs for what is seemingly a simple piece of wood.

Related: How to stop driftwood from floating.

5. Niche Products are Generally Expensive

Another fact here is that niche products, such as products designed especially for aquariums, are generally expensive. Yes, this is related to supply and demand to a certain extent.

There are only so many sellers who sell aquarium supplies, such as driftwood, compared to millions of people who buy them.

Because aquarium keeping is considered a hobby, it is also viewed as something that people are willing to spend money and, and it is recognized that people who have aquariums generally have money to spare.

It all comes down to retailers knowing full well that those same people who have large aquariums also have money to spare.

It’s all good old capitalism, with sellers taking advantage of those consumers willing to pay for their specific niche products.

6. Some Types are Very Exotic

The other reason why certain pieces of driftwood may be so expensive is due to rarity. There are some very rare and unique types of driftwood out there, such as Manzanita to name one, and the rarer the driftwood, the higher the cost.

Yes, it appears that this is also related to the law of supply and demand. The rarer and more exotic the piece in question, the higher the cost.

What Is So Special About Driftwood?

You might be wondering what exactly is so special about driftwood, and why you would ever pay so much money for it.

Well, there are a few reasons why you might want to have it in your aquarium.

1. Some Look Super Awesome

One reason why driftwood might be considered special is simply because it looks cool. There are some really exotic looking pieces of driftwood out there.

They can come in all sorts of shapes and colors, and they always produce a really nice look in any aquarium. Some might even consider them to be a form of art.

2. They Can Regulate pH

Aquarium driftwood, even after the curing process, usually still contains a certain amount of tannins, a substance found in wood.

These tannins leach into the water over time, thus increasing the acidity level in the aquarium water, or in other words, those tannins lower the pH.

Therefore, driftwood can be a good way to regulate the pH in your aquarium, particularly if you need a natural way to keep the pH lower or more acidic.

3. They Can Control Bacteria Levels

Also related to the leaching of tannins into the water, driftwood also has the ability to control the growth of bacteria and parasites, at least to a certain extent.

That acidic environment that driftwood helps to create is not a good place for bacteria and parasites to grow and thrive. Therefore, aquarium driftwood can make your tank a safer place for all of your fish.

4. They Provide Fish with Shelter

Fish also like driftwood, especially large and hollow pieces because they can explore them, swim through them, hide in them, and get some privacy from other fish.

You could say that a good piece of driftwood makes for a great fish house, somewhere to get some R&R.

5. They Can Be Used as Anchors

The other reason why aquarium driftwood can be considered special is because it can be used to anchor down a variety of plants, especially carpeting plants that spread outwards.

There is really no limited to what you can do with driftwood in an aquarium.

Cured vs Uncured Driftwood – Does it Matter?

Yes, this matters a whole lot. The curing process involves soaking and boiling the wood repeatedly, sometimes for several weeks on end, with the aim being to remove tannins and harmful chemicals and other substances from the wood.

Without this curing process, driftwood will contain a high amount of tannins, other substances, and potentially lots of dirt, parasites, bacteria, and whatever else.

Simply put, uncured aquarium driftwood is not overly safe and it poses certain risks to the wellbeing of the aquarium inhabitants.

Is Driftwood Worth the Money?

Quite honestly, this is completely a judgment call on your end. As you can see, aquarium driftwood does have many benefits for an aquarium.

Therefore, if you are comfortable paying high prices for nice pieces of driftwood, we would say that it is absolutely worth the money.

However, if you just want a small and simple tank, and you don’t want to spend too much cash, then you can always go without driftwood.

It’s not like it’s a requirement, but yes, it does have its benefits, so maybe if you can spring for a piece or two, we’d recommend doing so, even smaller pieces.


The bottom line is that while aquarium driftwood can be quite pricey, it does look nice, fish love it, and it also has several benefits for the aquarium water and the inhabitants.

You can do some looking around too, because not all aquarium driftwood is so overpriced. There are some great deals out there.

Photo Credit: Local River, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons