Driftwood Structure in the Nature Aquarium

Author: Takashi Amano

The pioneer of the modern planted aquascape demonstrates the multiple ways that driftwood and moss can form the foundation for a layout’s overall impression.

One major characteristic of a Nature Aquarium layout, in addition to aquatic plants, is the use of rocks and driftwood in the production of a layout. An advantage of producing the framework of a composition using rocks and driftwood before planting aquatic plants is that it makes it easier to construct an entire layout from there. Therefore, rocks and driftwood are generally called “composition materials” in the Nature Aquarium.

Driftwood Composition

There are many types of composition materials, and their shapes and sizes vary as well. As a result, the impression of a layout can be totally changed by using new composition materials. Finding a new composition material also makes it possible to create a layout with a completely new impression.

Although driftwood is largely used as a composition material in the Nature Aquarium to produce the framework of a layout, it also renders a natural feel to a layout. The natural feel results from the way the driftwood was produced. Driftwood is made and carried by water. A tree that falls and becomes immersed due to rising water loses its hard, woody part eventually and turns into driftwood over a long period of time. Driftwood in nature offers a hiding place for fish and becomes a part of the scenery, with mosses and ferns growing on it. By using driftwood in a layout, the aquascaper integrates its role in nature into that layout. Therefore, driftwood may be used in a layout with its surface exposed, or by growing mosses and ferns on it to express the passage of time.

Adding Moss

Whether driftwood is used by taking advantage of its original shape and its bare surface or by covering it with mosses and ferns is dependent upon the characteristics of the individual piece of driftwood. If it is to be used purely as a composition material in a layout, if it has an artificially cut surface, or if it has a different color or texture from other driftwood, these problems can be overcome by covering the entire piece of driftwood with moss.

On the other hand, if the driftwood is to be used by taking advantage of its original surface or contour, it can be used without attaching a lot of mosses and ferns on its surface. If the shape of driftwood is not very attractive, the shape can be obscured if the driftwood is covered with mosses and used as part of an arrangement of multiple pieces. Another alternative is that a narrow driftwood branch with an intricate shape can simply be placed on the substrate to produce a layout on its own. The characteristics of the individual driftwood determine how it should be used.

How to Find a Balanced Driftwood Composition

The driftwood used in the photographs in this article is horn wood, which has a relatively intricate shape. There are many types of driftwood, and there is a suitable layout method for each type. Horn wood may not have a strong character, but it can be used to produce a wide variety of layouts depending on the choice of wood and the arrangement.

In this layout, several pieces of horn wood are arranged together, taking advantage of their curvy shapes and creating an arch in the center. Stem plants are planted on the left and right sides of the layout to create a basic U-shaped composition in order to accentuate the open space beneath the driftwood. Such a composition is a rather difficult one, in which driftwood pieces are arranged to form an arch while keeping the overall layout in a good balance.

The key point here is to select driftwood pieces by carefully evaluating their sizes in the beginning. The layout will come together better if the main driftwood that forms an arch and other driftwood pieces are arranged at the same time to maintain the overall balance. Four horn wood pieces were used to create a framework in this layout: two in the center and one on each side.

It is important to provide some measures to prevent the driftwood from shifting during maintenance in a layout by using multiple pieces of driftwood, such as this one, since the overall balance of a layout will be destroyed if the position of the driftwood in the framework shifts. In this layout, Bolbitis was placed in the intersection of the driftwood pieces so that its roots will attach and secure the driftwood pieces in place and keep them from moving around.

A U-shaped composition with an open space around the center of a layout, such as this one, is suitable for expressing perspective. If you examine the composition in terms of balance, you can see that the driftwood and the bushes of aquatic plants on the right are somewhat larger and placed toward the front of the aquarium, while the ones on the left are smaller and placed somewhat toward the back. In the end, the composition of a layout is determined by the volume of aquatic plants. Therefore, stem plants, whose volume is easy to adjust through trimming, are used in the background in this layout. The position of the driftwood in the framework serves as a guideline for the planting area.

Additionally, building the middle ground well with driftwood and epiphytic plants, such as ferns, makes it easier to maintain the stem plants through trimming. Driftwood produces a well-defined composition, which plays a key role in maintaining a layout. The composition of a finished layout becomes clear, and the sense of perspective is strengthened, through the placement of driftwood. This defines the composition clearly, and the layout is completed by planting aquatic plants in appropriate volumes on the left and right sides of an aquarium.


Aquarium: Cube Garden W180 x D60 x H60 cm

Lighting: Grand Solar I (NAG-150W-Green x 1, NA PC lamp 36W x 2) x 3 units, turned on for 10 hours per day

Filter: Super Jet Filter ES-2400 (Bio Rio L, NA Carbon)

Substrate: Aqua Soil Amazonia, Power Sand Special L, Bacter 100, Clear Super, Tourmaline BC, Penac W/for Aquarium, Penac P

CO2: Pollen Glass Beetle Series 50, 6 bubbles per second via CO2 Beetle Counter (using Tower)

Aeration: For 14 hours after the light is turned off using Lily Pipe P-4

Additives: Brighty K, Green Brighty STEP2

Water Change:    1/3 once a week

Water Quality:   Temperature 25ºC (77ºF), pH 6.8, TH 20 mg/l

Aquatic Plants: Rotala sp. “Nanjenshan,” Pogostemon sp. “Dassen,” Myriophyllum mattogrossense “green,” Ludwigia arcuata, Alternanthera reineckii, Nesaea pedicellata, Rotala rotundifolia, R. rotundifolia “green,” Bolbitus heudelotii, Fontinalis antipyretica, Echinodorus tenellus, Cryptocoryne costata, C. petchii, C. wendtii “green,” Lilaeopsis brasiliensis

Fish/Invertebrates: Rasboroides vaterifloris, Puntius titteya, Oreichthys sp., Otocinclus sp., Caridina japonica