Do Bristlenose Plecos Need Driftwood? Safe?

Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by cmoarz

Time to decorate the new bristlenose tank? Plants, check, Substrate? Check. Wait, Do bristlenose plecos need driftwood? It’s an important consideration if you’re trying to provide a natural habitat for your fish. Let’s get started.

Does a pleco need driftwood?

Yes, Bristlenose plecos and other plecos need driftwood. Plecos enjoy grazing on the wood as a large portion of their diet. They are also much happier when they have something to hide in and around.

Driftwood is an important aspect of the hardscape portion of most aquariums and a pleco tank is no different.

In fact, it’s even more crucial that they have access to sterilized driftwood in order to graze happily on the bacterial film and algae that grows on it.

With a bit of ingenuity, you can even create cave systems and spawning mounds out of driftwood in your tank.

So, if you’re looking to provide a natural and healthy environment for your bristlenose plecos, don’t forget the driftwood!

Is driftwood safe for plecos?

Yes, driftwood is safe for plecos as long as it is sterilized first which is accomplished by boiling it.

Boiling not only sterilizes the wood and removes any unwanted pests and debris, But it also helps to remove tannins that would otherwise discolor the water.

While tannins aren’t bad for a tank, and may even be beneficial, they can make the water a bit murky brown (like tea) which isn’t as aesthetically pleasing to many people.

Tannins are also fairly hard to remove, so it’s important to deal with them before the problem starts to begin with.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to sterilize your driftwood, boiling is the way to go.

Just make sure that you allow the wood to cool completely before adding it to your tank.

How long should you boil driftwood for aquarium bristlenose plecos?

The general rule for sterilizing driftwood is a simple 20 minute boil fully submerged.

If you can’t fully submerge it due to the awkward shape or size of the wood itself, you will need to reboil each unexposed area for an additional 20 minutes by flipping it over.

Steam is also effective at sterilization, however, it will not help leech away tannins.

Speaking of tannins, If one of your goals is to remove as many as possible with boiling, the 20-minute rule may not be enough.

Consider boiling it in multiple 20-minute batches until the water stops turning as brown as iced tea.

Replace the water between each boil like you would if you were rinsing rice.

The water will never run 100% clear but you will be able to tell when it’s sufficiently cleaner.

Once the boiling is complete, allow the driftwood to cool completely before adding it to your tank.

What type of driftwood is best for plecos?

Any none poisonous driftwood you can buy at your local pet store or online will do just fine for most plecos, including the bristlenose.

In the wild they are often surrounded by trees such as Laurel, myrtle, palm, acacia, rosewood, brazil nut, and rubber tree, However, Some of these may be very difficult to obtain and others may result in toxicity to other species in the tank, or the pleco itself.

If you wish to match their natural habitat as precisely as possible and decide to use some of these more exotic wood species, Be s sure to check to make sure they are non-toxic first before placing them in the tank.

Any driftwood that is safe for fish and frogs is generally safe for plecos.

That being said, there are many safe and available types of driftwood to choose from so feel free to get creative! Your pleco will love whatever you choose!

Just be sure that it is boiled and/or steamed before adding it to your tank.


Owner of and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!