Driftwood is a gorgeous addition to freshwater and saltwater aquariums alike. Driftwood’s weathered, natural look complements live aquarium plants, rocks, corals, and fish. Driftwood provides shelter and enriches water quality through the release of tannins. However, driftwood can develop pesky white spots that detract from its aesthetic appeal after some time in an aquarium.
As an aquarist, identifying the root cause of these white spots is the crucial first step toward removing them. This article will explore the three most common culprits behind white spots on submerged driftwood. It will also detail effective solutions to eliminate each type of growth and prevent future outbreaks. With the right approach, you can maintain driftwood that enhances your aquascape rather than mars it.
Common Causes of White Spots on Driftwood
Three primary causes lead to the development of white spots on submerged driftwood:
Nerite Snail Eggs
Nerite snails are a hugely popular cleanup crew addition to planted freshwater aquariums. They efficiently eat nuisance algae from leaves, glass, and décor without reproducing as quickly as other aquarium snail species. However, they lay small, hard white eggs on smooth surfaces like driftwood, rocks, and glass.
These eggs have a dotted or speckled appearance. They are laid in clusters, so you’ll notice groupings of many tiny white spots rather than individual dots scattered alone. The eggs will never hatch in freshwater because brackish water conditions are needed to develop fully.
So while the eggs are harmless, their presence as white spots can be an eyesore on carefully aquascaped driftwood. The eggs are firmly adhered and take a long time to erode on their own naturally. Scraping them off can help speed up their removal.
A general aquarium fungus is one type of growth commonly manifest as fuzzy white patches on driftwood. Often nicknamed “driftwood fungus” or “cotton mouth fungus,” these growths typically start as tiny scattered white dots on the wood.
Over time, these spots multiply and spread to form larger patches of white fluff across the driftwood’s surface. These fungal colonies have a cottony, woolly texture when well established.
The fungi that cause this outbreak on submerged wood feed off the cellulose and lignin that make up the driftwood. Extended moisture exposure encourages them to colonize and consume the wood.
Outbreaks tend to happen when aquarium water has high organics, low oxygenation, and poor circulation. New driftwood introduced to a tank can initially have minor fungal growths. But if the white dots rapidly spread into an outbreak, water parameters almost certainly need adjustment.
Not all white spots on driftwood are caused by snail eggs or fungal colonies. Sometimes algae can take on the appearance of white dots or patches. Certain types of hair algae and staghorn algae grow in dense bright white clusters on submerged wood.
When diatoms first settle on a surface in an aquarium, they have a fine, powdery appearance that can make driftwood look speckled with white dots. As diatoms multiply, they merge to form an opaque white film. Branched algae species will also initially colonize as small white dots before branching outward.
Compared to actual fungal growths, hair algae and diatoms have a distinctly different texture and tend to spread much more rapidly. Algae often covers plants, glass, and other surfaces in the aquarium, not just the driftwood. Under intense light conditions and excess aquarium nutrients, some algae can coat driftwood in a lumpy white mess within a few days.
Effective Solutions For Removing White Spots
Once you’ve identified whether the white spots are caused by snail eggs, fungal colonies, or algal growth, you can eliminate them with targeted solutions. Here are the best methods for safely removing each type of white spot from aquarium driftwood:
Cleaning Off Nerite Snail Eggs
Since nerite eggs cannot be deterred or prevented, manually removing them is the most direct way to clear them off of driftwood:
- Scrub off the eggs using an old toothbrush, coarse sponge, or algae scraper. Apply elbow grease to dissolve the adhesive binding the eggs. Concentrate on scrubbing the affected areas.
- If any clusters remain after scrubbing, use a razor blade or sharp acrylic scraper to pry off the eggs gently. Take care not to gouge or scrape the driftwood itself.
- Small remnants of egg material can be spot treated with diluted hydrogen peroxide or algaecide containing erythromycin. Soak for 10-15 minutes before rinsing.
- Once all visible egg clusters are removed, rinse the driftwood thoroughly before placing it back in the aquarium. Nerite snails may lay new eggs, so repeat removal as needed.
Removing Fungal Growths
For white spots caused by fungal colonies:
- Remove the driftwood from the aquarium and scrub off the cottony white fungus using an old toothbrush or coarse sponge pad. Apply an algaecide like hydrogen peroxide afterwards to kill any remaining spores.
- Combine manual scrubbing with a dip in an antifungal medication like Pimafix for severe fungal growth. Soak for 15-20 minutes before rinsing. Repeat as necessary until all the white fuzz disappears.
- Allow the driftwood to dry out completely for 1-2 days before returning it to the aquarium. The fungus needs constant moisture to thrive and regrow.
Eliminating Algae Growth
To remove white spots generated by species of hair algae, diatoms, or other algae:
- Manually scrub off the algae using an old toothbrush, coarse sponge, or specialty algae scraper. Siphon out all the loosened growth.
- Do a blackout period, covering the aquarium to block all light for 3-4 days. Or significantly reduce the lighting period down to 6 hours maximum per day. Lower light discourages regrowth.
- Thoroughly clean any aquarium equipment and decor that could harbor algae and allow it to spread back onto the driftwood. Remove algae from plants with targeted spot treatments.
- Use algaecide dips containing hydrogen peroxide or erythromycin sparingly on badly affected driftwood. Limit usage to avoid harming fish, plants, and beneficial bacteria.
With diligent manual removal and adjustments to lighting and nutrients, white algae growth can be controlled without damaging the driftwood.
Preventing Future Outbreaks of White Spots
Prevention is always preferable to dealing with an outbreak of white spots. Here are proactive steps you can take to avoid issues with driftwood fungus, algae, and nerite snail eggs down the road:
Stopping Fungal Growths Before They Start
- Before placing new driftwood in your aquarium, boil or bake it to kill any fungal spores. Driftwood that initially sinks releases less fungus.
- Maintain pristine water quality through regular partial water changes, filter cleanings, and testing for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Organic waste and nitrogen compounds feed fungus.
- Increase water circulation around wood decor by positioning powerheads and air stones nearby. Stagnant areas encourage fungal and algal growth.
- Allow new aquarium setups adequate time to finish the nitrogen cycle and build up beneficial bacteria populations before adding driftwood.
- At the first sign of small white dots of fungus, promptly remove the wood and manually scrub off the growth before it spreads.
Stopping Algae Before It Becomes a Problem
- Soak and sterilize new driftwood before placement with boiling, baking, or a bleach solution to remove any algal spores.
- Avoid excess lighting duration and intensity that can fuel algae growth. Use timers and adjust LED brightness.
- Maintain balanced aquarium nutrients through water changes, plant trimming, and limiting fish feeding. Test for phosphate and nitrate buildup.
- Improve water flow around driftwood with powerhead placement. Areas of low flow encourage algae.
- Remove algae at the first signs of small white dots before it spreads. Target any lights, nutrients, or circulation issues contributing to growth.
Deterring Nerite Snails From Laying Eggs
- Adding Caribbean dwarf hermit crabs helps eat eggs off surfaces before they accumulate. Avoid larger crabs that eat live snails.
- Direct nerite grazing onto surfaces you don’t mind eggs on, like tank walls. Limit their access to carefully arranged driftwood.
- Provide smooth stones or terra cotta tiles as alternative egg deposit sites. Remove and scrub these regularly when covered.
- Reduce number of nerites so egg production is slower. Add only 1 snail per 5-10 gallons of water volume.
- Remove egg clusters promptly through manual scrubbing before they build up. Trim driftwood surfaces that are hard to reach and clean.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the white stuff on my driftwood?
The three most likely culprits for white spots or patches on driftwood are:
- Nerite snail eggs – Small, hard white dots laid in clusters
- Fungus outbreak – White fuzz that spreads into patches across the wood
- Algae growth – Powdery white spots or fuzzy hair-like growth
Examining the size, texture, and spread pattern will help identify which one you’re dealing with. Fungal colonies and algae will multiply rapidly, while nerite eggs remain in fixed clusters.
What causes the white dots on my aquarium wood?
White dots on driftwood can be caused by:
- Nerite snail eggs – These small white dots appear in groups and don’t spread over time.
- Early stage fungus – Tiny white specks that grow into larger fuzzy patches if left untreated.
- New algae growth – Diatoms and other algae look powdery at first then develop defined white dots.
Differentiating between the three at the initial white dot stage is often difficult. Observe if they remain in clusters or multiply into bigger patches over a week to identify the source.
How do I soak driftwood to prevent fungus?
To prevent fungal growths on new driftwood:
- Boil or bake the driftwood for 30-60 minutes before adding it to your aquarium. This sterilizes it.
- Soak in hot water for 1-2 weeks, changing the water daily. This leaches more tannins out faster.
- Soak in a bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 20 parts water for 2-3 days. Rinse extremely thoroughly afterwards.
- Wash the wood in a plastic tub for 4-6 weeks until it no longer floats or releases colored water, changing the water periodically.
Driftwood properly soaked before placement is less likely to develop fungal outbreaks.
How do I stop fungus from growing on driftwood?
To prevent recurring fungus on existing driftwood:
- Maintain excellent water quality and use activated carbon to filter organics that feed fungus.
- Improve circulation around wood with powerhead placement and performing regular filter cleanings.
- Reduce aquarium lighting duration and intensity, especially in newly setup tanks.
- Manually remove new fungus growths as soon as they appear using an old toothbrush and antifungal dip.
- Allow the driftwood to completely dry out for 1-2 weeks between soakings or before replacing in the aquarium.
Catching and removing new fungal growths immediately keeps it from spreading into a full white patch outbreak.
White spots on prized driftwood can be frustrating and unattractive in a meticulously aquascaped tank. With some detective work, you can determine whether nerite snail eggs, fungal colonies, or algae growths cause them. Once positively identified, utilize targeted removal, adjustment, and prevention techniques. A bit of time invested upfront going over these solutions will allow you to maintain beautiful driftwood that enhances your underwater landscape. Stay vigilant for any tiny white spots appearing and address them quickly before they develop into an eyesore.