There might not be a more extravagant driftwood than that of Cholla Wood. This uniquely shaped wood looks like an ancient African artifact and can be extremely beneficial to a vivarium when used correctly. If you are considering it for an aquarium or terrarium, this article is perfect for you. This guide will provide a full understanding of cactus skeletons and illustrate the fundamental elements of the vivarium driftwood.
Scientific Name: Cylindropuntia Spp.
Botanical Name: Cholla Wood
Other Common Names: Cacti Wood, Cactus Skeleton
Origin (Habitat): North/South America, West Indies (Grassland, Desert)
Height: Up to 36in
Color: Light Brown, Reddish Brown, Gray
PH Impact: Acidic
Plant Type (Sector): Tree (Stem, Trunk)
What Is Cholla Wood?
Cholla Wood is the inner skeleton of a specific type of cacti plant. Scientifically known as Cylindropuntia, this genus group is made up of over twenty different types of species. Cylindropuntia plants are a type of cactus commonly referred to as cholla plants. When the plant dies, the green outer layer slowly breaks down, revealing the wood over time.
Cholla Wood Facts
Cholla Wood is considered a softwood due to the fact that it remains evergreen during its lifetime. This leads to a fast-growing plant that will result in material that’s lighter than many other types of driftwood. Like most succulents, this plant can tolerate extremely dry weather conditions and survive long periods of drought. Besides being used as hardscape material for vivariums, other usages include decoration, furniture, and construction.
Cholla Wood is one of the most interesting looking driftwood in our collection. The cylinder-shaped logs are hollow and exhibit an array of holes along the surface. A closer look at the texture will reveal a stringy exterior that makes this wood very porous.
The color of this softwood will range based on the specific species as well as the condition it is found in. Older woods that have been exposed to weather longer will have a rustic-grayish color along the outer surfaces. Other variations of the wood include light brown and reddish-brown.
Cholla Wood can vary in size as well. Depending on the supplier, pieces will range from as small as your finger to as large as an arm or leg. This is great for concept designs where multiple pieces can be combined to make larger centerpieces in vivariums. One final note worth mentioning is the weight of this driftwood. Cacti Wood is one of the lighter types of driftwood used within the hobby. This makes it easy to use in large amounts…
Cholla Wood originates in desert terrains of North and South America as well as the West Indies. The environment is typically low humidity and will experience long periods of drought followed by flash floods. These harsh conditions have influenced Cholla plants to evolve in a way that allows them to retain water more easily. Other common biotypes these cacti are native to include both grasslands as well as lower mountain passages.
Cholla Wood can have a moderate influence on the surrounding areas it’s placed within. This wood will leech tannin into the water gradually. This will buffer water parameters making it softer and lowering the PH at the same time. This is beneficial for freshwater tanks that thrive in parameters below 7 PH. Water discoloration will often take place, giving off a yellowish tint to the water. To prevent this from happening, many hobbyists will presoak the wood prior to using it and additional water changes may still be required afterward.
Cholla wood is great for both aquariums as well as terrariums. This versatile wood sinks easily after a day or two and will provide a healthy source of food to invertebrates it breaks down underwater. Use this wood risk-free in any type of vivarium that doesn’t require water hardness to be high. Here is a recommended list of vivariums Cholla Cacti Wood are commonly used in:
- Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
- Ripariums – Mostly aquatic-based enclosure with some terrain features present.
- Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosure with little to no aquatic features.
- Aquariums – Fully aquatic-based enclosure with no terrain features.
Cholla Wood can be used in a number of ways within a vivarium. This type of driftwood is commonly used as both a hardscape as well as a substrate for many vivarium plants that are epiphytes like air plants or moss. They last longer above water and are in most cases sandblasted to remove excess dirt and debris.
In aquariums or ripariums, this wood can be used for up to two years before breaking down beyond use. As the wood begins to decay, a biofilm is formed along the surface. Shrimp along with many other types of aquatic animals will feed off of the film digesting healthy nutrients. Keep in mind, this type of driftwood can take a day or two to lose its buoyancy and remain submerged on its own.
In terrariums and the land portions of a paludarium, Cholla Wood can be used right away and will continue to age giving off a settled look. Birds, reptiles, and amphibians will use this wood to stand or climb to higher positions within the enclosure. Cacti Wood being placed above water will not have to be pre-soaked but should still be securely placed.
The greatest benefit of using Cholla Driftwood compared to other vivarium driftwood is the effects it has on lowering water conditions. This is a great wood to use in softwater biotypes as well as enclosures that have steady periods of drying out. The unique appearance of this wood is exceptional and will provide a place for inhabitants to hide, breed and eat. This type of driftwood is non-toxic, making it safe for all kinds of inhabitants.
Even though this wood is one of the lighter types of vivarium woods used in the hobby, it doesn’t require a huge amount of work to sink. The porous surface and hollow interior makes it easy to saturate with water and will quickly sink on its own.
With the high porosity of Cholla Wood, it can harbor debris and pest relatively easy. When acquiring this driftwood for the first time, be sure to give it a thorough cleaning before use. This will assure all unwanted matter doesn’t infiltrate sensitive enclosures.
Due to the low water parameter influence, this wood would not be ideal for hard water enclosures that require the PH to be above 7. The wood does float when it’s dry so that may require periods of pre-soaking or anchoring.
One final disadvantage with Cacti wood is its rate of decay. This wood is not considered rot-resistant. It will last much longer than most driftwood due to it being a hardwood but should be monitored after extended periods of use.
Buy Cholla Wood
When looking at Cholla Wood for sale, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality wood. These woods should always be free of pests. The source of driftwood should come from a contributor who Preferably specializes in the pet industry. Avoid taking these from hardware stores or outdoors unless you can assure the wood hasn’t been treated with toxic chemicals or pesticides. Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info:
Cholla Wood Preparation
When acquiring Cholla driftwood for the first time, it may need to be properly conditioned before going into a vivarium. All pieces should be inspected to make certain no pest or rot has takin residence within the wood. Once checked, it can be cleaned and placed securely within the desired enclosure.
Sterilizing Cholla Wood
Above all, It is always a good idea to sterilize driftwood when you first receive it. A light brushing will knock excess dirt and sand off. If additional cleaning is required, pressure washing Cholla wood would be the next step in cleaning it. If the pieces of wood are small enough to fit in a pot, boiling the wood is a definite way to kill bacteria as well as saturate the wood from sap and tannins that will lead to water coloration.
Sinking Cholla Wood
Cholla Wood are one of the easiest vivarium woods to sink due to it’s natural porosity. For instance, boiling the wood will speed up the saturation process allowing it to sink almost right after preparation. In other words, If you decide to soak the wood in a bucket, allow it to sit for a couple days before removing it. Even if the wood dries out, it still should not have a problem sinking after a couple of hours. If the pieces still float even after trying all the steps above, simply weigh it down with stones or bury it firmly within dense substrates.
Driftwood Similar To Cholla Wood
Adding diversity to an enclosure is key to an aesthetically pleasing enclosure. Try mixing up the look of your vivarium with different woods that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment. Furthermore, if for some reason you find this wood hard to acquire or would like to consider something similar to it… Here are some other kinds of driftwoods you might find may do well with or in the place of Cholla Wood:
In conclusion, Cholla Wood is exceptional for all types of vivariums when used correctly. It offers an enclosure a very diverse look and comes in a variety of patterns and sizes. I love the natural look it offers desert style terrariums and doesnt need much preparation when utilized in these dry enclosures. When opting to use it as an aquascape, dont plan on keeping it forever. Once the Cacti Skeleton has ran its course and broken down completely… Replace it with a brand new piece!