Sandblasted Grapewood Branches are very common driftwood sold in the vivarium hobby. Although they are great for some enclosures, other types of vivariums might not be suitable places for these kinds of woods. There is a fairly good reason you find these sticks in the reptile section of most pet stores and not the aquarium section. This article will act as a guide to Grapewood for use in tanks and provide an in-depth understanding of the unique wood.
Scientific Name: Vitis Spp.
Botanical Name: Grapewood
Other Common Names: Grapevines, Grapewood Branches
Origin (Habitat): Mediterranean Region (Vineyards)
Height: Up to 36in
Color: Red, White, Brown, Black
PH Impact: Acidic
Plant Type (Sector): Tree (Branch, Trunk, Vine)
What Is Grapewood?
Grapewood is wood harvested from various species of Vitis plants. These plants are small trees with vine-like branches. The unique style of wood produced from these trees is light, durable, and proves to be rather valuable to vivarium enthusiasts. Practical uses for these branches other than as hardscapes in terrariums include furniture and pottery.
Grapewood branches are considered softwood due to being an evergreen vine. This wood is typically lightweight and will decay at the rate of the average softwood making it suitable for dryer biotypes. Even though many hobbyists find a use for this driftwood in aquariums, most will note that the buoyancy of this wood can prove difficult to sink quickly underwater. The tree’s Grapevines are harvested to produce both flowers as well as fruit (grapes).
Grapewood is most known for its knotted appearance. The wood typically comes in narrow branches that are twisted and take on the shape of whatever it rested on during its growing phase. Another variation of the softwood commonly sold is hollow trunks that are either whole or cut in halves. The trunks will exhibit the same knotted appearance but will more than likely not appear as twisted as its branches.
The colors of Grapewood will vary from a light ivory to a dark reddish-brown color. It is common to see these colors combined on a single branch in a swirling pattern. Even though the majority of Grapewood sold within the vivarium hobby is sandblasted, this wood is smooth in texture and breaks apart without splintering.
Grapewood can be found in all shapes and sizes due to its vining nature. Common sizes sold usually range from 6 to 36 inches. On occasion, branches can be collected even longer depending on the preservation of the source.
Most Grapewood traded in the United States typically come from vineyards established in California. Crops are grown for their fruit (grapes) and once the plant has lived off its lifecycle the wood is harvested, dried out, and sold. Once the retired plant is removed from the vineyard, a new crop is put in its place and the cycle is repeated.
Grapewood will leech tannins typically at a greater rate than other common types of driftwood will in water. This will lead to little too tinted water coloration occurring in aquariums for a period of time. To some, the yellowish color of the water is unsightly but does have a benefit to the water parameters. Tannins will notably lower the PH and hardness of the water. This can be extremely beneficial for softwater setups that require PH levels to be under 7.
Grapewood Branches are better suited in enclosures that have dry areas of land. If opting to use this wood in aquatic areas, go with freshwater tanks and be cautious about the accelerated rate of decay. Here is a recommended list of vivariums Grapevines are commonly used in:
- Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
- Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosures with little to no aquatic features.
Grapewood Branches 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 florae that are epiphytes like air plants or moss. They last longer above water and are in most cases sandblasted to remove the bark.
In aquariums or ripariums, this wood can be used for a period of time as hardscape material where fish can nibble on the branch. It would be ideal to use it without bark due to the unsightly appearance of the bark peeling off over time. Another note worth mentioning is that this wood will only remain submerged once it is dried out and cured. Evergreen vines like Grapewood will retain their buoyancy when alive and green. Freshly added driftwood will need to be anchored or pre-soaked for several weeks before sinking.
In terrariums and the land portions of paludariums, the bark can be left intact with the wood to give off a more weathered look. Birds, reptiles, and amphibians will use the branches to stand or climb to higher positions within the enclosure. Grapewood being placed above water will not have to be pre-soaked but should still be securely placed.
The greatest benefit of using Grapewood Branches compared to other vivarium driftwood is the effects it has on lowering water conditions. This is a good wood to use in desert biotypes or 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 fish, reptiles, and invertebrates.
Grapewood is prone to mold and fungus when wet for long periods of time. In many cases, the white fuzzy mold can easily be removed but will more than likely resurface again later. 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 long periods of pre-soaking or anchoring.
One final disadvantage of Grapewood is its rate of decay. This wood is not considered rot-resistant. It may last longer for some but most typically report the wood holding up for about a year underwater before deteriorating beyond use.
When looking at Grapewood Branches for sale, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality plant. These woods should always be free of pests. The source of wood 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:
When acquiring Grapewood Branches for the first time, they may need to be properly conditioned before going into a vivarium. All pieces should be inspected to make certain no pest or rot has taken residence within the wood. Once checked, it can be cleaned and placed securely within the desired enclosure.
Sterilizing Grapewood Branches
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 Grapewood 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 faster allowing it to sink.
Sinking Grapewood Branches
Grapewood Branches are one of the more difficult vivarium woods to sink due to their natural buoyancy. As we mentioned before, boiling the wood will speed up the saturation process allowing it to sink almost right after preparation. If you decide to soak the wood in a bucket, allow it to sit for a couple of weeks before removing it. Once the wood dries out, you will have to restart the process. If the branches still float even after trying all the steps above, simply weigh them down with stones or bury them firmly within dense substrates.
Driftwood Similar To Grapewood
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 driftwood you might find may do well with or in the place of Grapewood Branches:
Grapewood Branches can be a great material to use as a vivarium wood if used correctly. They are used in many aquatic setups despite the potential issues. I personally prefer using wood in terrariums with inhabitants like reptiles and some amphibians. Like most driftwood, this wood has a positive influence on enclosures that require PH levels to stay below 7. With a close resemblance to other woods in the aquascaping hobby, it is easily misidentified as Ghostwood. Have you ever had any experience with Grapewood Branches? Feel free to share your experience!