Mopani Wood (Gnarly Driftwood)

Mopani Wood is excellent driftwood to consider for aquariums that require lower PH parameters.

This versatile wood is also fitting for other types of vivariums as well and can have additional benefits for inhabitants that reside in the enclosure.

If you are thinking about using Mopane in a new setup or already have some but would like to know more about its use within a vivarium, this article will act as a complete resource to guide you on your expedition.

Quick Stats:
Scientific Name Colophospermum Mopane
Botanical Name Mopani Wood
Other Common Names Gnarly Driftwood, Gumane Wood, Mopane Wood
Origin (Habitat) South Africa (Grassland, Semi-Desert)
Height Up to 18in
Color Light Brown, Reddish Brown
PH Impact Acidic
Plant Type (Sector) Tree (Branch, Root)

What Is Mopani Wood?

Mopani wood is a popular type of driftwood that is indigenous to the northernmost parts of South Africa.

This wood is harvested from a tree known scientifically as Colophospermum Mopane.

Mopane is the only species within the genus-group Colophospermum.

These perennial plants are most known for their kidney-shaped fruit.

Other common names of this tree include mophane, butterfly tree, balsam tree, and turpentine tree.

Mopani Driftwood Aquascape Tips

Mopani Wood Facts

Mopani wood is considered a hardwood due to the fact that it comes from a deciduous tree that loses its leaves annually.

This leads to a slower-growing plant that will result in material that’s denser and more durable than many other types of driftwood.

The hardness of Mopane wood makes it termite resistant and suitable for many industries.

Besides being used as hardscape material for vivariums, other usages include medical, furniture, and construction.


Mopani Wood is one of the most diverse-looking driftwood of them all.

The roots traded amongst hobbyists have no significant appearance easily identifiable.

Mopane can take on the look of a tree trunk or narrow branches that twist and curl in random directions.

The limbs are typically thick ranging from under an inch to up to 3 inches in diameter.

The color of this hardwood is usually two-tone with one side being lighter than the other.

The signature swirl pattern is often light brown on one side of the wood and a dark reddish-brown on the alternative side.

Once sandblasted, the texture is smooth to the touch with holes scattered along the creases.

Mopani Driftwood can vary in size as well. Depending on the supplier, pieces will range from 6 to 18 inches in length.

This is great for concept designs where multiple pieces of Mopani can be combined to make larger centerpieces in vivariums.

One final note worth mentioning is the weight of this driftwood.

Mopani Wood is one of the denser types of driftwood used within the hobby.

This makes it easy to sink in water and is ideal for aquatic tanks.


Mopani Wood originates in the grassland plains of South Africa.

The environment is typically dry and desert-like.

With long periods of drought, this habitat usually experiences all four seasons forcing Mopani trees to alternate between bloom and hibernation phases.

These settings slow the growth of the trees down, allowing them to gradually become harder and denser with every cycle.

Environmental Influence

Mopani Driftwood can have a strong influence on the surrounding areas it’s placed within.

This wood will leech moderate levels of tannin into the water gradually 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.

Vivarium Type

Mopani Driftwood is great for both aquariums as well as terrariums.

This versatile wood sinks easily and makes a good source of substrate for plants to establish on.

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 Mopani Wood is commonly used in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Ripariums – Mostly aquatic-based enclosures with some terrain features present.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosures with little to no aquatic features.
  • Aquariums – Fully aquatic-based enclosure with no terrain features.

Vivarium Usage

Mopani 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 the bark.

In aquariums or ripariums, this wood can be used for a long period of time as hardscape material where fish can nibble on the root or use larger pieces for cover.

Buoyancy is usually not an issue with this driftwood as it is relatively dense in nature even when completely dry.

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.

Mopani Wood being placed above water will not have to be pre-soaked but should still be securely placed.


The greatest benefit of using Mopani 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 fish, reptiles, and invertebrates.

Density is also a strong factor to consider for those looking for driftwood that sinks easily.

This is one of the heaviest woods used by vivarium enthusiasts and there’s never really a complaint as far as sink-ability when it comes to using this driftwood.


Mopani Wood has the tendency to hold tree sap for long periods of time.

This substance is not recommended to have around inhabitants as it can be toxic in many cases and lead to fatalities if digested.

Boiling the wood as well as sandblasting will aid in removing the sap if spotted.

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 Mopani 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 Mopani Driftwood

When looking at Mopani Driftwood 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:

Mopani Driftwood Preparation

When acquiring Mopani 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 taken residence within the wood.

Once checked, it can be cleaned and placed securely within the desired enclosure.

Sterilizing Mopani Driftwood

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 Mopani 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 Mopani Driftwood

Mopani Wood is one of the easiest vivarium woods to sink due to its natural density.

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 of days before removing it.

Even if the wood dries out, it still should not have a problem sinking.

If the pieces 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 Mopani

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 place of Mopani Wood:

Cork Bark (Rounds, Flats & Hides) - The Hardscape Guide
Azalea Roots "Spider Wood" - The Hardscape Guide
Cacti Driftwood "Cholla Wood" - The Hardscape Guide


In conclusion, Mopani Driftwood is considered one of the best driftwood to use in vivariums.

They are commonly used in aquatic setups but can also be very fitting in dry enclosures.

I personally prefer using the wood in paludariums where the Blackwater biotype is established.

Like most driftwood, this wood has a positive influence on enclosures that require PH levels to stay below 7.

This type of wood offers a very unique exhibit that wood-loving pets will appreciate for a lifetime.

Let us know your thoughts if you have any personal experience with Mopani Wood down below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, Mopani Wood is a great option for aquarium decoration because it is an excellent source of hardness and boasts of a very long life even when fully submerged in water. It also serves as an excellent place for small fish to hide and helps create an interesting environment for your aquarium.

No, Mopani wood is not toxic. Mopani wood is a type of wood from the Brachystegia genus of trees, which is nontoxic and safe for fishes. It is a durable wood and is often used in aquariums and terrariums, both as a decoration and to give the animals a hiding place.

No, Mopani wood is not the same as driftwood. Mopani wood is a hard, dense wood that is native to Africa. It is often used in aquariums and terrariums, as well as for woodworking projects. Driftwood, on the other hand, is wood that has been washed up onto beaches and has been worn down over time by being in the ocean, giving it a unique, textured appearance.

Mopani Wood will last indefinitely in an aquarium, provided it undergoes periodic maintenance. For Tank Substrates, it should be replaced and replaced every 6 months to a year, depending on the tank and the type of aquarium setup. Additionally, the wood should be evaluated periodically for signs of wear and tear, and replaced if it is not performing as desired.

No, Mopani wood does not need to be boiled before being used in water environments, such as aquariums. This type of wood is naturally waterresistant and will not rot when kept in water.

To quickly remove tannins from Mopani wood, the suggested method is to boil the wood in an open container for 15 to 20 minutes. After boiling the wood, you should discard the water and replace it with fresh water for another 20 minutes of boiling. This process should be repeated until the water remains clear. Additionally, scrubbing the wood and soaking it in a baking soda solution can help remove any discolored areas from the tannin buildup.

Yes, Mopani Wood raises pH in the aquarium. It is believed to be a natural pH buffer, supplying small amounts of carbonates to the water, which helps to stabilize the pH level. This is especially useful in tanks that are naturally harder, as it helps to prevent the pH from crashing.

Yes, Mopani wood is highly susceptible to rotting. Because this particular wood has more moisture content than other hardwoods, it is more prone to developing discoloration, warping, and cracking over time. To help protect the wood from rot, it is recommended to apply a sealant or varnish to its surface.

No, Mopani wood does not make water brown. Mopani wood is often used as an aquarium decoration and is known for its golden brown color, but Mopani wood does not produce colored water.

Yes, many shrimp species like Mopani wood as part of their habitat since the wood provides them with food, places to hide, and décors such as mosses or small plants that can be attached to the wood. In addition, Mopani wood releases a natural tannin into the water, which helps to maintain a natural pH in the aquarium.

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