Cholla Wood

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Albino Pleco eating on Cholla Wood

Cholla wood comes from the dried dead remains of cacti, it is the skeleton that’s left after the plant dies.  There are many uses for cholla wood; aquariums (aquatics or reptiles), crafts or just about anything you desire to use it for.  Here we will examine the benefits it provides for your freshwater aquarium(s): how it’s used for décor, water parameters, food source and more. It can create a natural aquarium look. 

To me it is an amazing item for every aquarium, it provides that natural look in your aquarium that doesn’t create the look of fake plants, rocks or other man-made items create.  Most of all it can provide natural benefits that aquarium fish need, or at least I strive to provide for my aquatic species.

Addition to Your Aquarium

Cholla wood with Albino Plecos

Adding anything to your aquarium, you need to determine how it will affect your inhabitants and water quality.  Having a low pH this may not be the item for you as it has pH lowering affects, maybe it is not suitable for the species of fish in your aquarium, or is it something you will enjoy in your aquarium.  Determining if it’s suitable for your aquarium will save you money if it is not, as well you will not risk injuring or killing your aquatic friends.

When adding anything into your aquarium that will change the water parameters, this needs  done in steps.  Cholla wood is no different, if you are looking to add say four pieces of 6” cholla wood unless you have done it before and know how it will affect your water you need to slowly add it to the aquarium.  The first week add one piece and after a 3-5 days check your water parameters to see if there has been a change, if no significant change has occurred add a second piece.  Repeat until you have the desired amount  in your aquarium, when you need to replace the old pieces you can just add all four knowing that it will not affect your parameters to drastically.  Remember the longer it’s in the aquarium the less potent they will be as the affects will deminish. 

Benefits of Cholla Wood

Cholla wood

People add cholla wood into their aquarium, for the benefits it offers for their aquarium fish.  Water quality that has a high pH will benefit from cholla wood; it is safer than chemicals that will lower pH as you can get rapid fluctuations from those chemicals.  Cholla wood added properly as stated above can alter your pH slowly and eliminate rapid changes that will fluctuate causing stress to aquatic pets.

Shrimp and Plecostomus  enjoy having cholla wood in their aquarium, it provides a food source that they can snack on between regular feedings.  For shrimp it creates an area that biofilm can grow on and shrimp can feed on in between regualar feedings.  Some plecos require a wood source for their diet.  There are other options to use such as driftwood, but I have always preferred cholla wood myself.

Small plecos and shrimp can use it as a hiding area inside the cholla wood, pleco fry will use the cavity as a hiding spot from other species in the tank.  If you have larger plecos, you will have to search hard to fnd cholla wood that has a large enough inner cavity for them to fit inside of the wood.  You can stack multiple cholla logs in a pattern that will create small little hiding spots or caves like structures for plecos and shrimp to hide out in.


I have found minimal downsides in relation to my aquatic species or water parameters with cholla wood; I use it in every aquarium I have, even if there are no shrimp or plecos in them.  Probably because I like the look of them in my aquariums, the natural look has an aesthetic appeal and the added benefits it provides for the water parameters. 

The downsides include having to low of pH prior to adding cholla wood to your aquarium and killing some species because of too low pH.  Therefore, you need to research your aquatics species and the required water parameters, test your water parameters so you know what your normal levels are and how cholla wood can/ will affect those parameters. 

Getting contaminated or dirty cholla wood and not cleaning it properly prior to use in an aquarium.  All cholla wood when I get a new order, I always try some in one aquarium to ensure they do not have chemicals or other matter that will kill aquatics species, I test them in one aquarium prior to putting them in all.  I do this with anything I add to my aquariums.   To ensure there are no contaminants or pesticides  in the cholla wood you purhase or collect always boil prior to placing in aquariums. 

Key Takeaways

  • Create a natural look to your aquarium
  • Food source for shrimp and Plecostomus, an excellent material for biofilm to collect on
  • If you have larger plecos stacking multiple pieces of cholla wood together in unique patterns can create quality hiding places for your plecos, shrimp, or other aquatics species
  • Can help water parameters to reduce pH if yours is high (be sure to test prior)
  • Could  add contaminates into your aquarium if not cleaned properly
  • Can lower pH to low if pH is already low for your species

Cholla wood is a  significant addition any freshwater aquarium if you have taken into consideration the above thoughts.  If you’re looking for that natural look in your aquarium Cholla wood is a great option and your aquarium habitants will enjoy this natural feel.  It is not a natural substance for aquatics species habitat as it comes from the desert but with most aquarium species being captive raised they have adapted and are tanked raised, give them that natural feel they desire.  The benefits of cholla wood out ways the lack of it occurring in aquatic species habitat.

Keep it Fresh!!

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