How to make bonsai tree in aquarium


How To Make A Living Aquarium Bonsai Tree – AQUAPROS

No! All the bonsai trees meant for aquarium use are not real dead bonsai trees. However, they are made from real woods commonly used in the aquarium hobby! Despite being man made, they are 100% aquarium safe and ready for use in your tank. By adding real, living aquarium plants to their branches, we create the closest thing to an actual living underwater tree. One thing to check for when selecting your tree is the presence or absence of a rock bottom. All bonsai trees will initially float if thy are not anchored in some way. We will discuss how to get around this later in the article. 

I always suggest checking with your local fish store first. Due to an increase in popularity, chances are they might have a few. If their selection is limited or not what your looking for, all the examples and images below will be linked to online retailers that I work with and trust. 

When searching for a traditional looking tree, there are two main types that I've highlighted below. There are a ton of different sizes and general shapes to chose from. Spend some time thinking about what kind of aquascape you'd like to create and make sure you buy enough trees to accomplish your goal. Bonsai trees can be expensive, so make sure you know exactly what you want to achieve before you start off on this project.

Branched Bonsai Tree

Table Top Bonsai Tree

If this is your first time experimenting with bonsai trees, I recommend going with the branched tree. It's easier to plant in my opinion and opens up the plant selection a bit. If you select the table top style of tree you are pretty much limited to rhizome plants like Anubias and Bucephalandra. You will also have to glue or use fishing line to attach these plants. The branched trees are a lot easier to plant and only require you to gently press your plants into place. I'll get more specific later in this article. 

Most bonsai trees float! Some bonsai aquarium trees come with a rock base that prevents needing to waterlog prior to adding to the aquarium, but watch out for this and make sure you know what your getting. If your trees do not have a rock base, you have three options.

1.) Place your trees in a bucket of water with a rock on top to hold them under the surface. Wait for an amount of time, typically 1-3 weeks depending on size. When you can remove the rock and the trees do not float up, then your waterlogged and ready to go. 

2.) Skip the first option by placing your trees in the aquascape, using some Gel Type Gorilla Glue to fix the bottom of the trees to nearby rocks.  

3.) Place a few rocks on top of the roots while its in your aquarium to hold the tree in place until it waterlogs  

Do you need to pre-treat or sanitize bonsai trees? 

Not really! However, it's always a good idea to rinse them off a bit just to be extra sure nothing from the manufacturing process got left behind. Since these trees did not come from natural sources, they wont have a potential to carry any pests you don't want in your aquarium. You can boil small bonsai trees to help speed up the waterlogging process. Tannins aren't typically an issue with this type of wood. 

I like to plant my trees outside of the aquarium before I fix them in place like described in option 2 above. You can do the opposite if you wish, that's just my preference. When it comes to plants for your tree, there's several options. Here are a few of my favorites with links to where you can find them online.

1.) Monte Carlo

2.) Moss - xmas, java, etc.

3.) Moss balls

4.) Anubias nana petite 

5.) Bucephalandra

Above: Monte Carlo is definitely my favorite aquarium plant for making underwater trees. It has a natural weeping effect that I think looks very realistic. I've only been able to achieve this with the use of pressurized CO2 so keep that in mind.  

I've found that a small bonsai tree requires 5-8 pots of Monte Carlo to fill out the canopy. This largely depends on how mature the pots are that you receive. If you have the patience, you can always place them in a small seed starter greenhouse and let them grow out for a few weeks before making your tree. There is a YouTube video at the end of this article that will explain more specifics and provide a few extra examples of planting.   

Above: 3 months of growth in my branched bonsai tree aquarium. 

Once your tree has been planted, you're ready to place it in the aquarium. If your aquarium is already established and has fish in it, you can always place the tree with a few rocks on top of the roots to hold it down. In a week or two it should be waterlogged and the rocks can be removed. Now its time to sit back and enjoy your new underwater tree!

Several types of bonsai driftwood are out there. Not just normal looking or stereotypical trees. Here are just a few examples. 

As you can see, lots of choices. Take your time when it comes to selecting your trees and don't forget to have fun. This is one of my favorite types of aquascapes and I think you'll like the result if you decide to go for it. 

How To Make Bonsai Driftwood For Aquarium (complete guide)

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One of the things that I recently came across that has added to my aquarium is using my knowledge of bonsai trees and creating bonsai driftwood for an aquarium. So how do you make bonsai driftwood for an aquarium?

To make bonsai driftwood, locate wood of varying sizes from rivers, lakes, and streams. Then using adhesive and screws attach these wood pieces to resemble a bonsai. Add moss such as Monte Carlo to the branches to create a leaf-like structure. 

So what exactly is bonsai driftwood? And what plant/tree pieces work best to create bonsai driftwood for aquariums? Keep reading to find out more!

How to make bonsai driftwood for an aquarium?

Adding bonsai driftwood to an aquarium can help drastically change the look of your aquarium to a tropical zen-like paradise.  

Although bonsai driftwood used in aquariums is not a real bonsai tree that you have dumped into your tank – it can make a more aesthetically pleasing habitat for both your fish and you. 

Whilst purchasing bonsai driftwood from stores is the easiest option to adding bonsai driftwood to an aquarium, it can add up in price. 

Being the bonsai enthusiast that I was, I wanted to figure out how to make bonsai driftwood for an aquarium. 

As such, I got in touch with my local aquatics retailers, visited a few friends of mine who are fish enthusiasts, and even asked 10 plant paladin readers who also keep fish as a hobby. 

To make bonsai driftwood for an aquarium then: 

  • Gather your materials
  • Come up with a design
  • Remove any excess branches or roots 
  • Sand your wood down 
  • Join your wood pieces together 
  • Create the leaves 
  • Soak your driftwood 
  • Anchor the tree to the bottom of the aquarium 

Let’s explore these in more detail: 

Gather your materials

Easily the most important step in creating bonsai driftwood for an aquarium from scratch is selecting the right material.  

Part of the reason why buying store-bought bonsai driftwood for aquariums is so expensive is the amount of time it takes to find the right materials. 

Luckily, with a bit of patience, you too can find the perfect bonsai driftwood for your aquarium. 

Where should you get driftwood from 

Driftwood can be gathered from many different places but a few of my favorites include: 

  • Lakes, streams, rivers, or any space with flowing water 
  • Stump dumps
  • Lawn waste spaces 
  • Recycling plants 
  • Woods
  • Forests
  • Landscaping companies

If you decide on getting driftwood from lakes, streams rivers, or from the wild, just ensure that the wood you get is near flowing water. 

Driftwood near flowing water will mean that there is less of a chance of harmful algae building up on the driftwood.  

This can potentially kill the fish in your aquarium so you need to take care if getting the wood from outdoors. 

I found that gathering wood from green recycling plants does not have this problem. 

What size driftwood should you get?

The size of the bonus driftwood you decide to opt for should be in line with your aquarium. 

If you have a large fish tank then the pieces of wood you gather can be larger to create bigger bonsai driftwood. 

If however, you have a small tank, then carrying around large logs of driftwood will obstruct the fish tank making your fish feel claustrophobic. 

The best thing to do in my opinion is to grab multiple different sizes of driftwood. 

Having multiple sizes of wood that you will join together to mimic the look of a bonsai will make the process easier and ensure you have the perfect size bonsai driftwood for your aquarium. 

What plant/tree driftwood works best 

Whilst pretty much any driftwood you find can be effectively joined together there are some caveats you need to be aware of.  

Getting driftwood from branches or the trunk of your tree might be weaker than other parts such as the roots. 

After a few years, the water will cause these parts of the plant to weaken, causing your bonsai driftwood to fall apart. 

In my opinion, the best type of driftwood you can use is the root structure/root stump of an older plant. 

Root structures are usually a lot tougher than the branches of their respective trees and can last for decades under high water conditions. 

They also sink a lot faster making them ideal for aquariums

Root structures and root stumps from Azaleas and Rhododendron work well as they already have multiple roots which mimic the look of the branches of a bonsai tree. 

Just ensure that you will need to rip these out of the ground and let them dry out for at least 9 months before you can use them for bonsai driftwood 

What materials work best for the leaves?

Now you’ve gathered the materials for the “branches” of your bonsai driftwood, we need to come up with material that will be used for the leaves.  

Luckily there are a few fantastic options you can use. 

Fish safe algae, mosses, and aquatic plants can all be used when creating bonsai driftwood but a few of my favorites include: 

  • Marimo Moss
  • Xmas Moss 
  • Java Moss 
  • Monte Carlo 

Come up with a design

Whilst it can be tempting to improvise and design your bonsai driftwood from scratch, in my experience (i.e failing about 5 times before I decided to do this correctly) designing exactly how you want your bonsai driftwood to look will massively help you create bonsai driftwood. 

Doing something as simple as drawing out on a piece of paper, or mimicking a bonsai tree species such as juniper, jade, scots pine, or styles such as sumo or informal upright, will help give you something to aim for. 

It’s important to do this after you have gathered your materials as you will know the different sizes and looks of the wood that you are working with.  

For example, if you have found a root stump structure with many different roots you can design bonsai driftwood with many “branches”. 

If however, you have only found 2 or 3 pieces of wood that are relatively straight and narrow, this will change the look of your tree. 

Doing that will give you something to aim for and make the process easier. 

You can always change this as you go along, but in my experience, this step is not worth skipping. 

Remove any small branches or roots 

Before we start joining our wood together you likely need to clean up the branches you are working with to make them easier to work with.

This will be especially apparent in root stump structures that have a lot of rootlets. 

Luckily, this process is fairly straightforward. 

Using shears, trim back any secondary or tertiary branches/roots until you have only the strongest thickest roots or branches on your tree. 

This will ensure that the silhouette of your bonsai driftwood aquarium remains visually pleasing to look at and not a mess.  

Repeat this process for all the driftwood you have gathered.

Sand your wood down

Whilst you can start joining your wood together at this stage, for best results I found that sanding down the places where your driftwood will join each other works best. 

This will increase the chance of making the wood hold together for longer when you join them together. 

Failing to sand the joining areas of your wood down will mean that the bark will eventually flake off. 

Simply grab a piece of low grit sandpaper and sand down the joining areas of your existing wood.  

Join your driftwood together

Now it’s time for the fun part. 

So you’re existing driftwood has been prepared but sadly it looks nothing like the design you came up with. 

The next step then of creating bonsai driftwood for your aquarium is to join your driftwood together to make it look like a tree. 

There are two main methods of doing this: 

  • Using nails and a drill 
  • Using glue or epoxy 

Both these methods can be used together.  

Using nails and a drill 

To use nails and a drill to join your driftwood together, drill a small hole in the two-piece of driftwood you would like to join together.

Then in one of the holes  (ideally the hole in the stronger larger piece of driftwood) place one nail in the hole. 

This nail will anchor and hold the other driftwood piece together. 

Then simply screw or place the other driftwood on top of the nail and the two-piece of driftwood should hold together. 

Using glue or epoxy

 Glue and or epoxy also works very well when connecting or joining two pieces of driftwood together. 

To do this, apply a large amount of paste to the two spots of driftwood you are joining together and create a ring of epoxy around the two joints so they are joined together. 

Leave this in place to dry for about 24 hours and the solid hardened glue will have created a solid joint between the two pieces of driftwood. 

What epoxy works best for bonsai driftwood?  

Without a doubt, the best epoxy/glue I have used for creating bonsai driftwood would be the Kwickwood repair epoxy putty which you can grab here (link takes you to Amazon

Not only does this epoxy match the color of the wood you are working with, but it also comes as a putty meaning you can mold the putty around the driftwood you are joining together the get the best finish possible.  

This is also non-toxic to fish and is also waterproof making it ideal for underwater aquarium landscaping.

Can you use glue and the nail technique? 

If this is the first time you are creating bonsai driftwood, then I would recommend using both the nail and epoxy method together to create a super-strong fusion between your two driftwood pieces. 

Start by using the nail and screw technique and then finish off by using the epoxy on the outside to create a stronghold. 

Then repeat the process amongst the rest of your tree until it resembles the look of a bonsai tree without leaves. 

Create the leaves

So now you have driftwood that looks like a bonsai tree but is missing the leaves and canopy of the tree. 

To add leaves to the tree of your bonsai then select the material that will work for your tree. 

As discussed earlier I found the following work best: 

  • Marimo Moss
  • Xmas Moss 
  • Java Moss 
  • Monte Carlo 

If you are a complete beginner I would consider using the Marimo moss balls as they are super easy to use and can grow pretty much in any condition.  

If you are using mosses, unfurl them and place them on the top “branches” of your bonsai driftwood.

The branches should hold them in place but in case you have trouble keeping these attached, use pins, needles, or super glue to hold them in place. 

Now if you are feeling ambitious you can use something like the Monte Carlo. 

Just be sure to pinch off the roots and place them on top of the branches of the driftwood. 

Over time, the new roots will grow on the driftwood and the Mote Carlo will increase in size. 

Soak your driftwood

So your driftwood tree is complete and almost ready to be placed into your aquarium. 

There are just a few things you need to do to prepare it before we move it into its new home. 

The next step then is to soak your bonsai driftwood in a bucket or a bath. 

The driftwood you will have created will be very buoyant, even with the moss and the added weight of your bonsai structure. 

Soaking the wood will make it more likely to sink to the bottom of your aquarium.  

Now if you have used branches and twigs in your driftwood designs as opposed to root structure, and are worried about your bonsai driftwood falling apart — before you start the driftwood process, boil your wood. 

This will help sterilize the wood and help release tannins. 

Place your driftwood in the aquarium 

It’s time for the big moment!

All the hard work has been done and now it’s time to simply place your bonsai driftwood in your aquarium. 

Whilst you have soaked your bonsai in water, in the first few weeks, you still might need to anchor the driftwood to the bottom of the aquarium. 

To do this, use rocks to hold the base of your driftwood in place. 

Alternatively, use the pebbles or stones on the base of your aquarium to hold the driftwood in place. 

FAQ’s around bonsai driftwood

Now I’m sure some of you will have questions about How to make bonsai driftwood for aquariums as such, I’ve listed a few frequently asked questions below: 

What is bonsai driftwood for aquariums?

Bonsai driftwood for aquariums is deadwood pieces of wood that are joined together to mimic the look of an underwater bonsai tree.   Bonsai driftwood is not a traditional bonsai tree that is placed underwater. 

What bonsai species work best for bonsai driftwood 

The root, trump, and trunk structures of azaleas and rhododendron plans species work best for bonsai driftwood. These root structures are very strong and water-resistant making them perfect for aquarium use for many years. 

Advantages of bonsai driftwood 

The main advantages of bonsai driftwood are: 

  • Makes for a more visually pleasing aquarium 
  • Can add value should you decide to sell your tank 
  • Can make for a happier environment for your fish

Disadvantages of bonsai driftwood 

The main disadvantages of bonsai driftwood are: 

  • They can cost a lot of money should you get them from a store 
  • Bonsai driftwood can take a large amount of time to create from scratch 
  • After a few years, bonsai driftwood will begin to fall apart.  

Is bonsai driftwood toxic to fish? 

Not all bonsai driftwood is safe for use in aquariums or fish. As such, driftwood if bought from the store should be marked as safe for fish use. Driftwood from the wild should be dried out for a year before use in fish tanks. 

Wild driftwood should not be picked from still lakes as this can build up to harmful algae. 

Can you put a bonsai tree in an aquarium? 

Traditional bonsai trees should not be placed in an aquarium. This is because most bonsai are susceptible to overwatering and left in an aquarium will kill the plant. Instead, bonsai driftwood should be used. 

Where can you buy store-bought bonsai driftwood? 

Bonsai driftwood can be purchased from any reputable aquatic retailer. Bonsai driftwood can also be purchased online from amazon. 

My favorite store-bought bonsai driftwood can be found here – the link takes you to Amazon.  

It’s especially good as it comes in a wide variety of sizes and has tons of branches that are great for adding moss. 

How much does bonsai driftwood cost? 

Bonsai driftwood, if purchased from a retailer can cost between $30 to $80 with more premium bonsai driftwood costing hundreds of dollars. Making bonsai driftwood from scratch can be significantly cheaper with the cost of materials usually being $10.

This post was written by Fehed Nicass who has been passionate about bonsai for over 3 years.

Underwater natural bonsai

In an effort to create a unique underwater kingdom, every aquarist is ready to embody a wide variety of ideas. One of the trendy and new trends in aquascaping (landscape design in an aquarium) is bonsai. This is a dwarf tree whose history began in China, and developed and took root in Japan. It was the Japanese who, due to population density and limited territory, were the first to actively grow dwarf trees in pots, turning this hobby into an art that is also embodied in aqua design.

Styles of bonsai according to the type of tree trunks and crowns

Bonsai can be attributed to the natural style, minimalism dominates here, there is no symmetry and the overall composition should not be overloaded. Bonsai itself can be divided into several styles that differ in the type of trunk and crown of trees, and here are the most popular of them:

  • Tekkan. This is a classic bonsai, which corresponds to the even shape of the trunk, there are no branches at the base, exposing the trunk, the crown resembles the shape of a triangle.
  • Syakan - the opposite of the Tekkan style, the branches are arranged randomly, the trunk is inclined.
  • Kengai - a style in which the trunk is steeply curved at the base, and the branches are located on one side.
  • Khan-kengai is represented by a straight trunk, the branches of the tree in the upper part are sloping, and the crown hangs down to the roots.
  • Moegi - the style is characterized by a proportional curvature of the trunk, narrowed upwards.
  • Tarimiki is a very unusual, "dead" style, the trees have no bark, and therefore they do not look alive.
  • The Bankan and Neagari styles are among the most complex, distinguished by a knotted stem.
  • Fukinagashi style bonsai is represented by trees growing on the banks, their branches and crown, like living nature, when the winds are constantly blowing, are directed in one direction.


If you decide to use bonsai in aquarium design, it will be useful for you to know that there are 2 options - you can grow a live bonsai, but this is a rather laborious process, including growing plants, with constant correction of the shape of the tree crown, and drag out he can for years.

The most demanded today is the purchase of ready-made miniature tree bases from natural species that do not rot in water. Such blanks are created by hand and are ready for immersion in the aquarium, they do not require additional processing (soaking, boiling), they only need to be rinsed and you can start creating a full-fledged landscape. It is quite simple to form a ready-made bonsai tree, you only need to create a crown on a ready-made basis, which is created using different types of aquarium moss, which will give a natural look to the tree and will simply grow to the branches over time.

Making your own bonsai arrangement

Attaching aquarium moss to the bonsai is quite simple. To do this, you need to have on hand:

  • Bonsai tree
  • Aquarium Moss
  • Moss line or glue
  • Flat sponge pieces
  • Stones for strengthening the trunk of a tree in an aquarium.

Divide the moss into small pieces and tie them to the branches of the tree with a fishing line, a more reliable material than thread. Or stick with a sponge and tweezers. The main thing is that after immersion in water, so that the moss does not float. And after 2-3 weeks, the moss will reliably grow to the bonsai.


And now let's dwell on the rules for placing bonsai in an aquarium. As any aquascaper knows, just like an art painting, it is important for an aquarium to create a foreground, middle ground, and background when creating a landscape. Elements of the composition are placed at different levels, which creates depth and space. Bonsai, on the other hand, can be located on any plane, but most often it is placed to the side in order to leave free space that imitates air. An obligatory element in the decor of an aquarium with bonsai are stones, with their help you can fix the tree in the aquarium. This can also be done with aquarium soil. The lack of symmetry and maximum naturalness are important here.

See also: Aquascape Styles

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Bonsai in the aquarium

Hello dear aquarists!

bonsai in the aquarium

Who among you wants his first aquarium to not only work well, but also look amazing? I see, I see: everyone wants. Then I'll teach you how to do "bonsai" in the aquarium do it yourself! Think it's not real? Not at all: if you have imagination, direct hands and some necessary ingredients, then success is guaranteed to you! So let's go!

What is bonsai? In a simple way - this is such a small tree that is grown in an ordinary flower pot.

And now imagine this picture: your aquarium, at the bottom of which there are beautiful stones, several plants grow, and in the middle, on a small hill, there is a small tree! Handsomely? Of course, beautiful, and most importantly - amazing. Therefore, let's quickly make our "bonsai".

To make a bonsai you will need: driftwood, wood saw, clay flower pot, soil and java moss.

Now - the details of the technical process.

First, the snag should not be very branchy.

Secondly, you need a snag that, when turned upside down, will resemble a tree with bare branches.

For example, can you go to a forest or planting and see if there is a young but dry tree somewhere? Having found the desired dry tree (necessarily young, with a thin crown (trunk), take a shovel and dig it. Then, take a saw and saw off the root part, capturing the trunk section (in short, in the end you will get this picture: the roots and part of the trunk, height 10-15 centimeters - no more). Bring the roots home, wash them. Take the garden shears and cut off everything you don’t need (these are the thinnest root processes). You should be left with a trunk and five to seven "branches" of medium thickness and no more than 10 centimeters long.Look carefully: the main thing is that your creation resembles a tree without foliage!0003

Now boil this snag: fill a bucket with water, pour 10 tablespoons of salt into the water, put the water on the fire and put the snag. Boil the snag for 5 hours. Then remove the bucket from the fire, cool and transfer the snag to a bucket of cold water for another two days. After that, the snag should be removed from the water and dried. Now she is ready to be transformed into a bonsai.

Take an earthenware pot, place a piece of driftwood upside down in the pot (as you would normally plant a tree), place a few large stones around the stem, then add fine pebbles and sand. The main requirement is that your “tree” should not hang out in a pot! Fixed? Great, just a little bit left.

Take Java moss and cut it into small pieces. These pieces must be put on the "branches" of the tree and fixed. It is best to fix with the help of the thinnest fishing line. Attention: when fixing, do not tighten the knots too much so as not to cut the moss. In general, turn on your imagination, friends: the "branches" of the tree should be partially covered with moss, and not completely. When you're done with the drapery of the "branches", place the moss at the very base of your tree and the picture is complete!

Where to put the "bonsai"? Right in the center of the aquarium - definitely! You can make a high mound of pebbles by burying a pot of "bonsai" in it: you get a la Mount Fuji, on which a tree grows alone - also very impressive! In short, friends: improvise.


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