Making a Shinto Shrine Aqua Terrarium

Here we are, the final project in the Shinto Series. If you are just now tuning in. This is one of four living dioramas all centered around a Japanese-inspired theme. So far we’ve created a kami jungle terrarium, a mini toro lamp rock garden, and a traditional Japanese village paludarium.

This final project will tie everything we’ve learned together to create the ultimate Shinto shrine aqua terrarium… With a functional waterfall! Let the bantamarium experience begin…

If you aren’t familiar with what a bantamarium is, I strongly recommend you take a look at this deep dive I put together. In a nutshell, it’s a concept I’ve been working on where we bring a diorama to life. The goal is ultimately to make photo-realistic vivariums anyone, no matter the skill level, can make!

Bantamarium: Everything You Need To Know

A Shintō Shrine In A Paludarium

Aqua-terrariums are basically the same as paludariums. It’s an alternative word used to describe a vivarium many newer hobbyists aren’t yet familiar with. With this breathtaking piece, we are about to create today… I suspect a wave of the new audience will find this neat project interesting enough to want to know more about it. I go further into detail about this and more in this series video:

Making a Shintō Shrine Paludarium

Now that we have a solid idea about Japanese culture and why I ultimately got so inspired to do this series… Let’s get into the real qualities of Shintoism and discover the strategy I took to bring such a unique design to life. This guide will not only break down the exact way I built this Shinto shrine paludarium but respectfully put meaning into why I chose to sculpt it the way I did.



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Shintō Shrine Decor:

At the time this tutorial was written, I offered these models unpainted and unassembled. we are proud to announce that our terrarium decor has been improved since then and is now available completed with color. If you so choose to add personalized details, these models are still paintable. Just remember to properly seal them with an aquarium-safe sealant and allow it to cure before use.

I felt like it would be very fitting to build a miniature shrine for a diety that embodied things like agriculture (in this case my vivariums), general prosperity, and worldly success. These are all things I work towards so why not have a little something like this in a room I spend most of my meditation sessions in.

I wanted the lower poles of the Torii gate to be red. As I mentioned in the previous tutorial, it is a Shinto belief that red is a protective color that wards off bad kami. Every shrine must have one of these gates at the entrance to symbolically mark the transition into the sacred land.

The Cleansing Fountain or Chōzuya will also get a solid color of red to match the gate. This is where one would wash their hands before proceeding to the worshipping area of the shrine.

The bridge or sandō rails are also red and the walkway has a touch of light brown. It’s common to find some form of steps or bridge before reaching any of the sacred buildings to signify the worshiper’s path.

You will notice that this set includes two unique buildings, one small worship hall (Haiden) and the other main sanctuary that stacks up to a narrow five stories (Honden). The lower fences are red to match the rest of the set.

Constructing a Paludarium waterfall:

So this paludarium will be one of the first to get one of the larger vases I have yet to do a bantamarium with so far. At about 8 inches tall, this will be a very unique enclosure to build a living diorama with. The challenge will be getting around the inner parts as things start to take form but I have methods for all my madness so I will walk you through it as I go.

I’m going to start with drilling a hole about four inches up from the bottom of the vase. This will give me a place to run the electrical wires out from the small pump we are going to use to run the water fountain later.

A quick snip at the wires closer to the outlet plug allows easy installation of the pump into the vase. Afterward, I use electric tape to reconnect the wires and test the pump to make sure it still works properly.

I connect a small tube to the pump and make sure to have enough slack to run the hose all the way up to the top of the tank. This is pretty much all I’ll have to do as far as the pump set up and I can proceed to construct the paludarium.

The Aqua Terrarium Construction:

So far I’ve been using lava rocks as the main hardscape stone for this series. I will keep that consistency going with this project as well. I start by hot-gluing rocks together slowly forming a wall around my pump. Carefully try to make the back as narrow as possible. This will assure there’s plenty of room around the front area for aquatic animals if you chose to stock some.

I sort of created ledges at random as I stacked them because it felt a more natural-looking mountain would form. As I got closer to the top, I started to form a bowl around the top of the pump-hose. This would be the area water would collect before cascading back downward. I carefully hot glued the hose into place and sealed any holes I could find large enough for water to leak through.

None of this has to be water-tight as lava rocks are typically very porous so water will seep through it anyway. Black aquarium gravel is poured over the uppermost areas to form flat terrain for plants to sit on. A little more is poured around the bottom of the aqua terrarium to provide additional support to the newly crafted rock wall.

A layer of sand is put down at the bottom of the tank for contrast and water can now be added to test out the flow. Any adjustments that need to be made to control the waterfall should be made here before moving on to adding models and plants.

Aqua Terrarium Plants

If you haven’t already, you should now be test fitting the models to get an idea of where everything will go. Barbula Moss is placed on all the flat surfaces I want to establish land with.

Phoenix moss is used to plug any vertical holes found between rocks as well as areas I want to fill mid and background foliage with.

A final touch of realism is the addition of java moss. This is a stringy plant that can grow above water if the conditions are humid enough. I like to use this plant to create a vine look by draping it off the edges of cliffs.

Shintō Shrine Aqua Terrarium Animals

I stocked this tank with springtails almost right away. With things being as humid as I plan on keeping them, mold will thrive in this setup. I’m considering some pet isopods as well as they give cool anime/Pokémon qualities to this unique mini-world.

Another animal I’m on the fence about adding, even if only temporarily, is a single cherry shrimp. They kind of look like a dragon kami in this setup… Plus it would just further enhance the spectacle of this stunning bantamarium.

Aqua Terrarium Care

This will be one of those tanks, I do very little other than water changes regularly in the beginning. I have noticed a tiny amount of algae begin to form since the creation of this aquatic terrarium. I’m not too worried about it at the moment. A day or two of blackouts is usually enough to stun their growth. The moss will eventually acclimate and overtake the environment.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far and followed this series all the way through, thank you! A LOT of work went into making all of this possible. Even if you were just following along and haven’t decided to pursue the project yet… I still appreciate you coming along for the journey. This is hands down my favorite set of bantamaria to date. We were able to accomplish some pretty cool ideas while simultaneously learning about a new culture. Who knows where our journey will take us in the next series… If you have any ideas you’d like to see, let me know… I’m always down for a trip! 😁

If you’re interested in seeing updates on how this as well as other enclosures progress follow me on social media. If you’d like to get your tall tweezers on one of these limited edition vivarium decors yourself, check them out in our shop.

Shinto Shrine Decor Set
Shinto Kami Sculpture (Shinzō)
Japanese Pagoda/Tōrō Lamp Decor
Traditional Japanese Architecture Decor

More In Make:

Making A Bonsai Treehouse Village Terrarium
Making Prehistoric Desert | A Dinosaur Terrarium
Making Jurassic Jungle | A Dinosaur Terrarium

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