So I got a challenge request from one of you guys about making a series of mossariums including this mini paludarium. If you are seeing this mike, here are the results I got from accepting your challenge! As agreed, I am making these into full tutorials so you all can see what I did and how I accomplished it.
Just to fill everyone else in, the terms were to make three different moss ecosystems using materials in or around my house. One ecosystem would be fully aquatic (moss aquarium)… Another would be non-aquatic (moss terrarium)… The final would be semi-aquatic or an aquaterrarium (moss paludarium)… With time being limited, It’s still really hard for me to turn down challenges. Especially when I can find an opportunity to give value from it (Like in the form of these tutorials.) So, here it is and I hope you guys like it.
Anyone who has followed me from the early days of this site knows how much I LOVE paludariums. They add a very interesting dynamic to an age-old hobby. I decided to start this challenge by constructing a mini paludarium because they are quick and require little to no maintenance. This aqua-terrarium won’t hold more than about 3 to 4 cups of water at any given time.
Making A DIY Mini Paludarium
The total time it took to make this mini paludarium was about 8 hours. I like to spread projects like these builds out over the course of about a week. I’ll put an hour or two into scaping a particular project and step away to give my eyes a chance to have a fresh look at what I’m trying to accomplish. Additionally, I also like to google natural landscapes for inspiration. It does help to give my mind a break away from a project and re-scape several times before I settle on a permanent design.
Even though I do have a pretty large array of material laying around, I really try to keep these mini vivarium tanks simple with no more than 3 to 5 elements. The main moss is from a propagation bin I made a while back but was originally found outside between the cracks of sidewalks. The secondary plant used to mimic vines is a strip of java moss I scooped out of one of my larger tanks. The hardscape is composed of black Scoria stones (a common type of lava rock used for grilling). The substrate is a foundational layer of eco-earth gravel and a little bit of sand for the top layer.
- Glass Cylinder Vase
- Barbula Moss (commonly found in sidewalk cracks)
- Mood Moss (If you can’t find Barbula Moss outside)
- Java Moss
- Scoria Stone (Black Lava Rock)
- Black Aquarium Gravel
- Play Sand
The first thing I like to do is clean and inspect the vase. Giving it a thorough whip with bleach and then vinegar is good practice. The bleach will remove any bacteria or production chemicals that might affect the ecosystem later. The vinegar removes the bleach and any stains that might be on the glass if the vase was used previously. Furthermore, I inspect the glass for any imperfections like scratches or chips. If you don’t feel like removing them make sure to mark that area use it as the backside of the enclosure.
Now that the vase is prepped we can start with laying down the substrate. Using the aquarium gravel, I laid out about 3 cups in a slope formation. This creates depth and gives me a solid base for the rocks to build off of.
As I start to add the Lava rocks, I strategically place them in a way that is stable and won’t collapse later. The way to accomplish this is by using larger rocks at the bottom. I use smaller rocks with pointy edges facing upward to give a mountain-like look.
Once I’ve settled on a formation I’m really pleased with, I use a bit more gravel to fill in the gaps between the rocks. This works sort of like bricklaying, further locking the rocks into place. I know some hobbyists like to superglue their hardscapes together. I find that working like this allows me to go back later and re-scape the formation if I decide on a different look.
Another pro tip would be to add water before you settle on the design to see how it would look. The water will also help things fall into place and if anything does collapse you can use the tweezers to reposition. Don’t add sand until after you’ve added plants and the mini paludarium is in its final location.
Mini Paludarium Plants
Since this is a mossarium, I wanted to stick with the theme of only using moss for this entire setup. Since there are dozens of moss types great for vivariums, I don’t feel very limited on a selection. I’m lucky enough to find Barbula Moss growing literally everywhere during this time of year. I started propagating it a couple of weeks ago so I would have fresh vibrant pieces to work with whenever I needed it.
Pinching off small clumps at a time, I place it over the top of all the flat surfaces I found. Careful to leave the pointy rock edges revealed, I kept adding until I just had moss and rocky edges. The look I was aiming for was a mountain top emerging from a canopy of trees… You may notice I played around with some fairy moss in the next photo. I later decided not to go with it because it sort of took from the design in my opinion.
This took a day or two to really nail down. I would constantly rearrange the smaller rocks until I got the look I felt satisfied with. The final touches of this design were adding small strips of java moss around the lower rocks immersed from the water. A few more pieces around the foreground of the aquatic area complete the plant stage. I really love how the java moss gives a vining look, further adding to the congo jungle look. We can add a small amount of sand to give the aquatic section a bit of contrast and layer.
Mini Paludarium Animals
Having livestock in an enclosure would definitely be a challenge. I honestly wouldn’t recommend anything more than isopods and springtails. For the time being, I have a ton of baby cherry red shrimp and decided to add two to this mini paludarium. I will more than likely relocate them before they are fully grown. They do add a “next level” vibe to this tank for now though.
Mini Paludarium Care
For a tank, this small, maintenance will be easy. The moss absorbs its nutrients from evaporating water rising from the aquatic area. Weekly water changes will be essential since this will be a filter-less setup. A light mist is given daily for the moss in the higher areas of the tank. I’ve noticed that even though the lava rock does an excellent job maintaining moisture throughout the aquaterrarium, the upper areas don’t grow as vibrate as the lower depths.
That’s pretty much it for this mini paludarium. Now I pass the challenge is on to you. Can you design something that rivals my miniature congo jungle using scrap material? Tag me on social media to show off your aquaterrium and be sure to check out the other mossariums in this 3 part “mini” series!