Paludariums offer a very unique take on the usual vivarium-keeping hobby. The combination of a terrarium with aquatic features creates new elements we can work with. This extends the choice of flora into a new array we can label as paludarium plants.
This guide will help you understand what type of foliage works best with this marsh environment. In addition, we will cover a complete list of plants best suited for an aqua-terrarium.
What Are Paludarium Plants?
Paludarium plants are various types of vivarium flora designed to fit in a small enclosure with moderate levels of humidity. The structural design of a paludarium offers a hobbyist a large array of foliage to work with. But, this list of plants can easily be broken down into four categories that we will briefly cover: Aquatic, Semi-Aquatic, Terrestrial, and Epiphytic.
Paludarium plants can range from being fully aquatic to fully terrestrial. Marginal plants like the kind found in the riparium plant list will thrive in this type of vivarium as well. With the varying ranges of humidity in these kinds of vivariums, many epiphytic plants will do far better in this setup than in a typical terrarium.
Even though there is an infinite list of aquatic plants that are commonly used in the aquarium hobby, not all are a fit for paludariums. The addition of a land area above the line of water means lighting will have to work harder to reach aquatic plants.
Increasing the overall lighting to compensate for this may work against plants growing on the surface. To combat this problem, aim for plants that are tolerating low-light tolerate and slow growth. Here is a list of fully aquatic paludarium plants that I recommend working with:
- Rotala rotundifolia (Dwarf Rotala)
- Rotala indica (Indian Toothcup)
- Elodea canadensis (American Waterweed)
- Staurogyne repens (Creeping Staurogyne)
- Pogostemon helferi (Little Star)
- Bacopa monnieri (Moneywort)
- Bacopa caroliniana (Blue Water Hyssop)
- Nahas guadalupensis (Guppy Grass)
- Monosolenium tenerum (Liverwort)
- Bucephalandra spp. (Buce)
- Vallisneria spp. (Eel Grass)
Marginal plants are where things get really interesting. The high levels of humidity this marsh enclosure provides give many aquatic plants the ability to grow immersed… Just like in a riparium. The defining difference between planting in a paludarium vs a riparium is the addition of land.
This offers us the ability to create bog-like terrains or platforms. We can now consider marginal plants that particularly need more oxygenated substrates to thrive. Here is a list of semi-aquatic plants well suited for the middle portion of a paludarium:
Common Marginal Plants
Some of the most popular aquarium plants make great selections of immersed flora. The high levels of humidity and co2 rich atmosphere paludariums offer easily sustain marginal plants. Lighting may be an important factor to keep in mind when choosing these plants.
Paludarium plants grown above the waterline may cast shade over the aquatic section. For that reason, these low-light aquatic plants are favored choices for common marginal plants:
- Potamogeton spp. (Pondweed)
- Echinodorus spp. (Sword Plants)
- Lobelia cardinal (Dwarf)
- Sagittaria chilensis (Broad-Leaf Sagittaria)
- Anubias spp. (Anubias)
- Aponogeton ulvaceus (Magic Bulb)
- Cryptocoryne spp. (Crypts)
- Dwarf sagittaria subulata (Narrow-Leaved Arrowhead)
Many common houseplants will work very well in the marshy environment a paludarium provides. These types of enclosures offer a multitude of substrates suitable for virtually any kind of houseplant.
Aim for flora that does well in tropical areas and requires either well-drained soil or immersed setup. Here are my picks for houseplants that can easily be converted into paludarium plants:
Aquatic ferns are one of the most sought-after choices of paludarium plants used in the hobby. They are easy to find and really help establish the tropical feel many strive to design.
Ferns come in a variety of sizes and have the ability to grow beyond the line of water. Here are my top picks of marginal ferns great for this type of enclosure:
Moss is a great plant all around for any vivarium that has high humidity. As a paludarium plant, it’s even better, especially under the right conditions. Depending on where the moss is placed it will vary in growth pattern.
When grown underwater, it will grow bushy and thick. Above water will cause moss to self-prune and create a dense mat across any surface it can reach. Here is the best moss for paludariums:
Vines are another interesting plant to work within a paludarium. Many vining plants can grow immersed in water with roots fully under the line of water. This type of foliage can be pruned into a carpeting mat that can climb vertically. Here are a few semi-aquatic vines that are perfect for this vivarium.
There are a number of aquarium stem plants that can transition well as semi-aquatic plants. Low-light stem plants that suit these conditions make excellent paludarium plants.
This foliage comes in an array of colors and compositions that will further bring out the essence of any tropical theme. Here is a list of stem plants I recommend for paludariums:
- Althernanthera reineckii (Scarlet Temple)
- Hygrophila polysperma (Tiger)
- Hygrophila corymbosa (Temple Plant)
- Hygrophila angustifolia (Willow Hygro)
- Myriophyllum aquaticum (Parrot’s Feather)
- Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazillian Pennywort)
- Hydrilla verticillata (Water Thyme)
- Hedyotis salzmannii (Bacopa)
- Ludwigia repens (Water Primrose)
- Ludwigia peruensis (Ludwigia Glandulosa)
Much like moss, floating plants are also very versatile flora that can fit in any aquatic vivarium. My only drawback with these plants is they grow like crazy. use this paludarium plant sparingly and don’t hesitate to discard excess during routine maintenance. Here is a list of popular floating plants suitable for a paludarium.
- Ceratophyllum demersum (Hornwort)
- Limnobium laevigatum (Frogbit)
- Pistia spp. (Water Lettuce)
- Nymphaea stellata (Dwarf Aquarium Lily)
A new trend taking the vivarium niche by storm is carnivorous plants. The swampy conditions of a paludarium are perfect for these savage plants. Making a bog garden suitable for this foliage is easy with access to water being so close.
For those working with a limited amount of terrestrial real estate, there are a number of fully aquatic carnivorous plants as well that can be fully submerged in water. Here is a list of paludarium carnivorous commonly used:
Terrestrial plants in a paludarium focus on species that need to be established in well-drained substrates. Unlike bogged plants or marginal, this foliage will have to be placed in an area of the enclosure that doesn’t have any part of the plant close to water.
These paludarium plants are often used in terrariums that are very humid. Here’s a list of terrestrial plants hobbyists consider for a paludarium:
terrestrial moss, or terrarium moss in many cases, will thrive in the swampy habitats of an aqua-terrarium. The difference between these mosses and the kind covered earlier is these mosses will have to be out of direct contact with the aquatic section. land-based moss will grow on any surface and just needs good humidity and low lighting. Here is a list of mosses well suited for the land area of a paludarium:
Vining plants come in a large array of styles perfect for the marginal ecosystem paludariums provide. Creeping plants that need well-drained soil separate these types of vines from the kind mentioned earlier. If you are looking for a good background plant that can be trained into a carpeting mat, I would strongly recommend these:
Epiphytic plants, in my opinion, are one of the biggest advantages paludariums have over other types of vivariums. These are plants that grow with or without traditional substrates. They are often found on trees and rocks.
The drawback of working with plants not placed in the soil is they usually require a lot of humidity to receive their nutrients. Areas of a paludarium that lack high humidity can easily be compensated with mist or fog. Here is a list of paludarium plants that are commonly used in the hobby:
Bromeliads and other more traditional air plants are extremely common foliage found in paludariums. These plants can easily be attached to wood or rocks high above substrates further enhancing the visual elements of a tropical enclosure.
High humidity and good lighting are the only requirements when it comes to successfully keeping this flora in an enclosure. The list of species possible is infinite so I will only list the general species most popularly used as a paludarium plant:
- Aechmea spp.
- Billbergia spp.
- Cryptanthus spp.
- Neoregelia spp.
- Vriesea spp.
- Tillandsia spp.
There are a number of mini ferns that need well-drained soils perfect for paludariums. This foliage adds an element of realization to a tank that very few other plants can compete with. Furthermore, having the ability to grow without soil at all makes these ferns special.
Here is a list of epiphytic ferns that take paludarium plants to a whole new level:
Mini orchids are another type of epiphyte becoming more common in paludariums. This delicate flowering flora is found to do far better within enclosures than they are as traditional houseplants. The list of orchids suitable is also overwhelmingly large. So I will only list general species commonly used in tropical vivariums:
- Cattleya spp.
- Dracula spp.
- Lepanthes spp.
- Oncidium spp.
- Phalaenopsis spp.
- Dendrobium spp.
- Laelia spp.
- Masdevallia spp.
- Platystele spp.
- Tolumnia spp.
When it comes to stocking paludarium plants, focus on the ecosystem you are trying to recreate. These types of vivariums often represent swamp, marsh, and tropical conditions. building around that ideology will make it safe and easy for plants to thrive in any aqua-terrarium. I hope this guide gives you a more structured understanding of the exotic selection of foliage one could work with.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many aquarium plants are able to thrive out of water. These include Anubias, Java Fern, and Alternanthera. Anubias can be planted on driftwood or rocks and do not require any soil to grow.
Java Fern can also be attached to driftwood or rocks, as well as kept partially or totally submerged in the aquarium. Alternanthera is a great aquarium plant for both aquariums and ponds as it can be grown with its roots fully or partially submerged.
Paludariums provide ideal conditions for many tropical and semi–aquatic plants to thrive. Most of these plants require at least 60% humidity and temperatures between 70 to 85°F.
A substrate of soil mixed with gravel, sphagnum moss, and/or eco–substrate will provide the necessary nutrients to the roots of most plants. Plants should be placed between the water and the land section of the paludarium. Additionally, the addition of supplementary lighting will provide an ideal environment for growth.
Here’s a list of common plants used in a paludarium:
- Java Moss
- Java Fern
- Water Lettuce
- Anubias Nana
- Anubias Congensis
- Bolbitis Heudelotti
- Water Wisteria
- Dwarf Sagittaria
- African Water Fern
- Amazon Swords