Let’s explore the marshy vivarium of both water and land.. the paludarium! We will cover what they are, how to make one & the many different types that are popular today.
Of all the vivaria, this is probably my favorite one and the very cornerstone of why Bantam.Earth was started.
What Is a Paludarium?
A paludarium, also commonly referred to as “paludaria”, is a type of vivarium that consists of both water and land.
The paludal part of the word comes from the Latin word palus, meaning “swamp” or “land near water.”
The word itself translates to “a place of swamp or land near water.” The plural form of paludarium is paludaria.
In general, it’s an aquarium with dry terrestrial features. There’s no set law as to how much of it needs to be either aquatic or terrestrial to qualify…
The enclosure just needs to consist of both to be considered a paludarium.
Paludarium vs Riparium: What’s the difference?
Paludarium and riparium are very similar in the sense that they both consist of aquatic and terrestrial features. There is, however, a difference in life sustainability.
A paludarium has enough landmass to provide a habitable living space for semi-aquatic animals.
A riparium has a limited landmass but usually cannot support life that depends on “Terra-amenities” (yes – I made up that word).
When discussing ripariums, think of a river bank-type aquarium. More than likely, there won’t be any completely dry areas in this enclosure.
The flora will be submersible plants. The animals living in this type of vivarium will be fully aquatic. I go more in-depth about ripariums here.
Building A Paludarium
Today, I will demonstrate the basic setup of a paludarium. There are three main areas to consider when building this type of vivarium: The canopy, the land, and the water.
No matter how complex your design is, it should consist of these areas.
The Canopy is the topmost area of a paludarium. It’s formed from the planted flora that grows out into the top part of the enclosure.
It can consist of hardscape material like branches or rocks. This area provides shade and security for inhabitants living in the land area.
This area can also provide a home for animals that prefer to be higher. The higher areas in a vivarium usually provide better basking spots, lower humidity, and better airflow.
In the Land portion of the paludarium, the terrestrial features are established. The water portion of the tank is separated by a dry piece of hardscape.
The hardscape is essential to a vivarium. It is the foundation of the tank and will regulate the overall ecosystem depending on the type of material it is.
Instead, this portion must contain proper basking spots and low humidity levels to allow animals to fully dry off.
Semi-aquatic animals thrive in this section of the vivarium. I go further into detail about hardscapes in this article here if you need help deciding which material would be appropriate for your paludarium.
The Water part of the setup is just that: water! It’s simple yet essential to the thriving ecosystem of a paludarium.
This part of the enclosure not only provides living space for aquatic inhabitants but also the condensation needed to hydrate the top two areas of the tank.
This part can also aid in elevating humidity levels within the vivarium.
Setting up a paludarium can be simple. Try adding a large piece of floating wood to an aquarium to support an inhabitant.
Step it up a notch and separate your tank with acrylic glass, filling the bottom with water and the top with soil.
It comes down to the amount of detail and creativity you are willing to put into your enclosure.
Edens.Bow is a great example of a complex “Floater” paludarium because of the way I chose to layer it and the materials I used to set it up.
With this build, you must understand the importance of the key elements working together.
Without the proper landmass for inhabitants on which they can establish themselves, this becomes a riparium.
If the water section is not equipped to sustain life, this setup is more recognizable as a terrarium.
The Paludarium Substrate
The substrate of a paludarium needs to not only support the plants and animals that inhabit it but also provide them with a safe place to live.
A perfect paludarium substrate should retain moisture and nutrients, as well as separate solid wastes and liquid wastes.
There are a few types of substrates that work well in paludariums. Aquarium gravel is commonly used, as it is easy to clean, is available in many color options, and is pH neutral.
Pebbles and rock pieces can also be used, but they should be checked for sharp edges or chemicals that may be harmful to aquatic life.
Additionally, aquatic soil can be used to create a nutrient-rich substrate that will help plants and other organisms thrive.
Finally, sand is a great addition to paludariums. Its soft appearance can provide a natural-looking background and it does not need to be replaced as often as other substrates.
Sand can also be easily modified for use with various aquatic species. If used on its own, the sand should be fine-grained, so the particles will not compact and suffer from an anaerobic environment.
Mixing in some aquarium gravel at a ratio of 2:1, with more gravel than sand, will create a more balanced coating for the substrate.
Paludarium lighting is an important element in a paludarium’s environment and can greatly affect the health of the plants and animals that live there.
The type of lighting and the intensity of the lighting will depend on the plants and animals that inhabit the paludarium as well as the desired visual effect.
It is important to choose the right type of lighting for the plants and animals living in the paludarium.
If fluorescent lighting is used, it is best to choose a high-quality bulb with full-spectrum lighting.
Now let’s say incandescent or halogen lighting is used, the wattage should be low enough so that it does not overheat the water.
If the paludarium contains plants, it is also important to provide the appropriate amount of light. Different types of plants require different spectrums of light and different intensity levels.
Planted paludariums will often require additional supplemental lighting beyond whatever ambient light is available.
The lighting should be strong enough to provide enough light for the plants, but not so intense that it will cause the plants to burn or bleach. Timers can be used to control the amount of light throughout the day.
The lighting in a paludarium is an important aspect of creating a healthy and aesthetically pleasing environment.
When considering what type and how much lighting to use, it is important to consider the types of plants and animals that inhabit the vivarium and how much light they need to thrive.
Converting Aquariums & Terrariums
Many hobbyists often start with some other type of vivarium before later deciding to include additional features that make up a paludarium.
Deciding to convert an existing enclosure into a different type of vivarium is a common practice.
In most cases, modifying the enclosure means adding water to existing land, or vice versa!
Aquariums are typically the most common vivaria to convert into a paludarium. The pro with using an existing aquarium is simply adding land to your setup.
Start by removing water from the tank, allowing more enclosure real estate to become available for terrestrial features.
You can also grow flora out of the top of the enclosure, which will classify your aquarium as a paludarium.
The con with using an aquarium: water changes become a bit challenging to do, depending on the setup.
Terrariums are another common type of enclosure used for conversion. The pro with using a terrarium is that most come with some type of drainage valve at the bottom.
Therefore, changing water is made easier.
The con with using terraria is that they’re limited to how much water they can hold. Many are not designed to hold more than a few inches of water without leaks.
If a low volume of water is what you have in mind for your terrarium, then this type of conversion will work perfectly.
Best Types of plants & animals
A paludarium is a wet and marshy environment, so keep that in mind when shopping for inhabitants. Stocking proper flora and fauna is ideal if you want a thriving ecosystem.
Best Animals For A Paludarium
You’ll want to stock this enclosure with fully aquatic and/or semi-aquatic species. They should all be animals that can swim!
Aquatic Animals – Any type of freshwater fish will do well in this enclosure. You can even consider a brackish water type of vivarium if you want to go for a unique setup.
Pufferfish and fiddler crabs are interesting picks to consider! Invertebrates like shrimp or crayfish will also thrive in these types of vivariums.
Mud-skippers are cool fish that can actually come out of the water and do well in this setup. Amphibians like frogs, salamanders, or newts are the most common species of animals for DIY-ers.
A few honorable mentions that would do well in paludaria are reptiles like turtles, lizards, and skinks.
Many turtles like sliders and soft shells need both water and land in order to survive. Lizards like iguanas and water dragons love basking after a nice swim.
When it’s safe to come out and roam, crocodile skinks are known to come out and fish for food.
For a more in-depth list of animals, I go much further into detail on my own build Edens.Bow you can find here: Paludarium Animals
Best Plants For A Paludarium
When it comes to paludarium plants, aim for flora that thrives in humid and wet environments. This enclosure typically resembles a tropical domain, so keep that in mind when planting.
For the water part of your paludaria, choose from immersed or submerged plants.
Terrestrial Plants – These guys can easily be water-bogged if not rooted in a dry enough place above water.
The planted area should allow access water to completely drain out during watering and should have a fairly dry or moist top layer of the substrate.
Submersed Plants – This type of plant is completely submerged underwater. Everything from their roots to their leaves is completely under the water. Sword Plants, Christmas moss, and java fern are all good examples of submerged plants.
Emersed Plants – These plants are rooted underwater but sprout stems and leaves above water. They are both pretty straightforward in terms of setup and care.
Best Paludarium Tanks
Paludarium kits are great for those looking for a complete set to kick-start their hobby.
In most cases, a paludarium kit will come with everything needed to start a paludarium tank. Depending on the size and type of animals inhabiting your future vivarium…
You might wonder where to go from here in regards to shopping for a paludarium tank. Here are a few editor’s picks we recommend taking a look at:
Nano Paludarium Tank
Nano paludarium kits are great for beginners and very affordable. Good species to keep in these include dart frogs, various tetra species, and most crustaceans.
Tall Paludarium Tank
Tall paludarium kits are great for those looking to invest in most terrestrial plants. One could easily experiment with a wide variety of animals as well as plants with this setup.
Wide Paludarium Tank
Wide paludarium kits are going to be for the ultimate enthusiast. This type of setup will allow for optimum lighting availability throughout the tank and a wide variety of animal species large and small will do well in a vivarium this size.
Vivariums Similar To A Paludarium
The many other types of vivariums you will see out there are more than likely based on one of these core designs. If you are building a vivarium with the intention of housing a specific type of plant or animal, be sure to go with a design that closely fits their needs.
If you enjoyed this type of content, be sure to check out some of the other popular types of enclosures we’ve covered in the past:
Choosing a theme is a good place to start when deciding to construct this type of vivarium. The possibilities are endless for an aesthetically pleasing paludarium tank.
I’ve personally had a hard time trying to not make every aquarium or terrarium I build into some type of paludarium.
Frequently Asked Questions
To separate the land and water components in a paludarium, you will want to create a physical barrier such as an aquarium divider or false background.
Alternatively, you could create a slope or a berm to separate the land and water sections, or you could use aquatic gravel to raise the water level and create a dry area.
To prevent mold in a paludarium, make sure to clean it regularly and keep the humidity levels within range. You should also reduce stagnant or still water areas. A colony of springtails and isopods can help keep mold in check as well.
The best way to ensure that the temperature is maintained is to use an aquarium heater. The heater should be placed close to the water source, but not directly in it, and set to the required temperature for the type of animals you have in the paludarium.
Here’s a list of things that be kept in a paludarium:
- Live plants
A Terrarium is an enclosed container typically used to grow and display plants. It can be either open to the atmosphere or closed to create a more humid environment.
A Paludarium, on the other hand, is a type of container that combines, land, water, and sometimes even air to create a dynamic, multi–dimensional habitat for plants and animals. A Paludarium also typically contains aquatic plants, amphibians, and other aquatic animals.
A paludarium is a type of terrarium that serves as a closed–loop indoor ecosystem with both land and aquatic components.
Paludariums can be used to house a variety of aquatic animals, plants, and terrariums, and they provide an environment that helps them thrive while looking great!
A riparium is an aquatic-based terrarium consisting of an artificial habitat with live plants and/or other organisms kept in a tank of flowing water.
A paludarium is an artificial habitat combining elements of land and water, typically with a pool of water, live plants, and substrate that can be used both in or out of water. They may also include land features such as rocks, soil, and a variety of land plants.
Yes, you should regularly change the water in a paludarium. Depending on the type of plants and animals present, it‘s recommended to drain and replace somewhere between one–third to two–thirds of the paludarium water every two to four weeks.
It depends on the type and size of your paludarium, however, it typically takes about 4–5 weeks for a complete paludarium cycle.
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.