Scaping A Paludarium

After successfully building the paludarium-controlled App, we can finally prepare the tank for life! Believe it or not, plants have been the most challenging part of scaping a paludarium for me.

Prior to this project (which was made in 2015), I had never done anything like this before. Even with the heavy amount of trial and error, I’m still excited to share with you guys the results!

chamelon in planted paludarium

Designing A Planted Tank

I had a very unique perspective when it came to designing the overall scape. I wanted every plant to have access to the same water resource, no matter where it was in the paludarium. Rather it is emerged, floating, or fully submerged…

Side note: This specific post is a walkthrough of how I chose plants for this particular build. If you are looking for a more detailed guide on paludarium plants, I strongly recommend you check that article out. I constantly update it with new plants and there are currently over 150 plants to choose from… with pictures and care guides for each!

-CJ Abney

The water would somehow need to cycle through all plant life. The mini aquaponic and rain irrigation setup would help cycle water to the higher, more elevated plants. Here’s the link if you need to see the setup for how to construct the paludarium‘s aquaponic and rain system.

Hardscaping A Paludarium

green flora in paludarium

Hardscape is the hard feature used to decorate a tank. It can be wood, rock, or substrate. Here is a list of all the things I used to make up the hardscape of the paludarium:

  • Aquarium Substrate – The aquarium gravel is made up of a black and brown aquatic substrate mix. This stuff is really good at holding healthy bacteria and is very easy for plants to root through. 
  • Lava Rock (Scoria) – This was my personal preference for the terrarium media. The base level, as well as the mountain bowls, are filled with these rocks. They are great for holding bacteria and if pre-rinsed before adding to the tank, a mess-free way to separate the terrarium components from the aquarium. 
  • GrapeWood – I LOVE THIS STUFF! The natural way it curves really added a stunning look to the paludarium. It did turn the water a slight tea color but that went away after about 2 water changes. 2 medium-sized pieces make up what you see in Edens.Bow 

Best Aquatic Paludarium Plants

When adding greenery to the aquarium, be conscious of the animals that will inhabit the tank. Between the catfish knocking up the lightly rooted plants… Or the Yellow Belly Turtle treating all the aquatic herbage like an all-it-can-eat buffet… It’s fairly hard to keep most plants thriving in the tank.

artificial plants in paludarium

Another thing to note is the poor lighting source towards the back of the aquarium. It will be very hard for plants to grow in that area. Considering artificial plants was something that gradually became the alternative for the rear of the tank.

  • Artificial Plants – These look genuine and blended in really well with the real plants when mixed up. I was able to provide shelter for fish to hide and stock those hard-to-grow areas. 
  • Java Moss – This is the go-to moss for under mosses. It’s easy to grow and can grow on all types of surfaces making it ideal for scaping. 
  • Hornwort – is another easy-to-grow plant for those looking for something that grows tall and bushy. This is a good plant to fill up backgrounds and doesn’t require a lot of light sources to do well.
  • Amazon Sword – another tropical plant that can get pretty tall. I love how this plant looks along the sides of the paludarium. 
  • Guppy Grass – is a good foreground plant for those looking for a hardy bed plant to seed. 

Best Non-aquatic Paludarium Plants

moss and different plants in paludarium

This was the part I think I enjoyed the most. I experimented with a lot of different types of plants to see what fit where. Some plants’ water bogged if they were placed too close to the aquarium…

Others dried out when placed in high areas where the humidity was lower during the day. Striking a nice balance between tropical plants and inland plants was key here.

  • Terrarium Moss – I experimented with a different type of mosses here. The frog moss you buy at a plant store didn’t do well in the paludarium. I’ve come to the conclusion that store-naught frog moss isn’t actually alive and may even be dyed to look greener than they really are. Tropical moss and Christmas moss does well in this type of environment. 
  • Terrarium Ferns – These are a love-hate relationship for me. Besides transplant shock, placing the fern too close to the water will rot the roots. These did better once I got them up higher, away from all the humidity. 
  • Devil’s Ivy – This is the best beginner plant there is. Pothos are just about impossible to kill and will grow anywhere in the tank!
  • Bromeliads – I love the look of these plants. They provide an excellent place for amphibians to nest in. The reptiles enjoy drinking from these throughout the day too. They do great in humidity but be careful not to water bog the root of these plants. 
  • Carnivorous Plants – These are very interesting plants to keep in your paludarium. One thing I don’t see a lot of people talking about with these plants is the fact that they thrive in low-nitrate-producing tanks. Meaning this type of environment will cause them to produce leaves but not the carnivorous buckets or mouths needed to catch bugs… If they get all their nutrients from the roots they won’t have a reason to waste energy-yielding carnivorous features. 
  • Preserved Moss – This is ideal for giving the terrarium a better look in areas humidity won’t reach high levels. I used these to cover exposed lava rock at the top areas of the tank. 

For a complete list of great vivarium plants that would be great for this type of enclosure, be sure to check out our growing archive of plant profiles.


scaping a paludarium with plants and animals

This part of the project requires patience more than anything. Any first-time botanist will quickly learn that rushing will result in more money spent replacing plants than growing them.

Another thing to note is when transplanting new plants into the paludarium, don’t use tap water from the sink. You will do more damage rinsing the plants with water full of chlorine and fluoride than you realize.

If you are curious about what paludarium animals I decided to stock this tank with, be sure to check out that article for a full scope of what is possible with these size paludariums!

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