What is a Paludarium? How To Set Up A Paludarium?

what is a paludarium
What is a Paludarium? A Paludarium is a vivarium that has both terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals. We will see in this article how to create a Paludarium, one for yourself at home.
We all are pretty much familiar with the term aquarium; whether we know how to build or maintain it, we are acquainted with the term aquarium. But, Paludarium is not that widely-known terminology even amongst most aquarium hobbyists; probably, some newbies have never even heard about it.
However, in recent times, Paludarium is swiftly becoming the favorite vivarium in the aquarist circle owing to its versatility in accommodating species varieties and its fascinating look.
What is a Paludarium, and how to create and maintain one?
Well! While it takes far more planning and groundwork, a Paludarium is not far more difficult to build and maintain than an aquarium; but the result is far more gorgeous and intriguing; it provides a lot more room for diverse plants and aqua lives.
Here, in this article, we will deliberate about different vivariums, how Paludarium includes all the other vivariums, and how to create one.
Let’s continue reading…

What is a Paludarium?

Paludarium is a vivarium that includes both terrestrial and aquatic elements. Paludarium is derived from the Latin word “Palus,” meaning a swamp, a wetland, a marshland, etc., and “arium” refers to enclosed container or terrain or topography or ground.

Generally, Paludarium consists of plants and animals that have common traits for the environment they live in. It can also be referred to as Biome, an unmistakable biological community formed due to shared physical and existential requirements.

Paludarium is in trend among the aquarium community because it can house a wide range of aquatic, semi-aquatic, and terrestrial plants and animals. It also gives a room for the waterfall.

To understand and picture a Paludarium, let’s learn briefly about all the other vivariums, the types of living enclosures, or the setup.

What is Vivarium?

A Vivarium is an enclosed space where animals and plants are being kept for research or observations. The vivarium is derived from the Latin word vivere, meaning “to live”; a Vivarium is an ecosystem simulated on a much smaller scale for specific species’ requirements. It can be of a varied size ranging from a tabletop vivarium to as large as The Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) in Chile-Peru, South America, Prague Zoological Garden, Czech Republic; it’s home to over 680 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles.

It allows you to control all the necessary factors to establish an ecosystem conducive to specific species to mimic its natural habitat; it includes, Aquarium, Terrarium, Paludarium, Riparium, etc.


a terrarium

A terrarium is a vivarium where terrestrial plants and animals live. Generally, it is a dry and low humidity environment where the ecosystem is conducive for terrestrial lives. It cannot sustain any aquatic or semi-aquatic plants or animals.


Riparium is a vivarium where water with wetland or shores. The term Riparium is derived from the Latin word Riparius, meaning bank or shore. In the aquarium community, the hobbyists describe it as an aquarium tank with shorelines where marginal plants grow; it has limited landform, which is insufficient to sustain lives that need earth resources.

The hobbyists describe it as an enclosed river or a lake or a swamp shores where there is no dry area; flora and fauna are mostly submerged, and animals living are essentially aquatic.


Habitat Water Land Terrestrial animal Aquatic animal Semi-Aquatic Animal Plants
Aquarium Yes No No Yes No yes
Terrarium No Yes yes No No yes
Riparium yes No No Yes No yes
Paludarium yes yes yes Yes Yes yes


What is appealing about Paludarium? – Features:

what is appealing about paludarium

A Paludarium is a fusion of an aquarium with a terrarium. It allows you to keep fish and invertebrates as in aquariums and enable you to keep amphibians such as tadpoles-frogs and reptiles like turtles. In the same tank, one can house many species with similar needs concerning temperaments, water parameters, temperature, and humidity.

The combination of water body with the shore, the marshy land, and the waterfall enables you to have varieties of plants that can grow in water, land, and semi-aquatic.

Even a small Paludarium tank can give you the feel of a rich ecosystem that is soothing to all your senses.

Paludarium is far less maintenance once it is set up owing to its diversity and possibilities; the amount of time and effort needed for the upkeep of a Paludarium is not far more than the upkeep of an Aquarium.

Most Paludarium set up has waterfall incorporated, which adds character to the vivarium.


Choosing inhabitants for your Paludarium

Paludarium environment can be a home to a wide range of plants and animals than an aquarium or a terrarium or even riparium for that matter; hence you will most likely want to include both aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals.

You can house all the freshwater species you can shelter in an aquarium; you can also choose some brackish water species if you plan your vivarium carefully.

The list of potential aquatic species that can enhance the beauty and ecosystem of your Paludarium:

Fish Choices:

Popular fish choices include cichlids, angelfish, celestial pearl danios, gouramis, guppies, mollies, white cloud mountain minnows, archerfish, rainbow sharks, killifish, ember tetra, etc. You may choose only a couple of species to keep control over the water parameters; nonetheless, some aquarium enthusiasts opt to house several species in the same vivarium.

Cleaning Crew:

As part of the cleaning crew, you could choose to go with shrimps such as Amano, Bamboo, Red cherry, and Ghost shrimp; Snails such as nerite or mystery snails are popular options; Loaches like kuhli loach, zebra loach, clown loach, etc.

Either you choose only one or two species or many species, you would want to ensure they all share similar needs when it comes to temperature, humidity, water parameters, and most importantly, temperamentally, they should get along.

If you are a new hobbyist, I recommend you start with a couple of fish species and one or two cleaning crew members and later scale up to varieties as you gain experience and confidence.


Potential semi-aquatic species for your Paludarium:

Semi-aquatic species options are:

Turtles: Smaller turtle species mud turtle, loggerhead musk turtle are very much at home in a suitably decorated Paludarium tank. Remember, turtles can grow large and live a very long life with proper care; they can outlive any of the other species in your Paludarium; so, choose the turtle species carefully as most of them are predatory relish on the fish in the tank.

Fiddlers crab: The ideal aquarium setup for these creatures to thrive is a brackish water setup. They make an excellent part of the cleaning crew; munch on the leftovers, mealworms, small reptiles, live critters, etc.

Toads and Frogs: Paludarium is an excellent set up to witness a tadpole’s entire life cycle starting from the hatching of the egg and then metamorphosing into a fully grown adult frog; one can observe all the five stages of a tadpole, from laying of eggs to fully grown adult. A tadpole needs water and terrain to complete its life cycle.

Apart from the turtles, frogs, and crabs, you can have several species of amphibians and reptiles; Newts, Salamanders, Mudskippers, and even Snakes though I would stay away from all these creatures, you should too, if you have any fear or averse to these beings.

The rest of you, wildlife lovers, have unlimited species choices to choose from for your Paludarium; however, remember Darwinism and carefully select your species because some of these animals will view others as their dinner on the table!


Plants for your Paludarium

You have a wide range of aquatic, semi-aquatic, and terrestrial plants to choose from; carefully selected varieties of plant species are what will make your Paludarium rich and intriguing, not the animal species. Of course, the combination of aquatic and semi-aquatic species has its attraction, but not without the range of colorful live plants.

It’s essential to choose different shades and colors, sizes of plants and leaves, leaf texture, etc., to achieve an engaging and fascinating Paludarium.

While choosing the plants, you would also want to consider the time you want to spend on the upkeep of your Paludarium; to keep neat and tidy, you would go for slow-growing plants that do not require trimming and pruning every second week.

You can recreate any part of the world you wish to in your Paludarium by playing with plant species from that part of the Globe, or you can create your version of space that will impress you and others by choosing the varieties of plants that may not be seen in nature together in one place.

Some hobbyists go with looks while others go by functionality, but I suggest you balance both the functionality and the looks in picking your plant species for your Paludarium; you might end up regretting in the long run by choosing one over the other. 

While picking plants, you do not want to forget the animal species you want to dwell in your Paludarium; you want to create an ecosystem with plants and animals that compliment and complement each other and not fight one another.

There are thousands of plant species you can choose from to create a well animated Paludarium; however, here is a list of plants, ferns, mosses, creepers, etc., that are in no way comprehensive. 


Australian sword, Asparagus fern, Boston fern, Button fern, Holly fern, and Maidenhair are some of the ferns that grow fast and great in filling spaces; Water Sprite aka Indian Water fern, Java fern are great aquatic ferns are considered outstanding in keeping the water clean by absorbing a great deal of nitrate from the water; Anubias nana is an aquatic and semi-aquatic flowering fern.

Floating Plants:

Floating plants are low maintenance kind of water plants and help keep the aquarium healthy; there are a variety of floating plants ranging from mosses to ferns. They are great hiding spots for shy and peace-loving species. To newborns, along with providing shelter, they nourish them with infusoria, the first fry food.

Flowering plants:

Water lily, Amazon swords, Crotons, Orchid lily, Hornworts, Fanwort aka Cabomba, etc., are some of the flowering plants that grow underwater.

Starfish flower cactus, Baby tears, Spiderwort, African violet, Calendulas, Ardisia, etc., are examples of the flowering plants for the terrain section of Paludarium.


Bromeliad is a hardy flowering plant in an array of colors that can add aesthetics to your Paludarium. 

Creepers and Vinyl:

No terrarium is complete without creepers; Ivys, such as Devil’s Ivy, English Ivy, Irish Ivy, Swedish Ivy, Japanese Ivy, are excellent for the backdrop in a Paludarium. They are great semi-aquatic species that root themselves in the water and creep into the terrain and up to the walls of Paludarium.


Lucky Bamboo grows both in water well as soil. They absorb piles of Ammonia and nitrites; all the nitrogenous components are healthy nutrients for lucky bamboo; hence, it keeps the water free from toxic substances and adds aesthetics to your tank.


Pothos are excellent in keeping the nitrates level in the water and stiff competition to algae; one cannot overlook the aesthetics it adds to your tank.


Mosses are an integral part of any water body; aquarium tanks and fish ponds are no exception. They play a significant role in providing shelter and nourishment to many shy aquatic animal species and newborns.

Java moss, Willow moss, Weeping moss, Christmas moss, Peacock moss, Cameroon moss, Star moss are some of the mosses for you to choose from.

Carnivores Plants:

Carnivore plants such as Butterworts, Sundews, Tropical Pitcher, Venus Flytraps are excellent in maintaining moisture and humidity that feed on insects.

Dwarfed trees and Mangroves:

In a large Paludarium, semi-aquatic trees such as dwarfed trees and mangroves add a character to your Paludarium.


How to create or build a Paludarium?


Paludarium is one of the most attractive Vivarium you can imagine building. Building and managing a community Paludarium is challenging as you need to satisfy a diverse group of plants and animals.

These challenges are all worth it when you glimpse the result; let’s get started.

Most aquarists use the material such as mud, bricks, rocks, soil, woods, twigs, plants, from their garden to build a Paludarium. Here is the video showing a German hobbyist constructing a fascinating Paludarium in a 10-gallon (40 liters) tank with a soft flowing waterfall. 

Remember, the specific weight of masonry brick or mortar or concrete is around more or less two; sand, gravels, & pebbles is about 2.7. So, ensure that the tank must support the weight of the land structure you create using these garden and construction materials.

He uses this Paludarium as a Betta spawning tank; it holds male Betta Splendens or his offspring. Once, he had spawned successfully over 100+ baby fish, and the infusoria and the plankton present in the ecosystem nourished the 100+ fry for the first few days.

However, a whole range of materials from the hardware store can greatly kindle your creativity in creating a Paludarium; PVC pipes and boards, egg crates, spray foam, tiles, aquarium safe silicon, a pair of heavy-duty scissors, etc.

Apart from the above material, you would need lightings, a pump, filters, filter media, airstone, etc. 

Here is another video showing how an aquarist goes about constructing a Nano Paludarium using a 3-gallon (12 liters) tank, PVC boards, chicken mesh, lava rocks, Ohko stones or Dragon stones etc.


Creating Simple Paludariums

One of the most simple and popular methods of creating a Paludarium is using vinyl such as Pothos or Ivy, driftwood, and mosses; Vinyl plants can root themselves in the water while protecting the newborns and shy species and absorbing nitrogenous elements from the water and can creep over the water to the tip of the driftwood. 

You can glue mosses and other air plants such as bromeliads, Spanish moss over the driftwood; well-branched driftwood can hold even some soil and thereby increase the surface for the terrain plants.

Creating land area

The first step in building a Paludarium is to create a land area. A shelf-like structure can be made using rocks, bricks, driftwoods, PVC crates, pipes, or placing some terracotta pots upside down to create an elevated level. While constructing the land area, the vital thing to keep in mind is cleaning the Paludarium and the surface for good bacterial colonies.

Constructing a shelf-like structure

While constructing the structure, always take all the safety precautions in protecting your hands and face, particularly the eyes; you can either use masonry bricks or rocks from your garden with mortar and aquarium friendly silicon glue or use PVC board or egg crates to build your shelf for the elevated level.

Cut the PVC egg crate or the board or pipes (bends and Ts) to create your design for covering the land area of your Paludarium; you can stem out some ideas from the videos on this page suitable to your need.

You can also use some petrified woods also can be used as it comes in column-like forms; you can produce any desired shape of landforms utilizing the combination of petrified wood with egg crates and driftwood.

Generally, one-third of the tank surface is taken for the land area; however, some hobbyists create the land section all around the tank leaving a small segment open to access the pool of water in; it’s entirely up to you at what proportion you want to have the land and water area.

Creating a waterfall

What is a Paludarium without a waterfall! Who doesn’t like a waterfall in their living space? 

So, while making a Paludarium take the opportunity to create a captivating waterfall; there is much more to a waterfall than mere looks. Sure, a waterfall is soothing to the eyes and the senses; it is also refreshing and energizing; it produces negative ions in the atmosphere, which rejuvenates and calms the people living there. A waterfall in an aquarium improves the level of dissolved oxygen in the water; hence never miss out on the chance of creating a waterfall; it for sure can elevate your moods and put a smile on your face.

In both the videos on this page, you can see how a simple trick of using a pipe or a tube to the aquarium pump gives a waterfall. Find your tricks based on the available resources in your household environment. However, ensure the material you are picking doesn’t leach any harmful chemicals into the water and Paludarium atmosphere; leaching of tannins from the wood will give brown/red tinge to your water, is perfectly alright and for Amazonian species such as Tetras, Ember Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Neon Tetra, and Rummynose Tetra will be at home in tannins infused water.

Substrate and Plants

Gravels and pebbles can cover the PVC egg crates and the boards; you can use soil or peat moss to cover the area, and eventually, you can grow the plants and mosses.

The back wall of the Paludarium

Cover the back wall of the Paludarium above the land area with a piece of mesh or corkboard using aquarium friendly glue attach epiphytic plants such as Orchids, String of pearls, Marble Pothos, Scindapsus Pictus, etc. are the shelter for terrain species and also make your Paludarium rich and fascinating.

Setting up of water area:

The water area or aquarium section of the Paludarium is the last one to commission; after arranging all the aquarium plants and the decors, you go about the same way you commission your aquarium. You don’t miss out on any stage while commissioning your aquarium; always do a fishless cycle until the aquarium’s nitrifying colonies are established.


What is a Paludarium? Final Thoughts!

Paludarium is a unique creation! 

Paludarium is an enthralling and fascinating experience from conceptualizing to execution. It stimulates your brain and the senses beginning with conceptualization, planning, and executing a plan to achieve the idea, the concept in your head into reality; it can be a rewarding experience.

It may seem a bit complicated; however, if you keep reminded of the species’ needs that will dwell in your Paludarium, the rest is only the details. 

Essentially, Paludarium is home to both aquatic, semi-aquatic, and terrain species; reptiles and amphibians such as Newts, Salamanders, Frogs, Turtles, and even snakes. However, if you have any fear or aversion to these creatures, you can still construct your Paludarium for the fishes, invertebrates, and perhaps turtles and frogs.

And of course, enjoy! Don’t forget to share your experience here with other readers and us!

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