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Setting up a Paludarium
Due to a move in December 2001 I am no longer
running this set up. It was really starting to take off, with lush plant growth.
The animals were settling in nicely as well. I hope to have it up and running
in the future.
As many of you may know I have been involved in
the tropical fish hobby for almost thirty years. Throughout these years
I have kept just about every type of fish out there and have seen many
advances in the hobby. I built and ran my own wet dry filtration system,
tried the micro reef set ups and am currently running a salt water set
up. In addition to my wet friends I have kept many amphibians and reptiles
as well as various other small pets. Recently I have been reading about
the Paludarium and once again something new has caught my interest.
The following section will chronicle my trials and triumphs (I hope!)
in my new undertaking. I will post pictures and text as I progress in
First I think we should have a definition
of what a Paludarium is:
The term paludarium comes from the Latin words paludal (pertaining to
marshes), and arium (a place of or connected to). In simple terms ,
a paludarium is an aquarium that is set up with land and water portions,
just as a real marsh would be in nature.
From my research I have determined there seems
to be four ways in which you can set up your habitat. I will list them
here with a brief description.
Shelf or slope
Emergent driftwood or rocks
- In this setup, the dry portion is built up and rises out of
the water. You can use many materials to accomplish this. Styrofoam
blocks can be carved into different shapes and then rocks or gravel
can be glued onto the surface to give a natural looking appearance.
Another way to do this is to stack rocks up and out of the water,
which makes a shelf. The rocks can be glued together to aid in
stability. You can even form your design out of a cement & sand
mixture, although I bet it will be impossible to move.. These
paludariums are said to look very natural, but may be difficult
to maintain and to construct.
Rock and land wall
- This is said to be the easiest to construct and in many ways
the most natural. It can easily resemble the flooded forest of
the Amazon. Pieces of driftwood are arranged so they are in and
out of the water. This will allow different plant species to be
placed in the dry areas. Make sure you place them so that their
roots grow into the water. You can see many examples of this in
most any river system. Many plants benefit and grow quite well
in this manner, including, Pothos vine, dwarf palms, dwarf bamboo
and Anubias. Rocks can also be used in this manner make sure they
are stacked or glued to rise out of the water.
Divided land and water areas
- In this set up the emphasis is mostly on the aquatic. You build
or buy a aquarium backing that is either made of rocks or resembles
rocks. Into the crevices you may place your plantings. In the
open areas or where there is no soil you may use the air plants
Recently my family and I went visited the  EcoTarium
in Worcester, MA. It is a very nice museum that focus on the environment.
It fits in with the theme of this page with set up for various aquatic
habitats. It even has the only working forest canopy walk in the Northeast.
Please click on the thumbnail to see some pictures of the visit and
- In this type of set up you actually divide the aquarium into two
separate distinct zones, The land area and the water area. This
is done by sealing off the portion of the tank from the other. You
can use glass, Plexiglas or even properly treated wood. You must
use an aquarium safe sealant. The land portion should have a base
of coarse stones or gravel to aid in drainage. The rest can be filled
with a good potting soil supplemented with fertilizer. Rocks and
driftwood can be placed to give a natural look. Some say that this
is not a true Paludarium, because it lacks the true mixing of land
I have decided to got with the Divided land
and water area set up. I have experience with glass and Plexiglas as
well as the proper sealing techniques. I plan on using a 40 gallon long
or the standard 55 gallon aquarium for the housing of the Paludarium.
Here is a drawing of the proposed set up with the land and water areas
defined. It also shows my filtration and heating plan. While this is
not set in stone I hope to stick to this as close as I can. In the pages
that follow I will give a step by step progress report complete with
pictures and text. So follow along with me and don't forget that you
always send me your comments and suggestions by filling out the
The four foot diagram