Paludarium is an artificially simulated marsh that functions as an ecosystem. Aquarists use it for breeding their various animals and plants at one location. However, they take a lot of effort and funds to develop.

Keep reading to learn how to build your own and what kind of animals you can house.

What Is a Paludarium

The paludarium is a place that mimics the conditions of a marsh or swamp and can accommodate a vast spectrum of plants and animals; semi-aquatic, land, and water. It derives its name “paludarium” from Latin origin, which means marsh or swamp related.


The aquarium has separate areas for different species of animals and mimics a self-maintaining ecosystem like a rainforest. Since it has portions for land and water in the same aquarium, it houses quite a large amount of them than a standard tank would have.

The paludarium is not entirely covered with water or land but a balanced mix of both. It copies bogs, swamps, jungle wetlands, rainforests, beaches, streams or riverbanks, and marsh. An aquarist controls the ecosystem’s outcome.

A terrarium is like a tank housing only plants, while the aquarium breeds sea animals. The paludarium or aqua terrarium is a combination of terrarium and aquarium in one location or tank. It is a land and water aquarium. The aquarist building the paludarium discerns the space portions they prefer to allocate to terrestrial or aquatic animals as there are no rules for sharing them.

However, most hobbyist ensures the water is enough to give the fish and sea animals sufficient space to flourish as in their natural habitat. Also, they use a good expanse of land to house terrestrial bodies and grow plants.

Plants and Animals in a Paludarium

The types of animals found in a paludarium include lizards, frogs, crustaceans, tropical fish, and shrimps. Plants common in this form of habitat are mosses, orchids, been, and epiphytes.

Some plants grow on the land and others in the water; they maintain and balance the biosphere. Nonetheless, a paludarium containing aquatic and semi-aquatic plants but without animals is a terrarium.

How To Build a Paludarium

As a beginner, you have to build your paludarium in stages. First, you must consider the aquarium’s type and size; you can start with a 5-gallon capacity and expand from there.

But for a large paludarium, you would need more space. Some aquarists use glass tanks but make sure the setup materials are safe for aquarium use.

1. Design

The aquarist has to draw a plan for how the paludarium should look while paying attention to size, the type of animals and plants, and quantity. The plant design for the aquarium can be a water bank or vegetation wall to allow the growth of different plant types.

  • For Animal: Your design should consider keeping a variety of animal species at the different sections of the paludarium. For example, a paludarium with fish would create the perfect water conditions for them. At the same time, the frogs will stay at the shallow waterlogged places. If their environmental conditions are right, they can reproduce and multiply. If you plan to breed non-climbing species like the mudskippers, you have to set aside a low sloppy area close to water. It would allow the animal to go in and out of the water.
  • For Plant: Paludarium plants take more extended periods to settle in as they need to grow and acclimatize to the soil of the paludarium, unlike animals. However, they are a crucial part of aquatic and terrestrial animals because they make animals comfortable. Some animals feed on the plants or use them to mark their territories, while a few need them to mask and hide once they feel threatened. You can make plans by deciding the plant types and the positions to put them. For example, cut some epiphytic plants, Anubias, and a java moss and attach them to stones, cork bark, and woods.

It is vital to note that not all plants would thrive in a new paludarium, some may flourish, and others would die off.

2. Construction

Hobbyists recommend plexiglass as a safe aquarium divider. A waterproof seal is crucial to divide the land from water to prevent floods. You can create the land from materials like rock, wood, and sand, bowls (turn them over to mimic hills). However, if you use the bowl, it may be inconvenient to clean them as you run the paludarium.

It would be best if you used foam sealant to bind materials so they can bend into different shapes. Construct a drainage system using coarse stones on the terrestrial area in case of a flood. You can fill the remaining land portion with soil mixed with fertilizer.

3. Paludarium Substrate

Select and add the soil, then consider which plant thrives near water and in water. Furthermore, add in the canopy; they are the top layer of the aquarium. They are branches, rocks, wood, and shelter, primarily for land animals.

4. Water

Water should be the last stage and should have the correct parameters of the species you want to breed. They regulate humidity in the paludarium. Water plants release oxygen and help purify the water; you can use a submerged filter. However, the water portion has to be recycled before introducing the animals into it.

5. Floating Shelf

It is an area where the land animals can rest without entering the water like a riverbank. You can simulate this space by developing a shelf made from PVC, cork, or driftwood.

Alternatively, You can pile and glue rocks together to create the floating shelf or mold a cemented platform. You can plant moss on the shelf as a tank substrate or put some peat to give the aquarium a bog look. The idea is for the aquarium to look natural yet easy to maintain.

6. Waterfall

A waterfall is optional but creates a divine finish look. A lot of paludariums have it, but it is not a vital need apart from aesthetics. You can create the effect with a filter and a raised surface area such as rocks. Recycle the water adequately to get it ready for the animals.

7. Driftwood/Rock

You can construct the driftwood and rock to mimic that of the rain forest. Place logs of wood in the water and on the land randomly. It permits you to place plants on dry surfaces while the root is in the water. Some plants (like Anubias, dwarf bamboo, pothos vine, and dwarf palms) flourish this way. You can use stacked rocks in like manner and place epiphytes.

Paludarium Tank

You need to consider three major factors when selecting a paludarium tank.

  • Types and quantity of plants
  • Types and quantity of animals
  • Lightning

The size of the tank, types of substrate, and filtration are also crucial in your decision-making. However, All paludariums have unique layers to recreate a perfect ecosystem. To achieve this, you must conclude what each layer’s function and design are. Then plan towards it to integrate well with others.

1. Types and Quantity of Paludarium Animals

You need to plan which animals would thrive in your paludarium. You can have a mix of aquatic, semi-aquatic, and terrestrial paludarium animals.

– Aquatic Animals

When people hear about aquatic animals, they think of fish first. However, a lot of animals apart from fish live in water.

  • Fish: the freshwater species are the perfect choice for the paludarium. Here are some suggestions; Killifish, Angelfish, Mollies, Danios, Gouramis, Guppies, Catfish, Arowana, Mudskippers, Bettas, Cichlids, Sharks, African butterflyfish, Tetras and Archerfish.
  • Crustaceans like shrimps (Amano, Cherry, Ghost, etc.) They give your paludarium a variety range, feed on plant matter and debris, yet produce the least waste.
  • Snails (Mystery, Nerite, etc.)
  • Invertebrates and eels.
  • Crab; fiddler, purple Vampire, and Mandarin.

– Amphibians

Amphibians are an exciting addition to a paludarium because of their distinctive skin textures and behavioral traits. Some amphibian choices are salamanders (American Tiger and Fire), newts (Eastern, Firebelly, Pacific), frogs (green, Bull, and poison darts), Axolotls, oriental fire-bellied toads, and mudpuppies.

– Reptiles

Reptiles are optional because you do not want to overcrowd the paludarium. However, you can add reptiles like lizards and turtles because they are small-sized animals and would not take up much space. You can also add snakes if you are sure that they would not threaten other animals constantly.

Other reptiles to add into your paludarium are Bog turtles, mud turtles, ornate diamondback terrain, blending turtle, musk turtle, red-eared sliders, loggerhead musk turtles, southern painted turtle, southern angel head dragon, spotted turtles, Mississippi map turtle, Boyd Forest dragon, wood turtle, green three python, common snapping turtles, carpet python, bluetongue skinks, geckos, boas, corn snake, milk snake.

Territorial confrontations are common amongst animals, particularly the large range contained in a paludarium. Plants help reduce frequent fights, but it never really goes away as some animals do not just enjoy being around each other. It is crucial to know that some plants are poisonous to certain species, so vet and double-check before placing them in an enclosed space.

2. Types and Quantity of Paludarium Plants

Plants can also be categorized as aquatic, semi-aquatic, and land plants because, like animals, they also inhabit these locations.

– Aquatic Plants

A paludarium contains less quantity of water than a standard tank, and it can result in short unhealthy-looking aquatic plants. It means they lack water content, like a “dehydrated” Amazon sword would cramp as it grows.

Select plants that flourish in the amount of water your paludarium can offer, like creeping plants, to solve this issue. Spread them out in strategic positions, so they serve their purpose and do not hinder sunlight penetration. You can also use plants that require soft light.

Floating plants are also great because they look good. Fish can spawn on them, and they purify the water—for example, the water lettuce and duckweed.

– Semi-Aquatic Plants

They are plants whose roots immerse in water; they grow on water, such as the Anubias, java moss, African water fern, and java fern.

Some other plants have their leaves and roots in the water. An example is the Devil’s ivy plant; it is widespread for home aesthetic purposes. However, it is ideal as a paludarium because it has room for animals to sit on it.

Other plants to consider are hydrophilic and Miramar weed because they are popular and easy to come across. They grow in and out of water columns.

– Land Plants

The right land plants you should get are the types that need little maintenance and can adjust and grow well with the conditions in your paludarium, like Epiphytes. They are air plants and can flourish in hot environments. Other examples are bromeliads, orchids, and tillandsia.

Moss is another excellent suggestion because they trap humidity and distribute it across the area it grows on. But they are tricky as they have specific needs for light and water. However, some moss is aquatic, while others are land plants. An example is java moss, and it grows where there are constant moisture and intense humidity.

3. Paludarium Lightning

When building a paludarium, a source of light is very crucial. Most aquarist uses LED because you can set them up quickly, and it has a low maintenance routine. They are also safe for plants and animals.

However, some animals (such as turtles and lizards) need heat, so they need a hot bulb to charge their surfaces. Additionally, plants require photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR) and a higher concentration of light than animals. Determine the needs of the plants and animals individually and pair them in surface areas that favor them.

Half Land – Half Water Aquarium

There are some standard setup features for a half land, half water aquarium.

1. Half Land and Half Water Set Up

In this aquarium type, the bottom layer is for water, and the top is dry land. But it is not an equal split between them as the water can be deeper or based on the number of aquatic animals you have. Your land portion can also have more reptiles, amphibians, and turtles.

2. Customizing a Half Land – Half Water Aquarium

  • You can use sliding glass doors for the areas where you have the land animals, the amphibians. The aquarium may be self-serving, but you need to clean and feed the animals from time to time. The doors give you easy access in and out of the aquarium.
  • Add in stands and canopies to help your aquarium be sturdy and have a professionally finished look.
  • The glass tank gives a clear view of your aquarium, and it is aesthetically pleasing. It is like you have a mini rain forest in your home. However, acrylics are a better option; they last longer and give a similar finished look.
  • The most efficient way to separate the aquarium is to elevate the portion you want for land from the ground up. You can use sand, plastic rocks, and wood to develop the hilly illusion.
  • Draw out the terrain and decide how you want it to be. The land portion must be sturdy and firm, so it does not collapse into the water as it can endanger your animals.
  • Cover all the surfaces in the paludarium, particularly the items you used to achieve the hills and elevation. You can use styrofoam, carve them into shape.
  • Select and add in plants and animals.


  • The paludarium lasts for years and gives you a sense of fulfillment.
  • They are self-serving, yet you have to recycle the water and feed the animals.
  • Many paludarium is created for tourist and aesthetic view because they look exactly how a rainforest should.
  • Some paludarium help increase animal and plant species.
  • Some animals do not get along, so they cannot co-exist in the same paludarium.
  • A paludarium cannot be less than a 5-gallon aquarium.
  • Make use of durable and sturdy materials to ensure the safety of the animals.
  • Because of leakage and floods, use a waterproof seal for the water portion of the paludarium.
  • You can use foam sealant and glue to construct the different fixtures contained in a paludarium, like a floating shelf and hills.
  • Heat, lighting, and moisture are essential for plants’ and animals’ survival in the paludarium.
  • Select plants that are low maintenance, like air plants.
  • Your paludarium space must not be 50 percent each; allocate space according to the number of animals and plants.

The paludarium requires a thorough thinking process and a laid-out plan because it has to be safe and practical. If you already own an aquarium, why not expand and build a paludarium. The effort is worth it when you look at the miniature rainforest right in your living room!

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