Setting up a Paludarium
| With the tank sealed and leak tested it’s time now to try to hide everything and give the set up a realistic appearance. My theme is going to be a small cross section of a rocky stream. This was determined when I went with the “Divided land and water area” method of construction which gave me a fairly tall vertical wall area. The width of the standard fifty-five does not allow much room for a gradual slope. I was a little concerned on how I was going to hide the Lexan and at the same time preserve as much water area as I could. I thought of a couple of different ways. One was to smear silicone over the Lexan and cover the walls with small river stones, another thought was to glue small pieces of rock to the sides until it was completely covered. While I was in a local shop I found a rocky background made out of plastic and fiberglass, that was only 1/4 of an inch thick. I bought this and tested it for color fastness under water. I then cut it into pieces 1/8 of an inch higher tan my Lexan walls. Then I cut it into smaller pieces to glue on the Lexan face. There are some small white lines where the cuts were mad but I am hoping that algae and other materials will hide them from view. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.
Due to the steep wall of the riverbank, I am concerned the semi-aquatic animals will not be able to easily climb out of the water section. I have made a sloping “beach area” that will allow the animals to swim up to and crawl onto the land. This area will be opposite the waterfall and above the micro jet pump. Because I will need access to the pump every now and then I have to make the beach removable. I silicones a cross brace in the front area and make a supporting column in the back. To add a little realism to the beach I covered the Lexan with sand. I have dry fitted the filter and heater in the waterfall well to make sure it will fit properly, it looks like everything will be fine. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.
The next step is to fill the land area. It is very important in wet environments to have good drainage in the soil. To help with drainage the bottom layer will consist of round landscape stones. This layer will be an inch or so thick. On top of the the stones I will place a layer of landscape fabric to keep the soil separated from the stones, this will also make it easier if I have to change the soil. On top of the fabric I am placing a layer of charcoal, this will help sweeten the soil and control odors and other bad elements. The final layer is the soil itself. I chose a very lite mix with no added fertilizer. It said it was suited for terrariums and I hope will do fine.
With the land side completed it is now just a matter of finishing the water side. As this is suppose to mimic a small stream with a waterfall, I am going to use a few different materials for the bottom. Near the waterfall I will use larger round river stones placed in a pile, to show that they have fallen from the bank from the water flow. The main channel of the stream will be the medium sized river stones, I purchased from the local shop. The inner bend and the beach area will be a fine sand material. I am trying to think how flowing water would separate the materials in nature.
This completes the basic set up of the land and water areas. I now will place some driftwood pieces and rockwork to complete the landscaping. Once this is done I filled the set up with water and started a run in period. During this period I will be making constant adjustments and looks. Once I am fairly satisfied I will add the plants next to give them a chance to establish themselves. You may have noticed that I have deviated from the traditional sloped back appearance of the Paludarium, these pictures may explain why. If you look you can see that the set up is on a stair landing and will be visible from the front and back. This also was the determining factor in the depth of the water. I made it just as deep as the overhang, this way I will not see a dirt line when viewed from the back. On the next page I will show the plants I have chosen with pictures and care sheets.