Paludarium set up guide in detail – 2020


Paludarium has gained a lot of popularity among expert aquarists. A bio-active paludarium can serve as a calming retreat providing endless hours of relaxation and entertainment to you. can be an great way to display a variety of plant and animal lives in the aquarium.


In this guide, you will learn about how to setup a paludarium as well as information about the best paludarium plants and animals that you can put in the semi-aquatic habitat.


Category Rating
Level of Care Difficult
Paludarium Setup Plants and Aquatic and Terrestrial Animals
Aquarium Size At least 10 gallons.


What is a Paludarium?


Paludarium is a Latin word derived from ‘Palus’ which means marsh and ‘arium’ which means a place. You can put a range of terrestrial animals, aquatic animals, and semi-aquatic plants in the aquarium. It can house different types of species that are not possible with a simple aquarium.


By building a paludarium, you combine the land and water environment. The living enclosure for animals, plants, and fishes replicates the natural riverbank. They look like a work art that greatly improves the ambient of the room.


Fish are the staple of a paludarium. You can also put in salamanders, frogs, lizards, turtles, invertebrates, and other reptiles that thrive in semi-aquatic environments. Creating a community paludariums are a challenge since you would need to balance the requirements of a range of fish and reptiles.


The problem is that reptiles and fish may survive in the wild. They are not a good combination in an enclosed space. Many types of reptiles such as turtles are predatory that will eat fish.


But whatever the challenges involved in building a paludarium, you will find that it will create a breathtaking representation of the natural environment that will captivate and impress everyone


How to Make a Paludarium


how to make a paludarium


Paludarium building process is easy if you do it in stages. It is recommended that beginners should start small with about ten gallons and work their way up when they gain experience. A regular glass aquarium is recommended for building the semi-aquatic habitat.


Here are some of the general steps that are involved in building a paludarium.


Step 1 – Planning


The first step is to plan the land and water area. You should add the terrain first and then the water. A watertight tank is important to create a seal between the land and water portion. This will prevent flooding and allow the semi-aquatic and terrestrial species to live peacefully inside the tank.


A recommended material for use as a divider is plexiglass. But you can use any material that is watertight and safe for use in an aquarium. You can use a silicone to prevent leakage. After determining the land and water area and purchasing the divider, you can start building the paludarium.


Stage 2 – Build the Land Part


You can build the paludarium yourself or buy land paludarium kits from the fish stores. The land part can be built using sand, wood, or rocks. You can also use pots or bowels to create land area in the terrain. You should select any material that will be easy to remove for cleaning.


There should also be a drain at the bottom of the land area to prevent flooding in case the water level gets too high. This should be separated by a fleece sheet that is buried in the nutrient rich soil.


After you have built the land part, you should populate it with decorative items and other pieces that are important for the animals and plants to survive inside the enclosed space.


Decorative Items


Once you have built the land area, you should decorate it using décor pieces such as cork, resin ornaments, or hardwood decorations. You can stick the pieces together using a sealing resin or attach them with lengths of plastic vine decorations. Foam sticks can also be used to join the decorative pieces. But make sure that they are placed in a way that the pet animals don’t get trapped.


Heat Mat


A heat mat should cover the glass panel from the start of the land section to the top of the paludarium. Buy a heat mat that can be controlled using a thermostat.


Moreover, a digital probe thermometer is recommended to ensure that the temperature is kept at the required level. You can attach the probe o the glass panel that is being heated and the opposite glass panel.



Buy a compact top canopy or a LED canopy with a combination of LED and UB bulbs for the lighting. The lighting should be moderate level as bright light disturbs the animals.


For reptiles, the canopy should be designed in a way that it will allow a good basking spot. It should contain hanging plants, rocks, and branches that serve as a shelter for the terrestrial animals.

Ripariums that are a type of paludariums run straight from water to the canopy. You can place a driftwood pieces that create an appearance of a tree shooting out of the water.


You can place custom backdrop on the driftwood such as epiphytic plants. These attach directly to the hard surface of the driftwood and don’t require a substrate such as gravel or sand.



Adding a misting is also recommended to water the plants inside the enclosed land space. The misting device should be aimed at the area where plants can catch water. Consider using distilled water as this will reduce mineral staining on the walls.


Stage 3 – Build the Water Part


build the water part


The water portion should have all the elements contained in a standard aquarium – filter, heater, substrates, and plants. You can use riverbed sand, pebbles, or a mixture of the two as a substrate for the semi-aquatic habitat. Also, consider adding de-chlorinated water as chlorine water is harmful to fish.


To avoid disturbing the substrate when adding water, you should pour the water through a plant pot or any other implement with fine holes. After adding water, you can add floating or submerged plants.


After adding the plants, you should add the hardware such as filter and heater and test the water condition.


Consider testing the water for two weeks before adding any fish or other animals. It will provide time for the plants to root in and expose mistakes in the placement of the plants. You can easily move the plants around if necessary.


Once the plants are thriving inside the paludarium, you should start adding fish and animals. It is recommended to start with a few fish and shrimp and gradually add other animals.


Always add animals and fish in small batches to ensure that the water condition is not disturbed significantly. It also gives the time of each group to properly acclimate to the new environment.


The submerged section can have different species. But it is recommended to put a single species such as frogs, lizards, salamanders, or turtles on the top section. You can add dwarf white woodlice, Amano shrimp, and springtails to recycle waste and keep the algal population in check.


Stage 4 – Create a Floating Shelf


A floating shelf is recommended to serve as an area where terrestrial animals can be around water without being fully submerged. You can use different materials as a floating shelf such as driftwood, PVC, or cork.


You can also grow moss on the floating shelf that will serve as food for the animals in the semi-aquatic habitat. Moreover, peat can also be added in the shallow water to create a suitable environment for semi-aquatic plants.


Congratulations! By following the above steps, you have built a paludarium that you can populate with different animals and plants.


Best Plants and Animals to Populate a Paludarium




Remember that a paludarium mimics a marshy environment. You should keep this in mind when shopping for animals and plants for the semi-aquatic enclosure.


Selecting the right fauna and flora is important so that they can thrive inside the specific ecosystem. The setup should remember the plants and animals that are contained in woodlands, rainforest, and swamp.


Aquatic Animals


Aquatic animals include all animals that swim in the water. You should select any aquatic animal that swims in freshwater or saltwater. You can pick either saltwater or freshwater aquatic animals but not both. You can also select crustaceans like snails and shrimps if you select compatible fish.


Semi-Aquatic Animals


You can also select semi-aquatic animals for the enclosure. Examples of semi-aquatic animals that can thrive in the ecosystem include springtails, turtles, frogs, newts, salamanders, crabs, and pill bugs. Mudskippers are also a great choice that will come out of the water to rest in the land part.


You can also put lizards that thrive in semi-aquatic environments like the Chinese water dragon and iguanas. In the natural habitat, these lizards like to come out of the water to bask in the warm sun.




Select plants that thrive in semi-aquatic environments. The enclosure represents a tropical habitat. You should remember this point when picking plants for the habitat. You can choose different types of plants for the habitat.


Terrestrial Plants – Terrestrial plants should be rooted in a dry part of the habitat. The planted area should have access to water through a misting device. You can find a misting device in your local or online hardware or pet store.


There should be a moist or dry substrate layer that should allow the water to be completely drained out after watering. Examples of terrestrial plants you can keep inside the habitat include mini ferns and moss.


Immersed Plants – The immersed plants are rooted in the water. But they sprout leaves and stems above the water. These plants are easy to set up and care.


You should select immersed plants based on the design you have in mind for the semi-aquatic habitat. Recommended immersed plants for the habitat include Ammania, Pothos, and Hygrophila.


 Submerged Plants – The submerged plants are submerged underwater. The roots and the leaves of the plant are completely submerged under the water. Good examples of submerged plants that you can keep in the habitat include the Java fern, Christmas moss, and Amazon sword.



Jungle Plants – You can also add many different types of jungle plants to the water section of the habitat. Consider about one to two vine species and a bromeliad that will serve as a centerpiece. The vines will cover the bottom section and are a great way to cover the habitat with foliage.


Air plants such as java moss can also be added to the taller areas of the artificial enclosure. These can be placed on epiphytes and ornamental driftwood.


You have a large number of options when it comes to decorating the enclosure with plants and animals. However, you should consider sticking to a few aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal species.


This is important as looking after lots of different variety of plant and animal species require a lot of time, effort, and cost.  


Most people select slow-growing plants as they won’t require frequent trimming. You should also consider the compatibility of the different animal species for the habitat.


The plants and animals you select will also depend on the type of paludarium you want to design. Some aquarists go the extra mile and mimic the natural environment to the tee by including only those animals and plants that are found in the swamp, stream, or wetland areas.


Related Questions


How to Build a Paludarium Waterfall


A waterfall is an optional feature that can greatly improve the aesthetics of the semi-aquatic habitat. You can make a waterfall using rock or wood as an elevated surface from where the water will flow down and a filter to move the water.


You can built-in or closed system waterfall that is the most common in paludariums. The water is pumped up from the water portion and poured on the wood or rock formation in the land portion. The waterfalls back from the land portion to the aquarium portion.


Another type of waterfall is a separated waterfall. In this type of waterfall, the water drains from the main tank to a separate tank known as the service or sump tank after which it is pumped again to the main tank using a submersible pump. This type of waterfall is more complex and requires a plumbing experience.


You need to cut pipes and make holes in the aquarium material. But it has the advantage over the built-in type that you can control the water temperature and quality. By using a valve, you can also control the water level in the main tank. Moreover, you can connect a different tank to the main drain header and service tank.


What are Paludarium Kits


You can buy different types of paludarium kits. They are great for beginners who want to jump-start their hobby without having to go through the spadework involved in building the semi-aquatic habitat. Depending on the type of animals and plants, you can pick a different type of paludarium kits.


  • Nano Tank Kits – Nano tank kits are cheap and best for beginners. You can keep different types of animals inside these tanks including dart frogs, crustaceans, and other types of tetra species.
  • Tall Tank Kits – Tall tank kits are best for people that want a tank with different tall territorial plants. The setup allows you to keep a wide variety of plants and animal species.
  • Wide Tank Kits – Wide tank kits are the best for the ultimate aquarists. You can add both large and small animal species inside the tank. Moreover, it allows optimum lighting that lights up the entire tank.
  • Exo Terra Kits – The exo terra paludarium is a semi-aquatic kit that can harbor both plants and terrestrial animals. The kit replicates a swamp, stream, and rainforest allowing you to add a wide variety of species of animals and plants in the tank.


What is the Difference Between a Vivarium and a Paludarium?


A vivarium is a tank setup that allows you to keep both aquatic and land animals. In contrast, a paludarium is built specifically for semi-aquatic animals and plants. It mimics the environment of the rainforest, wetland, and swamp.


Can Crested Gecko Live in a Paludarium?


Crested gecko and other types of lizards require a vivarium. They require a drier environment to thrive. You can put semi-aquatic animals in the paludarium including frogs, fish, newts, turtle, and salamanders.


Wrapping it All Up: Is a Paludarium Right for You?


Paludariums may seem intricate and challenging for new aquarists. But it is not that difficult to build as compared to a simple aquarium. Building a simple semi-aquatic habitat is easy.


They are popular since they combine the elements of different types of tanks allowing one to keep a wide variety of animals as pets in one space.


By building a paludarium, you can have a diverse habitat in the tank that provides a treat to the eyes for enthusiasts and hobbyists. The best part is that you can add your creative touch in designing a paludarium.


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