Paludarium – A Complete Guide (Tank, Plants, Care & More..)

A paludarium is a great addition to any home. Unlike an aquarium, a paludarium blends the best of water and land to create a true ecosystem where diverse plants and animals can live together in one space.

You can keep many types of plants and animals in one area. Things like freshwater fish, shrimp, and a variety of different plants.

Once all the right pieces in place, a paludarium is very easy to maintain. The ecosystem that is built will maintain itself. Seeing nature in action is where true beauty lies. The paludarium allows you to catch a glimpse into the beauty of nature.


What is a Paludarium?

First, we need to discuss what exactly a paludarium is. You may have heard or owned an aquarium or terrarium. An aquarium houses life in the sea (either freshwater or saltwater). On the other hand, a terrarium houses life on land. A paludarium combines the two into a new type of ecosystem.

You can simulate many types of ecosystems in a paludarium. Here are a few you can showcase: rainforests, streams, wetlands, and swamps. These ecosystems are known for biodiversity. This gives you the opportunity to populate your paludarium with many different plants and animals.

These are very popular because paludariums are very easy to set up and easier to maintain. The key is to choose the correct plants and animals before beginning the construction on your new habitat. You can even introduce some interesting animals.

How to Construct a Paludarium

Think outside the box and get creative! You can make a paludarium of any size. The only limiting factors are where you want to put it and what things you want in it.

Remember, these are supposed to simulate ecosystems, so do your research before purchasing plants of animals. But once you have settled on the type of paludarium you want to create, get started.

One thing you can do to help you on your first build is to watch a tutorial. There are tons of videos to watch, based on all different types of ecosystems. Make sure you are constructing your tank around the ecosystem you want. If you choose some of the wrong plants or animals, it can be difficult to maintain down the road.

The first area we focus on is the canopy. This is the area where the tallest plants and rocks meet the top of the paludarium. Do not overlook the canopy as it provides shade and shelter from sunlight and temperature conditions.

Next, we move on to the land. Remember to build this part before adding water because you will be using sand, soil, rocks and wood. It gets difficult to work with those items in water. Try to envision the ecosystem you are trying to emulate when building this section.

Finally, we add the water. The main reason for the water is humidity. We are simulating a wet area, and the plants and animals will need this. You can add rocks or sand in the bottom of the tank for aesthetic purposes.

Think through your environment before beginning. Some animals only stick to the water (like fish or shrimp), some will stay on land (reptiles), and some will move between both (salamanders, newts and turtles).

The last thing to consider is making sure you are creating homes for your animals. Many of the plants you include will take care of this for you, but do not overlook this section. All animals want privacy, and some want it even more than others.

What Tank to Use

This is really up to you. Think about what you want in your paludarium when determining what size you need. A 10-gallon or 5-gallon tank is usually fine. Try using a 5-gallon tank as a beginner. It goes great on a desk and is a little less maintenance.

If you are thinking about including a small waterfall (a lot of paludariums do this), you may want to look at a larger tank. It needs to have enough height and depth to create the waterfall. A larger tank also gives you more options and combinations of plants and animals.

Get creative! There are so many ecosystems you and build in the tank. Check what the needs of your ecosystem are, determine the size requirements, and start looking for a tank to meet your needs. Most of the time, you can just use any aquarium tank of any size.

There are many websites to look at when trying to find a tank that matches your needs. Do some research and find what fits your budget and your paludarium needs.

Types of Plants

The great part about a paludarium is that you can choose what kind of plants go in it. Think about how much time you have and want to invest in maintaining your paludarium. You can choose low or high maintenance plants for your tank.

Here is a great piece of advice: choose plants that are slow growing. That way, you do not have to spend time trimming and pruning those plants as they grow. This will ensure that your tank will look tidy with minimal effort.

There are so many different plants you can choose. Each of them has their own use in the tank. We will cover each of them in a little more detail, so you can pick and choose what you want.

Vines are a really cool addition to the tank. Especially if they climb because these will give your animals some hiding places and homes. In addition to that, they can protect your animals from sunlight or temperature changes. They are decorative as well.

You can choose to add ferns in your tank. They do grow quickly and may need to be trimmed, but they take up space and provide shade for the fish and animals. Make sure to choose ferns that would actually grow in the environment and coexist with the animals you choose.

Another great choice are some floating plants. They are very beautiful and create shade for the fish in your tank. They are also food sources for some freshwater fish species that you may choose to include.

If you are trying to emulate a particular ecosystem, make sure you are purchasing plants that naturally grow in that ecosystem. This will help compliment the animal life you put in your paludarium as well.

Types of Animals

Research is the key in this area. Make sure the fish you choose will be able to thrive in the ecosystem you are choosing. Most forms of freshwater fish are a good choice for almost any Paludarium.

When choosing the types of fish in your Paludarium, try to choose one, two or three species that would exist in the ecosystem of your tank. Choosing the wrong species could cause issues in how they interact with one another as well as the overall health of the tank can be diminished.

One of the most interesting points in building a paludarium is that you can use animals that cannot exist in an aquarium! We will discuss some of the animals that you can include in your tank to make the research a little easier.

Frogs are a great addition. They are easy to maintain and, usually, are very good swimmers, so they can use both the land and water aspects of your tank. You can purchase them as tadpoles at your local pet store.

Newts are also interesting because they frequently move between land and water. You do have to be careful about what fish you add to the tank because some newts will see them as food. If you add these, you will need to feed them pellets or meaty foods.

These animals add to the ecosystem of your tank because of how they interact with each other and the plants. Featuring invertebrates can help keep the tank clean. Snails and shrimp scavenge the leftovers from the animals eating the plants.

Again, make sure you do your research on which animals to include in your tank. These animals will thrive in a healthy tank, but bad decisions can create more work for you and an unhealthy tank to deal with.

Adding animals really pulls everything together. Now you truly have an ecosystem where animals, plants and water all coexist and create a self-sustaining tank. Just make sure you choose the right species because some invertebrates (like snails) are food sources for other animal species.

Caring for the Paludarium

This is a great part to talk about. If you take time to plan out your tank before you begin constructing it, you will be better off in the long term. Choosing the right plants and animals to populate your tank is absolutely critical.

Almost all the life in your tank is self-sustaining, if you provide them with what they need to thrive. This means making sure you have enough dry land and water. Depending on what ecosystem you are basing your tank on will determine the amount of water will be in there.

Incorporating animals can help your tank become even more efficient because you are building an actual ecosystem cycle. If planned accordingly, the fish and other animals will use the plants for food (taking away the need to feed them regularly but may add the need to replace plants eventually).

As the fish and other animals use the plants for food, they create waste that needs to be cleaned. To solve this problem, you can add some scavengers to your tank. These can be snails and/or shrimp. These will clean up the waste for you.

All in all, the key is planning and research. If you plan it before you build the tank, you can incorporate plants that animals can use for food and scavengers to clean up waste. That can create the closest thing to a self-sustaining tank.

Special Paludarium Challenge

As we discussed, a paludarium is very versatile because it combines land and water to bring out interesting ecosystems. One of the most interesting choices is to make a peat bog in your paludarium.

A peat bog is primarily made of moss, both living and decaying. They are found in wet, cool climates around the world. While the moss decays, it creates low pH levels in the soil and water. This type of environment is interesting because only a few things grow here.

One of the interesting things you will find in a peat bog are the plants. The low pH levels create low nutrient levels as well, particularly, low nitrogen. The type of plants that thrive in this environment are mosses, ferns, cranberries, and carnivorous plants.

This is a special challenge because these carnivorous plants require very particular living conditions to survive. They require low nitrogen and nutrients. The nice thing about this paludarium design is that they only need to be lightly fed and maintained once constructed.

Other plants can be grown here as well. You can include other plants to round out your tank. Remember, we are still adding water to the tank. Using distilled water works best for the plant life.

In the water section of the tank, you can include a variety of fish. These could be Betta, Labyrinth Fish, or Tetras. They will use the roots of the plants, and the moss as cover and homes. With some luck, they could spawn there too.


Paludariums are a great way to create a living ecosystem in an artistic way. They are great additions to any room or office because they are self-sustaining and easily maintained. Make sure to do the proper research ahead of building the tank.

Adding plants and animals really pull the paludarium together. The animals can use the plants for food and scavengers will clean up after them. This ecosystem cycle usually makes a paludarium easy to maintain for beginners. Keep things fun and fresh with a paludarium!

Leave a Comment