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Bromeliads in the paludarium

Bromeliads make great plants for the paludarium or vivarium. They are easy to grow being tolerant of humid conditions, and look very attractive when attached to pieces of wood. They are very common in rainforests, many living epiphytically on trees; for these species planting is not necessary - they can be pinned or tied into place to create superb specimin plants amongst other smaller leaved foliage. Shop bought bromeliads are generally sold in pots, but this is more about keeping the plant upright rather than keep it watered.

A Bromeliad growing epiphytically in a paludarium
A Bromeliad growing epiphytically in a paludarium

Bromeliads are famous for storing rainwater in their overlapping leaf bases - and these can be homes to numerous animals from insects to amphibians. Poison arrow frogs are possibly the best known example; the tadpoles are deposited into these tiny bodies of water, and this is where they remain until they emerge as frogs. A tank regularly misted with rainwater will replicate their natural environment very nicely. But more than this, their thick rubbery leaves create extra surfaces to support the tanks occupants, and nooks and crannys within which to hide.

A small poison dart frog, Dendrobates fantasticus on a Bromeliad leaf
A small poison dart frog, Dendrobates fantasticus on a Bromeliad leaf

Which Bromeliads work in the paludarium?

There are thousands of different types of Bromeliad, and not all are suitable for the vivarium. Firstly many can grow very large. If you have a small vivarium, these plants can quickly outgrow their space. Secondly, some have serated or spiked leaf edges. These can be dangerous for some paludarium occupants, and again these should be avoided. The best epiphytic species include members of the genera Neoregelia, Tillandsia, and Vriesea, whilst Cryptanthus seem to be the best of the non-epiphytes.

How to care for Bromeliads

In general these plants are quite tough, though larger shop-bought plants do not always adapt to the new conditions of a humid vivarium so well. Try and keep them in a humid environment, but not too wet. A sure sign of too much humidity/insufficient ventilation is the rotting of leaves. Many tanks have wetter and drier areas, and it may be necessary to move your Bromeliad if it does not seem happy where it is.

A newly planted Bromeliad with flower stem
A newly planted Bromeliad with flower stem

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