Looking at other peoples paludariums can be hugely inspiring, especially some of the well established tanks with mosses and ferns disguising the structural features. Studying alternative approaches in paludarium design, execution and planting is rewarding, and can give lots of new ideas for installations of our own, whether they hold tropical rainforest animals or not. A 'how to' paludarium if you will. Please enjoy the images on this, and the following pages. If you have a paludarium you would like to share with the world, please send an image and any relevant description to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A beautiful water's edge paludarium with luscious fauna. This paludarium is set up with land along the back and water in front. This is quite a common layout, especially for paludariums that focus upon fish, or mostly aquatic species. Note, some plants are permanently planted, others are in pots. Species include Anubias Java moss, creeping fig (Ficus pumila), and a Tillandsia air plant, a type of Bromeliad. This is the perfect set up for a few small fish, perhaps killifish, and/or frogs; and a good selection of marsh plants. As the Anubias get bigger they will eventually produce emersed leaves, which can make an excellent 'stairway' up out of the water.
The second image shows the same tank, a year later. Some potted plants have been exchanged, and the creeping fig has nicely covered much of the back and sides, and is even growing down into the water. A large plant like this can drink heavily, absorbing nitrates and other nutrients from the tank water.
An up-close view of the center of this paludarium. The central plant with purple and yellow flowers is Tillandsia ionantha 'Rubra' - a wonderful epiphytic airplant with very attractive foliage and flowers. They are cheap to buy, readily available, and make a great feature plant, absorbing moisture from the air within the paludarium. Above it is the ever-present creeping fig, with some rather nice Cryptanthus 'pink star' bromeliads to the right.
An ultrasonic mister (top right) bathes the plants in thick fog.
The use of mosses and small-leaved creepers creates a wonderfully realistic water's edge, especially when the plants are all well-established, as is the case here. Tropical plant care in the paludarium is all about balancing the light, temperature and humidity requirements of each species.
The paludarium can contain some truly beautiful plants. In this case delicate orchids sit side-by-side with permanently planted creepers and ferns. Plants that need seasonal variation in temperature or humidity in order to flower are best kept potted, so they can be removed for a winter's 'break'. Many orchids fit this description. Growing bushy creepers around the bases of these plants can help disguise their pots, for a more natural feel.
An incredibly beautiful Paludarium with plants growing out of the tank. This tank is split from back to front rather than along the back. The land portion occupies the left third of the tank, the water the two thirds on the right. As well as grasses and ferns, note the larger feature orchids. The wonderful pink and yellow blooms of two Phalaenopsis orchids making a real statement in the center of the tank. Although orchids love the humidity and moisture of a paludarium, ensure no splashes of water (from waterfalls etc) land on the plant or it's roots. Over-wet roots are the quickest way to kill a Phalaenopsis.
The clever use of woodwork optimises growing space, with Tillandsia bromeliads growing above the water's surface. Water plants include Anubias, which breaks up the boundary between water and land.
This display is clearly newly set up, and in time, the ferns will take over much of the left side of the tank, with mosses growing closer to the water's edge.
These two incredible paludaria give an idea of what can be possible. Both have large aquarium sections, with little 'land', but the height allows a wonderfully rich array of epiphytic plants such as bromeliads to grow right up the back wall. Both have cabinets below the tank to hide away the necessary filters and pumps to keep such a set up functioning. Custom display cabinets like these are expensive, but make truly impressive features in any room.
The 'land' portion of a paludarium can be as simple as a large semi-emersed bog wood, or a pile of smaller pieces. This allows the growth of wonderful semi-aquatic mosses, and other marsh epiphytes. Small frogs absolutely love this zone, and will spend much of their time by the water's edge, sitting on moss and enjoying the moisture. The water portion of this tank is planted with crypts, some of which are starting to grow emersed from the water.
This wonderful 3 foot wide tank has a waterproof glass bottom, and adequate front window ventilation to keep the front glass clear. Although marketed as a Terrarium, it works as the perfect Paludarium. Front-opening doors, and removeable top for easy access and effective maintenance. Available in a wide range of sizes: with a larger surface area for ground/water dwelling species, or taller for leaf dwellers. Suitable for just about any paludarium inhabitant.
The top is equipped with closable inlets on both sides - this allows access for wires and tubing without offering an escape route for paludarium animals or the tiny invertebrates with which they are being fed. Suitable for powering Heat Wave rocks, waterfalls, filters and sensors, or injecting water through misting systems, external canister filters, etc.
All in all a great enclosure, providing a perfect environment for plants and animals, yet easy maintenance for the paludarium keeper. Available from Amazon and other good pet stores.