Aquatic Terrariums (Paludariums)

An aquatic terrarium, commonly referred to as a paludarium, is a type of terrarium that combines both terrestrial (land) and aquatic (water) elements. It is designed to simulate a natural environment where land and water meet, such as riverbanks, swamps, or mangroves.

Key Characteristics

Integrates both aquatic and terrestrial environments within a single enclosure. Includes a water section that can range from a small pond to a deeper aquarium-like area. Contains a terrestrial area with plants, soil, and sometimes small land-dwelling animals.Features a gradient or transition zone where the land meets the water, often planted with semi-aquatic plants.

Components of a Paludarium

Aquatic Area

Clean, fresh water is essential. This area can house fish, aquatic plants, and other water-dwelling organisms. A water filter is necessary to keep the aquatic environment clean and healthy. If housing tropical species, a heater might be needed to maintain the appropriate water temperature.

Terrestrial Area

Use a suitable substrate like coconut coir, sphagnum moss, or soil mix for the land section.

Select terrestrial and semi-aquatic plants that thrive in humid environments. Incorporate rocks, wood, and other decorations to mimic a natural landscape.

Transition Zone

Substrate Gradient: Gradually transition the substrate from the land to the water area.

Plant Selection: Use plants that can tolerate varying levels of moisture, such as mosses, ferns, and grasses.

Setting Up a Paludarium


Plan the layout, considering the needs of both land and aquatic inhabitants. Ensure you have all necessary equipment, including a suitable tank, filtration system, lighting, and heating.

Creating the Water Section:

Install Filtration: Set up the filter to maintain clean water. Fill the water section and dechlorinate if necessary. Add aquatic plants like Java moss, Anubias, or aquatic ferns.

Creating the Land Section:

Use substrate and hardscape materials to form the terrestrial area. Add plants suitable for high humidity, such as pothos, ferns, and mosses.

Establishing the Transition Zone:

Gradually slope the substrate from the land to the water.

Plant Semi-Aquatic Plants: Include plants that can thrive in both moist and submerged conditions, such as Cryptocoryne and marsh plants.

Final Touches:

Use full-spectrum lighting to support both aquatic and terrestrial plants. Introduce compatible animals, ensuring the species chosen can coexist harmoniously.

Differences from Other Terrariums

Unlike standard terrariums, paludariums include a significant water feature, often with live fish or other aquatic life.

Paludariums can support a wider range of biodiversity, including aquatic plants, fish, amphibians, and terrestrial plants and animals. The combination of land and water environments requires more complex maintenance, including water quality management and humidity control. Paludariums are generally more complex to design and maintain compared to traditional terrariums or aquariums due to the need to balance both land and water ecosystems.

Benefits of Paludariums

Provides a beautiful, dynamic display that mimics natural habitats. Supports a variety of plants and animals, creating a rich, interactive environment. An excellent opportunity to learn about different ecosystems and their interactions.


A paludarium is a fascinating type of terrarium that blends aquatic and terrestrial environments, creating a versatile and visually appealing ecosystem. By carefully planning and maintaining both the land and water components, you can enjoy a thriving, diverse habitat that brings a piece of nature into your home.