A paludarium is an artificial interface of air, land, and water habitats and the living creatures in all environments. It may imitate any natural such interface (fresh water ponds, rivers, waterfalls, salt water tidal basins, etc.) or it may be a fantasy that exists no where else on earth.

There are plants that live completely underwater, some that live partially in water and emerge into the air and plants that can't stand to have wet feet. This needs to be planned for. Animals may include fish, amphibians, insects, and small mammals or birds if the environment is large enough.

Things that need to be considered when constructing a paludarium are the needs of the living creatures housed there - they should be compatible, in terms of temperature, best pH of the water, humidity for the land creatures, lighting, fresh or salt water, territorial needs and adequate space for all creatures. It is helpful if the critters eat the same food. Usually one doesn't want the creatures to eat each other but there are exceptions to this. Arowana fish are a favorite for paludariums and ants or flies in the land portion are fair game for their food. Arrowana shoot jets of water and knock the insects off branches into the water before eating them.

Practical considerations include construction. Combinations of wood, rock, sand, soil or decorative gravel can form the land. True interfaces can be constructed or the water can be artificially contained and the land built next to the container. The water will need to be filtered and the land will need to have drainage. A lid may be needed to contain the creatures and/or to hold the lighting fixture. Paludariums need a fair amount of space. Count on at least a 55 gallon glass box at a minimum for much of a display, although this is not a hard and fast rule. Smaller paludariums simply will have to have fewer plants and animals. Smaller volumes of water are also more difficult to maintain in terms of temperature stability and water quality. 10 gallons of actual water volume is a good minimum to aim for. Water creatures should be limited to 1 inch of animal per gallon of water available. All normal aquarium maintenance chores, especially periodic partial water changes and the dechlorination of tap water, need to be done. Plants need to be fertilized without contaminating the water. Some paludariums will use the waster water to fertilize the plants and the plants to filter the water. Fish produce nitrogen wastes which plants thrive on.

For an example of a poorly planned paludarium consider those narrow necked vases with a plant whose roots grow into the water below in which a male betta fish is housed. Some even say the fish will be happy just eating the plant roots. Well, bettas need air, they need meat based food and the plant needs more nutrients than it will get just from the single betta's waste products.

An example of a wonderful, huge paludarium is the Amazonia exhibit at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. The water is about 4 feet deep, with glass fronts one can peer through or look over to see the surface. In the background are trees and other plants whose roots are parially in the water and whose branches overhang the water. (Note the exhibit is free but timed tickets must be obtained to enter, plan your day ahead of time).

For great “how to” directions go to my source, which was:


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