For three years, I’ve shared my cubicle with a small jungle. That’s not a reference to my coworkers, or the mess on my desk, but a paludarium.
The word paludarium stems from the Latin words “paludal” (relating to marshes) and “arium” (a place of, or connected to). That is, an environment that combines both water and land. The real fun of a paludarium terrarium is showcasing a tiny, growing garden with living inhabitants, like fish or amphibians.
I have seen some incredible paludariums and vivariums handmade by intrepid do-it-yourselfers. Lacking the time and drive to construct a mini ecosystem from rough materials, I was lucky to obtain a commercial setup with the background, lighting, and filtration already built-in – the Water’s Edge Bio-Habitat. This model has since been discontinued by the manufacturer, but it’s basically an Eclipse system with a molded rock-and-log background. Eclipse kits would be a great place to start if you want to build your own paludarium, as the filtration already provides a natural waterfall setup.
Since I had the land and water areas ready-made, I could move straight into choosing plants and animals. This can require a lot of research! You may envision a lush rainforest with fish swimming, salamanders crawling, and frogs hopping among the vines and flowers, but the reality is that few species are suited to sharing such a small environment. Salamanders and newts require cooler temperatures than tropical fish do. Many frogs secrete toxins, and will eagerly attempt to eat any tankmates if they don’t poison them first. Fish must stay very small, or be able to live singly. Even if different species at first seem to be “getting along,” the potential for disaster and loss of your animals is high.
So I had to resist the urge to overpopulate my new paludarium, and chose two firebelly toads (Bombina orientalis). I stopped by the local greenhouse and picked out two small ferns, and was graciously given some ivy and pothos cuttings from around the office, as well as a bit of java fern for below the water’s surface. I added some natural-looking gravel substrate, and it was beautiful. The sound and movement of the waterfall had everybody stopping by, and finding the toads peeking out of the leaves was a fun surprise. It was a small, green haven, and a great place to “visit” if I needed a few peaceful moments out of the day.
My paludarium has really evolved in the past three years! I’ll go over some of the changes and additions I’ve made to mine, as well as what you can use to make your own paludarium, in another post.