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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

January 15, 2013

Combining Land and Water with Paludariums

By David Lass


Some stores may be missing out on significant selling opportunities simply by not considering setups where land meets water. Paludariums (yes, I am going to go with that for the plural—I find “paludaria” very awkward) are interesting ways for your customers—whether experienced hobbyists or beginners—to combine fish with terrestrial creatures.

A number of the best known manufacturers offer ready-made paludariums as well as simple ways to convert a standard aquarium into land and water portions. There are plenty of different options for paludariums, and I would like to suggest a few possibilities.

Fish and Terrestrial Plants
The easiest kind of paludarium to set up is one in which half, or a little more than half, of the tank is filled with water, while a land area takes up the rear of the tank and the top third or so. This can be achieved by using silicone aquarium sealer to install a piece of glass inside the tank either straight across or on a diagonal. The glass should come up about halfway or two-thirds of the aquarium so that it creates a barrier between what will be the land portion of the paludarium and what will be the water portion. You can then fill in the rear area with gravel—up to just a couple of inches below the top of the glass barrier—and top it off with soil. A similar effect can be achieved by simply using good pieces of rock and driftwood.

Mudskippers make good inhabitants of brackish water paludariums.
The water portion of your paludarium can be filtered with any of the small self-contained pump and filter units, or even with an air-driven box filter using carbon and floss. You can provide a submersible heater for the water section, although there are many fish that will do well in this setup at room temperature.

Plants for the air portion of this paludarium can include any of the Java ferns, bamboos or dracaena. Crypts will also do well in this arrangement, although if you want to grow them out of water, you need to keep a glass cover on the paludarium to keep the moisture in the air section.

Brackish Water Paludariums
Some of the most interesting paludariums involve brackish water fish, specifically mudskippers and archer fish. These fish do well in the same type of setup described above but with the addition of some sea salt and a tight fitting cover. The mudskippers will spend most of their time out of the water, and they are especially fond of perching on branched driftwood. The archer fish will take live crickets from the branches and dried mysis shrimps floating on the water. The mudskippers will take first shot at the food, so you need to make sure that the archer fish are have enough to eat.

A Warning about Frogs and Crabs
While there is a temptation to stock the land portion of a paludarium with other critters, such as hermit or fiddler crabs and frogs, it is important to be careful about the specific ones you use. Land hermit crabs will not like the humidity of a paludarium, and they may drown if they fall into the water. The same is true for the brightly colored dart frogs—they can easily drown in just a small amount of water. Please be sure to properly research the animals first.


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