Are you a glass-half-full type of person? Well, what about a tank-half-full type of person? Would it bum you out to see a half-empty aquarium, or would you be excited by the mix of the aquatic and terrestrial worlds?
Behold the paludarium, an amazing aqua/landscape that lets hobbyists enjoy their favorite species from both biomes. Paludariums allow you to combine fish, land plants, aquatic plants, amphibians, reptiles, and insects all in one flourishing miniature ecosystem.
Wait a second. Paludarium, aquarium — I’m noticing a similarity in these words. Both of these “ariums” fall under the larger umbrella category of vivariums. Latin for “place of life,” a vivarium is space that is used to raise plants or animals. Aquariums are vivariums that are devoted to fish and other aquatic creatures, while paludariums (stemming from the Latin word for “swamp”) include a combination of water and land.
Why do I bother mentioning this? Well, mostly because people in the hobby don’t use these words correctly. Some readers might get halfway through the article and think, “Hey, wait a second — that’s not a palu-whatcha-call-it, that’s a vivarium!” That’s because a lot of people refer to paludariums as vivariums, probably because “paludarium” is kind of hard to say. So, I want to clarify that this article is all about paludariums, even though you might know of them by their more colloquial nickname, “vivarium.”
One of the biggest advantages of paludariums is that they allow you to show off a unique array of wildlife. Not only could you mix and match aquatic-only plants and fish with air-breathing land animals, but paludariums are also the ideal habitats for creatures like frogs, newts, or salamanders.
This allows paludariums to truly capture the swamp aesthetic. Granted, most people would prefer brightly colored coral reefs or lush aquascapes with crystal-clear fresh water, but there’s just something viscerally appealing about the swamp biome. They’re not exactly beautiful in the most traditional sense of the word, but they do have an undeniable allure. They feel more mysterious and feral than their devoted aquarium counterparts. One popular fixture in paludariums is a fog machine, which gives the habitat an otherworldly mystique while keeping the air in the tank comfortably humid.
Kind of looks like it came out of Jurassic Park, doesn’t it?
That’s probably the coolest thing about paludariums — they replicate an environment that people almost never get to see — well, unless you happen to live near the Florida Everglades. It’s kind of ironic, but coral reefs, one of the most secluded and difficult-to-reach biomes in the world, are so adored for their beauty that they’re replicated everywhere. You see saltwater coral displays in homes, businesses, and huge for-profit tourist aquariums. Paludariums, on the other hand, are so rare that some readers are probably seeing these manmade swampy biomes for the first time.
Paludarium, meet Reader. Reader, meet paludarium. Here’s hoping that I can play matchmaker and hook you two up for a lifelong relationship. I know a few of you are thinking that these paludariums look cooler than aquariums. Go ahead — don’t be afraid to admit it. Just because the aquariums are the favorite “arium” the world over, that doesn’t mean that you have to step in line and conform. Embrace your inner swamp hermit! Crawl through mud! Catch wild frogs! Explore the marshland! Wrestle alligators! OK, maybe not that last one, but you get the point. Paludariums have a truly stunning and unique type of beauty, and there is absolutely nothing stopping you from appreciating them from the comfort of your home.