They say that good things come in small packages. That’s absolutely true when you’re talking about jewelry, but when it comes to aquascapes you might have a hard time finding people who are gung-ho about subtlety. Many aquarium enthusiasts like to go larger-than-life with incredibly elaborate aquascapes that include vibrant coral and eye-catching fish.
Well, you can have it both ways. Aquariums are usually filled to the brim with water, but you might want to consider using water as a supporting feature to the main centerpiece. I am, of course, talking about puddle aquariums. That’s not an official name exactly, but it’s pretty descriptive of the concept. Puddle aquariums use a small body of water and a large, dry centerpiece — usually a piece of driftwood or a miniature water-loving garden.
This unique paludarium layout will seriously limit your options when it comes to selecting aquatic wildlife. You’ll have to stick to fish or amphibians that are comfortable in shallow bodies of water. Also, puddle aquariums don’t give you a very good view of fish from the side. Discus fish, for example, have tall, flat bodies that are absolutely gorgeous when viewed from the side. With puddle aquariums, you’re probably better off sticking with creatures that have an interesting top-down profile, such as catfish or frogs.
In fact, I highly recommend considering amphibians in a puddle aquascape. Most of the aquascape will be dominated by comparatively large land mass, so it’s usually a good idea to capitalize on that real estate by populating it with eye-catching reptiles and amphibians.
You might be wondering: why create a paludarium with such a small body of water? Why not balance out the land-to-water ratio at 50-50? Those few inches of water can fundamentally alter the overall feel of an aquascape. A completely full aquarium looks like a lake or part of the ocean. A paludarium that is split 50-50 between water and land feels like a river bank or tidal pool. Once you drop the water level to about 10 or 25 percent, you suddenly shift the focus away from large bodies of water and create a jungle-like aesthetic. The shallow body of water feels like a seasonal stream or a puddle — a temporary body of water that enhances the beauty of the nearby landmass.
Essentially, the water changes how we perceive the land mass. The tangled mass of plants transforms from an everyday garden to an overgrown jungle scene that’s teeming with life. It feels significantly less manmade. As tempting as it might be to create a paludarium that combines water and land in an even 50-50 split, a perfect divide like that will inherently look somewhat artificial. So, embrace the organic asymmetry of nature with a striking puddle aquarium!