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Designs under and over water

A paludarium, also called aquaterrarium or waterfall aquarium, is the fusion of an aquarium with a terrarium. Mostly, paludaria serve as a habitation for amphibious animals such as frogs or semi-aquatic crabs, but also reptiles such as turtles. Typically, an aquatic part passes into a land area. The special form riparium is dedicated to the design of a riparian zone. Paludaria replicate swamp-like biotopes, accompanied by higher humidity. In order to maintain these conditions, special technical or structural measures are necessary.

land part of a paludarium

In addition to paludaria for animal keeping, pure designs with a focus on aquatic plants are possible as well. In terms of content, these forms are closely related to the topics Wabi-Kusa and drystart. Due to the special format aquarium plants can be cultivated and viewed both in their submerged (under water) and emerged (over water) forms.

Necessary technology

The technical equipment of a paludarium is quite similar to that of an aquarium, and there are some congruities, such as filtering and lighting. The technology should, however, be adapted to the slightly different circumstances. Important in the aquaterrarium or paludarium is the subject of humidity. We will take a closer look at the individual points below.

Glass tank

The latter often have a much lower front screen. As a result, the view of the design is not disturbed by the front screen, which is often more or less opaque (and also less attractive) due to condensation. Attention: If animals like crabs are kept who like to go hiking, you have to choose a closed system! In fact, a classic aquarium can easily be converted into an aquaterrarium or paludarium by adapting the technology a little to the new conditions.

Do!aqua - waterfall aquarium - 30 x 30 x 30cm, 5 mm

The Do!aqua waterfall aquarium is a typical waterfall aquarium with a lowered front. Matching this, an extra deep filter inlet and a jet pipe as filter outlet made of glass are included. The steps made of glass facilitate a design rising up in the back of the tank, ensuring the waterfall effect.


Basically, the aquatic part of a paludarium needs the same equipment as a classic aquarium. Here, too the water needs to be kept clean by use of an appropriate filter. The low amount of contained water, respectively the low water level in the tank needs to be kept in mind. Some internal filters (for example the corner filter by Dennerle) can be operated horizontally and are particularly suitable for low water levels. When using an external filter, the in- and outflow pipes need to be adapted to the water level. The inflow should reach down far enough, that it doesn’t take in air through its slits. As filter outflow, we recommend a spray bar or another, multichannel solution. In this way you can split the end of a thick filter hose into three smaller hoses with a 4/6 mm diameter. This slows down the waterflow significantly. In this manner, the different setups can be watered individually and precisely.

hose distributor


The lighting should be designed to provide light to the plants both below and above water. Here you can fall back on lighting systems that can be installed, for example, very high up. In this way, higher hardscape- and plant constructions can be sufficiently lit. A good choice would be the ADA Aquasky High Type or the A-plus series by Chihiros.

Chihiros - LED System - A451 plus


Particular attention needs to be paid to humidity in your paludarium, aquaterrarium or waterfall aquarium. If you keep typical aquarium plants emerged, they will most likely dry up and die. It is easier to keep humidity at a sufficient level in a closed system than in an open paludarium. When using an open tank, the plants need to be regularly sprayed with water, which may happen manually (with a handy spray bottle) or automatically by use of suitable technology. Suitable for this are e.g. sprinkler systems and ultrasonic foggers available for terraristics. An easy alternative is the method of sprinkling mentioned under Filtration above, using a multichannel filter outflow (e.g. a spray bar). When working with the staircase design in plants and decoration, you place the filter outflows as high as possible in your paludarium, so the water can permanently flow downwards over plants, stones and wood and supply them with enough moisture on the side.

ISTA - Glass Spray Bar Set

Other technology

Should higher temperatures be required (e.g. for certain animals), a heater should be installed. Here, too you can fall back on more compact and shorter variations (e.g. the Dennerle Nano ThermoCompact). If you want to supply your submerged plants with an optimum of nutrients, a CO2 system is indispensable. As with the filter tubes, the low water level must be taken into account, so a diffuser that can be installed deeply enough needs to be chosen.

As of late, the DOOA series from Aqua Design Amano has been made available in Germany. This new series has a strong paludarium and wabi-kusa focus and offers beautifully designed products, required for successfully running an aquaterrarium. Designs with aquatic plants are priorized.

Example setup

I closing, we’d like to show you by example of an awesome scape by Sascha Hoyer, what beautiful designs can be achieved in a paludarium. For this scape, a Do!aqua waterfall aquarium was used.

Paludarium by Sascha Hoyer

Copyright by Alexander Bachmayer.