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Paludarium newbie

5326 Views 6 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  -serok-
I've read a few threads and think i'm ready to give a paludarium a go. Do I just need egg crate to build up the land areas and expanding foam to cover it? Must it be cork bark for the background (seems really expensive) or could a background be made with the foam or Styrofoam? What is the expanding foam coated with after it cures or is it just painted? How do I create a waterfall in the tank coming from the background? I would use my canister filter with the spraybar but it only seems to work if the water depth is so far up the intake.. Sorry for all the questions but I want to get started and need some direction!
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There is about a thousand different ways to do a paludarium. For the background you can use corkbark, tree fern fiber, styrofoam coated with something, great-stuff coated with something, lava rock, etc.

I've done a couple of the stryofoam ones, and I just coated it with an epoxy/sand mix. I've read builds where people have used silicone or drylock, but I don't have any experience with those myself. One of the advantages of treefern fiber or corkbark (and I imagine coir matts as well) is that you can stick mosses and epiphytes on it pretty easy.

For the waterfalls, most of my builds had a built-in filter, usually just a small chamber with a sponge for biomedia, and a powerhead/pump set in the chamber, and a hose/pipe going through the background to the waterfall.

If you haven't, you should take a look over at

It's quite a bit smaller/slower then this site, but there are a lot of threads on various paludarium and vivarium builds, and they are all beautiful. Lot of people with some really good experience and ideas over on that site.
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Thanks alot for the info, from what I gather I can use expanding foam for the background and cover it with black silicone and cover the silicone with tree fern fiber? And for the land areas I can use egg crate as a frame and cover it with the foam, then silicone/drylok and paint it or cover it with tree fern fiber? Just need to know the basics :)
A lot depends on what you have easy access too. Certainly the foam/eggcrate approach is a viable approach and one that is used successfully all the time. But once done can't be undone very easily and I think is a mess to remove.
There are plenty nice paluds with just rocks and logs. with little hummocks of moss ferns and even anubias.
With the paluds I've made I have a small pump to shoot water up into the air which dramatically raises the humidity in the tank.
I've only tried a couple different methods myself. I've read about probably hundreds of builds, but that's not quite the same as actually doing it myself.

I think if you are coating something (stryofoam, great stuff, gorilla glue, etc.) with silicone, and working in something (I've usually heard of people using peat, but I imagine you could use broken up tree fern fibers), the color of the silicone probably wouldn't matter too much, if it were me, I'd probably go with whatever is cheapest (I'm assuming window/door clear?).

Then again, if the stuff for texture manages to break off, black silicone would probably be less noticeable then clear, and unless it's significantly more expensive, or you are doing a really huge paludarium, the cost increase probably wouldn't matter much.

When I mentioned treefern fiber, I meant the actual slabs of it - you can get it in 'boards' that are ~1" thick or so, pretty much like they took a tree fern, and cut it up like a regular tree for lumber. It doesn't look great by itself (though, it doesn't quite look horrible either...), but stuff (ferns, mosses, epiphytes) grow on it pretty well, and it's light and easy to work with. I've also heard that a lot of times it will spontaneously grow tropical moss, but not something I've witnessed myself, so...

People do use the broken-up fibers for various things, as components of mixes, etc., but I think if you are looking for something to mix in with silicone, it's probably better to go with something smaller-grained, like peatmoss or something (plus, it's cheaper...)

And as greenman857 said, you can do a really nice looking build without an intensive background/hardscape. Well positioned rocks and driftwood and stuff can provide a lot of 'terrestrial' space that looks really nice. Some of it depends on what you want to put in your pal/viv. If you don't plan on having any primarily terrestrial critters, most plants can do just fine in little 'pockets', and most aquarium plants will grow out of the water if given a chance.

Anyways, whatever method you decide to go with, give it a chance, vivs/pals look best once they've had some time for the plants to grow in, and I think they are what really makes a viv/pal look amazing.
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Thanks again for the replies guys, really helps alot. If I was to create the land areas with rocks and drift wood, would I use something as a raised base or just build the rocks up to the height I want them? Do I create gaps in the rocks and just put soil in the gaps and plant in them or do I have to put a container in the gap first? I would really like a background that I could plant in but it seems that cork bark to cover the back of my tank (48x22") is going to cost close to £100 which is a bit more than I want to spend on a background.. Just want something that looks decent and would be relatively inexpensive. I want fish in the water areas and maybe newts/frogs or something for the land areas.
Hi there!

I set up a riparium some years ago just with lava stones, lava gravel, sand and soil, but without background. For my taste that looked really nice and clean. The whole hardscape wasn't too expensive. Have a look...
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