The Planted Tank Forum banner

Persistent Myths about Planted Ripariums

36833 Views 46 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  mistergreen
Persistent Myths about Planted Ripariums

This thread is for the discussion of several ideas about planted ripariums that aren't really representative of how they work or the best ways to plan, assemble and maintain them. I plan to raise a nuber of points and then update this first post with an index of each. Please post here if you have any questions or additional observations.

This list summarizes the main components of riparium setups and how they are put together:

  1. Taller emergent semi-aquatic plants are plented in riparium Hanging Planters, which are hung close together on the rear pane of aquarium glass.
  2. Shorter riparium midground plants are plant are planted onto riparium Trellis Rafts, which are snapped into place on the Hanging Planters
  3. As the riparium plants grow their foliage covers up the foam and plastic planters to create a natural scene.
  4. Aquarium fish with underwater plants and/or underwater hardscape complete the display for an authentic recreation of the vegetated shoreline environment.

That is beasically it. A really important idea to keep in mind about planted ripariums is that they are very simple systems. I have seen several cases where hobbyists had troubel growing their plants or making their setups look good because they were adding extra, unnecessary steps and components.

Here's the beginning of the index:

Not open for further replies.
1 - 6 of 6 Posts

· Registered
13,610 Posts
Myth #1 - You can put any kind of plant into a riparium with good results.

Not true! The best kinds of plants to keep in ripariums are those that are adapted to grow in the natural shoreline environment. While the banks or rivers, lakes and streams often have abundant water, sunlight and nutrients, they also pose speial problems for growing plants. A very important limiting factor for plants growing in this kind of habitat is oxygen availability around their roots. The amount of oxygen dissolved in water is limited to begin with, and where there is substantial bacterial activity (as there often is in nutrient-rich muddy sediments) it is further deprived. Plants that are evolved grow in wet marginal areas can thrive in these sorts of conditions, but most other plants will quickly suffer root death and perish if planted into a shoreline habitat, or a riparium planter.

Furthermore, plants that are evolved to grow in deserts, treetops, forests or vegetable gardens will also make a very poor representation of the riparian habitat. Don't you want your riparium to be realistic? There are hundreds of fascinating and beautiful plants that can grow in the shoreline environment--most of the underwater plants that we keep in aquariums can also grow as marginal emergent--so it is a much better idea to select among these when planning a riparium layout. You will have mcuh better results growing the plants and your setup will look much more like a real shoreline area in nature.
Would this myth depend on WHERE the plant was located?

Eg, in many paludariums, there are upland regions where non submersed tolerant plants can be placed in soil. Tillandsia species are intolerant, but are often planted. It does not imply that the plants cannot be used at all.

Only "where".

· Registered
13,610 Posts
Myth two: Paludariums are not a type of riparium/vise versa. Enough said.

But, good thread as usual Hydrophyte. I was in the middle of writing a short article about stuff like this myself, but I see that you beat me to it!
Okay, then how are they different again? What defines a paludarium?
You cannot define one without defining the other specifically.

A Pal has/can have some elements of a Rip and vice versa.
There is going to be dogged overlap here and this is going to get worse.

Is my tank a riparium or paludarium?

Anything above the water is terrestrial, the tank above has both of these elements. Below and above.

· Registered
13,610 Posts
Ripariums and paludairums are not the same thing.

Unlike many paludarium setups, ripariums do not have any real terrestrial area, so there isn't any place to plant upland plants.
This did not answer the question.

What is a terrestrial area? What defines that?

I'm not sure how you plan to decouple the linkage between the water and the land.

I suppose one could use the definition of the wetland soil, one that is 100% lacking in air space. So any region that has air space in the soil + some submersed growth would be defined as a paludarium?
Anything with no terrestrial root area(100% saturated sediments, water column) but emergent leaf/stem/shoot growth, would be a riparium?

Thing that bugs me is the riparium definition since is means something very different than your definition here versus the Biological side of things:

It includes both zones and the transition itself, not just one, in other words, riparium would be a better descriptor than paludarium.

"Marsh or swamp" is the descriptor for paludarium. Futhermore, "Marsh" and a "swamp" are very different to a wetlands ecologist.

It would seem more appropriate to use the term riparium for a broader range and simply do away with the paludarium term altogether. Perhaps that should be argued for rather than changing the definitions of each around.

Riparian is a river bank/stream bank, marshes are very different, but many of the plants chosen are marsh, not river plants. A few are swamp plants. Hydrophilic plants characterize these zones and not the % saturation of the sediment or submergence.

I think it would lead to much less confusion to keep the term boarder and then do away with the paludarium term, since it is less board and misnamed in general. Marsh/swamp plants really do not define what has been often called a pauldarium.

· Registered
13,610 Posts
I believe a paludarium has a portion of its footprint dedicated to land all the way to the bottom, while a riparium has water with no solid land areas that extend to the bottom...
This is a bad idea/definition, since it conflicts with the far more general term riparian zone.

We use river and marsh and swamp and many upland plants are so called true aquatics, for example Anubias, they are terrestrial plants, you will NOT find them in West Africa growing in or under water, I think one case or two etc that researchers who have spent a lot of time there have ever found them growing under water. Ammannia is a terrestrial plant in it's natural habitat. Most of the plants with keep are amphibious and have heterophylly.

Riparium would encompass what we keep better than Paludarium. It would be a more identifiable term to the newbie/novice.

· Registered
13,610 Posts
Sure you can have something that is a hybrid form of a riparium and a paludarium, but for the purpose of discussion it is useful to make a distinction between the two kinds of setups.

It will generally be easier to design and set up an appealing riparium if done in the standard way and without a built-up abovewater hardscape. With a built-up abovewater hardscape a riparium will lose some of the important advantageous features, especially modularity.

Without modifications a riparium will generally be best as a habitat for fish and plants. A paludarium, on the other hand, can be very good for amphibious animals if it is put together in the right way.
I like the term riparium much better. It is more identifiable. It also describes the processes between the submersed and emergent zones between land and water. Paludarium really is not particularly useful term IME/IMO.

I have a hard time arguing for its(paludarium) existence actually, since it is define by marsh or swamp only really.

This is actually going along more with your better terminology:thumbsup:
I would prefer the term Riparium as a broad general term, and perhaps emergent growth for leaves simply poking above the water line.

I do not consider my 180 a riparium even though it has some emergent growth:



I would suggest it has some riparium or emergent growth.

I would not call it a paludarium in either case however.

· Registered
13,610 Posts
A riparium is a setup that utilizes riparium planters and/or rafts. So, your setup is not a riparium. It appears to be a normal aquarium with emersed driftwood with emergent growth(?)

Pardon my stupidity, but what "overlap" is there? I see no overlap. If a setup doesn't use planters and/or rafts, it isn't a riparium. If it does, it is. It doesn't get any simpler then that.

A paludarium on the other hand is a type of vivarium that incorporates both terrestrial and aquatic elements. Planters and rafts are definitely not a form of land.

EDIT: Holy cow did I come in late on this. Let me read some past posts and get back on this....
Wood is the raft;)
Ever made a raft?
Ever walked down a stream or by a lake and seen plants growing on a log?

What is a raft?

I mean really, I see little difference between these so called DIFFERENT terms here. I like Riparium personally better, but simply doing away with paludarium all the way seems better.

I mean the type of planter is what makes it different?

Are these questions unreasonable that I am asking?
They seem pretty basic and simple and I'm not getting any real support for their differences in the prior post. I'm asking some rather basic questions and suggesting Riparium seems more reasonable once you get out of the water.


Paludarium's claim to have a component of each fails as well, since many riparian systems have all of these as well, and marsh/swamps might lack much submersed growth or terrestrial aerobic sediments.

I think the name chosen was poor for paludarium, and a wiser term "Riparium" is more applied to a wide range of tanks/set ups.
You guys keep trying to say it's just a hobby and that they are different, but I see little that supports this claim or view.

I can call something anything I want, say my tank "lake-arium" and then say that it applies to all aquatic systems, which clearly it does not. Aquarium simply applies to water, so it is a better description.

Where emergent growth occurs above water, and/or terrestrial systems are linked, this seems to best describe Riparium. These are not myths or arbitrary made up stuff cause I want it to be this way, these are definitions based on the root of the word.

That is why I do not like the paludarium term and why I prefer the term, Riparium.

It's pretty simple, there's no arbitrary issues with it, it describes a wider range of habitat, you/Hydrophte coined it etc.

Why even bother trying to make a big deal about paludariums at all?
Promote this and run with it. Suggest the paludarium is not a particularly descriptive word. Planters may make the hobby easier, but they do not define a habitat. Likewise, terrestrial planters still have some linkage with the water table. So the crown of the plant where the stem/root connect might help when it comes to the submersed, emergent etc.

The plants I have in my tank have roots way around the water, but are fed indirectly by the moss.

The wood acts as a natural raft.

This is something one might see along a creek which I would refer to as a riparian zone.
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Not open for further replies.