Paludarium Animals

Paludarium Animals

Previously, I explored a wide array of suitable paludarium plants. So today, I will be looking at diverse species of animals that are ideal for paludarium setups.

When it comes to animals that can be introduced into this type of vivarium, we are open to making choices from aquatic, semi-aquatic, and terrestrial species. Moreover, the choice of animals cuts across several animal groupings which comprises fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and reptiles.

Another thing to note is compatibility, since one may want to assemble different species with varying characteristics and behaviors into one enclosure. To this end, care should be taken to ensure that the preferred animals can coexist peacefully with one another; hence curbing all forms of hostility.

Whether it is a species-only or multi-species paludarium; the key to success is putting the right conditions and facilities in place to ensure healthy growth and survival of the inhabitants.

Importantly, the chosen animals should be those which their biomes are similar to that of a typical paludarium setup.

Now, let’s have a look at the list of common species that may be used to complement the aesthetics and overall setting of a paludarium.

Aquatic Animals


The aquatic section of a paludarium is designed to host both aquatic plants and animal species. Therefore, you can introduce freshwater critters that you normally keep in your aquarium setup into a paludarium. These include a variety of freshwater fish species.

However, we have to make sure that we have a large enough paludarium tank before acquiring the fish.

That is why I will list some popular fish choices for 10 gallons (40 liters) water volume tank. Obviously, the tank itself should be bigger.

Popular fish choices for a paludarium consist of the following species:

  • Guppies:

fish guppyAlso known as million fish and rainbowfish, guppy is a member of the freshwater tropical fish family Poeciliidae, and it is of the most popular fish species in the aquarium hobby.

This fish is native to South America where it inhabits freshwater and brackish water environments.

Guppy comes in a range of color patterns that are lively and eye-catching. Also, its hardiness and tolerance to varying water conditions make it a favorite choice for aquarium and paludarium setups.

Guppies will accept most fish food including flakes, pellets, frozen, freeze dried and live foods. The size of guppies can vary from 1 – 2.3 inches (1 – 6 cm) long. 

  • Celestial Pearl Danios:

Paludarium Animals - Danio margaritatusCelestial pearl danio (Danio margaritatus) is a spotted, diminutive fish species (roughly 1-2 inches or 2.5 – 5 cm) that is widely used in the hobby due to its undemanding nature and ease of care.

This small, colorful fish doesn’t need plenty of room, and it can live harmoniously with other species of freshwater fish.

Celestial pearl danio are highly active and best kept in schools of 6 or more. Despite their small size, they require at least a 10-gallon tank. 

  • Killifish:

Least Killifish (Heterandia formosa)This is another small (about 0.7 – 1.5 inches or 1.5 – 3 cm), brightly-colored freshwater fish that may be used in a paludarium setting.

Killies are fairly easy to keep in a paludarium, however, the downside is that they can be territorial to an extent and they strongly prefer live food. Otherwise, Killifish is a good and interesting addition to captive aquatic environments. 

  • Betta:

Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens)Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) is one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish in the world. This attractive fish is a little bit bigger than the previously mentioned species, averaging 2 – 3 inches (6 – 8 cm) in length when fully grown.

Although they are capable of surviving a range of different environments in the wild, Betta splendens prefer neutral pH (around 7.0), 74 – 80 F (23 – 27 C) as the ideal temperature range.

Keep in mind that these beauties are carnivores and eat a protein-rich diet! It can be a real problem if you decide to keep them with dwarf shrimp, small snails, etc. 

  • Mollies:

Paludarium Animals - mollyMolly (Poecilia sphenops, Poecilia velifera, Poecilia latipinna, and many other species) is a hardy fish species that dwell in freshwater streams as well as brackish and marine waters.

Mollies are suitable candidates for the paludarium because of their sizes, impressive color patterns, and tolerance to a wide range of water conditions.

Depending on the species, Mollies can grow up to 2 to 4 inches (5 – 10 cm). They are prolific breeders.

Generally, mollies are very friendly and peaceful fish. However, in overcrowded tanks, they can be fin nippers at times.   

  • Guoramis:

Paludarium Animals -Trichogaster laliusThis is a group of freshwater fishes of the family Osphronemidae. These include popular species like Dwarf Guorami (Trichogaster lalius) and Three spot Gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus) which are commonly used in the hobby, and they are compatible with a variety of other tropical freshwater fishes.

Being labyrinth fishes — in possession of a labyrinth organ, Guoramis tend to swim towards the surface of the water to gulp atmospheric oxygen. Guoramis are generally peaceful with similarly-sized fish, and they make excellent additions to paludariums.

Be warned, though, that small live invertebrates are their natural (and favorite) foods. 

  • Neon tetras:

Paludarium Animals -Paracheirodon innesiThe Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) is an extremely popular fish in the hobby with around 2 million sold in the US every month.

These fish are very small, with maximum length ranging between up to 1.5 – 2 inches or 4 – 5 cm at maturity.

Neon Tetras are peaceful, non-aggressive fish; they are easy to feed and take care of. All in all, they are ideal for beginners to the hobby and can make great additions to a paludarium.

  • Pygmy Cory:

Pygmy Cory Catfish (Corydoras pygmaeus)Pygmy Cory are one of the smallest fish in the hobby. Females tend to range from 1 – 1.3 inches (2.5 – 3.2 cm) long whereas their male counterparts are even smaller.

They are adorable, peaceful, non-aggressive, and very shy fish. Pygmy Cory are best kept with non-aggressive and small fish species.

Read more about it in my article “Pygmy Cory – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.

  • Endlers

Endlers – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and BreedingThis is another peaceful and hardy fish species that can survive in a wide range of water parameters.

On average, Endlers typically reach a little over 1.5 inches (3 – 4 cm) in length. 10 gallons is the minimum size for a group of 4-6 individuals.

Endler’s livebearers are extremely active and inquisitive fish.

Read more about them in my article “Endlers – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.

Dwarf Frogs

African Dwarf Frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri)African dwarf frogs (Hymenochirus boettgeri) are low maintenance and simple species to care for. They can be a great addition to the paludarium.

These frogs are fully-aquatic species. Their porous skin should be in contact with water all the time. Otherwise, it can result in fatal dehydration within 15 – 20 minutes.

If you decide to keep them with fish and dwarf shrimp you should know that they will try to eat anything that fits their mouth. Therefore, small fish and shrimp should not be kept with them.

You can read more about them in my article “African Dwarf Frogs – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”. 

Molluscs and Crustaceans:

Tangerine-head Crab (Geosesarma krathing)
Foto by Frank Teigler

Apart from the common freshwater fish species, invertebrates such as:

These invertebrates do well in captivity. They can adapt to the conditions present in a paludarium and, when we are talking about crayfish and crabs, these species are not very aggressive, unlike most others.

You can also check out my article:

Semi-Aquatic and Terrestrial Animals

  • Toads:

Paludarium Animals - Bombina orientalisFire-bellied toads — Oriental fire-belied toad (Bombina orientalis) and European fire-bellied toads (Bombina bombina) are fun to have in the paludarium. The fire-bellied toad is actually a frog and not a toad like the name suggests.

Fire-bellied toads are hardy and easy to care for, and they love a moist environment with plenty of rocks and leaf litter. In addition, they need to be fed small prey like bloodworms, earthworms, and crickets to thrive.

These frogs are pretty small. Most species of the genus Bombina are no longer than 1.5 – 2 inches (3 – 5 cm).

Fire-bellied toads tend to produce a mild toxin, though not deadly. Nonetheless, it is strongly recommended to wash up after handling them or the items they may have come in contact with.

Interesting fact: The red-bellied toad Bombina bombina is one of the oldest living forms of life on earth. They evolved from lobe-fin fishes (Crossopterygii) or lungfishes (Dipnoi) more than 400 million years ago.

  • Poison Dart frogs:

Paludarium Animals - Dendrobates auratusPoison dart frogs refer to a group of frogs in the family Dendrobatidae which are indigenous to the tropics of Central and South America.

The name “poison dart frog” stems from the use of the frog’s toxic secretions by Native Americans to poison the tips of blowdarts. Frogs in this family are brightly colored and they are known to live majorly on the land area of a paludarium.

Common species for paludaria include the Green and black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus), Yellow-banded poison dart frog (Dendrobates leucomelas) and Dyeing poison dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius), and they appreciate the abundance of houseplants — bromeliads and orchids in the enclosure.

Important: These frogs are recommended as your first pet or for newbies who have never kept toxic animals before. Do your research first!

  • Mudskippers:

Paludarium Animals - the Mudskipper (amphibious gobies)The Mudskipper (amphibious gobies) is an elongated, amphibious fish noted for its bizarre appearance and ability to breathe through the skin. They are widely distributed in coastal mangrove and mud-flat areas in the tropics.

There are 34 living species of mudskipper and some of them can grow really big (up to 12 inches or 30 cm)! Therefore, for a relatively small paludarium set up only a few species

Periophthalmus novemradiatus is thought to be the smallest species in the genus, averaging 2 – 2.5 inches (about 5 – 6 cm) in length when fully grown.  

Interestingly, Mudskippers can leave the water for extended periods of time to dwell on land. This activity is possible due to special adaptations such as their enlarged gill chambers that can retain air.

Mudskipper is best kept with other similarly-sized fish because it may feed on small fish as well as small crabs, arthropods, and snails.

Important: Even though Mudskippers have been recorded in both freshwater and full marine conditions in nature it is primarily a brackish animal.

  • Turtles:

Paludarium Animals -Sternotherus minor
Photo by Alice Monroe

Small turtle species such as the Loggerhead musk turtle (Sternotherus minor), medium-sized species European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis), and Yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) make excellent additions to a large, heavily-planted paludarium.

Since these reptiles are semi-aquatic, they will benefit hugely from the presence of logs across the water (for basking), as well as UVB lighting and plenty of vegetation. Moreover, filtration and partial water replacement should be taken seriously as turtles require good water quality to thrive in captive environments.

  • Salamanders:

Paludarium Animals - Ambystoma tigrinumDepending on the species, Salamanders can be purely aquatic like the Axolotl (Mexican walking fish), semi-aquatic, or terrestrial.

An ideal species for the paludarium is the American tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) which possess orange/ yellow or dark-grey and black markings.

Although Tiger Salamanders can alternate between the land and water areas of a paludarium — they are mainly land-dwelling.

For the terrestrial section; a damp substrate with peat moss and leaf litter should be provided to cater for the humidity needs of Salamanders as they respire through their skin. Rocks and pieces of wood or bark should be placed as well to provide ample hiding places for the animal.

Read more about “Axolotl – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.

  • Newts:

Paludarium Animals - Notophthalmus viridescens
Photograph taken by Patrick Coin. (cc-by-sa-2.5)

These small creatures are equally interesting additions to paludarium setups.

Newts (Pleurodelinae) are close relatives of the true salamanders (Salamandrinae), and they tend to spend much of their time shuttling between the water and land areas of a paludarium. Recommended species include the Firebelly newts (Cynops spp.), Pacific newts (Taricha spp.), and Eastern newts (Notophthalmus viridescens).

  • Geckos:

Paludarium Animals - Correlophus ciliatusEntertaining, agile and interactive, these words can best be used to describe geckos, and of course, they make ideal paludarium inhabitants.

Many species of geckos have simple care requirements and they will thrive in the land area of a paludarium where they can access twigs, decorations, creeping plants/vines, and houseplants. Common species include Crested geckos (Correlophus ciliatus), Mourning geckos (Lepidodactylus lugubris), and Gargoyle geckos (Rhacodactylus auriculatus).

Lastly, these social reptiles can be kept healthy by feeding them diced fruits and insects dusted with calcium supplements.

  • Skinks:

Paludarium Animals -Tribolonotus gracilis
photo by Milan Kořínek

Skinks are lizards of the family Scincidae, and members of this family are characterized by their shorter legs in comparison to those found in typical lizards.

Species of skinks like Eastern water skink (Eulamprus quoyii), the large Blue-tounged skink (Tiliqua spp.), and Red-eyed crocodile skink (Tribolonotus gracilis) may be introduced into the paludarium.

Skinks spend majority of their time on the floor of tanks; mainly on leaf litter, and they consume a variety of insects including crickets, mealworms, isopods, and beetles.

Some honorable mentions

Keep in mind that these animals do not require a lot of water in their setups. In most cases, a water bowl will be enough. It should be big enough for them to fully enter it but at the same time, it should be easy for them to crawl out. Otherwise, they will drown.

In Conclusion

If you are looking to introduce fauna into your paludarium; you can make good selections from the numerous species highlighted in this article.

It would be safer to stick to one species rather than multiple species while starting out, also, you may commence with one species and gradually introduce more as time advances. While at it, watch out for any compatibility mismatch to prevent predation or harm.

With regard to compatibility, fish can coexist with similarly-sized mudskippers, Killifish with dwarf shrimp, however, turtles will snack on your freshwater fish, crabs and snails. In the same vein, fire-bellied toads should not be housed with other species due to the toxins they possess.

Try to be familiar with the features and care requirements of a particular species before acquiring it. In addition, endeavor to provide the conditions present in the animal’s natural habitat, or it may not survive.

Also, bear in mind that the size of your tank will determine the stocking level, so if you plan on keeping multiple species — opt for a very large tank in order to establish enough space for each animal.

Finally, be sure to obtain your desired paludarium animal (s) from reputable dealers that sell captive-bred stock. This is to thwart the possibility of introducing an unhealthy or disease-ridden specimen into the paludarium.

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