Play Video

Aquatic Lizard – Giant $7,000 Paludarium

By Tank Tested on

Alex: Hi. I’m Alex and this is Tank Tested. Today, I want to share with you an aquarium that caught my eye at Aquashella, Dallas. This is a truly massive paludarium built by Custom Aquariums. It’s home to some beautiful and rare animals, but we’ll get to them later in this video.

The enclosure itself is six feet across, two feet front to back, and five feet tall, that gives you a total volume of 60 cubic feet, which is enormous. The actual aquarium part of the setup is also pretty big. It holds about 135 gallons which is larger than any aquarium I’ve ever owned.

Now, I generally don’t film what’s underneath an aquarium. Well, today is no exception. You’ll just have to trust that there is a sump down there that brings the water volume up to about 200 gallons. Why did this tank catch my eye, aside from the obvious fact that it’s gigantic? Well, to answer that question we have to look at a second aquarium I featured on this channel. It’s another paludarium. Paludariums are special amongst planted aquariums because you can mix terrestrial plants with aquatic plants. You can even bridge the gap with transitional plants that actually have a different form above and below the water line.

You can see what a fully grown out paludarium can be in another one of my videos. A link is in the corner if you want to see the entire setup. Now the plants at the setup at Aquashella were largely artificial. There were a few live plants in the mix though. There was a large bromeliad which this frog found quite comfortable, and some aquatic swords below the water line, but the other plant's in this tank were fake which actually makes sense, so hear me out. This tank was set up at a trade show.

New plants take a few days to a few weeks to orient themselves towards a new light source. They can take a while to look organic as a result. This tank needed to look good from day one. In addition, there is a Godzilla like creature in this tank that would probably wreak havoc on plants that weren’t fully established, but we’ll get to him soon enough.

In a few months, I’d love to see this set up again fully planted and lush, but you need to go with plants that only require moderate humidity in this tank. That's because this set up uses an aluminum grate in its top that allows a lot of air to pass in and out of the aquarium. Now, I talked with Ted Judy of Custom Aquariums. He explained they could install a solid top if their customers requested. Maybe you want high humidity for the plants or animals in the setup. This aluminum grate system lets out enough humidity that the front glass stays clear of condensation.

The most conspicuous part of this set up is the large backdrop and the big logs in this tank. They are all artificial, and it was created by Universal Rocks. Now to me, artificial seems like your only option at this scale. Building something solid out of real hardscape would weigh hundreds if not, thousands of pounds, and it would cost a jaw-dropping sum of money. If you’re really crafty, you can build your own hardscape structure which is something I’ve actually been working on with my friend Nick. Look for that tutorial. Prefabricated rocks like this are a great option as well, especially because if you use a drill and a little bit of tubing, you can get little waterfalls all over your structure incredibly easily, which can really allow you to fill in your hardscape with live mosses and live plants.

The other aspect of this set up I wanted to mention were the sliding glass doors at the front of paludarium. Without them, I don’t really know how you could do anything in this tank. Imagine trying to do maintenance on an aquarium that’s five feet deep and the rim is more than seven feet off the ground. That said, if this were my set up, I would have asked Custom Aquariums to put the access doors on the side of the tank rather than the front. That way, you could have a totally uninterrupted view of the scape. It would mean you wouldn’t be able to have a backdrop that wraps around all three sides but that’s trade-off I think I’d be willing to make.

Now, under the water line, there’s a collection of South American fish. There are a few dozen neon tetras here, and a dozen or so Colombian tetras. There’s also a pretty big collection of angelfish in this tank. They’re very good at disappearing into the shadows. That’s a bummer for me filming the tank, but I’m sure it makes them feel more comfortable as angels really thrive in a heavy cover environment. Finally, there is one other animal in this enclosure, the caiman lizard. They are a semi-aquatic lizard from South America and they grow to be quite large.

This guy is probably about half the size of a full-grown adult. While they spend a lot of their time in the water, like any lizard, they need a place to bask which is why there are heat lamps in the enclosure and areas for them to lay in. My instinct is that if this were a permanent home for this guy, he’d probably need a few more horizontal surfaces in the terrestrial half of the habitat, so you’d have to design your scape with that in mind. Now, caiman lizards typically don’t hunt fish. They mainly eats snails in the wild.

They can coexist happily with the fish in this tank. In fact, they all have the same temperature requirements for the water. Because these are big animals with a big [unintelligible 00:06:12] you really need to keep up on your water changes to keep everyone healthy and happy. Personally, they aren’t an animal that I would keep, but I think it’s a pretty awesome tank that gives you a great idea of what’s possible if you’re willing to spend the cash. This whole set up with everything in the tank is somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 which is more than I’ll ever be spending on an aquarium, but it’s still pretty amazing given the size and the setup.

I’ve left a link to Custom Aquariums in the description of this video if you’d like to check out of their work. I’ve also left a link to the Aquashella Convention because without them, I would have never gotten to see this set up. Now, hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already and I’ll see you next time with another video.

About Tank Tested

Alex Wenchel from the YouTube channel, Tank Tested, has been aquascaping and keeping aquariums for over twenty years, sharing his knowledge and expertise with the YouTube community. Watch the video filmed at Aquashella, Dallas 2019 here, and check out his channel for some great info on aquarium care.

"Tank Tested was created by me, Alex Wenchel. I've kept aquariums for more than twenty years, but it's only been in the last few that I've gotten into aquascaping. By trade, I'm a documentary and natural history filmmaker based in Washington, D.C. and I've been producing digital series for years. If you'd like to see some of the series I've produced, check out Nat Geo Wild's Wild_Life with Bertie Gregory or Symbio's Wild Warrior."

View More

Connect with Tank Tested