Riparium Aquarium Style

by Sep 7, 202126 comments

Now that you already determined the ideal location and dimensions of your tank, it is time to think about your planted aquarium style. This article will discuss the different aquascaping designs to unleash the inner artist in you, specifically the Riparium Aquarium.

Aquascaping is the art of arranging aquatic plants, driftwood, rocks, stones, and even the substrate in an aesthetically pleasing and natural manner.

You probably searched on the internet and were overwhelmed by tons of aquascaping images and still cannot decide. So in this article: the main characteristics, what tank to use, light, substrate, if you need CO2, what filter, fertilizer, hardscape, what fish and plants will be discussed to help you in your decisions.

Table of Contents

Riparium Aquarium Style
Pros
Cons
What Tank to Use?
What Light to Use?
What Substrate?
Do I Need to Inject CO2?
Filtration
Do I Need to Dose Fertilizers?
Hardscape
Aquatic or Semi-Aquatic (Faunas)?
Plants Selection
Submerge Plants
For Carpet/Foreground Plants
For Midground/Background Plants
Plants on Hardscapes
Emergent Plants
Marginal Plants
Floating Plants
Conclusion
Closing Remarks

Why is it so important to know the different aquascaping designs?

These are no strict rules, and there is nothing that will hinder you from getting out of a particular design’s theme and combine it with other styles.

However, you’ll probably can create a much more appealing result if you are following a particular style.

So without further ado, here are the most common styles/designs you’ll see in planted aquariums.

Dutch Style showing Dutch Streets 8 ft x 18 in x 13 in High-Tech Aquascaped by Jay-r Huelar Philippines

Dutch Style

This style is characterized by many different assortments of plants and leaf types. Carefully planning and designing a multitude of textures, shapes, and plants’ colors is the main focus. It is much like the terrestrial plants that are displayed in flower gardens. It commonly employs raised layers, or terraces, known as “Dutch streets” that taper towards the rear to convey the perspective of depth.

Aquascaped by Jay-R Huelar Philippines

Nature Style 12x12x10 in Low Tech Aquascaped by Fritz Rabaya Philippines

Nature Style

This style re-creates various terrestrial landscapes like hills, valleys, mountains, rain forests, even a half-submerged ecosystem, etc. This design has limitless potential for beauty and creativity. The Nature aquascape or Ryoboku Style encompasses the same core principles of Japanese gardening techniques.

Aquascaped by Fritz Rabaya Philippines

Iwagumi Style Aquascaped by Monnette Arañas Philippines

Iwagumi Style

It is a style that is characterized by its daring stone formations, elegance, simplicity of open space with carpeting plants only, and dedication to conveying a natural and tranquil setting. The style features a series of stones arranged according to the Golden Ratio, or Rule of Thirds. There should always be an odd number of stones to prevent the layout from balancing.

Aquascaped by Monnette Arañas Philippines

Jungle Style Aquascaped by Franco Chester Pongco Philippines

Jungle Style

The Jungle Style encompasses the wild, untamed look. It is the complete opposite of the Dutch style, more organized and looks like a conventional tulips garden. The Jungle style overlaps with the core elements of the Nature Style except that the Jungle Style has little to no visible hardscape and limited open space due to the overgrown plants. The plants are even allowed to reach the surface and beyond.

Aquascaped by Franco Chester Pongco Philippines

Hardscape Diorama Style Aquascaped by Michael Yap Philippines

Hardscape Diorama Style

The Hardscape Diorama Style is still a subset of the Nature Style. The only differences are emphasizing using a lot of hardscapes and building complex nature-like structures such as forest, caves, bonsai trees, canyons, or even fantasy worlds. Dynamic skills should be mainly displayed here to create an illusion of depth, scale, and proportions.

Aquascaped by Michael Yap Philippines

Paludarium by Yuno Cyan Philippines

Paludariums

A Paludarium is a type of vivarium that contains water and land in the same environment or encasement. The design can simulate natural habitats such as rainforests, jungles, streams, riverbanks, and bogs. In a Paludarium, part of the aquarium is underwater, and part is above water.

Aquascaped by Yuno Cyan Philippines

My Riparium in its Full Glory Before Trimming

Ripariums - You are Here

A Riparium is a type of Vivarium that typically depicts an environment where water meets land (riverbanks, streambanks, the shoreline of marshes and swamps or lakes), but it does have minimal to no land parts, unlike a Paludarium (which provides significant land parts). In other words, you are replicating the shallow parts of these natural bodies of water.

Taiwanese Style with Lego Crab Aquascaped by Ian Garrido Philippines

Taiwanese Style

The Taiwanese Style of Aquascaping combines the elements of Nature, Iwagumi, or Dutch styles, but the most bizarre feature is using figurines, toys, etc. in the tank to create a sense of life. The style isn’t prevalent anymore, but there are still many hobbyists quite fascinated by this style.

Aquascaped by Ian Garrido Philippines

Biotope B3 Class of the Rio Negro Region Aquascaped by Lao Ricci Philippines

Biotopes

The biotope style seeks to perfectly imitate a particular aquatic habitat at a specific geographic location. From the fish to plants, the rocks, substrate, driftwood, water current, and even the water and current parameters of a certain aquatic habitat must be the basis of trying to recreate the natural environment, and not necessarily convey like a garden-like display.

Aquascaped by Lao Ricci Philippines

Walstad Tank No Filter Since Day 2 Aquascaped by Mark Ivan Suarez Philippines

The Walstad Method

The Walstad Method choose to grow plants using very minimum technology as possible. This approach, which is sometimes called “The Natural Planted Tank” and is made popular by Diana Walstad, suggested using soil as a cheap replacement to the aquasoil or aquarium gravel, sometimes with no filtration, no CO2 injection, and limited lighting.

Aquascaped by Mark Ivan Suarez Philippines

Riparium Aquarium Style

We already discussed what a Riparium is in the previous article. It is a type of Vivarium that typically depicts an environment where water meets land (riverbanks, streambanks, the shoreline of marshes and swamps or lakes), but it does have minimal to no land parts, unlike a Paludarium (which provides significant land parts). In other words, you are replicating the shallow parts of these natural bodies of water.

It should always have plants that break beyond the waterline (half-submerged) or terrestrial plants that can grow marginal (only their roots, crowns, or rhizomes are underwater). It can also have aquatic plants that are always submerged.

My Riparium in its Full Glory Before Trimming

A Riparium can have animals or no animals. But due to the shallowness, open nature, and minimal land parts, most of the amphibians and reptiles that can work in a Paludarium won’t work in a Riparium. So a Riparium still best works with aquatic animals such as fish, snails, or shrimps.

They can either escape (climb the tall plants unless your tank is covered) or drown unless you provided enough platform/land and easy access for them to rest above water, but that is a Paludarium already.

It is closest to the bank of a full-blown pond but in a miniature size where plants can grow fully submerged, half-submerged, or marginal. You are not limited to glass tanks/aquariums. Any watertight enclosures like storage boxes, or old unused refrigerator cases, even an old satellite dish, or a basin, etc. can be used.

They are usually just half-filled with water to convey the shallowness or use shallow tanks. Or the hobbyist can fill a shallow aquarium full depending on the theme he/she is trying to portray. It depends on the animals and plants you plan to keep.

This is why I published a separate article for this very distinctive style. There are many pros to this style but there are some cons too. Below, we outlined those to you:

A 67% filled Riparium Aquascaped by Fritz Rabaya Philippines

A 67% filled Riparium Aquascaped by Fritz Rabaya Philippines

Pros:

1. Planted aquariums are normally viewed from the front and sides but a Riparium can provide a breathtaking top view. In fact, the main theme of this style is the shallowness and the plants growing beyond the water level and out of the tank that often gives the ‘wow’ effect.

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Enzo Bercs Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Enzo Bercs Philippines

Can be Considered as a Riparium Aquascaped by Renier G. Javier Philippines

Can be Considered as a Riparium Aquascaped by Renier G. Javier Philippines

2. Growing aquatic plants may be challenging to some in a planted aquarium. Starting off with a Riparium gives a beginner hobbyist higher chances of success by using easy-to-grow aquatic plants and an abundance of easily grown terrestrial, marginal, and pond plants.

3. If you want a pond set up on your terrace, backyard, or inside your home but have no space or means (cost of landscaping and excavation), a Riparium in an enclosure is the closest thing you can get without emptying your pockets.

4. A Riparium can act as a small-scale Aquaponics system, not for harvesting crops, but for ornamental terrestrial plants. All the plants (much faster with marginal and floating plants) help keep the water clean by using the accumulating nutrients such as Ammonia, Nitrites, Phosphates, and Nitrates for their growth and filter the water off of those excess nutrients.

Combination of a Riparium and Walstad Method Top View using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Arnel Perez Philippines

Combination of a Riparium and Walstad Method Top View using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Arnel Perez Philippines

The plants’ water filtering action can supplement the filter you are using where the Nitrogen Cycle can still happen. The good bacteria can colonize on all submerged parts of your tank, including the hardscapes, substrate, submerged hardware, even in the plant itself and some are even free-floating in water.

At the same time, the fauna’s wastes provide nutrients to your plants and good bacteria to oxidize. In short, the faunas, floras, and beneficial bacteria look for each other’s needs and balance them, no wastewater, no water changes, just top up the water when the level goes down.

It is important though that you have a lot of marginal and terrestrial plants with their roots submerged in your Riparium to take advantage of the excess nutrients in your water column.

It is also very important that you provide lots of water aeration in your Riparium, just like a fountain or running waterfall effect in a pond. We will explain this further down below.

5. As a result of aquatic plants going emergent and having an unlimited supply of atmospheric CO2, they can display large, ovate, thick leaves that don’t develop underwater. You may see them flower too and some aquatic plants’ flowers are simply remarkable.

This also applies to pond and marginal plants. They can grow so fast due to an unlimited supply of nutrients, water, and atmospheric CO2. They can be Nitrate hogs – get rid of your excess Nitrates in the water column. You can trim and propagate them back to soil-based pots to add to your garden or can be sold for extra income.

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Side View Aquascaped by Johann Vinluan Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Side View Aquascaped by Johann Vinluan Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Top View Aquascaped by Johann Vinluan Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Top View Aquascaped by Johann Vinluan Philippines

This can turn to a disadvantage too, please see cons below.

With only their roots submerged, not all terrestrial plants will work though. In the plants section below, we will list the types that have higher chances of success and how you can prepare them to be planted in a Riparium.

We will also answer the question “why some terrestrial plants can drown and die when overwatered in soil-based pots but can thrive indefinitely with only their roots submerged in a Riparium”.

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Francis Raneses Penaranda of Aquafoor Scaper Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Francis Raneses Penaranda of Aquafoor Scaper Philippines

Aquaponics with Ornamental Plants

Aquaponics with Ornamental Plants

Cons:

1. The plants exposed to air can be subjected to pests and other vermins depending on your location. I found a leech eating away at my Syngonium leaves once before.

2. Your tall terrestrial plants growing so fast can create a Jungle canopy, blocking light to your low-growing and submerged plants. It is required of you to trim often to avoid this but it may turn into an advantage by propagating the trimmings elsewhere in your tank to fill it or to your soil-based garden or can be sold in pots for extra income.

Some terrestrial stem plants like Coleus and Wandering Jew don’t respond well to trimming though, most especially with only their roots submerged in water. They will thrive from the start but once you trim them, the lower part will slowly rot.

They may still grow new shoots and roots in the higher part of the main stem but the lower stem part will rot then melt and will not be able to support the plant. You can remove/cut the rotting lower stem and replant the healthy upper stem.

Some of my Marginal Plants still Reached my light and even beyond it

Some of my Marginal Plants still Reached my light and even beyond it

What Tank to Use?

You can use conventional aquarium tanks filled just halfway or 75% or you can use a shallow tank for this style. There are no standard volumes that we can recommend as any watertight enclosures can be used like storage boxes, an old refrigerator case, a basin, or even an old satellite dish, etc. It depends on your budget as the hardscapes’ cost to build an island and provide varying depths is directly proportional to the size of your enclosure.

My 35.6 gallons Riparium below in a black storage box is only filled up to 20 gallons to depict the shallowness. I used about 10 kilos of medium to large size black and red lava rocks for creating an island around the perimeter (shallow on the sides and back then going deeper in the middle and front) and about 8 kilos of pea-sized lava rocks as substrate.

Also, please consider the animals you want to keep in deciding your Riparium tank’s size. You don’t want your Pacman Frogs, Axolotl, or Angel Fish in a 5-10 gallons tank that is half-filled. I only have Mollies, snails, and Amano shrimps in my Riparium.

You can use a cube tank, but a rectangular enclosure is more natural-looking for a Riparium. Also, we suggest having a tank with more depth in it than height for easy scaping/planting and providing more horizontal living space for your plants and animals.

I used Lava rocks to Establish the Shallow Depths in my Riparium - Testing the trimmings of my Wife's Pothos

I used Lava rocks to Establish the Shallow Depths in my Riparium (Shallow on the back and sides, getting deeper towards the middle and front) – Testing the trimmings of my Wife’s Pothos

What Light to Use?

Lighting is not too critical if you are just using undemanding submerged and terrestrial house plants. Having low to medium strength lighting is enough. A decent LED lighting for planted aquariums can be used. Even a simple clip-on LED light will do. If your Riparium is outside the house, on the terrace, for example, but shaded, even the ambient light from the sun is enough.

I still strongly recommend that you use a dimmer so you can adjust the intensity of your light lower once unpleasant algae started to show up in your Riparium setup. My Riparium is on our terrace along with our terrestrial garden receiving plenty of ambient light.

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Patrick Sarmiento of IG @theglassgardenstudio Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Patrick Sarmiento of IG @theglassgardenstudio Philippines

My Chihiros A Plus on Timer and Dimmer

My Chihiros A Plus on Timer and Dimmer

If you know electronics and building skills, you can even DIY/experiment with your light fixture using LED bulbs. Some had success with LED grow lights, even 5730, 5630, 5050, and 3528 LED strips.

For my Riparium, I hanged my old Chihiros A Plus about 17 inches from the top of my storage box at 70 % intensity to accommodate the fast-growing tall plants. My Syngoniums, Horsetails, and Coleus still reached it. My lighting is also on a timer and dimmer to simulate dusk and dawn.

Whichever route you choose for your Riparium aquarium lighting, the most important thing is you should be able to control/adjust the intensity (which can be done with 3rd party dimmers for LEDs, or if dimmers are not possible, you should be able to adjust the height of your lighting fixture.

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by AwinAikhine Sydney Mangay Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Arwin I. Mangay Philippines

View of my Marginal Plants planted in Aquaponics net pots - Lava Rocks for Substrate

View of my Marginal Plants planted in Aquaponics net pots – Lava Rocks for Substrate

What Substrate?

You don’t need a substrate if you are just using undemanding epiphyte plants. But you can still use inert sand, coarse gravel, small rocks, or crushed lava rocks at the bottom of the submerged part of your Riparium for aesthetical purposes and to act as biological media where good bacteria can colonize. You can tie or stick your epiphyte plants in rocks and driftwood.

For your terrestrial and marginal plants that have only their roots submerged, I would recommend planting them using net pots typically used for Aquaponics then pea-sized lava rocks as substrate.

It will serve as their anchor and weight too to remain upright. You can position them on hardscape crevices where part of the net pot and the roots are underwater (about 1 to 2 inches deep). Make sure that no leaves are underwater. By using soil, it will just be eroded and cloud the water.

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Francis Albert Lagahid Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Francis Albert Lagahid Philippines

Another view of my plants in Aquaponics net pots

Another view of my plants in Aquaponics net pots

If you are using driftwood and rocks for a shallow island, you can tie the terrestrial plants or insert them into crevices so that only their roots are submerged in water.

Large Anubias, Bucephalandra species, Java Ferns, Bolbitis, Pinnatifidas, etc. tied or glued to higher hardscapes can break the surface of the water.

If you want to use Amazon Swords, Hygrophila species, Cryptocoryne species, Aponogeton, Nymphaea, even the creeping Tripartitas, and Jenny: they can break the water surface in your Riparium too. You can use a regular garden or potting soil top with inert black or beige sand for a combination of the Walstad Method and Riparium.

Or you can just use Aquasoil to save you the trouble of cloudy water caused by soil substrate when changing your scape or transferring your plants (uprooting) here and there.

Do I Need to Inject CO2?

Again, if you are just using epiphyte and undemanding plants, you don’t need to inject CO2. Half-submerged/emergent and terrestrial plants have better access to CO2 from the atmosphere than aquatic plants.

A Riparium in Combination with Walstad Method using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Arnel Perez Philippines

A Riparium in Combination with Walstad Method using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Arnel Perez Philippines

Can be Considered a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Francis Albert Lagahid Philippines

Can be Considered a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Francis Albert Lagahid Philippines

Filtration

A properly sized filter for your Riparium, such as a Canister, HOB, or Internal filter (with a built-in pump), can provide the necessary filtration for your aquatic life. In my Riparium, I used a 7 watts internal filter pointed upwards to create a fountain-like effect.

This will also provide lots of water aeration to oxygenate the water for our aquatic faunas. Remember, our beneficial bacteria need oxygen (aerobic environment) to perform their nitrification activities. There is a foam in the intake of my filter to prevent sucking in the small fry of my Mollies. The water agitation also prevents mosquitoes from laying eggs in our Riparium.

Now, the question “why some terrestrial plants can drown and die when overwatered in soil-based pots but can thrive indefinitely with only their roots submerged in a Riparium”? 

The fact is, plants’ roots need oxygen. Oxygen exists in air pockets under the soil. When you overwater, the air pockets will be filled/replaced with water most especially if the pot has no drainage or your drainage is not working (blocked) or you are using very compacted soil. The soil is drenched in water and has no oxygen for your plant’s roots. The plant starts to drown due to the lack of oxygen.

Providing Water Aeration in my Riparium

Providing Water Aeration in my Riparium

In a Riparium with well-aerated water, lots of dissolved oxygen exists in the water. The terrestrial plants won’t drown. They will grow new roots adapted to being submerged to extract the dissolved oxygen and nutrients. We have to prepare the terrestrial plants before submerging their roots which we will explain further below. 

The different types of filtrationtypes of filters that we can use in our planted aquariums, and considerations of what to look for in a planted aquarium filter are all discussed here.

Some hobbyists also deploy foggers or misters to provide a misty or foggy effect in their Riparium. Another practical purpose of using such a device is to provide the needed humidity and moisture to the ecosystem. This can also help ward off some pests.

Can be Considered as a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by IG @neiascapes Philippines

Can be Considered as a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by IG @neiascapes Philippines

Using a Mist Maker for some Foggy Swamp Effect in my Riparium

Using a Mist Maker for some Foggy Swamp Effect in my Riparium

Do I Need to Dose Fertilizers?

You can dose fertilizers in the water very lean or not at all. Riparium setups in combination with Aquaponics, once stable, will have the bacteria, animals, and plants look after each other’s needs.

You can insert Osmocote beads (a slow-release fertilizer) deep into the substrate to fertilize the substrate. Most carpeting plants benefit from this to spread faster and get thicker. This also works on your hungry stem and bulb plants by inserting beads of Osmocote near the plants’ roots.

Even aqua soils deplete their nutrients over time, and you can insert Osmocote beads into your substrate every 6 months.

For your terrestrial plants in net pots with pea-sized lava rocks as substrate, you can also put 2-3 Osmocote beads over the lava rocks.

Ormocote Beads on the Pea-sized lava rocks substrate

Ormocote Beads on the Pea-sized lava rocks substrate

Hardscape

The amount of your hardscapes depend on the size of your tank/enclosure and how much water you want to fill your Riparium. In my Riparium for example, I used about 10 kilos of medium to large size black and red lava rocks for creating an island around the perimeter (shallow on the sides and back then going deeper in the middle and front) and about 8 kilos of pea-sized lava rocks as substrate.

You need rocks and driftwood to create a shallow island and to provide various shallow levels for your marginal plants. These can be sourced from Mother Nature or can be purchased.

Though some rocks/stones popularly used in aquascaping can add to your KH (releasing carbonates, thus increasing your pH), it is also imperative that your stones/rocks be inert.

Among the rocks/stones that do not affect your water parameters at all are Dragon/Ohko stones, Red/Black Lava Rocks, Sansui Stones, Koke Stones, Manten Stones, Petrified Wood, Quartzites, Slate, Shale, and Unzan Stones.

Can be Considered as a Riparium Aquascaped by Johann Vinluan Philippines

Can be Considered as a Riparium Aquascaped by Johann Vinluan Philippines

Aquatic or Semi-Aquatic (Faunas)?

A Riparium can have animals or no animals. But due to the shallowness, open-top nature, and minimal land parts, most of the amphibians and reptiles that can work in a Paludarium won’t work in a Riparium.

They can either escape (climb the tall plants or jump unless your tank is covered) or drown unless you provided enough platform/land and easy access for them to rest above water, but that is a Paludarium already. They can be too large and can wreak havoc with your plants and scape.

A friend of mine had succeeded with Pacman frogs in a half-filled Riparium using a regular aquarium tank. He provided rock platforms for them to rest and feel good above water.

Keeping an Axolotl or a pair can be a possibility as well, keeping in mind that you are just filling the tank just halfway or 3/4, or 2/3, so they need a large tank (at least 40 gallons and above so you can have at least 20 to 30 gallons of water volume half-filled for example). Please research how to care for Axolotls.

A Half-filled Riparium with Pacman Frogs Aquascaped by Alain Denco Invierno Philippines

A Half-filled Riparium with Pacman Frogs Aquascaped by Alain Denco Invierno Philippines

If you plan to keep fish only and other aquatic invertebrates in your Riparium setup, we recommend just one nano fish species like 6-12 individuals of Cardinal TetrasEmber TetrasZebra DaniosGlowlight TetrasHarlequin or Chili Rasboras, Mollies, Platies, Barbs, Guppies, etc.

You can also add aquatic invertebrates such as snails and shrimps to the nano fish species mentioned above. Some hobbyists only keep snails and shrimps with no fish at all for their Ripariums. For snails, we recommend Nerite and Ramshorn Snails. For shrimps, we recommend the common Amano and Red Cherry Shrimps.

Or you can choose to keep no animals at all if you just want to showcase the plants.

Can be Considered as a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Janmikel's Aquatic Plants Philippines

Can be Considered as a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Jan Michael Carrillo Philippines

Can be Considered a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Michael Yap Philippines

Can be Considered a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Michael Yap Philippines

Plants Selection

As I mentioned above, you can have 3-4 states/forms of plants in a Riparium: submerge, emergents, marginals, and floating. 

Submerge Plants

Submerge plants are the ones that can grow low and thrive underwater. They can be pure aquatic or semi-aquatic plants. These are the plants that you are accustomed to in a planted aquarium. They may turn emergent as well since a Riparium is shallow.

Submerge Anubias, Hydrocotyle Tripartitas, Bucephalandras, Cryptocorynes in my Riparium

Submerge Anubias, Hydrocotyle Tripartitas, Bucephalandras, Cryptocorynes in my Riparium

For Carpet/Foreground Plants:

Click Gallery to Enlarge and See the Captions

For Midground/Background Plants:

Click Gallery to Enlarge and See the Captions

Plants on Hardscapes:

Click Gallery to Enlarge and See the Captions

Emergent Plants

Emergent plants are the ones that start as submerge but can grow tall (if you don’t trim them) and beyond the water surface. Examples are large Anubias, Bucephalandra species, Java Ferns, Bolbitis, Amazon Swords (Echinodorus species), Hygrophila species, Ludwigia species, Limnophila species, Nymphaea species, Cryptocoryne species, some Aponogeton species, Gotu Kola, even the creeping Tripartitas, and Jenny, etc.

Emerging Limnophila Belems Grown by Jr Jayr L. Bagni Philippines

Emerging Limnophila Belems Grown by Jr Jayr L. Bagni Philippines

Marginal Plants

Marginal plants are pond or terrestrial plants that can grow and thrive indefinitely with only their roots underwater. You can experiment with a lot of terrestrial plants in this part of your Riparium but you will have a higher chance of success on bulbous, tuberous, rhizomatic, creeping, etc. terrestrial plants.

Not all stem plants will work most especially those that have woody-like stems. Stem plants that have succulent stems may work at the start but once you trim them, the lower part may slowly rot. You can replant the higher part of the trimmings and replace the lower part. 

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Shanne Kirby Sta. Maria Philippines

A Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Shanne Kirby Sta. Maria Philippines

Most terrestrial plants that can work in a Riparium with only their roots submerged won’t tolerate their lower leaves submerged. The leaves will quickly melt. Part of their preparation before planting in a Riparium is to trim these lower leaves so that only the roots or lower stem/s are submerged.

Close up View of my Gotu Kola

Close up View of my Gotu Kola

My Rhizomatic Begonia growing new Leaves

My Rhizomatic Begonia growing new Leaves

Keep in mind that you trim the roots of terrestrial plants you bought in pots with soil before positioning them in your Riparium. Wash the lower part thoroughly to remove the soil. If you don’t, it’s hard to plant them and those roots adapted in the soil will melt and decay and can add to your Ammonia. The melting and decaying roots may compromise the whole plant as well.

Once the lower part is underwater, trimmed, and free from soil, it will quickly grow new roots adapted to being submerged capable of extracting nutrients and dissolved oxygen underwater.

My Cyperus Isocladus Close up

My Cyperus Isocladus Close up

View of my Creeping Fig - supported by black sewing thread - only their roots are submerge

View of my Creeping Fig – supported by black sewing thread – only their roots are submerge

Note that we never mentioned bog plants. A bog is a wetland that accumulates peat. All marginal plants can thrive in a bog, but bog plants usually can’t tolerate the deeper depths of water that marginal plants can live in a Riparium. Bog plants work great in the edges of ponds where the soil is always wet. Providing significant land parts is technically a Paludarium already.

Philodendron Burle Marx and Temptation

Philodendron Burle Marx and Temptation

Pothos varieties held by black Sewing thread to prevent the leaves from Submerging

Pothos varieties held by black Sewing thread to prevent the leaves from Submerging. Some are just laid on top of Lava rocks.

As I mentioned above, plant them in net pots used for Aquaponics and using pea-sized lava, or pumice rocks, or gravel as substrate. Soil will just be eroded and will cloud the water. This will also serve as their anchor and weight to remain upright. Your shallow depths should be established already to make sure only the roots/tubers/rhizomes are underwater.

Dwarf Peace Lily and Emergent Cryptocoryne Spiralis and Echinodorus Ozelot

Dwarf Peace Lily and Emergent Cryptocoryne Spiralis and Echinodorus Ozelot

My Syngoniums growing beyond the light which is 17 inches from the top of my Storage box

My Syngoniums growing beyond the light which is 17 inches from the top of my Storage box

You can also use glass planters with suction cups (used for aquariums) or hanging pots for terrestrial plants that won’t work with their roots submerged in water. This time, you can use soil. You can stick or hang the planters on the inside walls of your enclosure.

You can see here that my Creeping Fig was planted in a glass planter before

You can see here that my Creeping Fig was planted in a glass planter before

This is my Riparium After About 4 Months - you can still see my Persian Shield, Coleus and Fittonias in here

This is my Riparium After About 4 Months – you can still see my Persian Shield, Coleus and Fittonias in here

These pond/terrestrial plants will thrive indefinitely in a Riparium (as long as there is substantial water aeration and only roots/rhizomes/tubers/root part of the bulb is submerged). If you can grow the plant in water in a vase or mason’s jar, then they can likely work in a Riparium:

  • Most Syngonium
  • Most Philodendron
  • Tuberous Alocasia (may not grow too large in a Riparium)
  • Tuberous or Rhizomatic Begonias (takes a while to adjust)
  • Tuberous Calatheas
  • Aglaonemas
  • Cyperus (Umbrella Palm, Papyrus, Isocladus)
  • Equisetums (Horsetail)
  • Rhizomatic Ferns (Boston, Maidenhair, Monarch Ferns)
  • Peace Lilies
  • Tulips
  • Lucky Bamboo
  • Dracaena
  • Caladium
Cyperus Papyrus - they can get really tall though

Cyperus Papyrus – they can get really tall though

  • Aloe Vera
  • Spider Plant
  • Taro
  • Croton
  • Fittonia
  • Impatiens
  • Purple Heart
  • Sweet Potato
  • Creeping Fig
  • Monstera species
  • Creeping Jenny
  • Paperwhite
  • English Ivy
  • Schismatoglottis Wallichii
  • Pothos varieties
  • Corkscrew Rush
  • Amydrium
View of my Umbrella Palms, Alocasia Cucullata, Cyperus Isocladus

View of my Umbrella Palms, Alocasia Cucullata, Cyperus Isocladus

  • Northern Blue Flag
  • Herbs (Fennel, Celery, Green Onions, Basil. Oregano, Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Lavender)
  • Sweet Flag
  • Baby’s Tears
  • Marsh Marigolds, etc.
  • African Violets

These terrestrial stem plants with their roots submerged in water or always wet will work but once you trim them, they will grow new shoots but the lower portion may slowly rot and die. You can replant the upper trimmings though and replace the lower parts.

  • Persian Shield
  • Coleus
  • Wandering Jew
  • Purple Waffle
  • Polka Dot Plant
  • Aluminum Plant
Can be Considered a Riparium in Combination with Biotope B3 Class Based from the River after Binangawan Falls Camiguin Plants came from the river itself Aquascaped by Joseph Christian Philippines

Can be Considered a Riparium in Combination with Biotope B3 Class-Based from the River after Binangawan Falls Camiguin Plants came from the river itself Aquascaped by Joseph Christian Philippines

Floating Plants

Floating plants can also be used in a Riparium but know that some species may get too invasive and will block the light from reaching your submerged plants.

I didn’t use any floating plants in my Riparium, but as you can see from the many examples here, you can use them as long as your submerged plants are the undemanding types. Keep them from getting too invasive by monitoring their population.

Remember, don’t discard your excess floating plants in local bodies of water (streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, marshes, etc.) as they may disrupt the balance in that ecosystem. You can make them as compost for your terrestrial gardens.

Floating Plants:

Click Gallery to Enlarge and See the Captions

No water change in my Riparium, Just top up the water when the level goes down

No water change in my Riparium, Just top up the water when the level goes down

My Riparium looking much more like a Miniature Pond

My Riparium looking much more like a Miniature Pond

Conclusion:

A Riparium is a type of vivarium that simulates the shoreline of rivers, streams, marshes, swamps, lakes, etc. It does have minimal to no land parts. In other words, we are replicating the shallow parts of these natural bodies of water.

We can also consider Ripariums under the Nature style as it still overlaps with the core elements of simulating a natural ecosystem.

There should always have plants that break beyond the waterline (half-submerged/emergent) and pond/marginal plants as well (only their roots, crowns, or rhizomes are underwater). It can also have aquatic plants that are always submerged.

A Riparium can have animals or no animals. But due to the shallowness, open nature, and minimal land parts, a Riparium still best works with aquatic animals.

They are usually just half-filled with water to convey the shallowness or use shallow tanks. We also discussed the pros and cons of this style.

Want to Explore More?

Fancy Guppy

Modified Traditional Method – How to Cycle a Planted Aquarium

The fastest method of cycling our planted aquarium works if you have an old established tank or a friend’s tank, but what if you don’t have any and are starting from scratch? The traditional method of cycling our tank, fish-in cycling, involves adding a few hardy fish to jumpstart the Nitrogen Cycle.

Soil and Rocks Roles of Purifying Water in Nature

Filtration for Planted Aquariums

Nature has its own natural water-filtration processes long before we humans tampered over it. From wetlands, which serve as natural kidneys that remove 20 to 60 % of metals in the water, trap 80 to 90 % of sediments from run-off, and eliminate 70 to 90 % of the water’s nitrogenous waste. It is essential to understand the functions of a good filtration for planted aquariums and our faunas, what it removes and what it retains, and the benefits/pros and cons of each type.

Safe Water Sources for Planted Aquariums

Safe Water Sources for Planted Aquariums

How does Osmosis relate to the quality of water we used? It turns out, faunas and plants don’t only need pure H2O molecules. They also need salts (carbonates), minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron), etc. Present in the water but also not too much.

Sparrow Drinking in Faucet

Chlorine or Chloramine – The Planted Aquarium Water Parameters

At the most basic of things, and as I was stressing time and time again, your water source should be chlorine or chloramine free.

Aquarium Custom Stand & Cabinet Aquascaped by Fritz Rabaya Philippines

Planted Aquarium Tank Dimensions

After choosing the ideal location of your aquarium at your home and the stand to be used, you have to determine your planted aquarium tank dimensions. You have to take measurements of the Length, Width, and Height (LxWxH) of the stand. Take into consideration where you will put your equipment, tools such as aquarium filter, aquascaping tools (straight tweezers, curved scissors), siphon, etc.

Closing Remarks

I hope you enjoyed this article and if ever you have additional questions or want to share your experiences with Ripariums, please leave a comment below.

Next, we will be discussing the Taiwanese Style Aquascape.

26 Comments

  1. Saminda

    I read your valuable article with interest. I had a fish tank at home but had no idea how to design it so beautifully. But after reading your article I learned that there are many ways to beautify fish tanks and plant plants. Thank you for posting this valuable article and I hope to share this knowledge with my friends.
    Good Luck..
    Saminda.

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Samindra,

      Thank you for appreciating my article about Ripariums. This is still a fairly new concept and not a well-known way to set up a planted aquarium. When I started my Riparium, I don’t even know the term Riparium until I was done. Thank you for sharing this with your friends as well. I hope in some way or two, I was able to help in your decision to keep a planted aquarium at your very own home.

      Reply
  2. Nina

    Wow! What an amazing article! You certainly have enlightened me on the “aquarium” world. As I was reading this you sparked a memory of when I was a little girl. When I was young, my older brother had a fish aquarium with many types of exotic small fish. He would add live flora to the tank for the fish to eat. I really enjoyed watching him create a beautiful habitat for the fish.

    This article reminds me a little of that, however, your pictures are much more beautiful than what he created! I never knew there was such a thing called a Riparium and how it simulates sides of riverbanks or other water areas. This is very fascinating.

    Thanks so much for this post. I am used to planting flowers either inside or out in soil. But this has opened a whole new world for me. I’ll definitely refer to your article when I decide to create some of these habitats.

    Thanks again for the post.
    Nina

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Nina,

      Thank you for sharing your experience with aquariums and your older brother. Ripariums are still fairly a new concept. When I set it up, I was thinking more like a shallow miniature pond. I don’t even know the term Riparium until I researched it. Thank you for appreciating my article and I hope in some way or two I was able to help you try planting underwater.

      Reply
  3. Andrew

    I will be looking at aquariums in a whole new way after reading this fascinating article.
    Before, I would always just have a passing interest in what was in the tank and what the animals were doing.
    However, now you have enlightened me to the huge amount of planning and considerations necessary to construct viable and sustainable ecosystems in small manageable areas.

    The riparium aquariums provide extra challenges as they contain both underwater and above water options.

    Your tanks look to be very well thought out and look stunning.
    I’ll be back to learn more before starting my own indoor aquarium.

    Many thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Andrew,

      Thank you for the kind words and for appreciating my article about Ripariums. I started off with just a community tank with plastic plants and ceramic decors more than 4 years ago and was blown away after seeing a Nature aquarium more than 2 years ago. I knew back then that planted aquariums will be my next passion. The idea of creating a thriving enclosed ecosystem with faunas and floras struck me.

      I hope in some way or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium at your very own home. Let me know and I can’t wait to see your creative works. And just so you know, some of the examples here in this article were done by my co-hobbyists as well complete with credits, I only have one implementation of a Riparium on our terrace.

      Reply
  4. Danijela Kalezic

    Hi, what a great item! I really enjoyed reading.

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Riparium and I like how you detailed its advantages and disadvantages and the way you care for plants. It is obvious that you know the fauna and flora extremely well.

    I wish I had this in the house. Looks amazing. I like a Riparium using a Shallow Tank Aquascaped by Francis Raneses Penaranda of Aquafoor Scaper Philippines. It looks wonderful, ennobles the space and the fish enjoy the natural environment.

    I have bookmarked this website, it is extremely interesting.

    When I decide to do something like this I will seek your advice.

    Thanks and keep up the amazing work!
    Danijela

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Danijela,

      Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating my article. I hope in some way or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium at your very own home. Let me know and I can’t wait to see what you can create. As always, you can reach me in the contact section of this website.

      Reply
  5. Kavitha

    This is an amazing article and enjoyed reading it every bit. I had a fish tank and didn’t know I can design it. I am considering having a fish tank when I move to my new house. Riparium is wonderful and natural but looks like it needs a lot of time and maintenance. How do you manage?

    Reply
  6. Lemuel Sacop

    Hello Kavitha,

    Thank you for visiting my website and enjoying this article. As for your question, it was the planning and implementation that took a lot of time for my Riparium. Afterward, I don’t need to change the water weekly since it is very shallow and already established (meaning, the plants, fish, and bacteria look after each others’ needs), just top it off when the water level goes down and some occasional trimming of plants here in there.

    I also have a regular planted aquarium and for that, I change 25 % of the water twice a week and do some occasional trimming of plants.

    Reply
  7. Julius

    Hi there. Thank you very much for your post. This technique is pretty new to me as I always tent to see the aquariums from front and not from above. The advantages you explained in your post are however enough to consider my orientation. My good friend just bought new aquarium, so I am going to definitely share your post with him.
    If he needs some further help, my I give him hint to contact you? You seem to be really expert in this niche. Cheers

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Julius,

      Sure, and thank you for visiting my website and this article about Ripariums. I hope I can be of help to you and your friend on your decision to keep a planted aquarium at home.

      Reply
  8. Christine

    I knew about terrariums and aquariums but not about ripariums, and I am intrigued. It’s a beautiful concept. Could it be outside on a terrace for example? It does seem like a lot of work, picking the right plants, creating the right environment, and keeping it well-kept. On the other hand, though, having plants and animals there, much of the “work” will already be done since they take care of oxygen in the water. I think it would be great to have, but I’m a bit wary of the added responsability, since I have a busy life.

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Christine,

      Thank you for visiting again my website. My Riparium and even my planted aquariums are all on our terrace, with no direct sunlight and always shaded. Most of the work involved is in the planning and implementation but once your Riparium has been established, all you need to do is some occasional trimmings and once a week 25 to 30 % water change. But in my kind of implementation, it is very shallow so I just top off the water when the level goes down. Yes, once established, the faunas, good bacteria, and floras look after each others’ needs, just like Aquaponics.

      Reply
  9. mathew a padilla

    You have this all figured out; we are trying to do this, and when the plants get to the light, we chop them and replant, which is creating more light, so now we have algae bloom going on. We like the ideas you have showed us of how to replicate the shallow bodies of water and how ponds grow.
    This article helped us out on what to look for in Riparium aquatic plants, the whole shebang.
    Thank you, and we will show our other people how to set it up step by step with your plan of action; we are replicating this but with our own twist.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Matthew,

      I can’t wait to see your Riparium with your own twist. Let me know and I can even feature it on this website. You can still experiment with a lot of terrestrial plants as marginals and semi-aquatic plants that can become emerged, the list is by no means complete. Thank you for coming back and appreciating this article.

      Algae bloom means something is not yet balanced or becomes unbalanced in your tank. For example, if you are just using undemanding plants, don’t blast them with your 100% lighting. You can use a 3rd party dimmer or raise the height of your light. You could be overdosing on fertilizers (so try to cut back) or your co2 injection is not yet tuned and effective in dissolving in water. Your filter underperforming and not appropriate to the size of your tank could be the culprit or a combination of some or all of these factors. You might also want to check on your water parameters (pH, KH, GH, temp, Ammonia, Nitrite, TDS, and nitrates).

      Reply
  10. Katrina Curry

    Wow, what a cool concept. I’ve never thought of having something like this in my home, but I think in the winter up here in Alaska, this would be so neat to be able to just see greenery year round. In about a month, we’re going to see nothing but white covering everything. In fact, we already got some snow on the mountains about 2 weeks ago, and our temps are dropping int he 30’s at night already. It’s hard in the winter in Alaska because we don’t really see green for about 6 to 7 months. But, this is such a great idea, and it seems like these ripariums really thrive if you have the right plants, light and water ratio.

    I might just have to look into this this winter. Thanks for the neat ideas!

    Katrina

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Katrina,

      Thank you for describing your situation in the winters of Alaska and your eagerness to try this. The great thing is, you can do all these styles indoors. You could have a miniature pond in your home by implementing a Riparium. I discussed the water temperature parameter of planted aquariums in this article if you are planning to do this and for your extreme weather conditions.

      https://allaboutplantedaquariums.com/temperature-planted-aquarium-water-parameters/

      Reply
  11. Tatiana

    This is a very in-depth and easy to understand article, thank you for this. I love that you take the reader assuming very basic understanding of the terms and concepts that you are talking about and you provide a basic definition and explanation of what it is you talk about. On top of that, you provide relevant examples by using pictures allowing for someone like me with zero knowledge regarding aquariums and riparium aquariums to understand what are the ins and outs of owning one.

    I love that Riparium is a cheap and small option for those looking for one, meaning that it can fir all the budgets and all the available spaces.

    As I keep reading I realise how little I know about the world of Riparium aquarium and how much goes into it: the choice of plants, animals (if any), lightning, CO2. I mean, silly me, when I see one I am just looking how pretty it all looks without fully realising how much work and consideration goes into setting one up.

    I love it that you have used so many pictures, for a visual person such as I am.
    Thank you again Lemuel.

    Cheers,
    Tatiana

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Tatiana,

      Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating my efforts to make this fairly new concept (Ripariums) of keeping a planted aquarium at home easy to understand for everyone. I am a visual person as well and I make sure all articles on my website have substantial images to show what I mean.

      I hope in some ways, I was able to help you in your decision to keep your very own planted aquarium at home.

      Reply
  12. Tim

    This is great stuff. I Have a large tank, 55 gallon, and this can really help me with some problems I was having.

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Tim,

      Thanks for visiting my website and glad that you have a 55 gallons tank. I can’t wait to see your creative works and what you can come up with. As always, you can contact me/us if you have questions or need guidance.

      Reply
  13. Kathy

    I found this article very interesting and learnt so much about ripariums. Even though I’ve never kept an aquarium, It’s opened my eyes. The images are beautiful and show what can be achieved with a bit of creativity. Your passion for aquariums and aquatic plants shines through. I’m sure many enthusiasts will be inspired by this post. I love the idea of creating a miniature island in shallow shoreline. A lot of time and work goes has gone into caring for these plants and little creatures.

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Kathy,

      Thank you for visiting my website and appreciating this article. I hope in some way or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium at your very own home. I can’t wait to see your creative work and what you can come up with. As always, you can contact me if you have questions or need some guidance. We also have a new feature on the site where you can chat with us through FB messenger.

      Reply
  14. Dereck

    This was a really informative and detailed article. I had never heard of a ripariam before, but the variety of pictures you provided make them seem pretty incredible. They seem like something I could sit and stare at for hours. I will admit that I don’t know much about this niche, but how long have you been partaking in this kind of activity? I can tell you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    Reply
    • Lemuel Sacop

      Hello Dereck,

      Thank you for coming back and appreciating this article about Ripariums. To answer your question, I have been into fish keeping for more than 4 years and planted aquariums for more than 2 years. Not too much experience but for me, this is not just a hobby but a passion so I did a lot of study and research to gain valuable insights, and learn from my experiences too. I was able to apply my DIYing skills when I still don’t have the budget :).

      I don’t even know a quarter or an eight of what I know now when I started. I sometimes think outside the box, and learn to formulate my own theories, test them and apply them. I hope in some way or two, I was able to help you in your decision to keep a planted aquarium at your very own home. Please come back for more articles coming soon.

      Reply

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