Are Terrariums Able To Hold Water?

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Lately I have been interested in creating an aquatic or semi-aquatic display for my home. As most of my experience has been with plant terrariums and reptile vivariums, I was curious if I would be able to use an old reptile tank to create an aquatic terrarium for my living room. I decided to do some research and find out.

Are terrariums able to hold water? Reptile terrariums or tanks are not built to hold water for long periods due to thin glass and inadequate silicone sealing. However, it is possible to create an aquatic/semi-aquatic terrarium using an aquarium tank or other object that is built to hold water.

There are many key differences between terrariums and aquariums that are important to know if you are considering adding water to a terrarium. The last thing you want is a flooded living room, with damaged carpet, and a broken terrarium tank. I have also included a few unique ideas for those wanting to create an aquatic/semi-aquatic terrarium using objects that are built to hold water.

If you are interested in adding water to smaller size terrariums, then look no further. Our article on adding fake water to your terrarium may be just what your looking for.

Can A Terrarium Tank Be Used As An Aquarium?

Most people that ask themselves if a terrarium can hold water, are often trying to create an aquarium or some type of enclosure for an aquatic animal. Below I have outlined a few reasons as to why a typical terrarium tank cannot be used as an aquarium or to hold water.

  • Glass Thickness: The glass used in terrarium tanks is not as thick as aquarium glass and was not designed to handle constant pressure from holding gallons of water.
  • Water Leakage: Terrariums are not waterproof as they typically require air circulation and drainage options. Aquariums, however, have silicon sealing that prevent water leakage and are specifically designed to hold gallons of water over long periods of time.
  • Weight: Terrariums weigh less than aquariums due to their thin glass and lack of sealing for air circulation and drainage. Aquariums have thicker glass and heavier frames so that they can support the weight and pressure of water.

Although your typical reptile terrarium may not be able to hold water, there are other options if you are considering an aquarium or water terrarium. A Paludarium may be exactly what you’re looking for!

Paludarium – A Terrarium and Aquarium Combined

A Paludarium is semi-aquatic habitat that combines elements from both terrariums and aquariums. The top half is a rain forest, with plants and rocks, making a perfect home for any terrestrial animals. The bottom half of the tank is filled with water and aquatic life.

Image Credit: Laurent Lebois

Paludariums are increasing in popularity and provide a greater variety of options when considering a terrarium or aquatic display. They allow for more species for you to choose from, due to the diverse habitat, and provide a better viewing experience.

If a paludarium sounds like your cup of tea, then check out this list of animals best suited for a paludarium as well as a list of freshwater fish that thrive in a paludarium environment.

The word ‘paludarium’ originates from the Latin word ‘palus’ which means ‘swamp’, and ‘arium’ which means ‘a place’. Just as an aquarium is a place for aquatic life, a paludarium is a place where both terrestrial and aquatic life can live, similar to a swamp or marsh.

To create a paludarium, be sure to use a paludarium tank or an aquarium tank. For reasons stated when discussing aquariums, a standard terrarium tank will not work for a paludarium.

Where else can you have reptiles, plants, and fish all in the one place? Here is a great option for a paludarium tank that I would recommend.

If a Paludarium isn’t quite what you are thinking, then below are some great alternatives for types of terrariums that can hold water.

Types of Terrariums That Can Hold Water

Although a typical reptile terrarium tank may not be able to hold water, there are other types of terrarium casings that that can. Terrariums can be made from almost anything, including light bulbs, jars, bottles, and bowls. As most of these things can hold water for other purposes, you can easily use these items to hold water within your terrarium.

The only downside is that they are often much smaller than a typical reptile tank. So, if your goal is to create an aquarium, then I suggest sticking to an aquarium or paludarium tank. If you are searching for unique terrarium ideas that incorporate water elements, then here are some great suggestions!

Marimo Moss Ball Terrarium

So, this idea I thought was really interesting and couldn’t resist including it in the list. Marimo Moss Balls are regarded as good lucks charms in many cultures. In Japanese culture, the gift of a Moss Ball pet is considered to be of the upmost prestige. Moss balls are often kept as family heirlooms as they have been known to live more than 200 years in some cases.

marimo moss ball

Moss balls are essentially a form of live algae that can be found at the bottom of freshwater lakes. They can be housed in a very small terrarium filled with water and small pebbles. Moss balls grow extremely slow but if they become larger than you desire, you can separate them into two, and they will grow separately as smaller, individual moss balls.

Feel free to name your moss balls and hand them down from generation to generation. They are also great gifts to kids as maintenance requirements is as easy as it gets.

Cup Terrarium

Any sort of cup or mug can work great for a miniature water terrarium. There are no issues when it comes to holding liquids and they do not take up much space. Glass works best as the cups of often transparent so you can see all of the details within your terrarium.

Glass Jar/Vase/Bottle

Pretty much any glass jar, vase, or bottle is able to hold small amounts of water and can be turned into a small water terrarium. Be sure to use aquatic plants, as regular terrarium plants will drown and establish root rot.

Light Bulb Terrarium

A light bulb terrarium can be a great option if you are looking for something really small and unique. Be careful during assembling your terrarium as light bulb glass can be fragile. Make sure to only add a small amount of water as filling the entire bulb will cause the glass to break over time.

light bulb terrarium

Aquatic Plants Suitable For Water Terrariums

When creating a terrarium that has water elements or a paludarium with larger quantities of water, you have to make sure you are using plants that can thrive in a water environment. If your terrarium is fully submerged underwater, then be sure to only use aquatic plants. If your terrarium or paludarium has both aquatic and terrestrial elements, then be sure to match your plants to their applicable environment.

Here is a list of aquatic plants that are great options for any water terrarium or paludarium.

  • Anubias
  • Cryptocoryne
  • Java Moss
  • Java Fern
  • Amazon Sword
  • Water Wisteria

Final Thoughts

I really hope that you were able to learn from my curiosity and now have a better idea which type of water terrarium will work best for you. Just remember, terrarium tanks cannot be used as aquariums because they glass will break but there are other options if you are looking for a terrarium that includes water elements.

My personal favorites are creating a paludarium for my living room or a Marimo moss ball terrarium for my daughter.


Meet Brad, the creator behind Vivarium Vibes, where his deep connection with nature and animals truly comes to life.

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