Habitat Construction: Semi-Aquatic Terrarium

Half the fun of reptile and amphibian keeping is building their environments to be as natural as possible*—so let’s get building!

Materials you’ll need:

  • Aquarium (20, 29, 40 or 55 gal) and stand. If you’re considering buying a large aquarium, make sure your floor is able to bear the weight with water and gravel combined.
  • Washed, coarse gravel with a pebble size of about 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Depending upon the size of the land area, you’ll need 45 to 65 pounds.
  • Dried moss (available at most dealers). If desired, you can collect some patches of live moss.
  • Plants – aquatic and land
  • Driftwood
  • Tetrafauna® Viquarium® Kit makes setting up a semi-aquatic terrarium easier than traditional methods.
  • Lighting
  • Lockable screen top or glass canopy
Building, step by step:
  1. If the area you selected can bear the load, place the aquarium on the stand.
  2. Unpack your Tetrafauna® Viquarium®. Decide whether you want the land portion on the right or left side of the aquarium as seen from the front.
  3. Place the pump chamber snugly in the selected corner.
  4. Following your Viquarium direction sheet, place the filtration box into the tank.
  5. Place the riverbed section between the pump chamber and the filtration box.
  6. Add the filter cartridges. Then place the outlet on the pump and attach it to the waterfall unit. Add the waterfall lid.
In the land section:
  1. Fill the land portion with coarse gravel, up to about 1/4 inch from the top of the filtration box and the walls of the riverbed.
  2. Cover the gravel with dried moss. Or, use live moss. Piece together portions of moss to form a continuous carpet on top of the gravel for a more natural appearance.
  3. To decorate, use plants that thrive in a very humid environment. Most ferns, many types of ivy, pothos, and philodendron are fine Viquarium plants (do your research first on what plants are compatible with your reptile). Shake off most of the soil and plant directly into the gravel. Add small pieces of driftwood, tree branches, and rocks. You may want to consider using artificial plants and no moss if you’re planning to keep turtles. Turtles are very active and can quickly uproot and destroy live plants.
In the water section:
  1. Cover the bottom of the water section with a layer of fine to medium gravel, or nothing at all
    NOTE: Do not use the coarse gravel from the land area, as it will trap too many food particles. If keeping turtles, a bare bottom is recommended for easier cleaning.
  2. Fill with tap water, following the directions on your Viquarium instruction sheet. Use Tetrafauna AquaSafe® for Reptiles to make tap water safe for your aminals.
  3. Plug in the water pump.
  4. Add aquatic and bog plants (available at most dealers). Also, you can decorate with any item that’s safe for an aquarium.

In addition to Semi-Aquatic Terrariums, the most common types of environments for reptiles and amphibians include Aquatic, Woodland, and Desert. To learn more, or to see step-by-step instructions, just click on the links.

*As always, we encourage you to do as much research as you can before you purchase your reptile or amphibian. Especially regarding temperature, feeding, and lighting requirements—each living creature has its own specific needs.

Back to Learning Center