8 Best Lizards For A Paludarium (Vet Tech Answers)

Lizards For A Paludarium

Paludariums are unique enclosures that are gaining traction in the reptile world. Paludariums are becoming popular because they’re so aesthetically pleasing. Plus, paludaria or paludariums can house a wide variety of species at once. Fish, invertebrates, and frogs are some examples of the animals you’ll often find housed in one of these tanks. It might surprise you to find out that some lizards can make great additions to a paludarium.

So, which lizards are best for a paludarium?

Generally, the best lizards for a paludarium are aquatic or semi-aquatic species. Lizards like Chinese water dragons and Caiman lizards are ideal but might be impractical due to their large size. Other small lizards like green anoles, crested geckos, and eater water skinks can also make great additions to paludariums.  

We’ll describe each species of lizard for a paludarium in detail below. But first, let’s talk a little bit about what exactly paludaria are and what kinds of animals usually go in them!

What Is A Paludarium?

You already know that an aquarium is a tank full of water. Many reptile owners also know that a terrarium is a terrestrial tank setup. But a paludarium is something a little different than either of those.

A paludarium is a special type of enclosure that involves both land and water elements. Since paludariums have so many natural elements, they’re usually full of live plants growing and thriving in the miniature biome. The word paludarium means “swamp enclosure” with the Latin word “palus” translating to swamp and “arium” translating to enclosure.

If you’re still not getting a clear visual, check out the video below for a beautiful example!

What Types of Animals Are Typically In A Paludarium?

Only a few kinds of animals can actually thrive in a paludarium. That’s because animals in a paludarium have to deal with land, water, and very specific temperature and humidity ranges.

The most common types of animals to keep in a paludarium are amphibians. Frogs and salamanderrs in particular do very well in the moist environment of a paludarium. We’ll talk about a couple of these amphibians in detail towards the end of this article.

Fish can also be kept in paludariums. Fish in paludariums should be able to tolerate changes in water quality. Fish can also only be kept in paludariums that don’t have any predators within.

Besides lizards, other reptiles like snakes and turtles are sometimes kept in paludariums. Snakes don’t always make the best tank mates, but certain species like ribbon snakes may do well and thrive in a living paludarium. Aquatic turtles can do well in paludariums that have deep enough water for them to swim in.

So what about lizards? What qualities are best in a lizard living in a paludarium?

What Makes A Lizard Good For A Paludarium?

Some lizards can do well in a paladarium, but not all! There are a few traits that lizards must have in order to be able to survive in the unique environment a paludarium provides.

Aquatic, Semi Aquatic Or Humidity Loving

It’s best to consider only aquatic, semi-aquatic, or humidity-loving lizards for a paludarium. Any lizards that are native to dry and arid climates won’t do well in a paludarium. Not only would the water be a danger to them, but the humidity can lead to issues like pneumonia and scale rot.

The best choice of a lizard for a paludarium is an aquatic or semi-aquatic one that can make use of and explore the water in its enclosure. Otherwise, you’re better off keeping your terrestrial species in a traditional terrarium.


Paludaria aren’t the most practical enclosures for safety or containment.

If you have an aggressive lizard lunging at you it might make feeding and cleaning difficult. Or, if your pet is trying to escape every time you open up the doors, that’s a whole new issue to deal with. Species or individuals who are more relaxed make much better choices for paludariums than their “spicy” counterparts.

Why It Can Be Difficult To House Lizards In A Paludarium

Lizards can be housed in paladariums, but some of them have traits that can make this living arrangement difficult. Before you choose a lizard to put in your paludarium, make sure to check out some of the drawbacks below.

Poor Water Quality

Lizards poop a lot!  Not only can this make clean-up difficult in paludariums but it can also affect the quality of the water inside.

Lizards have nitrogenous wastes inside of their bodies that are converted into toxic ammonia. This toxic ammonia is excreted in urates and feces. When toxic ammonia gets into a small supply of fresh water, it can make the water dangerous for plants or animals living in it. So, keeping a lizard in a paludarium with other animals might be difficult and require frequent water changes.

There Aren’t Many Aquatic Lizards

In all reality, there aren’t many lizards that are truly aquatic.

Most lizards are only semi-aquatic and still spend a lot of time on land. Finding a lizard that has enough aquatic wherewithal to live in a wet environment might be difficult. You might even need to select a specific individual based on their affinity and comfort with water.

Some Lizards Are Carnivorous

Many wild lizards are omnivorous opportunistic feeders.

Given the opportunity, some lizards in a paludarium might start to hunt the fish or invertebrates they’re housed with. If you know this in advance, you can only stock your tank with things you’re okay with your pet lizard eating.  But, it could come as a nasty surprise to find your lizard eating one of your favorite fish.

Best Lizards For A Paludarium

So, we’ve gone over what a paludarium is, what kind of animals usually live in one, what makes lizards good for paludarium, and what makes them bad for paludariums.  With all of this knowledge, we can finally list the best lizards for a paludarium.

1. Jackson’s Chameleon

Jackson’s chameleons are one of the best lizards for a paludarium.

This might seem like an odd animal to start with as Jackson’s chameleons aren’t aquatic or even semi-aquatic. But, these chameleons love humidity and thrive in environments where small bodies of water are present. Jackson’s chameleons are fairly docile. Even though these lizards eat bugs, they won’t hunt down other animals within the enclosure.

Chameleons are arboreal and need plenty of vertical space to climb. These lizards are also prone to falling so if your paladarium includes deep water, you’ll need to cover some areas with safety netting. Better yet, only keep a Jackson’s chameleon in a paludarium with shallow water.

2. Chinese Water Dragon

Chinese water dragons are an obvious choice for one of the best lizards for a paludarium.

Chinese water dragons are semi-aquatic lizards that are found in tropical regions of Asia. These lizards need to swim and climb in order to live a fulfilling life. In a paludarium, you can supply a water dragon with plenty of deep water for swimming and live plants for climbing. Chinese water dragons can stay submerged in water for up to 90 minutes and are adept swimmers.

The only downside to keeping one of these lizards in a paludarium is their size. Chinese water dragons reach lengths of around 3 feet total as adults. Finding a paludarium large enough to comfortably house one may be a challenge. Plus, these lizards are one of the most difficult reptile species to keep in general.

3. Caiman Lizard

Caiman lizards are the best large lizards for a paludarium. Before deciding to bring one of these into your life, you should know how much work they are to keep!

Caiman lizards are semi-aquatic reptiles that can traverse both land and water. While they’ll take advantage of a paludarium, it might be difficult to get one large enough to accommodate them. Caiman lizards often grow to lengths of 2 – 4 feet as adults.

To happily house them, you would need a grand paludarium much larger than this. Because of their size, Caiman lizards usually end up housed in reptile sanctuaries or zoos. These lizards love to spend time in the water and having a large water feature in their enclosure is essential.

4. Crested Gecko

Crested geckos are one reptile that sparks controversy when it comes to paludariums.

Conventionally, crested geckos are seen as terrestrial tree-dwelling lizards. Crested geckos can’t swim and should never be submerged in water. But, if you have a paludarium with a shallow water feature, you may be able to house a crested gecko within.

Crested geckos are one of the best arboreal lizards for paludarium because they’re small and non-destructive. They won’t dig up plants or make a mess by burrowing into substrate. Most likely, your crested gecko will be content to simply climb around on leaves and eat bugs.

5. Green Anole

Green anoles are a tiny arboreal species of lizard that can make great additions to a paladarium.

While not aquatic, these lizards are adept climbers who spend their lives up in the trees. Their bright green color could make a vibrant addition to the top levels of a paludarium. Green anoles need plenty of vertical space to climb and should only be kept in a tall paludarium.

If you’re creating your paludarium for aesthetics, anoles are a great choice. These lizards aren’t handleable and are more fun to watch and observe during the day. Since these lizards are insectivorous, they’ll hunt just about anything they can fit their mouths around!

6. Water Anole

Water anoles are rare pet lizards that would be ideal additions to a paludarium.

Water anoles are semi-aquatic lizards native to Central America. These anoles are natural swimmers and have amazing diving capabilities. They’re probably the smallest lizard that would really take advantage of a water-filled paludarium.

To thrive in captivity, these anoles need plenty of light and humidity in their enclosures.

7. Crocodile Skink

If you’ve never seen a crocodile skink, make sure to check out a few pictures today. These skinks are tiny, and adorable and can be housed in paludariums,

Crocodile skinks are somewhat rare in the pet trade. Since they’re endemic to tropical forests in Papa New Guinea, crocodile skinks have high humidity requirements for their enclosures. This is what makes them well suited for a paludarium. However, these small lizards aren’t great swimmers and shouldn’t be kept in enclosures with deep water.

8. Eastern Water Skink

The last pet on our list of best lizards for a paludarium is the eastern water skink.

Eastern water skinks are commonly kept pets that make great animals for enclosures meant to be displayed. These animals aren’t usually handleable but are great to observe and may sometimes form bonds with their keepers.

In the wild, Eastern water skinks love to bask on rocks near streams and ponds. So make sure to provide them with a few sunny basking areas in your paludarium!

Amphibian Options

We’ve listed a good variety of the best lizards for a paludarium. But, the typical critters housed inside of a paludarium are usually amphibious.

Frogs are popular pets kept in paludariums. That’s because the swampy environment often perfectly mimics their native ones. Poison dart frogs, fire-bellied toads, and African bullfrogs are some of the popular frog choices for a paludarium.

As you can probably imagine, salamanders are kept exclusively in paludarium-like enclosures. These animals need moisture to survive and a paludarium is the perfect way to provide that.

Some examples of salamanders that are kept in paludaria are fire salamanders, spring salamanders, and tiger salamanders. These little amphibians can make great use of all of the aquatic features found in a paludarium.

Final Thoughts

If you’re set on crafting a beautiful paludarium, it’s only natural to want to learn about all of the different animals that can be housed in one.

Paludaria are aesthetic enclosures that can make gorgeous in-home displays. Only certain species of lizards can be housed within. Typically, these lizards have some sort of affinity for water or at least require high humidity levels.

Large lizards like Caiman lizards and water dragons make great pets for paludaria but they’re usually too big for hobbyists to consider housing. Some smaller lizard options for paludaria may not be as aquatic but will still fit in well with the environment. Or you can opt for a lizard that loves to swim, like a water anole, that will take full advantage of your swampy enclosure!