If you keep amphibians or reptiles as pets, you want to provide them with the best environment possible so they can thrive and be happy. One way to do that is to build them an enclosed environment that mimics their natural environment. Choosing the right vivarium plants to fill their habitat is a combination of what your animals will enjoy and which plants will create a tropical humidity level for them to live in.

Even though it might be tempting to provide your terrarium animals with plastic plants, live plants for your tropical vivarium are the better choice.

Plastic plants can’t produce the humidity your pets need, clean the air inside your vivarium, or contribute to the ecosystem you create.

So, how can you pick the best tropical vivarium plants for your enclosed habitat? Before you settle on plant varieties, there are some issues you need to consider.

You also have to realize that there are different types of terrariums, and the type of plants you choose will determine the type. The one you choose has to fit the animals who are going to live in there.

Vivarium Types

Although there are over a dozen vivarium types that can house everything from just plants to all types of animals, we’ll concentrate on the types that house reptiles and amphibians.

The items you put in your terrarium will affect the environment and give you either a desert climate, tropical climate, or semi-aquatic.

If you have arid reptiles, you want to have a desert vivarium, which will use a sandy or rocky surface, and plants that promote a dry environment. In effect, you’re bringing the desert into your enclosure and copying the atmosphere.

A tropical environment is best for both reptiles and amphibians because they’re warm but not dry. You want to compare this enclosure to the heat and moisture of a tropical rain forest.

Many reptiles and amphibians can also thrive in a semi-aquatic vivarium. Here, you have a combination of dry and moist, with a pond feature in a separate area of your tank.

Consider this type of environment if you have frogs, salamanders, or turtles.

Once you decide on the type of vivarium you need, you have to make some more decisions in order for it to work.

Initial Considerations

If you’re building your vivarium as a habitat for your pet, you need to consider what type of environment will help them live their best life. One of the main differences between vivariums is the humidity level.

As mentioned, for a tropical enclosure, you want to create a rainforest ecosystem. So, any reptiles or amphibians that live in the rainforest will do well in a tropical terrarium setting.

When picking your vivarium plants, placement and size matter. You need to make sure each plant that needs light gets it and doesn’t sit in the shadow of a taller plant.

Drawing out your plan ahead of time, taking into account future growth, will go a long way in the success of your enclosure.

Additional Considerations

In addition to the humidity within your vivarium, you have to think about the lighting. Your plants will need light to thrive, and so will your animals.

Whether you choose bright lighting or soft lighting, you have to be sure the plants you choose can handle that light. You also have to be sure there’s enough light left for your animals, but not too much.

When placing your light fixture, think about where the shadows and bright spots will be so you can put the plants in the right place.

Pet Needs

Not only do you have to think about the needs of your plants, but the needs of your animals are a top priority. Is your terrarium strong enough to house your pets in addition to the plants, water sources, and hiding places?

Think about if they like to hide in logs or dig under the dirt, and plan accordingly. You want to give them what they need while thinking about whether their behavior will fit what you build or not.

For example, if they dig, are they going to uproot your plants? If they climb, will the plants you choose support their weight?

When you design your vivarium, consider all these points, then pick and choose tropical plants that will support your environment and your animal’s life.

Choosing the Best Vivarium Plants

The vivarium plants you choose are ultimately up to you, but it’s best to start simple. Choose a handful of plants that serve different purposes and see how they work together.

Observe how they grow and how your pets react, then make changes or additions as necessary.

Also, keep an eye on your humidity level to see if the vivarium plants you chose maintain the moisture and heat your enclosure requires.

Finally, be sure that you purchase plants grown without pesticides. Ask questions before buying from a vivarium plant supplier to find out the methods they use to grow their plants.

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Fill Your Tropical Vivarium

When setting up your tropical paradise, you’re looking for plants that will do a few things. As discussed, you want the right plants to create the proper level of humidity. You also want plants that allow your pets to climb, hide, and function as they would in the wild.

Keeping size, placement, and light in mind, here are some vivarium plants that will help you plan the perfect tropical habitat.


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Whether you’ve seen a rainforest in person, on television, or in pictures, the one plant that stands out is the fern. Ferns don’t require much light, they’re simple to grow, and they produce high humidity.

Not only that, but ferns come in many sizes and types, so no matter the size of your vivarium, they will fit in nicely. A few varieties to investigate for your enclosure include:

  • Staghorn
  • Bird’s Nest
  • Boston Fern
  • Rabbit’s Foot

Adding ferns big and small is a good start to creating a tropical paradise.

RELATED READS: Best Grow Lights for Indoor Plants


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Another plant you probably associate with the rainforest is the orchid. They are a beautiful addition to your terrarium because they add a pop of color to an otherwise green landscape.

While it’s true that orchids can be temperamental in some varieties, many require little more than some light and a place where their roots will not get soggy.

Some orchid blooms to consider include:

  • Jewel
  • Pink Rock
  • Macodes Patola
  • Masdevallia

With tens of thousands of orchid species choices, adding one or two to your vivarium should be a colorful breeze.


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The plants in your vivarium that need the majority of the bright light are the bromeliads. This species is an air plant, so you can place them anywhere in your enclosure, as long as they receive the light they need.

Bromeliad leaves are tube-shaped, so they can collect water and act as a pool for your climbing pets to use.

In fact, this might be one of the best plants for dart frog vivarium habitats for that reason. So that feature is something to consider when adding these vivarium plants to your space.

In addition to that, they come in a variety of colors, which gives you even more beautiful and diverse choices for your habitat.

A few species to consider in this plant family include:

  • Fireball
  • Zoe
  • Donger
  • Billbergia
  • Neoregelia


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If you don’t have a natural green thumb, you might want to add some philodendrons to your tank. Not only are they easy to care for and come in a variety of colors, but they thrive in varying light levels and rarely die.

Placing these vines high in your vivarium allows them to tumble down and fill your space with shiny heart-shaped leaves.

These vines will give your animals an opportunity to climb to higher places.


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Another easy and quick-growing plant to add to your enclosure is the tradescantia. They are a deep purple and green color with tear-drop leaves, and they love low to medium indirect light.

Where the philodendron cascades down, the tradescantia climbs up. But beware of the speed it grows because it can take over your environment, so you need to trim it regularly.

A few different varieties would be an excellent addition to your vivarium plant collection. They are:

  • Bolivian
  • Red
  • Burgundy


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If you’re looking for a pop of green to add to your tropical vivarium ecosystem, consider peperomia. The varieties run from small to vining, so no matter where you need to fit a plant, there’s a peperomia genus for you.

Just be sure when planning your habitat, that you consider the peperomia needs low to medium light.

The choices for your terrarium plants are vast, but here are some of the most popular among hobbyists.

  • Watermelon
  • Felted
  • Columbian
  • Pixie
  • Prostrata
  • Venezuela


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Pilea is another easy plant to grow in your terrarium. They come in vining and bush varieties and can take over your tank if you don’t keep their growth under control.

Since there are so many variations of the pilea plant, the ease of which you can add texture and color to your vivarium makes this plant a popular choice.

When planning your space, choose a pilea variety that fits the size and amount of light exposure in any place that you need to fill.

Some pilea varieties to consider include:

  • Creeping Charlie
  • Tiny Tears
  • Red Stem Tears
  • Baby Tears
  • Moon Valley
  • Friendship

One of the most helpful features of pilea is how easy you can propagate another plant. All you need is one cutting, and you can start a whole new plant. So, if you plan to have more than one terrarium, pilea can be very useful.


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Ficus plants are also known as fig plants and come in hundreds of varieties. A few of those varieties are appropriate for your tropical terrarium because they love humidity. They also grow in low light, so it’s easy to find a space for your ficus.

Like a few other vivarium plants on this list, ficus plants come in vine and shrub forms.

You might find that your pets like the vine varieties, but you can also add a shrub as long as you remember to prune it, so it doesn’t take over the habitat.

If you do choose to add a ficus, beware of the type you choose because some of these plants have toxic leaves.

So, if you have a pet that eats plants in your vivarium, be careful not to add one with leaves that could make them sick.

Create Your Tropical Vivarium Environment

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Building a tropical paradise for your reptile or amphibian can be a complex adventure. After all, your building a tiny rainforest in a tank that will have everything it needs to support both its plant and animal residents.

That’s a lot of responsibility.

Planning is key to success, and the great thing is that if something isn’t working, you can change it. Start by adding just a few plants and see how they do. If the humidity isn’t quite right, add a little more and see how that changes things.

Also, keep an eye on your pets and see how they react to their new home. Track their behaviors and make any necessary adjustments, so they thrive in their tropical space.

Be sure to buy non-toxic live vivarium plants for sale from a reputable company, and contact an expert if you get stuck building your habitat.

Above all, enjoy the creative journey of perfecting your own tropical terrarium.

Last update on 2022-01-29 at 14:37 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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