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How to Grow Floating Plants?

Fern plant mounted vertically

Epiphytes, ever heard of them? They're fascinating plants that thrive without soil, instead relying on other plants or objects for support without being parasitic. Some boast aerial roots, while others manage without roots altogether. Predominantly found in tropical climates, a select few even endure desert conditions by extracting moisture from coastal fog.

While the term "epiphytes" may sound exotic, chances are you've encountered a couple of notable examples: bromeliads and air plants. These botanical marvels are popular fixtures in vivariums, especially those housing reptiles and amphibians, thanks to their distinct appearance and adaptability. However, for newcomers to the world of epiphytes, they can seem daunting. After all, they don't conform to conventional planting methods. Where do you position them? How do you ensure proper hydration?

Fear not, as this guide will equip you with the knowledge and confidence to incorporate and care for epiphytes in your own vivarium.

Bromeliad Care in the Vivarium:

Bromeliads thrive in environments rich in humidity and bright light, making them ideal for tropical vivariums. They are particularly favored in dart frog vivariums due to their water-retentive leaf bases, which serve as nurseries for tadpoles.

Selecting Bromeliads:

When selecting bromeliads for your vivarium, prioritize varieties with smooth-edged leaves to prevent harm to inhabitants. Species such as Aechmea, Neoregelia, and Vrisea are typically well-suited. For larger vivariums, Guzmania can also be considered.

Planting Bromeliads:

Given their epiphytic nature, planting bromeliads differs from conventional methods. Secure them in a location where they can establish firm anchorage, such as between branches or nestled within bark crevices. Utilize hemp twine to fasten the plant, focusing on the roots rather than the foliage. Over time, the roots will assume primary anchorage. In taller enclosures, positioning bromeliads higher up capitalizes on the humidity gradient and maximizes exposure to light sources.

Lighting Requirements:

While bromeliads typically favor indirect sunlight, in vivariums, supplemental lighting is essential. High-intensity LED grow lamps, such as the Bio Dude’s Glow & Grow or the Arcadia Jungle Dawn LED Bar, are recommended. Multiple lamps may be necessary depending on vivarium size. Ensure adequate distance from heat lamps to prevent damage.

Watering Bromeliads:

Bromeliads thrive on frequent misting to maintain moisture levels, but root dryness between sessions is crucial. Employ reverse osmosis or distilled water for misting, avoiding tap water. Symptoms of overwatering include browning and leaf drop. Employ fans to enhance ventilation and mitigate potential rot.


Supplement monthly misting with a bromeliad-specific fertilizer during the growing season to optimize plant health. Exercise caution to avoid overfertilization, particularly during dormancy.

Air Plant Care in the Vivarium:

Air plants, categorized as xeric or mesic, present distinct care requirements based on their natural habitats. Xeric varieties originate from arid regions and exhibit adaptive traits, while mesic species thrive in humid environments.

Selecting Air Plants:

Xeric air plants, such as Tillandsia xerographica and T. ionantha, are suitable for semi-arid vivariums, boasting resilience to high temperatures and intense light. Conversely, mesic air plants, like T. bulbosa and T. abdita multifora, flourish in tropical setups, favoring shade and higher humidity levels.

Planting Air Plants:

Unlike bromeliads, air plants lack roots and adhere to surfaces using specialized structures. Silicone sealant or cable ties facilitate secure attachment within the vivarium, enabling periodic removal for soaking. Caution should be exercised with copper wire, as it is toxic to air plants.

Lighting Requirements:

Both xeric and mesic air plants benefit from exposure to high-intensity LED grow lights to replicate natural conditions. Optimal placement ensures adequate illumination without proximity to heat sources.

Watering Air Plants:

Xeric air plants require infrequent misting, supplemented by periodic soaking to maintain hydration levels. Mesic counterparts necessitate weekly soaking to ensure adequate moisture retention. Employ water sources rich in minerals, such as rainwater or spring water, to promote plant vigor.


Epiphyte care represents a nuanced yet rewarding aspect of vivarium maintenance. Mastery of their unique requirements fosters a thriving ecosystem within your enclosure. With practice, the care regimen becomes intuitive, resulting in vibrant, flourishing specimens enhancing the vivarium's aesthetic appeal and ecological balance.

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Oh no way I’m totally going to try this out

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