In my own tanks and those I design for zoos and aquariums, I have long been fond of featuring exposed root systems. I am also drawn to what used to be termed “shoreline terrariums” – exhibits highlighting shallow water fish and semi-aquatic amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. Zoo exhibits are often quite deep and not always equipped with lighting that meets the needs of aquatic plants, so water-tolerant land plants often fulfilled my needs.
One species I have come to depend upon is the Peace Lily, a common house plant. Its genus contains over 40 South American and Southeast Asian species, and the leaves are fairly “generic” in appearance, and so the plant handily fits the themes of a wide range of exhibits. I prefer the “Mauna Loa” strain, which is readily available and amazingly resilient.
Most Peace Lilies prefer slight shade, but thrive under lights and tolerate fairly dry to wet soil. In my opinion, they really come into their own, terrarium-wise, when planted or suspended in water. They thrive for years this way, and send out truly impressive root systems in short order. Fish, shrimp, crayfish and snails will spend hours foraging among these, and the roots also have a beneficial effect on water quality. Their intertwined tendrils provide vital shelter to young fishes and shrimp, and lend a stunning look to planted aquariums and terrariums.
As you can see from the accompanying photo, the sturdy leaves function almost as do water lily pads, and easily support the weight of an adult Green Frog. The other photos depict a Southern Leopard Frog resting on a leaf draped over a stump, and the extensive root system that was formed from one small plant (5 leaves).
I have even seen Peace Lilies sold for use as totally aquatic plants, but have not tried planting them in this way.