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Background Plants in the Vivarium

Simple Steps for a Verdant Vivarium

At Josh's Frogs, we carry a wide array of vivarium-suitable live terrarium plants. You may have noticed many are described as 'background plants' in their description. This means that these tropical vivarium plants are best suited to be planted in the back 1/3rd of the vivarium, along the base of the background (if there is one). These plants tend to fit into two classes: tall background plants and vines.

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Tall Background Plants

As the name implies, tall background plants will grow taller than many other live plants in a vivarium. As such, these tall background plants should be planted further back in the vivarium, so that they do not shade out lower growing foreground plants, and do not press up against the front glass, giving the vivarium an over planted, crowded look. Many tall background plants serve important functions in the vivarium.

Tall background plants are best planted in the back 1/3rd of a naturalistic vivarium.

Many tall background plants have broad leaves, which make excellent egg laying and calling sites for poison dart frogs. The foliage also serves as visual barriers, allowing more animals to coexist in the same vivarium without constantly running into each other and causing stress. The higher foliage from tall background plants also will shade some areas of the tank – many poison dart frogs will prefer these shaded spots. Please keep in mind that tall is relative, and many of the live vivarium plants Josh's Frogs has labeled as tall background plants are suitable background plants for the average vivarium, and may be planted differently in larger vivaria.

Tall background plants create additional usable space for a vivarium's animal inhabitants. Here, a Dendrobates tinctorius 'Matecho' lays eggs.

Planting a tall background plant in a naturalistic vivarium is very simple. To do so, just follow the steps below:

  1. Using your hand, scoop out a bit of substrate where you wish to plant your tall background plant in the vivarium.
  2. Wash the tall background plant, removing all soil and substrate the plant may have been shipped in.
  3. Gently place the tall background plant in the depression, and cover the roots with substrate.
  4. Water heavily initially, to help the plant to acclimate.

Vining Plants

Vining plants are another category of live terrarium plants that Josh's Frogs considers background plants. Although they may start out growing low to the ground, most vines will quickly scale the background and/or hardscape of a naturalistic vivarium, and help to fill in a vivarium, giving it a finished “planted” look. As such, most vines should be planted in the rear 1/3rd of a naturalistic vivarium, where they will quickly grow up towards the light source.

Vining plants will grow up the background and hardscape of a vivarium, giving it a 'finished' look.

All of the vining plants sold by Josh's Frogs will come established with roots, and can be planted using the method described above for tall background plants. Occasionally, vining plants are purchased as unrooted cuttings. To plant a cutting, simply place it on a damp surface in the vivarium, such as a layer of sphagnum. Provide light and keep it moist, and the vining plant cutting will root into the substrate and begin to grow.


Background plants have a special place in the naturalistic vivarium. Background plants are vital to the overall look and health of a vivarium, and serve many important purposes that contribute greatly to the successful upkeep of a vivarium and it's inhabitants. Josh's Frogs carries a wide variety of chemical free live terrarium plants that are perfectly suited for use in a naturalistic vivarium.

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