Problem: Replacing a dead pump can ruin an established enclosure.
Over and over again I've heard people say: "My pump failed and now I have to tear apart the interior of my enclosure to get to it so I can replace it."
This is one of the most frustrating things about using pumps in an enclosure. Whether you are creating a water feature or just using it to circulate the water, a pump will eventually fail and must be replaced.
When Good Pumps Go Bad
There's nothing quite like the sinking feeling when you realize your pump has died. We’ve had to take out established plants, dismantle the landscape, replace the pump, and then try to put everything back together again. While we were lucky that most of our plants survived this process, it took a while for them to re-establish and get back to normal. And the enclosure never really looked the same.
So, when we decided to stop trying to retrofit old aquariums into paludariums and instead to design our own enclosures from scratch, an important criterion was that the pump had to be easy to replace.
Plan For Failure
Since we know a pump WILL eventually fail, let's plan for it so we can minimize the damage a failed pump can cause.
There are two primary options: take the pump out or isolate it some other way.
Option 1: Take the pump out of the enclosure.
Don’t put the pump inside the enclosure at all. Instead, connect it to the enclosure some other way. For example, put it inside an overflow or sump in the cabinet underneath the enclosure. Then, connect the pump to the enclosure with tubing.
This does require a stronger pump so that it has enough power to move water the required distance. And, it takes a little more room and effort to set up. But, it means that, when the pump fails, all you have to do is take it out and reconnect the tubing to the new one. This saves time and heartache in the long run.
We see this option used most often with large enclosures, but it works just fine with smaller enclosures as long as there is enough room to place the pump, run tubing, etc.
Option 2: Separate the pump inside the enclosure.
If you separate part of your enclosure off for your pump (and any other mechanicals, like a fogger), then you can easily replace it since it isn’t built into the landscape. Here’s an example:
This keeps all your mechanicals contained within the separate column, saving you space. It also means you can use a smaller pump that is less powerful. These pumps are usually quieter, too.
This is a great option for smaller enclosures where space savings is important. So, if you want to put a vivarium on your desk, but still want a water feature or the option to circulate the water easily, then try using an enclosure with a separate area for the pump.
Option 3: Don’t use a pump at all.
Okay, so some people argue that a pump really isn’t necessary. But, pumps are actually critical to the health of the habitat in your enclosure. Here’s why: they help keep water from getting stagnant (stationary water usually becomes stagnant and is the perfect environment for growing disease and parasites).
Most people acknowledge that pumps are useful in aquariums. Aquarium pumps cycle the water, filter out debris and waste products, oxygenate the water, and balance the water temperature.
But, not everyone realizes that a pump is just as critical for terrariums and paludariums. The same water cycling systems are needed for a healthy ecosystem in non-aquatic habitats.
Other Benefits to Pump Use
Beyond facilitating healthy water and proper water cycling, pumps also allow you to easily perform water changes (though changes are less frequent thanks to healthier water). And, if you want to add a waterfall or other water feature to your enclosure, pumps are a necessity. Waterfalls, if done right, add a lot of beauty and enjoyment to an enclosure.
Are you looking for an enclosure that has a pump chamber? Our enclosures come with a pump chamber preinstalled or can be custom made to meet your needs.
Seth and Rachel Hiser, the founders of BioVivara, help exotic plant and animal enthusiasts create beautiful, low-maintenance, naturalistic enclosures. Learn more about their journey from hobbyists to business owners here.