How to start?

Gilbert, AZ

I'm toying around with the idea of creating a mini terrarium/vivarium. (what is the difference between the two anyway?) Once I have my new fish pass qt in a month I will be all set with a ten gallon glass tank. I have some beginer questions, and hopefully some one can help me. I'm new to house plants in general, so I want to start off really easy.

What kind of small, easy to care for plants will do well in such a small enclosure? I bought some moss fern and I think it would look lovely as a ground cover in the tank. I think the fancy leaf begonias are just so stunning, and a bright pink variety would make a good centerpeice.

What other decorations can I keep inside? Like quartz, river stones, a 2 teir bed in the back, etc. Where do you get the charcoal? What kind of lights are ideal? Does it need a lid? I live in AZ so it is very hot and dry, even in my house. My room is about 80-87*F and there is nothing I can really do about it, so I need some *really* tropical plants.

I am undecided on keeping any fawna inside. I'd love a small lizard or frog etc, but I don't think its enough space and I don't want to buy all the special expensive lights, pay for vet checks etc. Maybe something small and undemanding like a praying mantis. If anyone has any ideas that would be great.

And lastly...where do I buy these plants?

Thank you for your help in advance.

Missouri City, TX(Zone 9a)

I don't have any answers for you, except that once you add plants to terrarium they will create some of the humidity on their own, of course if you leave the lid off there will be less and if you leave the lid on 24/7 there will be lots. I think the amound you want will depend on the plants, conditions etc.
Mini plants are going to work best if you are trying to put several in one area. Ebay sometimes is a good source or if you do a search on any of the search engines for terrarium plants, minature plants, etc. Otherwise you should read some of the previous posts. I am just starting my own so everything that I do will be an experiment. I did just pick up 2 minature Sinningia's Bonnie's Baby & Glory Be, on Ebay- not my favorite place to shop but sometimes I can't resist.
I have purchased charcol on the garden section @ Lowes & HD; you should be able to find it where they keep the specialty soil mixes like Orchid and African Violet mix. I don't know about lights, I don't know about fawna, but as far as rocks and other decor I think that's all good and depends on personal taste.
Hope this helped.

Ankeny, IA(Zone 5a)

well I have a few insectivorus plants Venus Fly Trap, Sundew and a North American Pitcher Plant in a ******VERY****** small container (about 3 1/2 x 8 in. long.) and they seem to be doing fine. They are dormant right now so they aren't growing or producing the saps they need to catch their food.


Fayetteville, NC(Zone 8a)

Last fall I started my first terrarium in a 35 gal. aquarium. I had charcoal and good gravel on hand from it being a real aquarium so layered those, added good potting soil mix and then put Spanish moss on the top and along the front edge to cover the dirt that was showing. I had a large rock with lots of holes in it from the original aquarium and set that up in one back corner. In the other back corner I put a small stand (don't know what it's original use was) that I found at a thrift shop. I just used the original tank top and light.

I purchased my plants at Home Depot and stuck with very small varieties. They have an entire section of tiny plants. I added an African Violet from my stock on hand. On the stand I put a clear plastic container filled with dirt and a small-leaved variety of ivy. Then I just stood back and waited. I was so new at this way of "gardening" that I asked a million questions here on DG. I was in the hospital for several months and the terrarium almost did not survive my absence. My family was caring for things and either drowned things or let them dry out--but they tried.

But now............the African Violet has more than tripled its original size and I have since added a second one that is just as happy. My little fern is bouncing back and is looking quite nice in front of the big rock. The ivy on the stand is so busy running all over the place that I am constantly trimming it. I am now training it to run through the holes in the big rock in the other back corner of the tank. I have to water that ivy more than anything else because it has such a shallow root area.

I stick my fingers into the dirt to determine when to water. The tank top has holes in the back, so I never have accumulated excess water drips anyplace. I added a couple of variegated plants to replace something that did not make it. It's very pretty in my living room and I have really enjoyed having it. Did not spend much money on it because I had some things on hand. I did not add any wildlife because I didn't want anything else to feed, and because I have the holes in the top.

I have also started two mini-terrariums in glass jars that I found at a thrift shop. Put the same charcoal and dirt in those. I have a mini-African Violet in the smallest one and the large one has an AV and some ivy. They have tight lids, so have to watch the watering, but they almost never need any. I can't even remember when I watered them last, and they are growing beautifully. The mini-AV was dying and that was my last chance to save it. They sit in a window that gets bright light and maybe 10 minutes of early morning sun. I have one more large jar that has the dirt and charcoal in it all ready to go, but haven't decided what plants to add. It's been sitting there for a couple of months already!!

I am only relating my own experience. Have no idea what would work for anyone else. I just know that I am glad the fish went on to better lives at my friend's house, and I am especially glad to have these lovely and basically care-free plants to look at. Don't be afraid to try things. You can add rocks, dishes, whatever--but I would clean them well first. Once you get it started, don't add new plants that you have not quarantined or that are not from what you already have on hand. That would include buying from ebay especially unless it's someone you have dealt with before. People mean well, but could be spreading disease and pests without knowing it, as lots of sellers are amateurs.

Have a good time with it, play with it, move things around. Post pictures as you can. Read all you can here on DG and Google terrariums. Good luck!!


Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images