Lighting an unusual terrarium

Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)October 13, 2013

I got a store display case free off Craigslist. It stands about 45" tall (see pic) and the top part has glass walls, but no lid yet. I can have a piece of glass cut to serve as a lid, but don't plan on having it fight tightly - I fully expect it will need to breathe a little.

I don't intend to plant directly into this case, but will probably put a large tray or pot saucer in the bottom and plant it as one would a dish garden. I grow a lot of Gesneriads and expect they will figure heavily in my planting.

I'm looking for lighting suggestions. My "terrarium" won't be placed near a window and without a light source it'll be way too dark for almost all the plants I'll use.

The glass walls are about 17" wide and about 13.5" tall. If I use some sort of an LED light fixture, it needs to be less than 17" long (unless maybe placed corner to corner). I'm looking for something that won't require complicated construction or a bunch of $$$. I was at Lowe's earlier tonight, shortly before closing. I bought what appeared to be a workable solution, a UTILITECH 12" LED accent tape light. Neither the salesperson nor I picked up on the obvious term "extension kit". This is not a stand-alone light system, but something that will extend UTILITECH's starter kit! So now it has to go back & I start over...of course, the first thing I'll check is whether Lowe's has the starter kit, but if it's like the extension kit, it's not supposed to used inside a closed cabinet.

Sorry...this is turning into a book! Another option I'll look into (but was trying to put something cheaper together) is an OTT's fluorescent floor lamp with goose neck. It's barely tall enough and runs to the expensive side.

The last option in my own arsenal would be a PAR38 (or smaller) LED spot light for indoor use. I want at least 5000K in color temp & prefer a dimmable bulb.

With ALL that info to digest, does anyone have suggestions?! Many thanks.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Maby a reptile heat lamp that claps on the side but with a lower watt bulb so it dosent acctully heat

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 10:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

That might preclude putting a sheet of glass on the top...and I wonder about the light output - are you suggesting a standard lightbulb?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2013 at 11:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Probably your best bet would be some type of "aquarium " type fixture. They make a gazillion types with many options . gary

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 2:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Patrick888:

I know nothing about the growing of Gesneriads. You mentioned adding a glass lid to the top of your enclosure. Would the glass top be used as a light support ? What type of light do Gesneriads require (e.g, high, medium, low)? Do Gesneriads require humidty? Problems associated with lack of air movement, stale air, and high humidity, could come into play with some species of plants (even with a glass lid that is not tight fitting).

As to lighting, are you looking for something that is cosmetically pleasing to the eye, or something that will just get the job done? 17"w x 13" tall is indeed a unique size. Might be hard to acquire a fixture to fit that footprint if placing directly on top of your enclosure. One t5ho fixture that might be a possibilty: an 18" Sunblaster Nano Tech t5ho.

If you were considering a longer standard size t5 or t8 fixture (e.g., 2 ft), you could probably suspend it over the top easily with some creativity. For an inexpensive 'fix' that may not be the most eye-appealing, you could get a couple of clamp-on "dome" aluminum light fixtures (Lowe's carries them) and use 'daylight' compact fluorescent screw-in bulbs as an option.

As suggested by the above poster, aquarium lighting is another possibility. Examples might include something like the Finnex LED fixtures (FugeRay 16" or 20" - Ray2 18" - and I believe the mounts are adjustable), although they are a bit pricier than the Utilitec LED tape (which I don't think would produce enough light for your application, even though the depth is only 13").

You could always hang an inexpensive pendant over the top (with your idea of using an LED spotlight) and design it so you can adjust the hanging height. Looks like you have a wooden base (?) under the glass... you could fabricate some type of hanger (e.i., conduit) off the side, or off the back of your base to suspend a light fixture. Looks like you are going to have a very nice display/set-up when finished!

This post was edited by o2tiller on Tue, Oct 15, 13 at 16:25

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 2:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

the light discussed at the beginning of the below linked thread is pretty nice, does not come with a fixture but you can use any old desk lamp (incandescent socket) or hack up your own if you are handy.

You can find them at a store that might be mentioned in the linked thread, but GardenWeb doesn't want me to mention the store by name, never saw that weird error here before (SPAM blah blah). Hope I'm not breaking rules by making this suggestion. I have no connection to the vendor but thought this might be something that would work for you.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 8:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I love the display cabinet you bought. And the idea of growing Gesnariads in it. I Grow Episcia so I am always thinking of ways for them to get the right light and humidity.

Please post what you came up with for this project as I think many of us would enjoy seeing it.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 4:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

Teisa, finding the right light for this display-case-turned-terrarium has slipped to the back burner...probably until after the holidays.

I do like the idea of putting episcias in the terrarium - especially a few that have a lot of pink and/or strong leaf patterns. I have a few good-sized pieces of lava rock & expect I'll use one as a focal point & plant small gesneriads, mini vines, etc. in the natural pockets in the rock.

I don't picture this terrarium as being fully closed, but having just a partial lid that allows some air exchange while keeping good humidity levels.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2013 at 3:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you can get a 2-3' long fluorescent it would be perfect, because fluorescent lights tend to concentrate their effectiveness towards the middle of the fixtures and the ends don't give as much light as the middle, so don't try to match the width of the terrarium to a fixture... it's better that the fixture be wider. And use something like T8 or T5 bulbs to simulate real life, hung about 10-12" or so above the case for 15 hrs/day. If you were growing other types of plants, trees, etc., I'd say to hang it 5-6" above them, but terrariums don't need as much light.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 8:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

moochinka, thanks for giving it some thought, but I don't think a light fixture that overhangs both sides of the "terrrarium" would be aesthetically pleasing. I have doubts that T5 fixtures (maybe not even T8) come in lengths as short as 2 feet. Further, 15 hrs/day of T5 lighting would likely be overkill for most terrarium applications.

I rather prefer that the light fixture be beneath the glass "lid". A light shining down on the glass is likely to create glare. I'm thinking I might need to create a light box that sits atop the existing glass walls, with the light fixture fairly hidden within.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 10:06PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Closed Terrarium Issues.
Hihi everyone, I recently started to build a closed...
moss landscapes under glass
Hi, Although I'm a beginner at bonsai I have been growing...
My Miniature Terrascape
I started this Terrascape some time back but there...
Does anyone know the name of this plant?
Does anyone know the name of this plant?
Aran Yeo
Terrarium Heating Mat
I'm new to the terrarium world and would like to start...
Sponsored Products
Flos | Romeo Moon F Floor Lamp
Green LED Hanging Lantern
$19.99 | zulily
Accent Rug: Choele1 Yellow 2' 2" x 3'
$36.97 | Home Depot
Newburgh Brushed Nickel Three-Light Pendant
$299.90 | Bellacor
Woodland Lake 1-lt Outdoor Hanging Pendant
LBC Lighting
Contemporary LED 4 Lights Plug In Wall Lamp for Bathroom
Earring Bath Bar
Asheville Lanterns Verde Six-Light Pendant
$279.62 | Bellacor
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™