Return to the Carnivorous Plants Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Help! New Apartment unsuitable for CP (Terrarium)

Posted by mcantrell Idaho, 5-6 (My Page) on
Mon, Oct 6, 08 at 21:14

I moved into my new apartment, but, well...

It's worse than I thought, there's nothing but shade out my windows. My apartment is East-facing and only gets direct sunlight for a few hours in the evening.

Some of my plants should be OK (Strawberries, Stevia, etc) but I'm worried about my CPs. I only get about 3 hours of direct sunlight a day, but plenty of indirect light. I do not think that will be enough for my plants.

Fortunately I have permission to mount stuff to the walls (but not necessarily the outside walls, will check -- doubt it). That rules out, unfortunately, a windowbox, at least as far as I know, and my deck has no railing (so no "no-screws" box drooping over the deck).

Unfortunately, the apartment complex did not give me the option to review the apartment before move-in -- and doubly unfortunately, I wouldn't have had an option to say no (outside of something really really bad) in the first place.

So, my option at this point, I believe, is a terrarium. I'm completely lost as to how to do so, however. I was reading the excellent FAQ on, but, my mind is swimming a bit with the whole thing.

I would prefer to do as much purchasing online as possible -- or at least, links to sites that will show me what exactly things are called -- with it being as "newbie proof" as possible as well. I was thinking of picking up the box locally (there's several good shops in the area for fishtanks) but, I just do not know enough about what I'm buying to make an educated purchase for the rest of it.

As far as I know, what I'll need to get is:

* Fishtank (was told a "29" should be enough for my needs, presuming that's gallons)
* "Lid" fitted for such (presumably one that will hold 2 lights)
* 2x (or more) Light Bulbs (Was told a warm light and a natural light should cover all my bases)
* "Ballast" (Electronics to support the light)
* Timer of some kind

I have a decently small collection, so I might have to get more than 1 terrarium, or somesuch:

2x White Trumpets (different planters)
1x Judith Hindle (W/ plants to repot soon)
2x VFT (Typical)
1x Mixed pot (D. scorpioides, D. pulchella x nitidula, P. moranensis P. grandiflora in one big 7" Pot)
1x Mixed pot (D. tokaiensis x2, D. Adeae, D. capensis 'alba' in a 7" Translucent fishbowl)
1x N. Ventricosa (about a 10-12" pot)
1x D. capensis
1x S. purpurea (about a 6" pot)
1x S. purpurea (2" pot -- this one's died and come back multiple times)

Of the batch, if I had to pick only 2 plants to save, I'd have to go with my VFT (which could, I imagine, in an emergency, go into the fridge early) and my D. capensis, as they are my two original CPs.

I am unsure as to which ones could survive in a lower light situation -- I imagine the N. Ventricosa should be fine, for example. It's by no means a DARK location, just not direct sunlight -- is there a way to test how much light a specific area is getting?

I was thinking of just putting the plants on a dresser and using some "shop light" mounts to provide extra light to the plants, as I was unsure if the plants would need the extra

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help! New Apartment unsuitable for CP (Terrarium)

Interesting, here's a light sensor, wonder if that would help me figure out if my lighting was sufficient:

RE: Help! New Apartment unsuitable for CP (Terrarium)

Well. Calming down a little bit, doing a little more research to see which ones are in the most danger of dying.

I think some of my plants (D. Adelae, for example) will do just fine in their environment -- in fact, D. Adelae might do better with less direct sun.

My worry is the Cape Sundew and VFT, my two original plants, as well as my Pygmy Sundews and Butterworts. Still doing some research on those.

The Pygmys finally came around at the old place, right before I left -- after I started doing several smaller daily waterings rather than using a tray of water. They actually finally started doing really well over the past few weeks: The D. p x n shot up a flower for the first time ever, and the D. scorpioides has the biggest tentacles I've ever seen it have yet.

I donno if it's me watering it regularly with small doses of water, or if it's just finally acclimated to the area, or what.

I'm not sure the VFT will make a good Windowsill plant, nor am I sure it will do very well in a terrarium -- I might have to just put up with the little guy being outside in the shade.

PetSmart here has a $10 10 gallon aquarium, which seems a bit (read: very) cheap. It would probably hold just about all my plants, so...

No lid, but they don't appear to have any lids that have two light mounts, so that's fine by me.

I'm not sure if I should be looking at the long bulb style lightbulbs or the standard light bulb lights.

RE: Help! New Apartment unsuitable for CP (Terrarium)

I'm in a rush, but I'll post some pix later..

I've most of mine (VFT's, pygmy's, cephalotus...) in one of those petsmart tanks. Currently I've 3 'coily' 23 watt fluorescent bulbs hanging above them & they're doing just fine. They're sitting in about 1/2" of water & the humidity is stable at about 70%. I put on a plastic-wrap lid just to see & it went up to about 97%

Plan is to get another tank & send the pygmies into gemmae production, hanging a 70 watt metal halide above them & a 250w MH above the rest. (and everyone else in the kitchen plant rack)

its fairly easy to grow these guys in a confined space as they're so small.

My sarracenias & s'more VFT's are outside in a planter- I'll try & get a pic of those guys as well as they could hang out on your deck fairly easily. They should do fine in zone 7 or more I'm fairly sure- Mine have.

Picked up the VFT's last year on ebay- 10 dormant bulbs for 10 bucks. I thought they'd be tiny.. But all of 'em bloomed. Score!

RE: Help! New Apartment unsuitable for CP (Terrarium)

Hm, only 3 standard bulbs? That's a lot less light than I'd think you'd need. Crazy, but does give me a bit o' hope.

I went to Lowes, they have shop lights that are about 1 (maybe 2) feet long for $16, not sure if that's just the mount and I have to get the Ballast et all later, or what. I've been told making a "box" to hold the silly thing above the tank / plants would be pretty cheap, just make it from Plexiglass and put some tin foil or something inside to reflect light down -- if needed.

I noticed yesterday that the sun actually started hitting the first corner of the deck around 1 PM in the afternoon and kept it up until it hit dusk at around 7-8 or so. That's 6 hours of light if I pick my places carefully, not too shabby.

One problem I think I might have is my plants overgrowing the terrarium -- my Cape Sundew, for example, has fairly constantly gotten rootbound and needed repotting. Not sure if I should just trim back the roots when they get that big or what in a terrarium -- but that seems needlessly cruel.

RE: Help! New Apartment unsuitable for CP (Terrarium)

Ok. Here's the rack in the kitchen:

And a close look into the fishtank / terrarium:

How much light actually hits a surface is a function of the distance from the bulb. The closer the bulb is to that whatever- The more light that whatever gets. Here's a pic:

At 1 foot we've got 1 lumen, right? Let's call that 1 square foot of surface. Now move that bulb 2 feet away from the surface and suddenly that same amount of light is trying to cover four square feet of surface, thus effectively we have 1/4 lumen per square foot.

The further away the bulb is the smaller the amount of light you get on the same size surface.

So. Those shop-lights at Lowes or Home Depot? They're good for a shop. Not so much for growing plants. The 'standard' shop-light needs 2 forty watt bulbs (not included) so you get 80 watts of output spread over 4'.. 20 watts per foot. Yes, the ballast comes with the light & the whole thing is usually less than $10, but you have to buy the bulbs. Some don't even come with a reflector so 1/2 the light goes... Somewhere else. They're Great for a shop or garage where you want some light over a large area- They suck for a spot where you want every bit of light you can get on a small area.

Those little 'spiral' bulbs you see hanging in the pic? 23 watts each from a point source. So I've got 60 watts hanging about 4" from the plants in the terrrarium.
If I was using a shop-light sure I could just get one & use it to light the whole shelf on that rack. But if the terrarium is 1' wide so I would only have 1' of shop-light above it.. So 20 watts of light & since I can't lower that light into the terrarium the source would be about 12" away from the plants.
Back to the 'light output' pic above for a minute- 60 watts at 4" Vs. 20 watts at 12". With the shop-light I've got 1/3rd as much light output 8" further away... Not good.
Plus a box of 4 'twirly' bulbs is about $10... Same price (without the bulbs) as that shop-light.
Yes, if you are going to use those twirly bulbs you need the sockets & a cord. I'm using a 12' extension cord- One of those ones with 3 plugs on the end... They're $2 at Home Depot.
The sockets can be hard to find- I got mine at the local plumbing & electrical shop for $2 each. Just split that extension cord & slap 'em on:

Makes it pretty easy to hang them wherever & raise / lower on a string. Put your hand under the bulb at the plant level- If you can leave your hand there comfortably then the bulb isn't too close & won't burn those plants.
So $10 for 4 twirly bulbs + $2 for the cord + $8 for the sockets + $20 for the whole setup. Want a timer? Cheap ones are $5. So $25 for 80 watts of light? That's hard to beat.

The whole idea is to get the most light possible as close as possible to the plants. Which is why I bought a 250 watt metal-halide setup for a fishtank.. I'm in the process of building a reflector for it & whence finished I'll replace those twirly bulbs with it. Have to have it about a foot away as it puts out lots of heat, but I'll still have more light hitting those plants.

If you are wondering- My 250 watt setup will cost me $40 for the ballast (ebay) & $20 for the bulb- so $60 for the entire light. Now I got the ballast as a "kit".. Had to put it together. Also have to build a reflector & a socket for the bulb- Which has been a bit tedious. With my time & everything call it $100. Not too bad for 250 watts.

Years ago I built a big (ish) terrarium with a bunch of twirly bulbs & some shop-lights.. Even a misting system controlled by a humidistat. (there's a how-to coming by special request about controlling something with a humidistat) check it out here if you wish its at the bottom of the page.
I didn't seal the bottom very well apparently as it began to leak after about 6 months.. And allll those bulbs created way too much heat which I had to get rhid of which screwed up the humidity.
< shrugs > A learning experience.

~Oh. In the plant rack pic? That round circline bulb on the far right? (hiding behind the decrepit passion flower) Ya don't bother with those. They're expensive, only 22 watts and frankly kindof suck.
For ease of use + price the 23 watt twirly bulbs are your best bet.

RE: Help! New Apartment unsuitable for CP (Terrarium)

Um, I thought the wattage wasn't as important as the lumens?

I was thinking of getting a twin tube strip light (finally got the name right) and hanging it under shelves like what you have, but I'm worried that my plants will outgrow it (or get too close and cook).

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Carnivorous Plants Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here