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Experimental Terrarium

Posted by Sprouter (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 27, 14 at 21:34

Hello! I'd like to hear what you all think of my experimental terrarium/vivarium so please help me out by giving useful friendly advise and expanding on my own ideas!

My experiment is basically a very large aquarium which has been converted into a terrarium. It will house a number of common garden weeds and many detrivore communities that all coexist.

Details below:
The terrarium will have a large width so lots of surface area within the terrarium and decent height. Soil would be a mixture of dirt from the garden, mixed with bark fragments and sand. There would also be a drainage layer with gravel or sand at the bottom. I would then carefully add specific garden weeds from my back yard. Mostly it will be bittercress due to it reproducing asexually, being hardy and also liking humidity. I would also add multiple mosses and other low growing plants. I would then add large rocks for critters to hide under.
Then I would seed the terrarium with bugs (if they haven't gotten in already). They will mostly consist of springtails, fungus gnats, pill bugs and earthworms. Mites and slugs may also be welcome but I will not introduce them purposely. The occasional hitch hiker would not bother me as long as it doesn't cause too much damage to the system. The springtails will help control the fungus gnat populations but sometimes springtail communities collapse (from previous experience), so when this happens fungus gnats can take their place until their numbers return and possibly even pollinate flowering weeds if possible. I would also eventually add centipedes just because they would help control numbers of all detrivores but at the same time it will make it more interesting to look at.

All I want is a nice sealed balanced system. It doesn't have to look pretty; I just want to watch it change over time. That is why I have chosen a decent sized terrarium, hardy weeds and invertebrates that eat micro-organisms and dead leaves.

I also have a question. Would the invertebrates survive if I sealed the terrarium completely when a large amount of plants are inside? Have you ever had living communities of invertebrates in your fully sealed terrariums? Please share what you know! I don't want to try this without a lot of feedback of personal experience.

PS: I have tried this before but at a smaller scale, sadly I knocked over the bottle (Didn't break the glass.) The soil spilled onto the glass making it difficult to see through. I placed it outside in the shade and the plants are still alive and thriving! It is too difficult to tell if the inverts survived as the glass is murky from the dirt and they could just be hiding in the soil. The bottle lasted about 2 months until I stupidly knocked it over (Yet I never truly sealed it until after knocking it over.)
Thanks for reading!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Experimental Terrarium

What is "large"? What is "decent" height?

How long are you hoping the tank will last/survive?

Depending upon where you live, the plants you gather may or may not need a cool/cold dormancy. Some annuals may produce seeds that require stratification to germinate.

Drainage layer is unnecessary unless planning on water feature. Instead make sure all of media is a rather light "airy" mix. Addition of perlite, bark, and/or gravel can help in this matter if using soil. Type of media you plan to use will be a factor.

What are you planning on using for a light source? Window lighting will not be sufficient in all likelihood and if the sun is allowed to shine on the tank, high odds of overheating and killing everything in the tank.

With what will you be watering? Most tap water is high in ds (dissolved solids) and -- especially if "city water" -- will often contain fluorides and chlorides. Regular filters like a Brita will not remove most of the solids nor all of the fluorides (can't remember if it will remove the chlorides). As such, using tap water is generally inadvisable as it will eventually kill the flora in the tank. Rain water, distilled water, or RO water should be used if you want the tank to live a longer time.

Sealed tanks tend to have major fungi or bacterial issues. And unsealed tank (can be mostly closed off just not totally) and/or with one or more pc fans installed inside is recommended.

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