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My first big terrarium

Posted by NathanHurst VIC Aust (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 4, 04 at 8:15

I've been reading this forum for ages now, but I only recently got a tank to try things out. I've written up a little bit about it on my website. I'm not sure about the light levels - I'm planning to only use reflected sunlight from the house next door, but I do have a 40W pink aquarium light if you think it won't be enough.

Currently I've got(from left to right) Nothofagus cunninghamii, two moss covered mudstone rocks, some kind of huperzia, some more random moss and a different huperzia, and three local ferns.

These all come from cool temperate rainforest, and I've grown them in the shade before. I guess I'm not confident that enough reflected light will get in though.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: My first big terrarium

what if they tear down the house next door?


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RE: My first big terrarium

Shade plants outdoors generally need full sun indoors, so you probably won't have enough light. You'll be able to tell when they begin to stretch for the light. I would use the aquarium light for now; it's better than nothing.

Sweet plants though! I really like those huperzias! The ferns look like those one can buy as houseplants up here, so they'll probably do very well.

If they all come from a temperate rainforest though, they may not do well long-term (two seasons or more) in your terrarium, since they will be deprived of their winter dormancy. Though of course being in Australia, I know you don't get *quite* the winters I do in Canada. =) I guess you'll find out! =)

I really do love those plants though. That will look very good when it is 'landscaped'. I highly recommend a false bottom, which I'm sure you've read about if you've been reading this forum for a while.


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RE: My first big terrarium

order_of_the_spam: Then I'll have to move house :) Seriously though, I am trying to make the tank easily dismantleable, as I live in a rental place.

sahoyaref: I'm hoping that I can recognize the signs of too much shade before it's too late. At this stage the moss has all started to grow wildly. On the other hand, the alpine water fern (blechnum penna-maria) has got a few leaves going black (not enough light? fungus?).

We don't really have winter here - it drops from a summer high of 40s down to about 10C in winter, and as older australian houses don't have insulation, it's usually about the same temp inside :) The cool temperate rainforest where the ferns and tree come from survives quite happily from coast to mountains so I'm hoping they won't mind the reduced cycle. The huperzias are from QLD and PNG and are tropical (but I grow them outside all the time :)

Regarding the false bottom - yeah, I've been trying to think of a way of putting rigid trays that all meet up nicely in the bottom that can take a bit of 'dirt' (probably coco peat) and weight. Any ideas? Ideally they would be stiff rectangular trays that are half the width of the tank, sides about 3cm deep, holes on the bottom, and some way of grabbing one when it's full.

I've got a whole pile of cuttings of the beech in my greenhouse - if they strike they will be nice and small so I can get a real bonsai forest look happening. but take things one step at a time eh? :)


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RE: My first big terrarium

yeah, my husband lived in Canberra for a few years, and he's told me about the no insulation in the houses thing. I think that's crazy! I don't quite understand what you will do with the trays. Will they be upside-down, or will they be right-side-up, and full of 'dirt' and plants and stuff? Why trays? Why not just use eggcrate and PVC like the rest of us?


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RE: My first big terrarium

There is a certain sense in having no insulation - it's cheaper, and if the climate isn't unpleasant, why hide from it? The recent trend is for the climate inside to be tightly regulated, but to me this seems a waste of energy and it means that when you go outside you get quite a shock :) (Having said that, the heater is going at the moment :)

Anyway, my idea is to have multiple trays in the bottom, off the base for drainage, so that I can take stuff out to renovate, and to allow easier access if something goes wrong. Looking around I think I'll use nursery trays as per my seed raising drawers. They're a little wide to go one way, and too narrow to go the other, but a gap at the back wouldn't hurt I guess. I found some Aluminium perforated sheet, but on reflection that's a lot of work.

Part of the difference is that I intend to use my terrarium in part as a propagation environment (for ferns, lycopodia and mosses). And partly coz I like to fiddle.

I can't find 'eggcrate' anywhere (unless I find some in the dumpster outside our building from the construction work...).

p.s. I cleaned up another fishtank this arvo...


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RE: My first big terrarium

Hey, that new fishtank is sweet! And I actually know what 'arvo' means. =) You could probably find eggcrate at a home improvement store. I don't know if you have Home Depot down there, but it's the kind of store that has stuff for plumbing, painting, wood work, hardware, tools, garden stuff, flooring, etc. You might also find it at a lighting store, since it is sometimes used as a light diffuser.

I have a separate terrarium (much smaller than my 'real' terrarium) that I use for propagation, and it's ugly. If you can make yours nice and dual-purpose, more power to you!


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RE: My first big terrarium

That IS a nice tank! Anything w/ wood is good!

what does arvo mean?

I'm still not convinced of the benefits of a false bottom (w/ eggcrate) unless the tank utilizes a water feature. Anyone feel free to enlighten me on that.


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RE: My first big terrarium

sahoyaref: I shall investigate our local hardware warehouse further for eggcrate.

Monsieur Breeze: I'm big on wood too - when I get a chance to make a terrarium from scratch I'm going to do it with a nice wood cabinet with wheels; and 3 plywood sides+base rather than glass (easier to join, and neater IMHO) :)

arvo = afternoon.

some possible reasons for eggcrate/raised bed:

1) if done properly allows you to remove your garden for cleaning and extracting dead insects from underneath.

2) keeping the water separate from the soil prevents soil souring.

3) having an air gap at the bottom means that plant roots stop, rather than going around and around and around. (This may only be true at low humidities though.

4) lighter than soil for the same height.

(Ok, I made them up on the spot, what are your reasons against?)


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RE: My first big terrarium

I've never used one so I don't have any reasons against.

but i've never had sour soil either. And I bet roots will grow right through that space and into the water AND would wrap themselves all around that eggcrate.

I've never had a need to move the insides of the tanks. Individual plants sure...but they would be in individual pots.

I've never needed to remove dead insects either but then i do keep some carnivores in my tank.

Lighter then soil w/ the same height I can't argue with but only if you either just use something really light over the crate like sph. moss...or if you only use a very very thin layer of media. Otherwise I think you'll still have to have a fairly thick layer of media if you want to plant things in it.


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RE: My first big terrarium

I wouldn't use a false bottom if I didn't have a water feature, either. But personally, I love water features, so would put one in anything but a 10 gallon.

Hey, I like wood, too. Such a nice, natural material. Always looks way better than plastic laminate over MDF. =P And let that nice grain show too, no painting over it, IMHO.


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RE: My first big terrarium

I've put up some new photos to show some close-ups, and also a photo of the new look with media. I decided in the end that separate trays would be too hard to manage, too hard to build, too hard to make look nice and I wouldn't get the positions right. Then someone offloaded another 80cm tank on me and I was convinced.

I'm pondering how to get moss to grow on the media. I've got some sour milk I'm going to try diluting and watering on.

Light hasn't been a problem - everything is still growing well without artifical light. The existing moss is begining to lush up and the fern has stopped getting black leaves.


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RE: My first big terrarium

Woah, do NOT use the sour milk/moss milkshake thing in a terrarium!!!! It will totally go bad and smell TERRIBLE in such an enclosed environment! The key to getting moss to grow in a terrarium is patience! If you have moss in there, it will spread. It will spread faster with more light. (I know, it's odd, because moss is generally found in the darkest parts of the forest!) The moss in my terr. is growing much more slowly than I would like it to, and it also depends on which variety it is. Some grow faster than others. Just don't pour milk in your terrarium!


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RE: My first big terrarium-pics

Love the close-up pics! What kind of camera do you have?


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RE: My first big terrarium

Ok, I'll leave off the sour milk thing... My camera is an old olympus c700. Those pictures were taken with zoom through the glass, which explains the slightly out of focus look.

I'm working out a way to modify an old USB scanner so I can mount it on rails over the front and get good quality timelapse. The trickiest part is probably going to be tracking down a cylindrical lens.


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RE: My first big terrarium

Out of focus? I don't think so! I thought they were great! My dad also has an old Olympus. Great camera!


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