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Building first real terrarium

Posted by larry_b Z5/CO (My Page) on
Fri, Sep 1, 06 at 0:14

Hi,

I have been lurking on this forum for quite a while now. I have been coveting all of the wonderful looking terrariums. My wife and I and my are going to attempt our first "real' terrarium. It'll be a husband and wife bonding project. At least I hope it turns out to be that. We will be using a 10 gal. aquarium. I would like to try for something bigger, but I'm going to be practical this time and not get myself into a larger project and I can handle. If I can keep this small one going maybe soon I'll make something bigger. I was wondering if I could ask you all a few questions?

I have also been on the black jungle web site looking at different building materials. They encourage people to use their expanded clay pellets instead of pea gravel. Does anyone have an opinion about that?

Then the substrate. Black jungle recommends Co-co bedding. Is that the same as noir? I'm not really familiar with either. I would like to hear from those of you who have used this. And if you don't use it what do you use? I had thought about using an African violet wicking soil before reading about co-co bedding.

I have a small 1 gal. aquarium that I have micromini sinningias. I have been fighting mold in that thing for years. So I'm going to be prepared for mold to creep into this terrarium. I understand that a fan is very good for keeping the mold down. I have the following fan that I've had laying the around the house for years. Do you think this would work in a 10 gal. terrarium. Do you know if one can put a variable current type switch on something like this?

Now the background. I am leaning towards Cork bark. I have no idea how thick it is though. Obviously in a 10 gal. space is at a premium. Does any one have any recommendations in this area?

Everything else seems pretty straightforward. Make a layout, get some plants and have fun (not that the whole process isn't fun in itself). My last question is basically this. What things would you recommend that I not do? What things could I run into, as far as planting, that is not going to make the project with good?

I really look forward to hearing your answers on this.

Larry


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Building first real terrarium

co-co bedding is also called coir, and it is what I have been using in mine since I built it (about 25 bricks of it roughly). You can see it in the gallery in the post called snake pit. I've never had a problem, it seems to work very well. Cork bark panels are usually 1" thick or so, it's a bit flexible and makes a great background. Any fan will work, though that one looks a bit excessive for a 10 gallon, you might have a hard time keeping humidity in with that. Look around for the cpu fan related posts for something that might work better. Good luck, and feel free to ask more questions.

-DH


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hi DH,

Thank you so much for responding to my question. I was worried about my fan being a little too large (an understatement. lol ). That is why I was thinking about getting a variable voltage switch for it. I went to a place that had this kind of hardware and was shown a couple of CPU fans. One was the size of a half dollar and the other the size of an old silver dollar. Both are much better sizes. I can get a 12 volt transformer and I think I'll be set. I'm real pleased that there is another option. That personal fan was going to be very much in the way. I think I will be able to hide this little CPU fan.

I was at the tropical fish store yesterday and got this great piece of African root. Here is a picture:

In the African violet forum there were people who were using coir for their violets. After a while these people exclaimed that their violets were having a hard time because the coir was salty. Do you leach the salt out ahead of time? Do you do anything with it besides wet it and use it? Pardon my ignorance since I'm not familiar with the stuff.

Also, I would like to have some small non-bromeliad type epiphites (vining) starting from the top corners on down. Although epiphites, they do need some potting medium to anchor in and get their nutrients. I would like some sort of soil holder, but I don't want to just glue a small flowerpot up there. Any ideas?

Again, thanks for the quick response. I really appreciate it.

Larry


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Larry

I am a newbie to terrariums myself but am excited that I actually have something to share on the subject. I have found an explanation on how one person did theirs and thought it to be a good idea. hope that this helps you

Warm regard
Randy

Here is a link that might be useful: black jungle


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hey onetool,

Thanks for the link. It has given me a few ideas.

Larry


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Hi guys, a lot of people including myself started out with the blackjungle site, that 4 foot tank is something else! and does provide a lot of great ideas for new guys like us!


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You don't say if you are using this just for plants or if you are planning on putting animals in it. How you set it up will matter a lot depending on what you use it for.

The clay pellets (LECA) are good to cut down on weight, which in a 10 gallon isn't an issue. Go for cheaper and use something else in my opinion. Gravel or something. Thats what I have in my ten and 20 gallons. I constructed a false bottom with eggcrate lighting material for my larger tanks. I'm sure the LECA would be easier, but I've never used it.

You will be disappointed in the amount of space in a 10 gallon. You can only use very small plants and anything you put in there will outgrow it quickly. I have only 1 ten gallon. Even my 20 gallons get filled too quickly. Another idea is to turn it up on its side and have more vertical space for growth. There will be less floor space, but with that wood and your plans for a background and vining plants, you will be much happier with a vertical tank. There are some awesome construction journals on Dendroboard that tells how to build tanks step by step. Also I beleive the store called Josh's Frogs sells hinges and things to use to make a door for a vertical tank.


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hi Back2eight,

I'm just making a regular terrarium. No animals or water features, just plants. I also fear that a 10 gallon is not going to be big enough. But space sort of dictates this. Also, a horizontal 10 gallon tank just fits our light source. We are going to be very careful about getting true miniature plants. And we understand that it will take a little pruning to keep things looking nice. We will have to be doing some maintenance anyway. We plan on having some flowering plants (small gesneriads) and they will have to be cleaned up on a regular basis. That's just how gesneriads are

Larry


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hi,

I have another question about the substrate. I think I am going to stay away from the coir. I would like to put some small gesneriads in the terrarium. I have been over at the African violet forum and have found out that people have been very unhappy with the performance of their plants in coir. Co-co bedding may work well for other terrarium plants, but I don't think it is necessarily going to work in my situation.

I have noticed that bark bedding is an option. My question for anyone who has gone that route is: Should I mix the bark bedding with something like vermiculite and/or perlite to lighten it up a bit?

Larry


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hi all,

I have a question about what to plant on this great gnarly wood piece. By the way I'm going to post another picture without flash. The other one did not show the detail of the holes in the wood.

In those holes I would like to plant some micromini sinningias. Do you think that this possible? What kind of medium would I use to stick into the holes? And would the wood absorb all the moisture from the medium that would be needed by the sinningia? I'm not sure if that wood is going to be somewhat saturated by the humidity.

Thanks again for all of your help.

Larry


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hi all,

Here is the project that my wife and I have been working on for the last 10 days. Actually I have been working on it a lot longer. Planning and conceptualizing, researching, getting advice, purchasing and such. Then receiving the plants and suppliers and finally putting it all together. We sure did having a lot of fun putting it together. I think both of us have good ideas and the confluence worked out very well. The background is a little cleaner than I would like it to be. I may put a couple more tillandsia on it. Otherwise, some of the plants are going to grow up into it and I want there to be room for an epiphitic (is that a word?) miniature orchid in the future.

I'm findings that taking a picture of a terrarium is really an art. One that I have not mastered yet. This picture is the best I can do and is probably the best rendition of what it really looks like. Unfortunately the shadows don't do they wood piece justice. The shadows are just too deep. And it is almost impossible to get the three-dimensional effect that one experiences seeing it in person. Anyway here is sort of what it looks like:


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Larry
Looks great to me !! Very well proportioned for such a small area. You did well on your research lol.
Taking pix is tough. My large setup is located outside
with 150 gallons of water and I've yet to get some decent pix of the underwater area.Mostly i get reflections of the
plants on the other side of the path or whiteout from the
flash. I wish now I'd went with a light colored background particularly underwater. I'm also getting a lot of tannins being washed into the tank from the waterfall so the fish often look like they're in beer lol.
I used expanding foam for the waterfall and got the wrong kind which used up too much of the marsh area. great for the epi's bad for the semi-aquatics.
I guess the great fun of these is not the accomplishment but the experimenting ??lol
I've been thinking of adding some gesneriads to mine but htere are sooooo many kinds. Would assume the pink flowers are some type ??
gary


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hi Gary,

Thanks! I'm really please at how it turned out! Since all of the plants are miniatures I'm really hoping that everything stays manageable.

Yes, you are correct. The plants with the pink flowers are gesneriads. They are microminiature sinningias. Wood nymph and pusilla. I also have a couple of small African violets in there. I had thought about putting a small chirita in there too, but I think even that may be too big.

I'm a big fan of gesneriads. Most are very prolific bloomers. And one can find a gesneriad for almost any situation. I think that one can't go wrong with the more popular ones. Episcias are wonderful terrarium plants as well as their cousins alsobias. The plain old African violet does well if there is enough air circulation. They can get powdery mildew. Sinningias work great. They need good drainage. Nematanthus and Columnea make great vining plants. Aechschynanthus do too if one has lots of space.

Larry


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WOW! I think you and your wife have done VERY well! I have put a few terrariums together myself but they never seem to look as good as most of the others Ive seen =( yours included! LOL! I really do like it and give two thumbs up for a job well done! =)


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Larry
Have tried those types but always end up with rot lol.
As a rule I can grow most everything better outside the terrarium. Trying to decide what to do with the 75,has been a paludarium for several years but I'm getting the sw itch again. Recently saw some pix of planted SW tanks would be so great with sehorses or firefish. Would certainly have to upgrade my lights though.
gary


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Thanks for the kind words,Ilike. We are both pleased with how this turned out. We really did have a lot of fun making it.

Gary, I sure hope the gessies don't rot. I finally decided to use the same wicking soil as I do for my African violets. I also grow my other micromini sinningias in simular conditions, so I am hoping they do well too.

Larry


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RE: Building first real terrarium

Hi,

Just thought you all might be curious to see how my first terrarium is doing after five months.

Ilike,

I think you were the one who bought a Schoenorchis fragrans last year. I bought one too from cjcollectables. It is on the stick on the left side. How is yours doing?


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It looks great, congrats!

-DH


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I am just starting my first terrarium and this posting has been very interesting and informative. Your terrarium is beautiful, thanks for the pictures. I also have alot more luck with outside plants but this has been very encouraging. Thanks for sharing.
Sandy


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Hey larry b, sorry bout the late responce =( been very busy!? yup, that was me, it flowered right away, and is still growing fine although it seems to loose leaves as the new ones grow? so its not any bigger, and it hasnt flowered again? your set up still looks FANTASTIC! =)


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Here are a few pics of my tall set up, and a few (pics 22-25) of my 10 gallon set up, youll notice that the 10 G seems to be doing a whole lot better than my tall tank? it took me all of 10 minutes to set up, so I guess the more thought I put into these things the worse they turn out! LOL! anyways, the frogs love it in the tall tank! they are doing great!

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Hi Ilike,

Now it is my turn to apologize. I have been away from this for a while. Anyway, thank you so much for the complement! My feeling is that anyone can plant a terrarium, but the real skill is keeping it going. I feel pretty good at about it looking so good after six months. There are a couple of plants that I don't think are going to make it, but I just chalk it up to that not everything is going to work perfectly. However, there are over 23 plants in the terrarium and the fact that two of them are not doing so well is a pretty good percentage in my opinion.

Thanks so much for the info on your Schoenorchis fragrans. You must have gotten it in the middle of the summer. I understand that they tend to bloomin late summer. Since I got mine after that, I really wasn't expecting anything for a while. I got real excited though a couple of months ago when something appeared that I thought was a bud. Instead it was the start of the root. lol It is a bear to be ignorant. lol This is the first orchid I have ever owned, so I am learning. I'm just so glad that it is still alive. The combined cost of the plant was $30 including shipping and handling. I would hate to have seen this thing die; at least not right away. Anyway, I hope that if things go well I will see a bloom cluster in about six months.

Also, thanks for the pictures on your terrarium. I think those little frogs are just adorable. I'm so envious! I would love to have some frogs in my terrarium, but I don't want the responsibility of trying to keep them alive. I understand that they are very difficult to keep going and I would feel terrible if they died on me. No worries, I have my hands full with just plants and I am very happy with how the setup is coming along.

Also, thank you Sandy and DH for your complements. There are lots of talented people over here making terrariums. I figure if I am getting complements from you all, I must be doing something right.

Larry


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Hi all,

Six and a half months and going strong! One thing that is kind of cool. I got some volunteer moss that piggybacked with one of the micro miniature sinningias. It's really starting to take a foothold just right of center. I am including another picture to show you. I got the lighting a little better so that it isn't so red this time and you can see the color of the moss very well.

There is a funny story about the moss. The person from whom I brought the sinningia was a little embarrassed to find out that the moss was an issue with her plant. She immediately told me that I could tear it out with tweezers. I told her that I really liked the moss that I thought it was cute. She then informed me that the moss would choke out other plants and to be careful. I don't think she what got the idea that moss is a desirable plant in a terrarium. Anyway, another example of where one person's plant is another persons weed.

Larry


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Hi Larry;

I'm a gesneriad grower too- I laughed at the moss comment :) Microminiature Sinningias, especially S. pusilla and its hybrids, almost ALWAYS grow that fine small moss under them. It happens even if you've grown the plants from clean seed, I've seen it over and over. It's mentioned in some old book from way back (don't remember which book though).

I usually use the fine "New Zealand" moss pellets over a layer of light 1:1:1 mix or similar in terrariums. And of course you're right, many of the gesneriads really are some of the easiest and most versatile terrarium plants!

Vincent


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Just thought you might like to see how the terrarium is doing at 13 months.


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I think I'm salivating while looking at that pic...
-Jmcat


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You may remember this thread from six years ago. It has had some periods of drought and neglect due to some of life's challenges. I've been working on my terrarium lately though. It's been interesting what I've been doing and the reasons why. Six years ago I had some micro miniature sinningias in the terrarium. After around a year they appeared to die out. I had not seen any of them, much to my surprise, until last summer when three clumps came up and started to bloom. They looked real good for several months and then when winter came they became stifled. I couldn't figure out what the problem was and then it occurred to me that the northern bay window, where they reside, gets into the middle 50 degree range at night. For rain forest plants the temperature range should be between 65 degrees and 85 degrees. The mid 50s is much too cold for them. Anyway now what to do? It turns out that I have a seedling heating mat. This mat is about the same size as my 10 gallon aquarium/terrarium. I also had the problem that the terrarium was sitting right on top of the cold bay windowsill. It's not too elegant but I put a couple of small 2x4s on the windowsill and put a plank about the size of the terrarium on top of them to get the terrarium off the sill. I will paint them later. I then put the seedling heater on top of the plank and the terrarium on top of that. I will post pictures. I figured that was the answer so I plugged in the seedling heater and observed. Oh, by the way, I went to the tropical fish store and got a thermometer that I could stick in the soil, so that I could see what the soil temperature was. Much to my horror the thermometer read 92 degrees. I was now cooking my plants. So to make a long story short (that ship may have sailed already though. lol) I bought a light timer that can be turned on and off in half an hour intervals. I may get a seedling mat heater sometime, but they are $32.00 on Amazon and that's a little rich for me right now. What I've done is turn the seedling mat on for an hour every other hour. At night the temperature goes down to around 68 degrees to 72 degrees and the daytime temperatures are round 76 degrees to 80 degrees. That temperature range is almost perfect. I got some micro miniature sinningias at my African violet Christmas party last year. I put those plants into the terrarium and they're just growing like gangbusters. One will be blooming in a couple of days and the rest are growing very fast. The original micro miniature gloxinias have not changed much but I figure as long as they don't die that's the best I can hope for at the time being.

Larry

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This post was edited by larry_b on Fri, Feb 8, 13 at 3:08


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