Avoiding Common Mistakes When Building a Terrarium: Tips and Tricks

Creating a terrarium can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to avoid common mistakes that can harm your plants or animals. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common mistakes made when building a terrarium and provide tips and tricks to help you avoid them. From choosing the wrong plants to overcrowding your terrarium, we’ll cover it all. So whether you’re a seasoned terrarium builder or a newbie, read on to learn how to create a healthy and thriving terrarium.

Understanding Terrariums

What is a Terrarium?

A terrarium is a miniature ecosystem contained within a transparent container. It is a self-sustaining environment that mimics natural conditions, providing a habitat for plants and animals. The primary purpose of a terrarium is to recreate a natural environment in a controlled setting, allowing for the observation of the interactions between various organisms.

A terrarium’s history dates back to the Victorian era, where it was used as a popular hobby for those interested in gardening and collecting exotic plants. Over time, terrariums have evolved from simple glass containers to elaborate, custom-designed enclosures, complete with heating, lighting, and ventilation systems.

In recent years, terrariums have experienced a resurgence in popularity, as people have discovered their potential as educational tools, indoor gardening solutions, and unique home decor items. The concept of a terrarium is rooted in the idea of creating a miniature world, which has captured the imagination of people from all walks of life.

The Benefits of Having a Terrarium

The Role of Terrariums in Interior Design

Terrariums can serve as both a functional and decorative element in interior design. They can add a touch of nature to any room, and their small size makes them perfect for use in small spaces or as a centerpiece on a table. Additionally, they can help purify the air by removing toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene from the environment.

The Importance of Terrariums in Ecosystems

Terrariums can also play a role in preserving ecosystems. They can be used to house endangered plant species or to create a miniature ecosystem that mimics a particular habitat. This can help to protect and conserve plant species that may be struggling in their natural environment.

The Psychological Benefits of Having a Terrarium

Having a terrarium can also have a positive impact on mental health. Studies have shown that interacting with plants can reduce stress and anxiety, and the sound of water and the movement of plants can have a calming effect on the mind. Additionally, watching the growth and development of plants over time can be a source of enjoyment and satisfaction.

Planning Your Terrarium

Key takeaway: Building a terrarium requires careful planning and attention to detail to ensure the success and health of the miniature ecosystem. Choosing the right container, selecting suitable plants, and maintaining the right humidity and temperature levels are essential for creating a thriving terrarium. Proper maintenance and troubleshooting common problems can help keep the terrarium healthy and beautiful for years to come. Enjoying the beauty and unique environment of the terrarium can also be enhanced by observing the behavior of the plants and sharing it with others. Continuing to learn about terrariums and expanding the collection can add to the overall experience of having a terrarium.

Choosing the Right Container

Choosing the right container is an essential part of building a terrarium. It is important to select a container that is appropriate in size, has good drainage, and is compatible with the plants and animals you plan to include in your terrarium. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a container for your terrarium:

  • Size: The size of the container you choose will depend on the size of the terrarium you want to create. It is important to choose a container that is large enough to accommodate the plants and animals you plan to include, but not so large that it becomes difficult to maintain.
  • Material: The material of the container you choose will affect the temperature and humidity inside the terrarium. Glass containers are good for maintaining a stable temperature and humidity level, while plastic containers can be more difficult to regulate.
  • Drainage: The container you choose must have good drainage to prevent water from building up and causing problems like root rot. It is important to choose a container with a drainage hole or to add a layer of gravel or sand at the bottom of the container to provide drainage.
  • Compatibility: The container you choose should be compatible with the plants and animals you plan to include in your terrarium. For example, if you plan to include plants that need a lot of sunlight, you will need to choose a container with a clear or translucent material that allows light to pass through.

When selecting a container for your terrarium, consider the following types of containers:

  • Glass jars: Glass jars are a popular choice for terrariums because they are clear and allow for easy visibility of the plants and animals inside. They also maintain a stable temperature and humidity level.
  • Plastic containers: Plastic containers are a good choice for terrariums because they are lightweight and easy to transport. However, they can be more difficult to regulate the temperature and humidity level inside the terrarium.
  • Wooden boxes: Wooden boxes are a unique choice for terrariums and can add a natural element to your terrarium. However, they may not be the best choice for plants that require high humidity levels.

Once you have selected your container, it is important to clean and prepare it before building your terrarium. This will help to prevent the growth of mold and other problems inside the terrarium. To clean and prepare your container, follow these steps:

  1. Rinse the container with warm water to remove any dirt or debris.
  2. Use a mixture of water and mild soap to clean the container, making sure to scrub any stubborn dirt or stains.
  3. Rinse the container again with warm water to remove any soap residue.
  4. Allow the container to air dry completely before adding any plants or animals.

By choosing the right container and properly preparing it before building your terrarium, you can help ensure the success of your terrarium and avoid common mistakes.

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Selecting the Right Plants

Understanding the Different Types of Plants for Terrariums

Before selecting the right plants for your terrarium, it is essential to understand the different types of plants that are suitable for terrarium environments. There are two main types of plants that are commonly used in terrariums:

  • Epiphytic plants: These are plants that grow on other plants without deriving any nutrients from them. They obtain water and nutrients from the air and the humus layer. Examples of epiphytic plants include orchids, bromeliads, and ferns.
  • Carnivorous plants: These are plants that feed on insects and other small organisms. They thrive in a humid environment and require a specific soil mix that is low in nutrients. Examples of carnivorous plants include Venus flytraps, sundews, and pitcher plants.

How to Choose the Right Plants for Your Terrarium

Choosing the right plants for your terrarium is crucial to the success of your terrarium. Here are some tips to help you choose the right plants:

  • Consider the light requirements: Some plants need more light than others, so it is essential to choose plants that can tolerate the light conditions in your terrarium. Epiphytic plants typically require bright indirect light, while carnivorous plants need more shade.
  • Think about the size of the plant: Terrarium plants should be chosen based on the size of the terrarium. Smaller plants work well in smaller terrariums, while larger plants work well in larger terrariums.
  • Choose plants that complement each other: When choosing plants for your terrarium, it is a good idea to choose plants that complement each other in terms of color, texture, and growth habit. This will create a visually appealing terrarium.

How to Care for Your Terrarium Plants

Once you have chosen the right plants for your terrarium, it is essential to care for them properly to ensure their survival. Here are some tips to help you care for your terrarium plants:

  • Provide the right amount of light: Provide the right amount of light to your terrarium plants according to their light requirements. Epiphytic plants typically require bright indirect light, while carnivorous plants need more shade.
  • Maintain the right humidity level: Maintain the right humidity level in your terrarium to ensure that your plants thrive. Epiphytic plants typically require high humidity levels, while carnivorous plants need a more humid environment.
  • Water properly: Water your terrarium plants properly according to their specific needs. Epiphytic plants typically require more frequent watering, while carnivorous plants need to be kept moist but not waterlogged.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your terrarium plants thrive and create a beautiful and healthy terrarium.

Creating the Terrarium Environment

The Importance of Lighting in a Terrarium

Proper lighting is essential for the health and growth of plants in a terrarium. The amount and type of lighting required will depend on the specific plants you choose to include in your terrarium.

  • Full sunlight is best for most plants, but too much direct sunlight can cause the soil to dry out quickly and the temperature to become too hot.
  • Fluorescent lights are a good option for providing adequate lighting without causing the soil to dry out. They can be set on a timer to provide the plants with a consistent 12-hour light cycle.
  • LED lights are becoming increasingly popular for terrariums because they are energy efficient and can be set to different color temperatures to mimic natural sunlight.

How to Create a Suitable Environment for Your Terrarium Plants

Creating a suitable environment for your terrarium plants involves understanding their specific needs and providing the necessary conditions to support their growth.

  • Some plants prefer high humidity levels, while others thrive in a drier environment. Research the specific needs of the plants you plan to include in your terrarium and adjust the environment accordingly.
  • Use appropriate soil for each plant. Some plants require well-draining soil, while others need a more moisture-retentive mix.
  • Choose the right size and shape of terrarium for your plants. A smaller terrarium will require less maintenance, while a larger one will provide more space for plant growth.

How to Regulate Humidity and Temperature in a Terrarium

Maintaining the right humidity and temperature levels is crucial for the health and growth of plants in a terrarium.

  • To regulate humidity, use a water tray or humidifier to add moisture to the air. Be careful not to overwater the plants, as this can lead to root rot.
  • To regulate temperature, place the terrarium in a location that receives indirect sunlight and is not subject to extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the terrarium and adjust the environment as needed.

By following these tips and tricks, you can create a terrarium that provides a suitable environment for your plants to thrive.

Building Your Terrarium

Assembling the Terrarium

Arranging the Plants in Your Terrarium

When arranging the plants in your terrarium, it is important to consider their individual needs. Some plants prefer more shade, while others thrive in brighter light. Be sure to research the specific requirements of each plant before placing them in the terrarium. Additionally, consider the overall aesthetic you are trying to achieve and arrange the plants in a way that enhances the overall look of the terrarium.

Adding Decorations and Substrate

Once you have arranged the plants, you can begin to add decorations and substrate. Decorations can include rocks, stones, and other items that enhance the look of the terrarium. Substrate, on the other hand, is the material that lines the bottom of the terrarium and provides a base for the plants and decorations. Be sure to choose a substrate that is appropriate for the plants you have chosen and that provides proper drainage.

Sealing the Terrarium

After you have arranged the plants and added decorations and substrate, it is time to seal the terrarium. This is an important step in maintaining the proper humidity and temperature inside the terrarium. Be sure to use a secure lid and to seal any gaps or cracks to prevent moisture from escaping.

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By following these tips and tricks, you can avoid common mistakes when assembling your terrarium and create a beautiful and thriving miniature ecosystem.

Maintaining Your Terrarium

Maintaining your terrarium is just as important as building it. Proper maintenance will ensure that your terrarium remains healthy and thriving for years to come. Here are some tips on how to maintain your terrarium:

How often to water your terrarium

Watering your terrarium is crucial to keeping your plants healthy. Over-watering can lead to root rot, while under-watering can cause your plants to dry out and die. It’s important to find the right balance. A good rule of thumb is to water your terrarium once a week, but this can vary depending on the type of plants you have and the environment in which your terrarium is located.

How to fertilize your terrarium plants

Fertilizing your terrarium plants is essential for their growth and health. However, it’s important to use the right type of fertilizer and to apply it correctly. Over-fertilizing can damage your plants and cause them to die. It’s best to use a slow-release fertilizer that will last for several months. You should also avoid fertilizing your plants during the winter months when they are dormant.

How to clean your terrarium

Cleaning your terrarium is important to maintain a healthy environment for your plants. Dirt and debris can accumulate over time and create a breeding ground for pests and diseases. It’s important to clean your terrarium regularly, but be careful not to disturb the delicate balance of your ecosystem. Use a soft brush to gently remove any debris from the surface of your terrarium, and rinse the sides with water. Avoid using soap or other harsh chemicals, as these can harm your plants.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

  • Common problems with terrariums
    • Overwatering
    • Underwatering
    • Incorrect soil mix
    • Insufficient light
    • Excessive heat
    • Pests and diseases
  • How to identify and fix problems in your terrarium
    • Checking soil moisture levels
    • Adjusting watering schedule
    • Amending soil mix
    • Providing adequate light
    • Regulating temperature
    • Treating pests and diseases with appropriate methods
  • How to revive a dying terrarium
    • Assessing the cause of death
    • Taking corrective actions
    • Monitoring progress and making adjustments as needed

When building a terrarium, it is important to be aware of common problems that can arise. These problems can be caused by a variety of factors, such as overwatering, underwatering, incorrect soil mix, insufficient light, excessive heat, and pests and diseases. It is important to identify and fix these problems in order to keep your terrarium healthy and thriving.

One way to identify and fix problems in your terrarium is by checking soil moisture levels. If the soil is too dry, you may need to water your terrarium more frequently. However, if the soil is too wet, you may need to adjust your watering schedule to prevent overwatering. It is also important to amend the soil mix if necessary to ensure that it is well-draining and contains the appropriate nutrients for your plants.

In addition to monitoring soil moisture levels, it is important to provide adequate light for your terrarium. If your terrarium is not receiving enough light, your plants may not be able to photosynthesize properly, which can lead to poor growth and even death. On the other hand, if your terrarium is receiving too much light, it can cause excessive heat and stress on your plants. It is important to find the right balance of light for your terrarium.

Temperature is another important factor to consider when building a terrarium. If the temperature is too cold, it can slow down metabolic processes and growth in your plants. If the temperature is too hot, it can cause excessive heat stress and even death. It is important to regulate the temperature of your terrarium to ensure that it is within the appropriate range for your plants.

Finally, pests and diseases can also be a common problem in terrariums. It is important to treat these issues with appropriate methods to prevent them from spreading and causing further damage to your plants. If you are unsure how to treat a particular pest or disease, it may be helpful to consult with a professional or do further research to find the best solution.

If your terrarium is dying, it is important to assess the cause of death and take corrective actions as soon as possible. This may involve removing dead or dying plants, amending the soil mix, adjusting the watering schedule, providing additional light, or treating pests and diseases. Once you have made the necessary corrections, it is important to monitor the progress of your terrarium and make adjustments as needed to ensure that it continues to thrive.

Enjoying Your Terrarium

How to Observe Your Terrarium

When building a terrarium, it’s important to not only focus on creating a thriving ecosystem for your plants, but also to enjoy the beauty and unique environment you’ve created. One way to do this is by observing your terrarium and studying the behavior of your terrarium plants. Here are some tips on how to do so:

How to observe your terrarium for entertainment and education

  • Choose a location with ample lighting: Placing your terrarium in a well-lit area will allow you to easily observe the plants and any changes in their behavior over time.
  • Set up a comfortable viewing area: Creating a comfortable viewing area near your terrarium will allow you to sit and observe the plants for extended periods of time.
  • Use a magnifying glass or loupe: A magnifying glass or loupe can help you to get a closer look at the plants and their individual characteristics.

How to study the behavior of your terrarium plants

  • Keep a journal: Keeping a journal of your observations can help you to track changes in the behavior of your terrarium plants over time.
  • Observe daily: Try to observe your terrarium plants on a daily basis to get a better understanding of their behavior and patterns.
  • Look for changes in leaf color, size, and shape: These changes can indicate the health and well-being of your terrarium plants, as well as their response to changes in their environment.
  • Pay attention to the behavior of the animals in your terrarium: If your terrarium includes animals, such as insects or small mammals, observing their behavior can provide insight into the overall health of your terrarium ecosystem.
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Sharing Your Terrarium

Sharing your terrarium with others can be a great way to enjoy it even more. Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • How to share your terrarium with others
    • Consider the location of your terrarium when deciding who to share it with. If it’s in a public area, such as a waiting room or lobby, it can be easily shared with anyone who visits the space. If it’s in a private area, such as your home or office, you may need to invite people over to see it.
    • You can also share your terrarium with others online by posting pictures or videos of it on social media. This can help you connect with other terrarium enthusiasts and get feedback on your creation.
  • How to showcase your terrarium in your home or office
    • When displaying your terrarium in your home or office, consider the overall aesthetic of the space. If it’s a modern, minimalist environment, you may want to choose a terrarium with a simple, clean design. If it’s a more eclectic space, you may want to choose a terrarium with a unique, eye-catching design.
    • You can also showcase your terrarium by placing it in a prominent location, such as on a windowsill or coffee table. This will make it easy for visitors to see and appreciate your creation.
  • How to use your terrarium as a conversation starter
    • A terrarium can be a great conversation starter when entertaining guests or hosting events. It’s a unique and interesting topic that can spark interesting conversations and connections with others.
    • You can also use your terrarium as a centerpiece for a party or gathering. This will add an extra layer of beauty and interest to the event, and guests will be sure to ask about it and engage with you about it.

Continuing to Learn and Grow

How to continue learning about terrariums

  • Research online resources: There are numerous websites, forums, and blogs dedicated to terrariums where you can find valuable information on different types of plants, techniques, and tips for maintaining a healthy terrarium.
  • Read books and magazines: There are numerous books and magazines available on terrariums that provide detailed information on different aspects of terrarium-building and maintenance.
  • Join terrarium clubs: Joining a terrarium club can provide you with the opportunity to learn from experienced terrarium enthusiasts and gain access to resources that may not be available to the general public.

How to expand your terrarium collection

  • Start with different types of plants: Each type of plant has different requirements in terms of light, humidity, and soil, so it’s important to research the specific needs of each plant before adding it to your terrarium.
  • Experiment with different environments: Different environments, such as rainforests, deserts, and mountains, can be recreated in a terrarium, and each environment will require different plants and conditions.
  • Experiment with different container sizes: You can create a miniature ecosystem in a small container or go for a larger one to accommodate more plants and create a more diverse terrarium.

How to share your knowledge with others who are interested in terrariums

  • Share your knowledge with friends and family: Sharing your knowledge with friends and family can help them understand the importance of terrariums and inspire them to create their own.
  • Create a terrarium workshop: You can create a workshop for beginners to learn the basics of terrarium-building and maintenance, or for experienced terrarium enthusiasts to learn new techniques and share their own knowledge.
  • Share your terrarium experiences on social media: You can share your terrarium experiences on social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, to connect with other terrarium enthusiasts and inspire others to start their own terrarium journey.


1. What are some common mistakes to avoid when building a terrarium?

Some common mistakes to avoid when building a terrarium include overcrowding the terrarium, using the wrong type of soil, not providing enough ventilation, and not monitoring humidity levels. These mistakes can lead to poor plant growth, mold and mildew growth, and other issues within the terrarium.

2. What type of soil should be used in a terrarium?

The type of soil used in a terrarium is important for proper drainage and aeration. A well-draining soil mix, such as a 50/50 mix of peat moss and perlite, is a good choice for most terrariums. Avoid using regular potting soil, as it can retain too much water and cause mold and mildew growth.

3. How much ventilation does a terrarium need?

A terrarium needs enough ventilation to prevent mold and mildew growth and to provide oxygen for the plants. A small opening or vent on the top of the terrarium can provide enough ventilation, but it’s important to monitor humidity levels and adjust the ventilation as needed.

4. How often should humidity levels be checked in a terrarium?

Humidity levels should be checked regularly in a terrarium, especially during the first few weeks after building it. Checking the humidity levels can help ensure that the terrarium is not too humid or too dry, which can both cause issues for the plants and other elements within the terrarium.

5. What are some tips for maintaining a healthy terrarium?

Some tips for maintaining a healthy terrarium include monitoring humidity levels, providing enough ventilation, keeping the terrarium away from direct sunlight, and regularly checking and maintaining the plants within the terrarium. Regularly adding water to the soil can also help maintain the humidity levels and keep the terrarium healthy.

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