Basic Instructions on Terrarium Maintenance

By October 26, 2014Terrarium Care

This gives you basic information on caring for your new terrarium.  With proper care and attention, it should live many years.   Always think of plants as pets that are very quiet – put your terry where you see I every day, because the plants can’t bark or meow when they are thirsty or hungry.

Terrariums need bright, indirect light and should not be in direct sunlight; they may overheat and may sunburn the plants.  Also, direct sun encourages fungus and algae growth, particularly on the glass, obscuring the beauty within. Most will be happy a foot or so from an east window, or in a north window.  They shine like jewels 2-3 feet under fluorescent light. 

 Moisture may cloud the glass.  Take the top off and it will clear in a few minutes; consider leaving the top off  an hour or two to let it dry a little to cut down on heavy condensation, or wipe excess condensation off the glass until it is diminished,

 Take the top off at least weekly to refresh the air (sniff the air that comes out, it smells like a rainforest) Mold is a greater danger than drying out; wipe the glass inside occasionally (no windex or other chemicals inside or outside, ever) and watch for any unusual growth on the glass or soil.

 Some terries have better seals on the top than others, and sunlight or other conditions can affect water loss from the enclosed system.  I rarely water them, maybe 2 or 3 times a year.   The plants may start drooping or lose luster;  the soil gets lighter and less compact in appearance as it dries out.  Use a small bottle of lukewarm water; block most of the top with your forefinger, then gently pour all around to cover the surface lightly in several applications to let osmosis take it laterally instead of straight down.  It is best to use filters, distilled, or rainwater to avoid mineral/chemical buildup.  You’ll see the water moving through the soil toward the gravel.  If you let it get really dry (but you won’t because you visit your friend every day), combine heavy misting and sips, applied over the course of several hours, to bring the media back to soaked.  You can bring it to me for some rejuvenation for a small fee, and learn more, too.


  Feed with fish emulsion, etc., at 1/3 strength, only if plants seem to be fading; mist heavily with the solution , then mist heavily with water; leave top off a few hours. 

It varies by what is inside,  you may have to trim some  to keep things under control.  Unless you want a riotous jungle, it is best to keep things under control than to wait until it needs major reductions in plant size.  Never trim more than one fourth of a plant’s total size, and preferably less.  I hope to get some illustrated instructions posted someday, but if you do not know about trimming plants, call me or ask a plant loving friend for advice.

It’s not really complicated, but you have to pay attention – there are a lot of living things in there depending on your help.  Caring for these little biospheres is a contemplative awareness of and connection to another living entity which communicates without sound or fury.

The moss in moss bowls is not as delicate as you might  think, but it has its own needs, too.  It needs much less light (but not only shadow…)  Follow the terrarium instructions, except it doesn’t need or like to be fed  anything but rainwater (or water from an aquarium!). 

The moss plates need more added water or misting, usually because the tops don’t seal down tightly.  Use a mister that puts out a good heavy spray and soak it weekly.  There is soil and sphagnum moss under the moss to absorb and hold the water, so be sure to saturate it.  Pour off any standing water remaining on the plate after a few minutes.

Wash your hands with soap before reaching inside the terry, to trim or wipe, etc.  and avoid introducing any chemicals or pathogens.

 To plant a terry kit: put gravel in bottom, then sprinkle the carbon and work it around into the gravel.  Soak the sphagnum moss in water till saturated, lightly squeeze it, then put a layer on top of gravel.  Take soil mix and soak it well, then form initial layer on top of moss.  Place plants and add more soil around them; be sure to firmly plant and cover all roots, etc.  Only use natural stones, crystals, etc. or polished glass, ceramics.  Many things will grow fungus, so be careful decorating.  And HAVE FUN!

Call or email with any questions, and thanks for stopping by.




Author Nancy Morrow

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