How To Make A Self Contained Terrarium
Plants have needs, just like any other living thing. This means that, in theory, a perfectly balanced terrarium ecosystem may be able to keep a plant living indefinitely. When we build a terrarium, we would prefer to have something which is lower in maintenance and still looks beautiful. After all, who wouldn’t want a zero maintenance terrarium?
However, certain elements have to be present for it to be truly balanced and self-sustaining. Each element plays a huge role in ensuring the ecosystem, and neglecting on either can cost you your entire terrarium. Hence, we will be talking about how you could make a self contained terrarium yourself.
This article will explain or discuss:
- What is a Terrarium Self- Sustaining Ecosystem?
- How to make a closed terrarium?
- What about plants in glass containers?
Let’s get started. Here are the items you need to build your Self Contained Terrarium
- Mixing Soil – No nutrient soil
- Moss – to absorb nutrients
- Led Lighting – Bright, indirect lights
What Is a Terrarium Self-Sustaining Ecosystem?
Before we dive straight into building your terrarium, first, you want to understand the concept of a terrarium ecosystem. In general, an ecosystem is an environment and community of plants living together which interact with another. To be called a true ecosystem would mean that plants have to work together to achieve survival. Cycles from growth to death and even providing shades are one of the few necessities for it.
A closed terrarium will have to replicate all the key elements, that of which is to feed, clean and restore. Although this may seem like a lot, worry not as it is actually much easier than you think it is.
How to Make a Closed Terrarium?
The whole concept of a terrarium is wholly based on plants. Take this out of the factor, and you get a completely empty transparent container. When we talk about balancing elements for plants, well, it doesn’t really matter. One of the most crucial things you may want to take into consideration is the growth of the plant. This is what indicates whether your self contained terrarium is hard to maintain or not.
Another thing you may want to keep your eye on is the biomass of the plants. Sufficient biomass of plants would be needed to have an efficient life cycle. If you didn’t forget, we are building a zero-maintenance self contained terrarium; hence a slow-growing plant is required in order to ensure it doesn’t outgrow the container itself upon maturity.
As for the water supply, biomass is what actually helps the water cycle. When there is efficient biomass, water will be taken in by those plants and circulated consistently in the container. If done correctly, it should last you for quite a while. One of the best options for creating biomass in a self contained terrarium will be moss.
Size does matter! For efficient gas to exchange in your self contained terrarium, the container itself cannot be too small. It is essential for Oxygen and CO2 to be circulated equally in the container. If not managed correctly, unwanted bacterial growth may appear, disrupting your terrarium’s ecosystem. Air pockets may often appear, which would starve some of your plants as they are not getting enough for the requirement to stay alive.
If you are planning on getting a container with a unique shape, I suggest you give up on that. The point of a self contained terrarium is to trap the liquid in the container; hence the uneven surface of the container will just make it harder for the liquid to reach all parts of the terrarium. What we recommend most are cubical or sphere shapes.
One other key element for sustaining life in a self contained terrarium would be the lighting. Although sunlight is important for photosynthesis, it should not be exposed to direct sunlight consistently. Do remember that your plants are relatively small and do not have as much shade as those outside your house. Those little ones may get scorched to death if you do so.
If you are financially incapable of getting specific lights for your self contained terrarium, it is completely fine. You can always place your plant on the north side of the window. This ensures that there is enough sunlight instead of having too much.
This could be said as one of the hardest parts of making a self contained terrarium. Functioning water is the lifeblood of a terrarium ecosystem. Without this, the entire ecosystem in your self contained terrarium will crumble. Two key points you should want to be aware of is proper drainage and a reservoir.
Do remember that we are building a terrarium and not a swamp. Hence choosing the right kind of substrate with excellent drainage can help reduce piles of water in one spot. When water is circulated continuously in the terrarium, surely it wouldn’t last forever, right?
Well, as long as you have a reservoir to keep the water, insufficient water should not be a problem. On the other hand, it also solves the problem of over-excess amounts of water which may potentially kill your plant.
I bet you haven’t thought about this, have you? Decomposition is what allows the soil to have enough nutrients for your plants. Usually, decompositions outside are caused by larger animals; however, that would be unlikely to do so in such a small container. Hence the only way of solving this is by having insects live in the ecosystem which you’ve built.
Of course, out of thousands of insects, not all would be suitable. Only a tiny amount of them prevents your terrarium from becoming a plant graveyard. Therefore, we recommend getting a cue and springtails. As long as you aren’t afraid of bugs, these tiny little creatures make a great natural cleaner for your terrarium. They’ll happily eat away any decaying matter in your terrarium if present. If mould is your concern in the terrarium, these bugs will gobble them up for you.
What if your glass terrarium is somewhat smaller. Wouldn’t it be harder to make it self-sustaining?
Well, as long as the normal fundamentals are present, such as sufficient water, solid, drainage system and sunlight; it will still be able to cycle due to a circulation of water trapped in that closed space. One example is by putting your plant in a small bottle. In this case, you have to make sure that the bottle is clear to allow sunlight to enter. The cap on the bottle will trap any water vapour that tries to escape it. When it cools down, the water is then cycled back.
Hopefully, through this, you could have a better concept of the necessities into creating a perfectly balanced ecosystem for your self contained terrarium. However, do be reminded that you should only build the terrarium based on your capabilities. Some Terrariums you see online may be slightly tricky, and more experience may be needed. Hence sticking with the simplest one, for now, maybe a good option for you.