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Thread: Foul odor in terrarium

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    I have a 55 gallon terrarium that was constructed about a month ago, a third of it is submerged in half inch of distilled water. The distilled water is getting murky and leaving a foul odor, it smells horrible, there isn't a draining system anywhere, cause its basically a 55 gallon aquarium tank, that I transformed into a terrarium, and there wasn't anyway I could put a filter in there cause the water is low, is there any way to save this terrarium or do I have to rethink a new way to build it? Please help me, it smells so bad.

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    Tony Paroubek's Avatar
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    Sounds like hydrogen sulfide from anerobic bacteria. The only way to get rid of it is to get rid of the standing water in the bottom and aerate the substrate.

    In a terrarium it should be sufficient to have the substrate moist without any pool of water at the bottom. This would help prevent anerobic conditions.

    Tony
    Is that a Nepenthes in your pocket or you just happy to see me?

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    I am in the process of rebuilding the design of my terrarium, it was horrible cleaning the tank because of the smell, u sure sound like a biologist [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif[/img]

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    I have had good results with a 2-3 inch layer of perlite under the planting medium. This allows a place for the water to collect without being in contact with much organic material. About twice a year I do flood the terrarium and then remove the excess water to help remove any build-up of salts and to flush out any other build ups that may not be helpful to the plants. This usually results in new sphagnum moss growth. I do keep this terrarium outside for most of the growing season.
    Nick

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    Question

    My terrarium has a 2 to 3 inch layer of gravel mixed with charcoal(carbon) under the dirt as a layer of drainage. To eliminate the odor I mixed the charcoal in with the gravel to sponge up all of the toxins, I used a 1-8 ratio, You could put a pump in and circulate the water down there or pump it out. When I see the water layer at the bottom than I know that I watered too much. Normally there is no water table in my terrarium only right after I water if any seeps through past the dirt. There is a layer of cloth between the dirt and the carbon-gravel to separate the two

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    goldtrap2690's Avatar
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    i used to get that problem when i potted plants , sometime the media gets to wet , i used to say to my self when this happened ' i did'nt know venus flytraps can fart " , lol , j/k . charcoal ( for horticultural purposes only , not those briquette types use for barbecueing ) really helps alot , but i don't use it much for growing plants in , it absorb salts .

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    Yea, I changed the design of my terrarium, but with all the activated charcoal and my drainage layers are great, but I've been watering them too often, and I could see the water level, but I don't no how to get rid of the water level, except for not watering them for a long time, but I don't want to risk drying them up, so I guess I'll have to deal with it.

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    I have tried substrate terrariums. I kept one for about 6 years but eventually lost all the plants. In my experience, no matter how meticulous one is with using only distilled water, eventually anaerobic processes begin. Sure, charcoal works for a while, but eventually these prosesses affect it and begin to break it down, at which point the nutrient salts it absorbed are leached back into the medium. Substrate terrariums are just bad mojo. I now use pots in my terrariums in a tray water system which allows problems to be addressed more easily. Pots can come out and be flushed from the top if problems are evident. A foul odor such as you describe is very bad, and you should act immediately to save your plants.

    I think if I were to experiment along these lines now I would use a few inches of redwood mulch on the bottom of the tank. I am growing several species in undrained situations with a sump base of redwood or red cedar, and so far there is no problem. The mulch has a definite antibacterial/fungal action. I am able to frequently change the water since I have the plants in jardeniers. I dont know how this would work long term as I abandoned the substrate terrarium idea after losing my entire collection within a week back in the middle 80's.
    "Grow More, Share More"

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