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Thread: Construction of a terrarium

  1. #1

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    Prospective Terrarium to be Built

    Looking to try and build my own, but I have several questions for you experts out there for us newbies and ignorant folk. I was looking at building this out of probably sheetmetal on the bottom, sides, and back. The front will probably be a plexiglass and the top will be a 4 tube shoplight fixture.. modified to the specifications here...

    terrarium build


    At the bottom, I will probably put some kind of a plastic lid of some sort to hold the water. My plants will be in their pots.

    I was looking at installing probably one or two fans on the side, small fans of some sort to keep air moving and a couple holes on the other side for ventilation. Flaws in this design before I start spending money?

    My budget is rather limited and I am trying to make a happy home for CPs to be grown in. Use what I got or can find on construction sites that are about to be Demolished [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile.gif[/img]


    Would sheet metal be alright to use to keep moisture in or would that be problematic? I can get my hands on someis why I ask. I read that a metalic or reflective surface is good like aluminum foil or something... but i thought about just jumping ahead and just making it out of metal.

    I have a very talented father who can build dam near anything. He is good at building things, but not a plant grower at all.. yet alone CPs. Just wanting some knowledge to build the 'perfect' and 'ideal' CP growing facility.

    I am a big fan of sundews, flytraps, and more than likely will get into the others in time. One step at a time right? I know this is a large terrarium of sorts... but that is fine by me. Gives me plenty of room to expand my collection right? lol.
    http://webpages.charter.net/dwhupp/CP.jpg

    \"You think the riddle of steel was bad, wait'll you try to wrap yer head around the riddle of peat\" ~mabudon

  2. #2

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    I don't see a problem with metal as long as it doesn't get corroded and so end up in the water or losing its strength.

    I would suggest mouting the fans inside to keep the air moving but not necessarily with holes that will lower the humidity when dry air is pulled through the chamber.
    Newnan (Atlanta), GA
    - what do you do when your bog is full? you build another. and another. and another. then you buy some pots. and some more. and some more. and some more. then you wonder how much it would cost to rework the hydrology in your yard to place your house on an island. -

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    Okay, mount the fans internally but disregard the vent holes. I was worried about heat build up and such. Okay, thanks for the input!

    Also the metal wont be subjected to the water save for the humidity. I will be using a plastic lid of some sort to put in the bottom to fill with water for the plants.
    http://webpages.charter.net/dwhupp/CP.jpg

    \"You think the riddle of steel was bad, wait'll you try to wrap yer head around the riddle of peat\" ~mabudon

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    Hi,
    You could try aluminium (or aloominum for our USA cousins [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile_m_32.gif[/img] - an friend moved from the UK and thought that the guys in the States were using a new super light-weight metal for car components until he realised the difference in pronunciation!). Stainless steel would be OK but it is expensive, heavy and harder to work with. I used a heated propagator base and then built a tall polycarbonate case over it for Nepenthes to live in. The base was already warm and waterproof.
    I tend to have small computer CPU fans to keep the air moving. These are rated at 12V but I use a small plug-in transformer to power them at 9v, slightly slower but silent.
    Cheers, Steve

  5. #5

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    Would aluminum injure the plants should I use a pan for it? Just curious. I know plastic is pretty safe [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile.gif[/img]
    http://webpages.charter.net/dwhupp/CP.jpg

    \"You think the riddle of steel was bad, wait'll you try to wrap yer head around the riddle of peat\" ~mabudon

  6. #6

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    I am feeling very overwhelmed to the point of saying, the hell with the terrarium thing. Looking at lights and everything... whew. I am a poor man trying to get into a hobby that is seemingly too expensive for my pocketbook. Thought about doing a simple terrarium now out of plywood all the way around because I have a slug on hand. I then would put an acrylic front so I can see my lil plants. Was looking at the shoplight thing but erm... that is starting to sound scary to me as well.

    Ideally, I am wanting it to be the dimensions i listed above.
    48"l, 15"wide. Granted, this is a custom build and I can be flexible seeing I am going to make it out of plywood. I will seal it with polyurethane because I have a huge bucket of that too [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile.gif[/img] Then I will probably end up wrapping over it with aluminum foil to help with the reflection.

    Couple questions:

    1) How tall should I make it for the shop light tubes to work well? Only make it a foot tall or even shorter? I got some drosera and a VFT now. Huge sundew fan [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile.gif[/img]

    2) Where to put a fan? Was thinking something close to the light to blow the 'heat' away while some of the air also would cycle inside. Any particular fan be best?

    3) Should I use 40watt cool white bulbs?
    http://webpages.charter.net/dwhupp/CP.jpg

    \"You think the riddle of steel was bad, wait'll you try to wrap yer head around the riddle of peat\" ~mabudon

  7. #7

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    Here are some good CPU fans with adjustable speeds. Some have LED's built into them though so read carefully [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile.gif[/img]

    Frozen CPU
    The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it's open.

  8. #8
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    Krom:

    I am totally new to growing CPs and I just went through the process of building my first terrarium. The finished product, in my humble opinion, looks great and has all the necessary components. I suggest getting "The Savage Garden" by Peter D'Amato; it has really helped me out. For now, here's a summary of what I bought:

    1. 20 gallon long aquarium with plastic cover lid ($30 used). You can get these new at a local pet store. You want to avoid getting a screen top because humidity can escape, but to provide some air circulation, leave ~1" space on the top of the tank during the summer by removing the little plastic strip that comes with the cover...you'll see what i mean when you get it (in the winter, you might want to fully cover the tank especially if you have central heating as the humidity level in the house drops like a rock).
    2. Temperature/humidity monitor (Acurite brand = $20). Get this at a Lowe's or Home Depot.
    3. 12V computer fan ($20) and adapter ($20). Get this at RadioShack. The fan wires must be spliced with the wires of the adapter and covered with electrical tape; this is because the computer fan runs on DC current and your wallplug is AC. The store employee spliced the wires for me. The fan should be placed in the tank such that it is blowing against one of the tank walls.
    4. Two florescent light fixtures (Lithonia brand, 2' long, each holds two 20W florescent bulbs = $25 each). You'll have to splice the wires. Get name brand soft white florescent bulbsd (~$4-6 per bulb), not the cheap ones. Cheap lights may last as long as the good ones, but they will dim much faster and for terrariums, lighting must be high. If you have a 50gal tank, you should buy two 4'-long fixtures (each holding two 40W bulbs). Based on what I've read, 40W is the minimum for a 20gal tank, and 80W is minimum for a 50gal tank, but in both cases, maximum wattage is best.
    5. Timer ($5). This allows you to keep a regular photoperiod. Set the timer so that the photoperiod and fan are on for ~12-16hrs.
    6. Potting medium: Sphagum moss ($5), perlite ($3), playbox sand ($5), peat moss ($5). Get these at Lowe's or nursery. This is what you need to make a soil mixture for the plants, though it seems like you can keep the little plants you get in their original containers for some time before repotting (this made me feel a lot better). As far as how to mix the ingredients when you need to repot, each species has it's own requirements, so I would refer to the book or ask the forum. You can take some sphagnum moss and place 1" of it on the bottom of the tank and slightly wet it. This will make the bottom of the tank aesthetically pleasing and will provide a source of indirect humidity for the plants. The plants/saucers can be placed ontop of the moss.
    7. Reflective surface: Use regular aluminum foil and place it on all sides of the tank (except the front) such that the shinier surface faces the inside of the tank. This dramatically increases the light level in the tank.
    8. Plastic saucers for each of your plants (30 cents each at Home depot).
    9. Plants: This was the hardest thing for me...figuring out what plants can grow in my terrarium. For beginners like us, it's important you choose plants that have similar requirements, remain small so that they don't outgrow the terrarium, and are hardy varieties. The plants I bought are:
    American pitcher plants: S. purpurea, hooded pitcher plant,
    Nepenthes: N. belli, N. amplullaria, N. ventricosa,
    VFT: D. muscipula,
    Sundews: D. adelae, D. spatulata
    Butterwort: P. primuliflora
    Heliamphora: H. heterodoxa
    *The Sars and VFTs require a dormancy period every year. You have to gradually reduce their photoperiod/temperature and then put them in the fridge for ~3mo. I was told this is a rule and they will eventually die if you don't do this.
    **The heliamphora technically require a large temerature drop at nite, but I was told that the hardy species may survive without this....I'll soon find out.
    ***The Neps, butterworts, and sundews listed can be grown year round.
    ****All of the above plants, except Neps, should be "standing in water;" that is, they should be put in saucers filled with distilled water.
    *****As far as feeding, most people recommend natural insects, but foliar feeding 1-2x month with epiphyte/orchid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength is an alternative. Do not fertilize soil and do not place fertilizer in the pitchers--this is harmful to the plants.
    ******Humidity should be >70%.....this will be achieved in the enclosed terrarium. Good air circulation is a must otherwise, fungal infections will occur--a sign of poor air circulation is excessive condensation on the glass of the tank....the fan should ensure good air circulation. If fungal infections occur, Captan is a good fungicide for CPs.
    *******To play it safe, temperature should not go above 90F. Florescents don't produce much heat so this shouldn't be an issue.
    ********Plants should be placed no further than 12" from the lights, otherwise they will have stringy growth and will not do as well.

    This summarizes and condenses most of the information I got from separate books, forum topics and emails. I think it's nice to have it in one place. This is a really basic terrarium setup and is by no means comprehensive.....but it should allow you to grow a variety of CPs in a cheaply-built but nice looking terrarium. Hope it helps.
    Secretary, New England Carnivorous Plant Society (NECPS) http://www.necps.org/
    Member, International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS)
    Member, North American Sarracenia Conservancy (NASC)
    Member, The Carnivorous Plant Society (CPS)

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