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Thread: New terrarium

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Albany, NY
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    I am new to Carnivorous plants and Terrariums (as my name suggests i'm big on marine/reef tanks) so i'll try not to sound like too much of a newbie
    I just finished setting up my terrarium, i used a 20gal high aquarium, i added 2-3" on rocks/pebbles on the bottom for drainage, added 1" of long fibered moss, and 2-3" of peat moss on top of that.
    I divided the tank into two sides, one for regular plants (ferns and ivy) and the other for carnivorous plants. I currently have one VFT. I have the terrarium infront of a window but have decided that this probably wont be enough so i dedcied to add 4 20watt Normal Output flourscents (sp?) for supplemental ligthing. I have no cover on the terrarium and since its in the same room as my 125gal reef tank (10x12 room) i'm hoping humidity will be kept constant enough.
    Is there any suggestions that people can offer me? What am i missing or what should i have done? any advice willbe appreciated since i am in fact a newbie.


  2. #2
    chloroplast's Avatar
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    May 2004
    Massachusetts, USA
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    Hey fishtanker,

    I'm also relatively 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. If you're truly interested in growing CPs, I suggest getting "The Savage Garden" by Peter D'Amato; it has really helped me out.

    It seems like you want to create a "classic" terrarium where plants are planted in substrate placed that the bottom of the tank. There are several disadvantages to this: 1) different CPs require different types of substrate, 2) if there is an infection (fungal, etc.) in a plant, it cannot be easily removed from the tank for isolation, 3) if there's a problem with the substrate (mold, fungus, etc.) it can be really time-consuming and messy to replace, 4) some CPs (including VFTs) need a dormancy period where they are placed in cold while others do not--you probably couldn't mix these plants together.

    I designed another type of terrarium where plants are kept in their individual pots. It looks pretty nice and avoids the pitfalls of the classic terrarium. For now, here's a summary of what I bought for my terrarium:

    1. 20 gallon long aquarium with plastic/glass 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'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 DC computer fan ($20) and adapter ($20). Alternatively, if you can get a 12V AC fan at Radioshack this is probably better as it doesn't require an adapter. Get these 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. IF you get the AC fan, splice the wires with those of an extension cord. The store employee spliced the wires for me. The fan should be placed in the tank.
    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. 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.
    *looks like you already put some stuff at the bottom of the can put your pots on top of this.
    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 (I found out later that this can be a tough plant to grow. It was suggested to me that I get P.john rizzi, P. moranensis, P.esseriana)
    Heliamphora: H. heterodoxa x minor
    *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 without dormancy.
    ****All of the above plants, except Neps and heliamphora, should be "standing in water;" that is, they should be put in saucers filled with 1" 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. Also, I was told not to foliar fertilize sundews.
    ******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. Optimally, they should be 3-6" away.

    This summarizes and condenses most of the information I got from separate books, forum topics and emails. This forum is a great place to learn info/tips/tricks that isn't in books. 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)
    Member, International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS)
    Member, North American Sarracenia Conservancy (NASC)
    Member, The Carnivorous Plant Society (CPS)

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