So You Want to Start a Terrarium
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Very basic terrarium -- water bowl, climbing area, a bit of decor. Lots of little critters.
Terrarium: Terrarium, palludarium, vivarium or half-filled aquarium. Half-empty or half-full? Call it what you want. Most of us call an aquarium with land and water areas a “terrarium.” Think of your terrarium as a miniature rain forest or greenhouse.
Real Life: In nature, big critters eat little critters. For your terrarium you need to select critters which will not or cannot eat each other. Start by selecting critters of nearly the same size.
Food Choice: Pick critters that eat easy-to-obtain foods. If your animals eat only left-handed centipedes from Angola, you’ll also need to learn how to raise their food. By the way, many people already raise a favorite terrarium critter food: Roaches. Crickets (with an occasional calcium/vitamin supplement) work fine for most. Mealworms make a nice occasional change in their menu.
Starting Comments: Start with the biggest container you can afford. Ten-gallon tanks make good starter sets but allow little room for “expansion.” You can make a small terrarium out of a wide-mouthed, one-gallon jar. One-gallon jars with moist vermiculite make perfect tarantula terraria. But once you get into terrariums, you’ll want a big one.
Filters: At the very least, add a sponge filter. Without a filter, you’ll have trouble keeping your water clear. With the right kind of filter, you can even fashion a waterfall from it. Moving water adds a great deal to any terrarium.
Substrate: You can choose from a veritable spectrum of substrates. Gravel is the easiest. Patches of green moss look good in any terrarium.
Wood: One disadvantage – your critters can hide behind the wood. Fine. That gives them a secure hiding place. Add that wood and you’ll find it the focal point of your terrarium. In other words, start with a good-looking piece of wood and decorate your terrarium around it. Don’t center it. Put it slightly to the left or right.
Rocks: Terraces and neat-looking rocks, such as the carved sandstones, look good. Remember that many of these add hiding spots in your setup. Anchoring attractive rocks to the walls or back of your terrarium not only looks good, it also adds living spaces to your terrarium. Aquarium glue, epoxy, or hot glue will hold small rocks and wood to your back wall. You can add a great deal of decor in this manner.
Plants: Unless you sport a green thumb, use artificial plants in your terrarium. You need plants with weighted bases or they will fall over. Cool idea: Drill holes in your wood centerpiece and insert artificial plants. Or hot glue them to your rocks. Several companies now make these. You no longer need build your own.
Background: Cover your terrarium’s back. Wires and air tubing detract from its appearance. If you add any necessary tubing inside, color it with a permanent marker so it blends into your background.
Neutral Colors? Decide whether you want to duplicate Mother Nature or go more inventive in your terrarium. Some of the materials available these days look so much better than what you can find on the average forest floor. Whatever your choice of colors, choose animals that do not blend in (although many will change from green to brown and back to blend into the woodwork).
Cover: Unless you enjoy recapturing your critters every morning, you need a well-sealed cover. Many terrarium critters can easily climb the glass. If your terrarium has an opening, your critters will exit for greener pastures.
Light: Not many
terrarium critters need full-spectrum lights.
Check out their specific needs before you flash your cash.
Summary: The longer you keep your terrarium, the better you will get at decorating it. LA
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