The Magic of Activated Charcoal in Terrariums

Need Charcoal In Terrariums

Terrarium building is an art that requires careful consideration of various components. One question commonly asked by beginners is, “Do I Need to Use Charcoal in My Terrarium?” The answer is not a simple yes or no. In this article, we will explore the arguments for and against using charcoal in terrariums, providing you with the necessary information to make an informed decision.

The Filtration and Absorption Qualities of Charcoal


Charcoal is valued for its filtration and absorption properties, making it a popular addition to terrarium builds. During the initial stages of a terrarium’s development, plants are vulnerable. Many builders believe that charcoal can help remove harmful toxins that may accumulate in the terrarium environment. As a terrarium establishes its own ecosystem, waste products like decaying plants or fallen leaves can produce toxins, gases, and unpleasant odors. Charcoal aids in the removal of these harmful elements by absorbing and containing them within its pores. This is particularly crucial in closed terrariums, where proper filtration is essential.

Types of Charcoal and Their Uses

When it comes to selecting charcoal for your terrarium, not all options are created equal. Common charcoal, often used in fireplaces or BBQs, has limited absorption qualities and may contain elements that could harm your terrarium environment. On the other hand, activated charcoal, produced by subjecting common charcoal to high temperatures, creates larger pores that enhance its absorption capabilities. For closed or sealed terrariums, many experienced builders recommend using a layer of activated charcoal beneath the soil or substrate.

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The Quantity of Charcoal to Use

The amount of charcoal to include in your terrarium depends on the type of build you are creating. Open terrariums, which allow the removal of debris and provide ventilation for gases, may not require any charcoal. However, some builders choose to mix around 5-10% charcoal with the soil or substrate during the initial stages of a new terrarium to enhance absorption. Sealed or closed terrariums, on the other hand, benefit from a full layer of activated charcoal as a filtration mechanism.

Alternatives to Charcoal

While charcoal is commonly used in terrariums, not everyone agrees on its benefits. Some builders prefer alternatives that provide similar cleaning and health benefits for the ecosystem. Perlite and vermiculite, added to the soil mix, enhance aeration and absorption. Insects like springtails and dwarf isopods can also be introduced to clean up debris and provide natural fertilizer. Additionally, adding a layer of moss to the terrarium helps absorb odors and excess water, preventing root rot.

Charcoal: To Use or Not to Use?

Ultimately, the decision of whether to include charcoal in your terrarium is a personal one. Some builders argue that it is not necessary, while others believe it is beneficial, especially for beginner terrariums. As long as you actively manage water, debris, and decay in your terrarium, you can potentially forgo charcoal. However, if you prefer a low-maintenance terrarium setup without the addition of insects, charcoal provides a means of maintaining a healthy environment. Adding the right type of charcoal, if space permits, is unlikely to harm your terrarium, and it may even offer some benefits.

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Note: Content in this article is based on the original source: All About Aquariums.