The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Vibrant Closed Terrarium

Are you ready to dive into the enchanting world of closed terrariums? Imagine having your very own self-sustaining miniature jungle, a lush oasis full of vibrant tropical plants and mosses. It’s not only a visually stunning centerpiece but also a fascinating ecosystem that mimics the delicate balance of the natural world. If you want to create a thriving closed terrarium that is as healthy as it is beautiful, this guide is for you.

Unveiling the Magic of Closed Terrariums

A closed terrarium is like a tiny glass-bound world, recreating the intricate cycles found in nature. From the rain cycle to the nutrient cycle, these enclosed ecosystems are designed to be self-sustaining, requiring minimal intervention from you. While the idea of a sealed environment might sound airtight, it’s not necessary. As long as the terrarium can trap moisture and humidity, it will function effectively. In fact, it’s even beneficial to occasionally air out the terrarium to introduce fresh carbon dioxide and prevent mold growth.

When it comes to terrarium containers, the options are endless. From apothecary jars to spice jars, whisky bottles to candles, any glass container can be repurposed into a captivating closed terrarium. Even fish tanks or fish bowls with wide openings can be transformed into beautiful terrariums. The key is to find a container that suits your style and allows you to create a thriving ecosystem within.

Closed Terrarium

Building Your Closed Terrarium: Step by Step

Creating a closed terrarium is like constructing a house. It requires a solid foundation, proper structure, good drainage, and, of course, a stunning selection of plants. Let’s break down the essential elements:

1. The Drainage Layer

The drainage layer serves as the foundation and reservoir for excess water. Consider using lightweight and porous materials like lava rock or leca. They provide excellent drainage while creating a space for water accumulation. In some cases, you might also include activated charcoal and a mesh barrier for added filtration.

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2. The Substrate Layer

The substrate layer provides both physical and nutritional support for your plants. Opt for a tropical substrate mix or soilless potting mix with a coco coir base. This will ensure optimal conditions for the plants to thrive.

Moss Terrarium

3. The Hardscape

To add texture and visual interest to your closed terrarium, incorporate rocks and branches that mimic the natural contours of mountains. These elements create scale and dynamic shapes, bringing your terrarium to life.

4. The Closed Terrarium Plants

Choosing the right plants is crucial for creating a natural and balanced scene. Select a variety of tropical plant species, including ferns, vines, foliage, moss, and epiphytes. Aim for plants that stay small and have similar light requirements. Avoid arid climate plants like cacti and succulents, as they won’t thrive in the humid conditions of a closed terrarium.

Tropical Terrarium

5. Personal Touches

Once the ecosystem is established, it’s time to unleash your creativity. Add personal touches like figurines or other decorations to create a unique scene within your terrarium. Let your imagination run wild!

Remember to seal your terrarium with a lid to create a self-contained environment. This will help maintain the necessary humidity and moisture levels for your plants to flourish.

In this intricate process, there are numerous options and variations for each layer. For a comprehensive overview, check out the step-by-step guide to Terrarium Layers.

Choosing the Perfect Closed Terrarium Plants

Creating a harmonious terrarium environment requires careful plant selection. Look for small plants that will stay compact and fit well within the container. You’ll want a diverse mix of ferns, vines, foliage, moss, and epiphytes to create a natural-looking tropical landscape.

Closed Terrarium

While plant availability might vary across countries, aim to achieve a well-balanced combination. Avoid choosing plants that are native to arid climates, as they won’t thrive in the humid conditions of a closed terrarium. For additional airflow, consider air plants, but provide them with the necessary ventilation they require.

When planting, begin with the tallest plant to determine the layout and then use smaller plants as decorative highlights. For a comprehensive list of closed terrarium plant options, explore the MyDefinitive Guide to Closed Terrarium Plants.

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Essential Considerations for a Healthy Closed Terrarium

To ensure the long-term health of your closed terrarium, there are a few additional factors to keep in mind. By addressing these considerations, you can create an environment that requires minimal maintenance and fosters optimal plant growth.


Terrarium plants thrive in bright, indirect light. Place your terrarium in a well-lit spot away from direct sunlight. If natural light is insufficient, consider using a grow light setup. This will provide consistent and adequate lighting without the risk of scorching delicate plants.

Terrarium Grow Light

Going Bioactive

For a truly self-sustaining closed terrarium, you can introduce beneficial bugs and microfauna. These organisms, such as springtails and isopods, play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They help break down decaying matter and create essential nutrients for your plants. Embracing this bioactive approach ensures a balanced nutrient cycle within your closed terrarium.

To delve deeper into the key elements of a self-sustaining terrarium, explore our comprehensive guide.

Sourcing Your Closed Terrarium Supplies

If you prefer the do-it-yourself route, sourcing the right supplies is essential. Fortunately, you can easily find everything you need online or at local stores. Here’s a list of the essential terrarium supplies to get you started:

  • Clear glass container: Any closed container of uniform shape and reasonable size will work.
  • Drainage materials (optional): Lava rock, leca, or any gravel for effective water drainage.
  • Substrate: Use a suitable tropical blend or soilless potting mix with a coco coir base.
  • Tools: Long tweezers for plant positioning and long scissors for trimming.
  • Bioactive bugs: Springtails and isopods are beneficial for maintaining a healthy terrarium ecosystem.
  • Plants: Choose a variety of dwarf species or slow-growing plants to create a natural-looking landscape.
  • Lid: If your chosen glassware doesn’t come with a lid, consider purchasing one separately.

Terrarium Lid

For lids on open containers, acrylic disks cut to size are a great option. They offer a glass-like appearance while being more cost-effective and lightweight. Alternatively, cling film can be used as a temporary lid, although it tends to attract dust.

To explore a full shopping list of terrarium supplies, refer to our Terrarium Supplies Guide.

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Ready-Made Terrariums and DIY Kits

If you’re not up for the DIY challenge, you can find ready-made closed terrariums for sale. Etsy is a great marketplace for finding sealed terrariums created by talented artists. However, keep in mind that these terrariums might be best purchased locally due to their fragile nature.

Alternatively, you can consider purchasing a closed terrarium kit. These kits provide everything you need in one package, including the necessary tools, materials, and a selection of appropriate closed terrarium plants. For a different experience, you could even explore bottle terrarium kits, although they require more advanced skills.

Caring for Your Closed Terrarium

To maintain a healthy closed terrarium, pay attention to these key care practices:


Provide your terrarium with bright indirect light. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as this can damage the plants. If necessary, supplement natural light with a grow light setup to ensure consistent and appropriate lighting.


Monitoring the moisture level in your terrarium is crucial. Rather than relying on a specific watering schedule, observe the condensation on the glass. A light fog on the glass during the hottest part of the day is normal and indicates a healthy level of moisture. If there’s no condensation and the substrate appears dry, it’s time to add water. Remember to add water in small increments to avoid overwatering.

Fittonia Terrarium


To promote healthy growth, consider adding organic matter to your substrate. Earthworm castings or a diluted organic water-soluble fertilizer can provide essential nutrients for your plants. You can also include a chamomile tea bag for natural fungicide properties.

For a detailed guide on watering and additional care tips, refer to our comprehensive articles.

Unleash Your Creativity and Build a Thriving Closed Terrarium

Congratulations! You now have the knowledge and tools to embark on your closed terrarium journey. Whether you follow a step-by-step guide or unleash your creativity, building a closed terrarium allows you to create a captivating microcosm of nature. If you’re in need of inspiration, explore our lists of Best Terrarium Plants and Ultimate Guide to Terrarium Plants.

Now, it’s time to let your imagination flourish. Build your closed terrarium and share your creations with us. Happy terrarium crafting!

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