What Is a Terrarium?

Gardening is an exciting, rewarding but challenging journey. It’s a step away from the endless, monotonous chores of urban life and into the heart of the nature’s paradise. It’s a journey of discovery, as well as a journey of connection and empowerment, where creativity flourishes and we connect in new and exciting ways with nature, together with our friends and fellow gardening enthusiasts.

However, in today’s modern and urban world you rarely have enough space and sunlight for gardening to flourish. A lot of house and office space is used, consumed and squandered, so how are we to enjoy gardening in the city?

Terrariums are the perfect solution to this dilemma. Terrariums are an ideal way to grow and nurture a little bit of nature in busy lives. They allow us to enjoy growing a few types of plants without a lot of space and light. And even though a terrarium is small, it creates an escape into nature and the feeling of moving away from the packed concrete jungle.

Understanding What Is a Terrarium?

The word terrarium comes from two different Latin words: terra, which means “earth”, and rium, which refers to a structure of some kind. So, together, terrarium literally means “earth within”.

A terrarium is a glass box filled with soil, which helps to house or display plants and flowers. Essentially, it’s a miniature garden in a glass box without any of the drainage or ventilation problems that usually plague indoor gardening. It’s a great alternative to growing plants in pots on the windowsill, or in a garden with an added benefit of being super easy to manage.

Nowadays there are a lot of indoor gardening kits on the market and in a lot of cases you can easily build your own terrarium from natural materials. Beyond that, many of the building blocks used for terrariums can be found in your kitchen and that store right down the road.

understanding terrarium

How Terrarium Works?

Terrarium helps create a closed environment for the plants and so it can thrive with no pollutants from the outside world. Terrible weather conditions are kept at bay, making a terrarium an ideal option if you are looking to grow healthy plants indoors. Another thing about terrariums is that they promote the growth of seedlings. The transparent bowl structure allows sunlight to penetrate the soil in the terrarium, where it helps to encourage growth, just like it does for all the plants growing above.

Are Terrarium Self-sustainable?

Yes, most of the time. We need to be aware that even though a terrarium might look perfect and well maintained, the growing conditions it has endured over time and especially the amount of light and water you have given it can affect its vitality over time. The one thing that makes a terrarium self-sustainable is sufficient exposer to sunlight. And the keyword here is “sufficient” because if there’s too much light, vegetation within the enclosed walls will photosynthesize at rapid pace resulting in soggy terrarium. If the sunlight is not sufficient, they will die. So, placement of your terrarium will define how the plants grow in the ‘boon’ or how long the plants will last in the little space.

How to Make A Healthy Terrarium

1. A Closed Transparent Container:

The container of the terrarium needs to be transparent and closed on top. The closed lid is very important because it prevents the air from the room getting in and contaminating the air inside. It also prevents the moisture from escaping and protects the plants from changes in temperature in the room. A lid is the most effective of all ways to regulate the humidity of a terrarium. The closed nature of the lid can also be used to regulate the temperature of the closed environment and increase or decrease the temperature as needed.

2. A Good Fit:

The terrarium needs to be a snug fit, so you should avoid glass containers that are too wide and tall. Such a container will be very difficult to seal properly and will let moisture escape and get in. A good fit will ensure that the interior of the terrarium will be warmer and more humid than the air of the room. This will prevent the plant inside from drying and wilting. In turn your terrarium will be happy and content and will cheer you up on a dull grey morning.

3. A Healthy Amount of Fertiliser:

When the closed container and transparent lid are ready place the plant in the bottom of the frame and cover 2/3 rds of the container with soil. There should be a small space of 1 – 2 inches between the top layer of soil and the top of the container. Use the level to make sure the container is the right size for the plant.

Spread the fertiliser over the top layer of soil and now use the level to make sure the fertilizer is distributed equally throughout. However it is important you follow the instructions on the container because all fertilisers have different application rates and different usage instructions. Follow the instructions on the fertiliser container for best results.

4. Proper Plant Selection:

The plants that you choose to plant in a terrarium greatly affects the climate inside. Some plants like cacti and succulent plants generate a lot of water which can lead to the humidity inside the terrarium being higher than the air in the room. This can in turn warp and rot the wood. On the other hand, some plants consume a lot of water in their growing cycle. For example, ferns and bog plants.

The available light is also a very important factor in the selection process. Make sure the plant is not too small or big and is in the right range for the space, so you don’t have to deal with shadows and plants. Too big a plant may also make it difficult for you to maintain the garden, as it may not fit in your budget to purchase enough fertiliser and water for the plant.

terrarium plants

5. For the Love of Life:

If you really want to make your terrarium come alive and survive for a long time, you need to add life inside it. Choose 2 or 3 flowers or plants that are beautiful and give it a perfect setting to thrive. You can choose a mushroom tree, some ferns, mosses and last but not least, a houseplant! Plants like Tabachique and Snake Plants are two of my personal favourites.

If you need to get any of the fancier items to create your terrarium you can purchase it on Amazon, it’s the easiest way for most of us to get access to gardening items quickly and easily. Here’s our recommended terrarium for you!

Urban Born Glass Terrarium Birdcage

When you want the best, this practical and stylish glass terrarium is your best option. The Urban Born Glass Terrarium is an octagonal shaped glass container measuring 27 cm x 23 cm x 25 cm (9 “x9 “x10”). It is constructed of black steel and frosted glass. The Urban Born Glass Terrarium features beautiful natural details and artistic look making it an ideal choice for small plants and ferns.

This product is also well suited for individuals seeking a centerpiece, a decorative object or an elegant container for their living space. An ordinary hanging planter cannot be compared to this sturdy glass piece boasting exceptional design, and quality build. Furthermore, its price is right and its size is perfect, making it an absolute must-have for any gardening enthusiast.

BAERRYNA Tabletop Geometric Glass Terrarium

One of the most creative, striking and distinctive terrarium designs you’ll find on the market is this impressive pentagonal glass table top terrarium. It is crafted from tempered glass and features a hand-crafted golden colored steel frame. With its unique geometric structure, it looks much like an artistic sculpture of nature. Therefore, making it a great little terrarium that you can add to your collection!

It could also be used as a decorative piece for your office, home or garden. The table top terrarium will bring an elegant touch to your space via the guidance of its bold yet refined design. It is also an excellent choice as an accent for your living space and home decor. Invest in this wonder-piece and enjoy watching over all your plants and greenery.

If you have yourself researching terrarium lately, then you’d love this article. It contains everything you need to know as a beginner (or even as a pro). So let’s start with the basics: what is a terrarium?

What is a Terrarium?

Say terrarium sounds all new and odd, what about an aquarium? You have heard of that – haven’t you?

Terrariums work similarly to aquariums. Like other ariums, it is a masterpiece that adds a classy touch to your interior designs.


In the simplest of definitions, a terrarium is a small, artificial environment for keeping living things.

In other words, you will find plants and animals (rarely) in a terrarium – depending on the preferences of the owner.

Perhaps you wonder how all that fits into interior designs. Here is how:

The containers you use for building terrariums are products of glass or plastics (transparent material). That way, your small garden of life can be a decorative aid.

However, you should also know there are different kinds of a terrarium. Let’s see which fits your needs.

Types of Terrarium

Generally, terrariums are of two kinds:

  1. Open terrariums
  2. Closed/sealed terrariums

Open terrariums

Like the name, an open terrarium is that which gives room to direct sunlight. These kinds do not have a lid.

That also means open terrariums aren’t a good fit for animals. Else, you can bid your goodbyes.

Nevertheless, open terrariums are arguably the most convenient kinds. When you have one, it is easy to water and trim your gardens.

Most importantly, you’d worry less about the intensity of the sun and adequate airing.

Closed/Sealed Terrarium

Unlike the opened types, a closed terrarium has a lid. Thanks to that feature, you can rest assured that your animals (if at all) will stay grounded in their little maneuvered environment.

However, you should know there are a few setbacks to closed terrariums. First, you worry about lighting.

Since you will close the lid, you have two options:

  1. Place your container under sunlight – the sun will heat the terrarium in no time. So, you have to open the lid often. Unfortunately, you might need to regularly water the soil.
  2. Provide an artificial lighting option – instead of sunlight, you can use LED bulbs. As such, the heat won’t be so excessive that you have to open the lid frequently. That also means you will have less need for watering.

Now, you know the answer to the question, “what is a terrarium?” However, for better understanding, let’s also discuss “what is not a terrarium?”

What Is Not A Terrarium? Understanding The Unique Features of Your Box

Terrarium Vs. Aquarium


From the names, you can tell that terrariums are different from an aquarium. How so?

“Terra” denotes terrestrial. In other words, terrariums are fit for only land creatures.

“Aqua,” on the other hand, means water. That means aquariums are for water-body animals and plants.

So, you see that the two ariums met different purposes.


By design, terrariums’ lids open to the front. That way, you get to carry out the maintenance duty comfortably. And when you consider you might repeat such routine often, the side open-close lid is a perfect fit.

Aquariums don’t open to the front. Else, the water will flow out and make a mess of your home.


Terrariums’ glasses are light materials. Not only that. The walls of the boxes are thin. Why?

Terrariums neither hold off water pressure nor keep heavyweight animals. So, the boxes do not need heavy and thick glasses.

Aquariums, on the other hand, are a different case. Since they aim to keep water and the organisms that fit such, their glasses are thicker.

Also, aquariums use waterproof glass. Unfortunately, those are heavy compared to terrariums’.

Furthermore, aquariums have silicone sealings. Such adhesives also add to their weight.

Tip: though not a vital difference, aquariums are often taller than terrariums.

Terrarium Vs. Vivarium


While terrarium has vivid meaning, vivarium can be confusing. Nevertheless, the two ariums are almost inseparable. Besides, people use the two names interchangeably in conversations.

However, both ariums are different at their respective base functions. How so?

Terrariums care primarily for plants, while vivariums tend more towards animals.

Now, does that mean you can’t keep animals in terrariums? Can’t you keep plants in vivariums?

Funnily enough, you can yet keep animals in terrariums, and vivariums also hold plants. Confusing, eh?

Let’s see a better way to differentiate the two ariums from their design perspective.


Terrariums are often strictly natural land environments. The most complex additions you could have here is the LED light – and that is even in a closed terrarium.

Vivarium, on the other hand, accepts as many features as possible. The reason for that is because the priority here is the animals.

Think of it like a mini-man and his insatiable needs. He needs an HVAC system, beautiful and shiny interiors, and the list goes on.

So, think of the animals in vivariums as mini-men. And to make them comfortable, you fit as many maneuvers as possible. That is also why “vivarium plants” are different from “terrarium plants.”


Vivariums are heavier than terrariums. And that is indisputable. Imagine all the extra weight of the added artificial features!

That aside, vivarium will yet include more technical sealings and pressure-compatible glasses. Animals need such!

Unfortunately, all those extras will make vivariums quite a load should you want to move.

Are Terrariums Better Than Aquariums And Vivariums?

The short answer: no!

No arium is better than the other. Each only meets specific needs.

As discussed, terrariums are the perfect fit for when you are looking to keep terrestrial plants. If that’s your interest, you will attain satisfaction with the lightweight arium.

Another thing to consider is your residency. Do you tend towards frequent moves? Yes?

Then, get terrariums. The reason you should is that these ariums are lightweight. That way, you can easily find space for them inside your load without attracting exorbitant move charges.

That’s it. Now you know what a terrarium is and what it is not. What next?

Get one for your interior design needs. Good luck with that!



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