Converting an Aquarium into a Terrarium

April 24, 2008


I'm thinking about converting a 30 gallon aquarium into a terrarium. I would like advice from anyone who has done this successfully.

What types of plants are slow-growing and would do well under glass? The top will not be sealed, but will be mostly covered by the aquarium top that has the light in it.

By ChloeA


Here's a photo of my completed terrarium. The miniature violets cost about $4 to $5 each. I found the shefflera and a cute small palm at Walmart for $3 each. The small juniper was pricy, about $15. The ground cover is something called Irish moss that was on sale at a discount store after St. Patrick's Day. The rocks and gravel are from my yard.

Of course, all this does add up, I probably spent about $75 total. But now I have a large and attractive focal point in my home office. The activated charcoal which was recommended to go over the gravel in the bottom was a major expense. I used a type for aquarium filters and possibly could have found a cheaper source.

By ChloeA




Your terrarium looks amazing! Here are a few helpful tips to help you maintain it.

  • Moisture: The beautiful thing about terrariums is how easy they are to maintain. They almost thrive on neglect. The biggest mistake people make is over doing it on watering. Once you add moisture to your terrarium, it's hard to remove it. Excess moisture attracts bacteria and plants become more vulnerable to attacks from diseases and pests. With an open top, it may dry out faster, but after a little trial and error, you will be able to determine the best watering schedule for your plants. A lot of condensation building up on the outside of the glass is a sign you've gone overboard.

  • Fertilizing: I wouldn't recommend it. After all, fertilizing promotes growth, and the whole idea of a terrarium is to sustain small-sized plants. A high quality soil should contain all of the nutrients your plants need. Replace a little of the existing soil in your terrarium once a year when repotting your other houseplants. If you know the soil you are using is poor quality, you can add a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer (1/2 strength) after your plants have settled in.

  • Thinning and pinching: Eventually some of your plants will outgrow the terrarium. Pinching them back will help keep vertical growth in check and encourage them to fill out horizontally. Expect to thin a few specimens out occasionally, too. If a plant dies, remove it right away. Remember to check any replacement specimens thoroughly for insects and diseases before adding them into the mix. Keeping your terrarium free of dead leaves and other plant debris will also help reduce the likelihood of insects and disease.

  • Sunlight: An aquarium light should work fine for most of your plants. Glass magnifies the suns rays and will heat up the inside of your terrarium quickly, so avoid placing it in direct sunlight.

What a beautiful addition to your home office!



By nicole (Guest Post)
April 11, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

anyone know how to make a terrarium that is a good habitat for hermit crabs but still pretty and easy to take care will be 2.5 gallons

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By Marcia. (Guest Post)
April 13, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

Hi Chloe, Wow, this is so neat! I am hoping one day, to do something like this, also. Thanks to all the replies also!
Love and hugs, Marcia

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April 24, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

Thanks for the advice, Ellen. The only thing I'm fertilizing is the violets. Actually I left them in their tiny one-inch plastic pots, because my understanding is that they need to become pot-bound to bloom regularly.


They have to be watered fairly frequently, about once a week, and I put violet food in the water. The rest of the setup seems to need water about once every 10 days.

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