How to Make a Rainforest Terrarium

Written by patricia arnett
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How to Make a Rainforest Terrarium
A terrarium is a confined space used for maintaining plants and animals. (fern image by ana malin from

A terrarium is a confined space used for maintaining small plants and animals. A terrarium is a small ecosystem (a group of living things and nonliving things that work together) that will primarily maintain itself. Moisture from the soil in the terrarium evaporates and then condenses (forms water droplets). These droplets will drop back down to the soil and rewater the plants and animals. This evaporation and condensation cycle will repeat itself for months at a time.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Large see-through container with lid (fish tank, deep storage container)
  • Ruler
  • Coarse sand
  • Small rocks
  • Dried moss
  • Potting soil
  • Various tropical plants (miniature gloxinias, miniature begonias, Boston ferns, Parlor palms)
  • Small spoon
  • Rocks of various sizes
  • Dried leaves
  • Dried sticks
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Green anole lizard (optional)

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  1. 1

    Cover the bottom of the container with a one-half-inch layer of coarse sand. Add a one-inch layer of small rocks. This combination will allow excess water to drain and be captured by the sand.

  2. 2

    Spread a thin layer of dried moss on top. Add a two-inch layer of potting soil.

  3. 3

    Plant the tropical plants. Dig a hole with the small spoon and place the plant root-first inside the hole. Fill the hole with soil, making sure the roots are completely covered. Space the plants out so that they have room to grow.

  4. 4

    Place rocks on top of the soil for decoration. Create a landscape by making hills and trenches in the soil.

  5. 5

    Spread the dried leaves and sticks on top of the soil. Add water to the spray bottle and spray the soil until it is moist.

  6. 6

    Place the anole lizard (optional) in the container. Put the lid on the container, but do not close it all the way. This is to make sure air can circulate inside the terrarium. The lid can be closed all the way if the lid has small holes.

Tips and warnings

  • The terrarium should need watering about once a month to once every two weeks. Water droplets should form in the sides of container. If you do not see any droplets then it is time to water your terrarium. Spray the soil with water until moist.
  • Take out any dead plants and trim excess plant growth when needed.
  • If you included the anole lizard, make sure you provide proper food and lighting. Anoles typically eat crickets, flies, and mealworms and should be fed a vitamin supplement. They do not need much water, as they will drink the water droplets that form inside the terrarium. Provide enough water and humidity for the anole by spraying the inside of the terrarium with water every day. These lizards also require special lighting.
  • Do not expose the terrarium to direct sunlight as this can cause an extreme rise in temperature. If you house an anole lizard in the terrarium, special lighting is required to keep the animal healthy.
  • Do not open the lid unless necessary. Only open the lid when watering, to feed your lizard or if mould forms. If mould appears, take the lid off to allow the excess moisture to evaporate.

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