Skip to main content

Build Your Own Terrarium Guide: A Simple Guide to Building a Classroom Terrarium.

Terrarium Header Image

All Grade Levels

Terrariums are excellent tools for teaching students about ecosystems, the water cycle, and plant care. This guide will walk you through the process of building and maintaining a simple terrarium tailored for classroom use. 

Build a Terrarium At a Glance
Select a clear, sealable container to house your ecosystem. Fill the bottom with a layer of stones for drainage, followed by a thin layer of activated charcoal to keep the water clean. Add nutrient-rich soil, then carefully choose small plants that thrive in humid environments—ferns and mosses are excellent choices. Once assembled, the terrarium becomes an ideal model to study the water cycle. Moisture from the soil and plants evaporates, condenses on the glass, and precipitates back into the soil, demonstrating a miniature water cycle.

Check out our Terrarium Guide to discover the right terrarium container for your classroom!

Download here button

DIY Terrarium Materials Needed

  1.  Container: Choose a container with a wide opening for easy assembly and maintenance. Consider the size of your classroom and the space available to display the terrarium. Containers with lids are optional but can be helpful in creating a more controlled environment.
  2. Plants: Select small plants that thrive in high humidity and low to moderate light conditions. Suitable plants include:
    •    Ferns (e.g., maidenhair, Boston fern)
    •    Mosses
    •    Air plants
    •    Small ivies
    •    Succulents and desert plants (for open terrariums with dry conditions)
  3. Soil: Use a well-draining soil mix designed for indoor plants. For more moisture-loving plants, mix in some peat moss or coco coir to retain moisture.
  4. Decorations: Pebbles, rocks, wood pieces, and figurines can add visual interest and provide structures for the plants to grow on or around.
  5. Other Supplies:
    •    Activated charcoal  or vermiculite (helps with drainage and odor control)
    •    Gravel or small stones for the drainage layer
    •    Tools such as tongs or chopsticks to place plants and decorations
    •    Spray bottle for misting
    •    Watering can with a small spout

 Step-by-Step Terrarium Assembly Instructions

  1. Prepare the Container: Clean your container thoroughly with soapy water to remove any dust or residues. Rinse well and dry.
  2. Create a Drainage Layer: Place a layer of gravel or small stones at the bottom of the container, about an inch thick, to help with water drainage.
  3. Add Activated Charcoal or Vermiculite: Sprinkle a thin layer of activated charcoal over the stones to help filter the water and keep the terrarium fresh.
  4. Add Soil: Pour in enough soil so that your plants' roots will have room to spread. The amount will depend on the size of your plants, but generally, a layer 2-3 inches deep will suffice.
  5. Plant: Make small holes in the soil and insert your plants. Start with the largest plant and move to the smallest. Use the tongs or chopsticks to help position them. Gently press the soil around the bases of the plants.
  6. Add Decorations: Decorate the bottom of your terrarium to give it beauty, shape, and interest. Use rocks, wood, or figurines. Be creative and let the students have input on this part!
  7. Final Touches: Add a layer of moss or small pebbles on the soil's surface to create a finished look and help maintain moisture levels.
  8. Water the Terrarium: Mist the plants lightly with a spray bottle or use a watering can to water the base of the plants gently. The soil should be moist, not soaked. 

Tips for Maintenance and Troubleshooting Terrarium Common Issues

  • Lighting: Keep the terrarium in a location with indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can overheat the terrarium and burn the plants.
  • Watering: Mist the terrarium regularly to maintain humidity but avoid overwatering. If your container has a lid, you can water less frequently.
  • Mold: If you notice mold growth, open the container to improve air circulation and promptly remove any decayed plant matter.
  • Plant Health: Remove yellow or dead leaves to keep the terrarium healthy and attractive. Replace plants if they become too large or die.
  • Cleaning: Wipe the inside of the glass if condensation builds up excessively or if dirt splashes up during watering

Biorb product image

Get the Best Without the Stress: biOrb® AIR Terrarium.

Building your own terrarium can be a rewarding project, but if you want to save time, effort, and advanced functionality to replicate a range of ecosystems, consider the biOrb® AIR Terrarium. It offers automated climate control, misting, and lighting, providing an optimal plant environment with minimal effort. Everything you need to get started, just add plants.