The most commonly used natural materials in the design of terrariums should be considered the stones. What stones are best to take for these purposes? Stones with sharp edges can be considered completely unsuitable. And not because animals can get hurt about them, as they usually write in the literature about terrariums, but because you yourself can get hurt during cleaning or maintenance, which happens much more often. Therefore, it is necessary to exclude from the design such rocks and sedimentary rocks as flint, obsidian, quartzite, quartz, rock crystal, crystalline calcite and, of course, all varieties of colored and non-color glass. Various soft rocks, such as dried clay, schists, chalk, dolomite, loose sandstone, mica, etc., have proven themselves poorly, while clay shards and red bricks made of artificial materials. They are a natural absorbent, easily absorbing animal waste products or disinfecting liquids, being a source of undesired odor.
I consider various limestones, dense sandstones, aragonite, marble, coal, basalt and granite to be the most successful breeds for terrarium decoration. In addition to their appearance, these breeds are easy to clean and disinfect. Especially exotic looks very weathered limestone taken from a mountain river or from the Black Sea coast. However, I do not recommend decorating them with a terrarium with small snakes that could clog into the holes and cavities of the limestone, which would make it difficult to care for and observe the pets. When placing a stone inside a terrarium, pay attention to its stability. The weight of the stone should be such that animals cannot accidentally move it or tip it over and thereby be injured. If the construction of the terrarium does not allow you to place a sufficiently heavy stone, for example, you have a wall terrarium, I recommend that you securely fix the small stone on any base. a piece of plywood, ceramic tile for the floor, etc. epoxy resin (EAF glue). Let me remind you that it is impossible to glue a stone to plastic with glue based on epoxy resin. The connection in this case is fragile.
The visible surface of plywood or tile must be camouflaged with sand, pebbles or gravel, also secured with epoxy glue. In addition to the decorative functions, natural stones serve as a natural temperature stabilizer in the terrarium, not allowing it to make sudden jumps when turning on and off the heater lamp with an incandescent lamp.
For this, the stone is placed in the immediate vicinity of the light source. In the morning, when the light is turned on, the animals of the terrarium willingly climb onto the stone for heating under the light bulb, and at night after turning off the heater, they use the heat accumulated by the stone during the day.
In addition to natural stones, I recommend using porous artificial lightweight stone-like materials for interior decoration of the terrarium, especially when decorating the back wall. For example, such as sand concrete, tuff, solid slag blast furnace production, expanded clay and others. These materials are often used in capital and housing construction as insulation. The disadvantage of tuff, slag and sand concrete can be considered their porosity. In addition to difficulties in cleaning such a material, if it is contaminated, it can serve as a refuge for ticks, bed bugs and other blood-sucking external parasites, often annoying terrariums. You should pay attention to this and have insecticidal preparations non-toxic for reptiles on hand. The undoubted advantage of sand concrete and similar materials is the fragility and ease of processing. An ordinary hacksaw blade for cutting metal, pieces of sand concrete can be given any shape that your imagination can offer. With some skill, you can even create some sculptural composition that imitates the totems of African peoples, a Buddha figure or stylization as bas-reliefs of the gods of ancient Maya and Incas of Central and South America, which surprisingly harmonizes with the inhabitants of terrariums. It seems that in front of you is a fragment of the ancient city destroyed and absorbed by the jungle, the ruins of which live in the Selva crawl over its ruins. Sand concrete or tuff is fixed on the rear wall of the terrarium with wire, epoxy glue, gypsum or cement mortar, in which for strength I recommend adding PVA glue or water-based paint at the rate of 1 part glue or paint per 10 parts of the solution. The ratio of sand and cement in the solution is determined by the brand of cement and can vary from 3/1 to 7/1. But it’s better to fix your composition not on the back wall of the terrarium itself, but on a removable base made of plastic or plywood, tightly adjacent to the wall so that animals can not climb over it. The dismantled construction will allow you to wash it or to prophylactic it, if you wish, outside the terrarium and even outside your apartment, and use highly toxic drugs to disinfect or destroy parasites. Surfaces to give the appropriate color are painted with green and grayish-brown paint. For this purpose, automotive nitro enamels and paints in aerosol cans are suitable.
In decorative elements made of sand concrete, you can drill out containers with a drill or even a screwdriver to fill them with soil and plant live plants. And I advise you not to rush to put this plant in the terrarium immediately after planting. It is better to hold it for some time already planted in sand concrete in natural light until it is completely rooted and begins to grow with daily spraying. Only after that, an improvised flower pot can be placed in a terrarium and the plant without special injuries will carry the attack of its curious inhabitants.
Concluding the conversation about the design of stones in a mountain or desert landscape in a terrarium, I want to mention such natural materials as coarse river sand and pebbles. They can also be glued onto the backdrop of the terrarium. In addition, I recommend sticking together from thick cardboard, for example from a shoe box or box from a cake, small volumetric figures resembling rocks or boulders. They can be with cavities, holes and caves. Then cover with a foam rubber swab, as if blotting, with a thin layer of epoxy adhesive diluted with hardener. Dip the whole structure obtained in the sand, and after solidification, after 3-5 hours, repeat the procedure to fill the areas not covered by sand. You will get a nice "house". a shelter for animals, from where it will be easy to get them if you wish.
For reptiles and amphibians living in forests or shrubs, it is more appropriate to use not stones, but branches, roots and bark of trees. It is interesting to note that the bark of some tree species, such as oak, fixed by horizontal stripes in the background, gives a greater effect of rocks than stones used for the same purpose. This must be borne in mind when designing a mountain landscape.
Which plants do I recommend using? Firstly, it should not be branches with thorns, the reason is clear. Secondly, they should not be rotten, fragile, resinous or inhabited by insects. Very well established branches of fruit trees. plums, pears and especially apple trees. Usually, after winter frosts, some fruit branches die and need to be cut. Here they are and use for decoration.
For small snakes that spend most of their life on branches, I recommend using the branches and trunks of yellow acacia caragana. In settlements, landscapers annually cut it off and over the years the top of the caragana acquires a very outlandish appearance, representing a complex interweaving of branches, twigs and wound flows. Such driftwood is very reminiscent of some desert tree. either saxaud, or goof silver, and is an extremely decorative decoration of any terrarium decorated for the desert.
If you want to make driftwood a terrarium with large boas, snakes or pythons, go out of town for the nearest peat mining. This is where the paradise for the terrarium designer is. Pine roots uprooted from peat, whitened by winds and rains, are an amazing sight. The only advice. when choosing snags on a peat bog, make sure that they are not rotten, otherwise the jewelry will serve you very briefly.
When placing snags, roots, bark and branches in a terrarium, no special pre-treatment is required, such as is done when they are placed in an aquarium. Just make sure not to bring any extra arthropod out of the forest or garden into the terrarium.
If you have not found a suitable snag, do not despair. In this case, I can offer to make a snag myself. For starters, bend the skeleton of the future branch from a thick wire (preferably steel). Screw the side branches with copper wire. On the resulting construction with a thin fishing line, tightly wrap pieces of not yet hardened bark and fragments of trunks and tree branches. The gaps between them, also fixing the fishing line, fill with sphagnum moss. You can plant epiphytic plants such as bromeliads, ferns and orchids on such an artificial snag, which will grow over time under good lighting, strengthen your “snag” with your roots and give the terrarium the look of a corner of a tropical rain forest.
For the design of terrariums. corners of the jungle of Southeast Asia, plant material such as bamboo, which is not quite usual for our strip, is often used. Before installing in the terrarium, I recommend fixing several bamboo shoots in a low cuvette, filling the base of the sticks with cement mortar or with EAF glue. Then animals will not be able to violate your planned decoration. The back wall in such a terrarium can be decorated with an ordinary cattail or reed, they are very similar in mass to bamboo and go well with it. For strength, reed stalks are intertwined with a thin soft copper wire. It looks like a mat. Here is the mat and install or fasten the back of the bamboo. As a substrate in such a terrarium, I advise you to use horse red peat, topped with a layer of dry willow leaves. The leaves of ordinary willow are somewhat similar to bamboo leaves, which will greatly enhance the overall impression of this corner of the Asian jungle. If the heating pipe passes inside the terrarium, paint it with oil paint under the bamboo trunk, and it will turn into a decoration from interference. From domestic plants, dry angelica and hogweed stems with removed leaves and side shoots are suitable for imitating bamboo shoots.
In addition to bamboo, empty coconut shells can be used as a decorative plant material, and large cones of pines and firs can be used to decorate a corner of coniferous forest.
If you are designing a terrarium for a corner of the desert, the skull of some small animal or the empty shell of a turtle may look appropriate. Fine sand can be used as a substrate, but if the contained desert animals do not tend to dig into the ground and there is no need for sand, then it is better to use a different design technique. Find red mountain clay, for example, in the pit when building the foundation of the house, soak it with water. Then, without drying, pour the bottom of the terrarium with the resulting solution. After a couple of days, the clay will dry and crack. In your "desert" there will be a real Central Asian "takyr". In clay, while it is still damp, you can stick twigs and dry blades of grass, which will further enhance the effect. In such a terrarium, the empty tortoise shell looks especially beautiful. My advice. do not try to put a human skull or its imitation in a terrarium. I consider it a bad taste.
One of the most spectacular design elements of a home terrarium is indoor plants. Currently, there are many guides for indoor floriculture on sale. Therefore, I will not dwell in detail on the agricultural technique of growing one or another crop. I will only give recommendations on the specifics of growing plants in the terrarium, where animals live besides them, and on the use of indoor plants as a highly decorative element in the design of the terrarium.
So, the first question, and perhaps the main one, is which plants are suitable for a terrarium and which terrariums are suitable for plants? The main disadvantage of most terrariums is the lack of lighting. Most often, an incandescent lamp with a power of 25 to 100 watts is used as a source of light and heat. I want to warn you right away that such a terrarium is not suitable for living plants, and when decorating it is better to opt for artificial plastic imitations. If you do not save on lighting the terrarium, if it is equipped with fluorescent lamps or lamps of the type DRL, DROT or DRI, giving at a distance of 45-60 cm (the usual height of most indoor terrariums), the illumination is more than 1000 lux, or your terrarium is installed on the windowsill , where in summer the illumination is also close to this value, we can recommend trying to green your terrarium. But first, make sure the plants get enough light. For reference: one 40 Watt LB or LBC fluorescent lamp gives illumination of about 1500 lux 15 cm from it and only 340-400 lux at a distance of 60 cm. For shade-loving and shade-tolerant plants, illumination of about 2000 lux is required, although they may exist for some time (but don’t grow!) at 100 lux. From what has been said, it becomes clear that there can not even be any talk of any desert, mountain, or other plants of open places, such as cacti, agaves, gasteria, gavortii, etc. Even in a terrarium overloaded with lamps, they simply will not have enough light for normal growth. Although they will not die immediately, pretty soon the plants will lose their luster, richness in color, become brittle, stretch out and lose their decorative qualities. Trying to grow light-loving plants without access to natural sunlight is futile.
Consequently, shade-loving plants are primarily suitable for a terrarium. Let it not frighten you, the list of such cultures is quite extensive. As a rule, these are plants of the lower tier of a tropical rainforest or epiphytes, accustomed to growing on a trunk or branches in the shade in the crown of giant trees. First of all, these are ferns, orchids, bromeliads, philodendrons, monstera, anthuriums and some other plants of the aroid family. These plants are fixed on snags and branches. They will greatly decorate the terrarium picture or the terrarium window. From the ground cover I can recommend arrowroot, chanten, stromanthus, calathea, ficus. Ishinanthus and hoya grow beautifully and even bloom with a lack of light. Begonias could be mentioned, but, unfortunately, they overwhelmingly tolerate touch and microtrauma, and even a tiny tree frog can quickly reduce the decorativeness of begonia leaves to zero. Fortunately, among shade-tolerant plants, there are practically no species with spikes, thorns, hard branches that can injure your pets.
The second question is how and what is the best way to keep your plants? Can they be planted directly on the substrate at the bottom of the terrarium? The answer is unequivocal. it is best to plant plants, like on the windowsill, in clay, ceramic or plastic pots or containers. Even placing plants in the pockets of your decoration, as mentioned above, it is better not to plant them in soil poured into a pocket or cavity, but to install the plant there directly in a pot. I will explain my position. If the plant nevertheless loses its decorative effect as a result of trauma to the leaves or the stem by terrarium animals, it can easily be replaced by another similar plant, previously grown on the windowsill, like an ordinary indoor one. Install the injured plant on a light windowsill for rehabilitation. Thus, a highly decorative landscape can be constantly maintained in the terrarium. This method will help you with a constant lack of light in the terrarium. Plants are able to maintain their attractiveness without growth for some time and in fairly low light conditions. Having several substitute plants in stock, growing in favorable conditions on the window under natural light and replacing them every 3 weeks, sending them as if on a “shift” to the terrarium, even with a lack of lamp lighting can achieve very good results in landscaping the terrarium living plants, even those that require a lot of light.
Concluding the conversation about floristic design, I want to give advice not to strive to have a permanent exhibition of plants in the terrarium, but to use it as a temporary display case, constantly replacing some copies with others. By the way, I consider the use of natural turfs with grass and small bushes not the worst option for a temporary spring-summer decoration of the interior of your animal’s home. This design is very animates the terrarium, increases humidity, serves as an excellent shelter for reptiles and amphibians for several weeks. Like indoor plants, natural turfs need watering and spraying. After withering and loss of decorative properties, the turf is simply replaced with a new one, and in the fall, fallen dry leaves are added to the design. I recommend taking sod and leaves away from highways and it is better not in the city due to environmental pollution. Before placing grass and leaves in the terrarium, carefully inspect and eliminate accidental unwanted "guests."
Sometimes it is very difficult to choose a natural material that meets your taste and the parameters of the terrarium. Then I recommend trying to make an imitation of natural materials, such as rocks, stones, with your own hands. Papier-mâché (French Papier–mache, literally. chewed paper) as a material for the manufacture of scenery I have been using for more than a dozen years. Papier-mâché has undoubtedly some positive qualities, such as ease of manufacture, ductility, low weight of the finished product, relative durability, strength and, most importantly, low cost. In addition, papier-mâché is an excellent heat insulator.
To prepare this material you will need to stock up on the following ingredients: old newspapers (but not colored, so the free Extra-M or Center Plus are unsuitable for this purpose), wood ash (preferably aspen or birch), silicate glue (liquid glass ), wheat flour (or dry powder glue for wallpaper), candle or beeswax, paints (acrylic, water-based or, at worst, watercolor), EAF glue, fine quartz sand.
Work begins with the manufacture of plastic material for modeling. Tear newspaper paper into small pieces, fold it into some kind of dish, for example, in an old aluminum pan. Fill with water and let stand for a couple of days. After the paper is completely soaked, bring the contents to a boil, cool and drain the water. Roll the remaining mass into a ball and dry in the oven. Then a ball of grated on a large vegetable grater until a cotton-like loose mass is formed. To this mass add wood ash, based on five volumes of paper per part of ash. Ash will give your mixture incombustibility and resistance to decay. Pour silicate glue into the finished mixture: one glue bubble per bucket of the mixture. Glue also makes papier-mâché resistant to the humid terrarium environment. The paper-ash mixture is kneaded with flour paste (which is usually used for wallcovering) to a thick dough. The mass is ready for creativity. Make stones, rocks, bas-reliefs, sculptures, figurines, or anything else from it that your imagination tells you. Then the mass must be dried at room temperature for 2-3 days. You can try to dry the product in the oven, but be prepared for the fact that it can crack during quick drying.
Paint the finished decoration with water-soluble paint in the colors of your choice. After the paint dries, soak the surface with hot molten wax. This will make it water resistant and protect the paint. Finally, complete the job by fixing the entire surface with EAF glue. The glue consumption during this operation is negligible: approximately 1 bottle per 2 square meters. meter surface. Without waiting for the glue to set, sprinkle the surface of the product with fine quartz sand to give a natural roughness and reduce the gloss of epoxy. This is in case you imitate natural stones. You do not use sand to give the appearance of ceramics, but leave the surface smooth and shiny, but paint reddish-brown tones as appropriate. Finished decoration elements are fixed with any available glue.
The use of building materials is not desirable, but possible. Both gypsum and cement, as decoration materials, despite the availability and ease of working with them, have a number of disadvantages. The main of these shortcomings is the huge weight of the finished decoration. Therefore, they can be recommended only in cases where other materials are either not available, or you need to get a particularly strong fundamental design for large and troubled animals. large pythons, anacondas, boas, etc. Before starting work with a cement mortar, it is necessary to prepare a supporting frame in the terrarium for the whole designs. On the wall of the terrarium fixed sections of thick wire or reinforcement, from which the shape and volume of future rocks are created. A metal grid is screwed to this skeleton with thin wires. You can use the commercially available duralumin mosquito net. The first preliminary layer of mortar with a thickness of 1.5-2 cm is applied to the grid. I recommend adding adhesive like "Bustilat" to the cement mortar. The solution must be rubbed into the surface of the mesh, so that it partially passes through it and thereby ensures reliable adhesion. Especially it is not necessary to smooth the outer surface of the first layer, since the second layer of plaster should lie on it in the future and hold onto the first layer reliably. After the first layer has completely dried and set (and this usually takes more than a day), we begin applying the second layer, from which the decorative surface will be made. Before starting work, the surface should be prepared. slightly moistened with water or greased with acrylic glue or adhesives such as PVA or Bustilat. A cement layer applied on top will hold better. It is better to start work in the early morning. The reason will be clear later. A cement mortar is applied to the glue with a spatula. The thickness of the layer is 2-3 cm. After a few hours, the solution will begin to solidify. Without waiting for it to fully set, begin to prepare a decorative surface. To do this, you scrape the cement with a spatula, as it were, after which it becomes rough and very similar to natural rocks. Then you draw cracks and crevices with a knife or a sharpened spatula on the non-frozen cement surface, select individual “stones” and layers. All this work needs to be done within one day, because after 7-10 hours the surface is not just broken with a trowel, but you can’t break the surface with a victory drill. When the surface has acquired a natural look, start painting it. Start by painting everything with a dark gray or black paint. After it has completely dried with a foam sponge, as if blotting, toned with a lighter paint. The sponge should not be soaked in paint. It should be almost dry. Such toning will give the “rocks” a natural look, they will seem to come to life. Work with gypsum differs in that only one layer is applied and time is given for it to completely harden. Cracks are cut with a sharp tool (a wood cutter or a boot knife), and a rough surface is achieved by treating with rough sandpaper.
Today, perhaps, the most affordable and promising artificial material in the design business is polyurethane foam. The hardened foam is light, strong, non-toxic, easy to process, easy to cut, well-painted, practically non-combustible and, after simple processing, resistant to various external influences of aggressive environments. The main disadvantage is instability to high temperatures. It is not recommended to place decorative elements made of polyurethane foam closer than 20-25 cm from heat sources. In addition, polyurethane foam is unstable to UV radiation.
Under natural or quartz lighting, the foam turns yellow if it is not covered with an additional protective layer of paint or putty and, alas, begins to crumble. But in general, it is a very convenient material for the manufacture of a variety of decoration elements, from imitation of natural rocks, stones, snags and stumps to stylized sculptures. Average consumption. 3 bottles of 750 ml per 1 square. surface meter with the subsequent processing or 2 bottles on the same area without processing.
Unfinished hardened foam after painting is also very decorative. often on sale is Macroflex of Estonian production. It sets well, especially in a humid environment. The resulting surface is smooth, easy to cut. The disadvantage is its low resistance to open fire, which must be taken into account when placing it next to the wiring and heating elements. lamps, spirals, etc. In addition, Macroflex slowly freezes and is relatively expensive. I can recommend this foam for fixing on the walls of decorative elements made of other materials, such as natural stones or bark. Another mounting foam of the Lacroflex type sets faster, is non-combustible, and when extinguished it quickly goes out by itself (this property is also indicated on the label on the bottles) and has an initially slightly larger expansion coefficient than Macroflex. The surface of the hardened foam is also smooth and easy to cut with a knife or a heated soldering iron. When hardening foams made in Belgium and Finland, when hardening, they acquire a not even, but very decorative, as if ulcerated surface, similar to frozen volcanic lava or tuff. Such material can be immediately painted and placed in a terrarium without treatment.
If you want to fix something, then it is better to use the Estonian "Macroflex"; if you want to create a basis for further processing with a knife or a soldering iron. the Russian “Lacroflex” or “Penoflex”; if you want to get a fancy pumice-like surface or imitate weathered limestone. with some imported polyurethane foam, it is better to make Belgium. The entire surface of the hardened foam is covered with a brush or sponge with a thin layer of EDF glue mixed with a small amount of quartz sand. Do not forget to wear rubber gloves, glue is very poorly washed by hand. Unfortunately, after such treatment, the brush or sponge will have to be thrown away, they will deteriorate from the epoxy. After a day, you can start painting. How to paint finished surfaces has been described above, and there are no special features when working with foam. The paint consumption during operation is as follows: 100 ml of black or other dark paint, 10-15 ml of tinting and 150 ml of white per 1 square meter. As in the case of sand concrete, in your "stones" from the foam you can melt the cavity with a soldering iron to place containers with live plants in them. Do not forget to leave a hole at the bottom to drain excess water when watering.
You designed the back background and side walls of the terrarium. Is it possible to consider that the design is finished? Not. One of the important elements in the design and in ensuring the normal life of your pets is the substrate, soil. Soil in a decorative terrarium is necessary. It absorbs animal waste products, stabilizes air humidity, prevents animal injuries, is a good shelter for many burrowing inhabitants of the terrarium, reduces stress and, in addition, can be a substrate for ornamental plants.
What kind of soil can be recommended for a terrarium? It all depends on what kind of landscape you created. If this is a corner of the desert, then in addition to the option described above with clay, you can try vermiculite or light small wood chips as a substitute for sand. In appearance, they are quite consistent with the appearance of the desert, and much less harm than sand. The fact is that ordinary building mountain sand, accidentally falling into the gastrointestinal tract of an animal with food, can cause digestive upset, and even chronic gastritis. In desert terrariums, large sifted river sand with a size of fractions of 2-4 mm, usually used as soil in aquariums, proved to be quite good.
When designing a mountain landscape, the best material for the substrate, in my opinion, is building expanded clay. You can use gravel or small pebbles, but expanded clay has some advantages compared to them. Firstly, it is lightweight and, if your terrarium is wall-mounted, this property improves the quality of expanded clay as soil many times over. Secondly, expanded clay retains water, stabilizing the moisture level in the terrarium. Thirdly, like pebbles, it can be disinfected by any known method, including calcination in an oven or on an open fire.
And the last recommendation to create a beautiful exhibition with a magnificent decoration, pleasing to the eye. Everything that you have created in the terrarium, the scenery, the ground and especially the sight glass should always be in perfect cleanliness. Do not be lazy, do not delay cleaning "for tomorrow". Pay more attention to your terrarium. Do not wait for an unpleasant odor. Otherwise, all your efforts to design a terrarium will be reduced to zero.
The main decoration of any terrarium. it is his purity and animal health!