Thinking of making an UNinhabitated terrarium. Some questions. - Dendroboard
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Old 04-18-2019, 08:25 PM
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Default Thinking of making an UNinhabitated terrarium. Some questions.

Note: I want to reiterate that this will be an uninhabited terrarium, not a vivarium. No frogs, no fish, no herps of any kind will be endangered. I don't know if this kind of non-animal topic is acceptable, but I don't know any site more knowledgeable for terrarium planting.

So, I had the idea some time ago to use some medium of art to make a "hanging gardens of Babylon" model that had actual plants growing out of it. Nowadays I'm thinking more of a ruined castle. I had wanted to use foam, then polymer clay (which I make and sell models from), and now that I'm experimenting with epoxy clay, I think it is quite sturdy enough to make a castle ruins out of, if supported by armature wires. I won't paint it, so it won't be endangered by water at all, nor by light.

It is going to be a very hole-ridden old castle, half-sunk by the earth and by the growth of plants around it, and towards achieving the desired effects, I must ask at least a couple of questions:

1) Is there a good bonsai-style small tree that can survive artificial indoor light and only a few inches of substrate, and that will branch out significantly as it grows? I've browsed a couple of sites like Bonsai Boy, but they don't supply a huge amount of detail on each plant. I'm looking for something that will eventually grow multiple branches that can be worked to emerge through the holes in the castle's walls. (If such a tree even exists that has all those qualities.)

2) What kind of information would be helpful to know for building this terrarium that wouldn't be acceptable if an animal lived in it? In other words, what is "off-limits" for dart frogs, lizards, turtles, snakes, fish, etc. that isn't dangerous to plants and plants alone? I ask this because most information here is made with animals in mind, and I'd love to know about things that become useful when animal safety isn't a factor. Would aromatic cedar, for instance, suddenly become very viable as a building material (to keep away flies) when no herps will be harmed by it?

Thank you for your consideration. I know this is somewhat of a broad-ended question, so if some things don't make sense, I can elaborate on what I mean.
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Old 04-18-2019, 09:56 PM
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Default Re: Thinking of making an UNinhabitated terrarium. Some questions.

1) Ficus microcarpa?

2a) If you keep the false bottom or drainage layer concept, you can maintain a dilute inorganic fertilizer solution in there. You'll get faster plant growth, enabling a quicker arrival at "gnarly old castle ruins look" - assuming good pruning.

2b) You can use those weird-looking plant grow lights. I wouldn't keep animals under them, but plants apparently like them.

sounds kind of fun - good luck with it
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Old 04-19-2019, 12:25 AM
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Default Re: Thinking of making an UNinhabitated terrarium. Some questions.

Thank you for the information.

I have some questions about ficus microcarpa. Is this a plant that will respond positively to never being repotted, assuming it's in a pretty deep substrate and has a suitable false bottom?

Also, is it the kind of plant that will grow at least somewhat quickly? I don't need it to grow absurdly quickly, like some plants do when they're in the perfect environment. But I'd like it to show some progress after several months. I've done some research since I saw this answer, but I haven't seen how quickly it is supposed to grow.

One more question: if I get a pest infestation, is there any harm to plants to be sprayed with Bengal Gold roach spray, or some comparable insect killer?

Thanks again for the consideration. I'm thinking about buying a cedar closet to house this terrarium --- they seem to price around $100 - $150 USD on Facebook Marketplace, which is way less expensive than building one, even with cheap plywood. I don't think cedar will have any negative effects, and it may smell nice, too.

EDIT: Also, not that this is really likely to happen, but supposing I do paint the castle part of the terrarium, does anyone happen to know any no-no's to painting something with oil paint that's going to be near plants? (In other words, do oil paints affect plants negatively?) I can't do acrylics, I assume, because water will wipe the paint off quickly. I don't know about enamel paints one way or the other, although they seem toxic to me somehow.

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Old 04-20-2019, 02:28 AM
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Default Re: Thinking of making an UNinhabitated terrarium. Some questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kinstrome View Post
One more question: if I get a pest infestation, is there any harm to plants to be sprayed with Bengal Gold roach spray, or some comparable insect killer?
It is unlikely you'll get a roach infestation, so that's probably not the best product to reach for first.

I'd keep to insecticides labeled for houseplant use, if you're going to use anything broadly toxic and environmentally persistent. I'm under the impression (no info to back this up) that permethrin is moderately phytotoxic. The vast majority of problematic residents of frog vivs, at least, aren't really the sorts of critters best attacked with pesticides. Likely you won't have a need for some sort of nuclear bug spray.

On cedar: epiphytes are sometimes mounted on cedar slabs, so I don't think there's any real danger to plants in using cedar.
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Old 04-21-2019, 05:30 PM
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Default Re: Thinking of making an UNinhabitated terrarium. Some questions.

My acumen for academic research is limited or nonexistent, but as far as I found, there is apparently no phytotoxicity associated with permethrin in the few studies done on it. One such study: https://academic.oup.com/amt/article/7/1/228/4580681 (A PDF is available, but I copied the briefer URL link.)

My full experience with permethrin is as a vet tech selling it horse-owners in super-high concentrations, like 36% sprays, and warning people, "It's fine around dogs and horses, but do not spray it on a cat. It will die." So my experience with plants is brief.

------

At any rate, I think it's unlikely. I'm more concerned about other things, like, "Will the distance between lights and plants be so great that even the strongest lights won't be able to nourish the plants?" I currently have three ~$70 USD Jungle Dawn lights ordered for the enclosure, and the guy at Glass Box Tropicals says they still probably won't be quite enough for what I'm doing.

For reference, I'm including pictures of the armoire I'm planning to use for this purpose. It's very big, and I probably won't cut out all of the shelves just because of how much space that would create. (They are sideways for reasons I still don't understand.)

20190419_152025.jpg

20190419_152054.jpg

20190419_200453.jpg

Any comments or questions about the setup would be super appreciated. Thanks again.
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