If you are planning on creating a terrarium, overwatering is the main concern because terrariums recycle moisture and there is no way for water to drain out. Occaisional misting is plenty, if neccessary. Terrariums should not be exposed to direct sunlight, the light/heat and will scald your plants. Lighting should be provided for 12 - 14 hours. LifeGlo by Hagen is a favorite, but full spectrum will work. A automatic timer also helps for consistency and keeping the light cycle steady.
To set up the proper planting medium, start with a layer (1"-2") of pea gravel. On top of the drainage layer, put thin layer of activated charcoal, to act as a detoxifier. On top of the charcoal, a thin cover of sphagnum moss to prevent the soil from sifting down into the drainage layer. Most garden centers sell terrarium soil, but you can make your own by adding one part coarse builders sand, and one part leaf mold (or humus) to each two parts of your usual soil. Do not use beach sand! Also, do not add fertilizer, too much will cause the plants to grow out of the container too quickly. To obtain a desert look, add extra sand to the soil layer and more gravel in the drainage layer.
The aforementioned is ideal for plantlife. For an animal-friendly terrarium, instead gravel (which adds weight and has limited drainage) and charcoal (that can release impurities after it has absorbed its maximum capacity) specialty stores sell lightweight expanded clay pellets (1"-2" 1st layer instead of gravel) which do not decompose or alter the pH of the substrate. Substrate dividers are recommended to prevent clogging of the base layer. Ground coconut fiber mixed with tree fern fiber are an option for animal friendly substrate. (1"-2" 2nd Layer) For a desert-like terrarium, sand is an option but should be mixed with planting medium for desired consistency and stability.
Planting the terrarium is next. Choose plants that have similar water/light/humidity needs. Mosses make nice ground cover but some varieties can rot due to too much moisture. There are terrarium mosses that are available. Ferns (maidenhair, button) are good for terrariums, and flourish enclosed, but certain types can grow too quickly and become invasive. Small, slow growing plants are ideal. Baby's Tears do well, as does the Artillery Plant. For something out of the ordinary, Bromeliads are inexpensive, can be found in many different habitats, including jungles and deserts, are low maintenance, and have brilliant, long-lasting blooms. For the arid terrarium, I wouldn't recommend cacti unless the inhabitants of your tank coexisted with them naturally. However, the air plant, or "Tillandsia", is perfect for dry conditions. Needing no more than a gentle misting every great while, Tillandsia are inexpensive, diverse, and stunning. They can be glued, tied, and wired to rocks and wood. Tillandsia need air flow, so they cannot be planted in soil/sand. Grape wood makes a fine base for mounting these plants, but will rot in humid conditions. Ghost wood, cypress wood and cork are best for moist terrariums.
Any creature you plan on keeping in a terrarium should be compatible with the environment you've created. Herbivorous lizards such as iguanas and bearded dragons would likely chow down on your plants.
A tropical terrarium is ideal for geckos, anoles, toads, salamanders, tree frogs, dart frogs, and snakes. Chameleons are tough, because in my experience, not only are they very sensitive and fragile, they need running water, and perfect conditions.
For the desert terrarium, snakes, leopard geckos, golden geckos, and the uromastyx (which is the coolest lizard I think I've ever seen) are the easiest to care for.
I think that about covers it, if you have any more questions, go ahead and message me if you like. I hope I've answered your questions and given you some ideas. Good luck with the terrarium and post pictures, please!
Last edited by wiggles; 01-24-2008 at 04:25 AM.