How to Build a Terrarium


I’m not sure where the hell this idea came from but the seed was planted, so to speak, when I got a leaking aquarium and some goldfish from my kids for my 43rd 25th birthday recently. I tried fixing the tank but getting the old silicone off was near as hell to impossible so I quickly gave up and splashed out on a cheap new tank which was missing a filter and lighting system, things I realised painfully that you can’t be without when trying to keep pissy, smelly goldfish. So fancy tank number three is now in operation and me and the fish are happy. But what to do with the two old tanks!? I googled “uses for old fish tanks” and a pile of images of Terrariums or indoor gardens in a box came up. Terrariums it was so.

Terrarium Science

After a little research I realised that they were all built the same way pretty much, gravel or stones first in on the bottom for good drainage and root dispersal, then soil or compost for the plants to grow in, then some sand and/or gravel on top mostly for appearance sake. Finish off with some ornaments and there you have it. Simple. The only real complication I found after a little research is that Terrariums can be open (dry) or closed (wet) and the one you choose governs which types of plants you put in. I had two old tanks so why not build one of each?


You’ll need the following. Most of it is pretty inexpensive, apart maybe from the plants themselves. Particularly the Cacti:

  • A large Glass Box or Bowl (or old fish tank or two)
  • Some way of closing or sealing the Terrarium if you’re building a wet one (I used old plywood cut to size)
  • Gravel or ornamental pebbles (old aquarium gravel maybe?)
  • Soil or Compost (get some in your garden for free)
  • Sand
  • Small Stones, Sea Shells or other Ornaments
  • Plants


  1. Clean out your container first then add a layer of gravel to the bottom. Deep enough to let water gather or contain meandering roots
  2. Add a layer of soil carefully, deep enough to contain the plant roots (maintaining the visible layers rather than mixing them gives a nice visual “geological” effect at the end)
  3. Make holes deep enough to fit your plant roots after removing each from their pots and shaking off excess compost
  4. Add the plants and press down gently, covering in any gaps with surrounding soil (use a few layers of kitchen roll if handling Cacti)
  5. Add a layer of sand or decorative gravel with a spoon, placing some under plant leaves if possible to keep things tidy looking
  6. Add ornaments as required
  7. Use a soft, small paint brush to “clean up” any errant sand or gravel from plants, glass etc..



In the case of an open, dry Terrarium, you shouldn’t need to water regularly if at all. Unless you notice extreme drying or plant decay. You water the like of Cacti the same amount you would if they weren’t in a Terrarium but it might depend on latent heat and where you place your Terrarium, ie – in the sun or shade, moist or dry environment. I have mine as a centrepiece of the sitting room coffee table.


In the case of a wet or closed Terrarium, it may actually need less maintenance than a dry, open one. The idea, if you do it right, is that you create a mini ecosystem. The plants photosynthesise in the closed, humid environment, expel oxygen etc and the whole process creates moisture that gets trapped inside the container which the plants then absorb again. However if you notice it drying out, just add very small amounts of water. Again, Terrarium positioning is important.

Photo Galleries



Songwriting Tips

Here’s a bit about how I write (or used to write!) music and songs. Back when I had the time to write music full time and when I was depressed enough to have material to write about, I’d write and record maybe a song or 2 a day. Most of the 50 or so songs I’ve written were completed in the space of a few months.

My preferred method would probably have been to simply strum chord patterns on the guitar untill I found a progression I liked. Then I’d hum over it to get the basis of a melody. A tape recorder or dictaphone was invaluable for when you’d stumble on something decent because the chances of remembering it later were slim to none and there is no worse feeling than knowing you had something but it got lost in your head somewhere. These days if I have a melodic idea, I’ll probably record it on the iPhone!

Once I had the basis of a melody and harmony I’d have a look at chord and scale charts I had up on the wall in my music room to see where I could break out into a chorus or middle eight type bit, different from the main structure. Ocassionally I’d do the same on the keyboard or maybe start with a melodic riff on either the guitar or keyboard and try add chords to it.

Lyrics would probably have been my weak point and I remember getting pretty worked up about not being able to either find the right words or get them to fit into my musical structure. Thesaurus books and Rhyming Dictionaries helped big time here. For some reason, starting with lyrics and trying to add music to them never worked out that well unless the lyrics were written specifically for music. If not then they tended to be too untidy to fit into the rhythmical structure. I wrote a lot of poems for example and tried to add music to them but had a hard time with the more non-linear ones!

Of course one of the best songwriting tips anyone could give is to simply listen to as much music as possible to make sure you have a wide, eclectic resource to draw on when it comes to creating your own music. Despite this fact, a lot of my music came out bluesy/folky and dark but I guess you find your own stlye too!

Hope that helps any budding songwriters out there.


Being Creative

I used to spend most of every day writing Songs and Poetry back in the 90’s and sadly I’ve lost my touch a bit although it could be argued a fair bit of what I do now with Web & Graphic Design is creative too. I remember the great pride I had in myself for writing a piece of music or poetry and whether it was good or not didn’t matter! All that mattered was that I created something from scratch, from a blank canvas as such.

Being creative forces you to use a little more of your brain that you normally would and use a different part ot it too. Its nothing but a heatlhy excercise and it helped keep me sane in hard times. There are few nobler endeavours and I must get back to it soon.