Achieving the Right Terrarium Temperature and Humidity Levels

Terrarium Temperature And Humidity Levels

As a closed ecosystem, maintaining proper temperature and humidity levels is crucial for the health of terrarium plants. While there are general guidelines for terrarium conditions, optimizing temperature and moisture depends on the specific plants inside.

We will find out the details of the key factors in regulating terrarium temperature and humidity.

We discuss how heat, airflow, water, and materials impact interior conditions. Learn the ideal temperature and humidity ranges for common terrarium plants, plus tips to create the perfect microclimate.

With the right strategy, your terrarium can thrive for years to come.

What Temperature Do Terrariums Need?

Terrarium temperature affects plant growth, health, and survival. Each plant species has an optimal temperature range. While requirements vary, most terrarium plants prefer consistent warm conditions between 65-85°F (18-29°C).

Ideally, the terrarium temperature should match the native climate of the plants inside. Tropical plants need warmer temperatures from 70-85°F. Temperate plants prefer cooler conditions from 60-75°F. Going outside the ideal range can stress plants.

Signs of low temperature stress:

  • Slow, stunted growth
  • Leaf drop
  • Wilting
  • Plant death

Signs of high temperature stress:

  • Accelerated, weak growth
  • Dry soil
  • Wilt
  • Sunburn
  • Plant death

When regulating terrarium temperature, aim for stability. Fluctuations above or below the target range are more detrimental than a constant intermediate temperature.

External Factors Affecting Temperature

Several external factors influence terrarium temperature, including:

Lighting: Heat from grow lights or direct sun exposure can quickly increase temperatures. LED or fluorescent lighting emits less warmth than incandescent bulbs.

Room Temperature: The ambient temperature outside the terrarium impacts interior conditions. Place terrariums in rooms matching the desired climate.

Drafts: Avoid positioning near HVAC vents, windows, or doors where air currents can create temperature swings.

Seasonal Changes: Outdoor temperature and humidity shifts impact indoor growing spaces. Adjust heating and ventilation accordingly.

Day-Night Cycles: Daytime heat should dissipate at night, allowing a natural diurnal dip. Supplemental lighting can prevent this.

Heating a Terrarium

If the ambient environment is too cold, the terrarium needs additional heat sources. There are several safe options:

Low-Wattage Bulbs: A 7-25 watt incandescent or LED bulb above the terrarium raises the air temperature. Use a rheostat or dimmer to adjust brightness and warmth.

Heating Pads: Adhesive heating pads placed under or alongside the terrarium provide gentle warming. Look for weatherproof plastic models made for seed germination.

Reptile Heat Mats: Flexible heat mats designed for reptile habitats work well. Place outside underneath the terrarium.

Space Heaters: Small electric or ceramic heaters can warm the room and terrarium. Keep air circulating and monitor temperature closely.

Propagation Mats: Heated mats specifically for plant propagation help stabilize optimal root zone temperatures.

Avoid drastic temperature spikes – increases above 10°F over the desired daytime range can shock plants. Ramp up heating gradually. During cooler weather, terrariums may need consistent low-level heating.

Regulating High Temperatures

When the terrarium gets too hot, action must be taken to cool it down. Try these quick fixes:

  • Move to a cooler area
  • Shade from direct sun
  • Run a fan to increase air circulation
  • Add more ventilation holes
  • Mist plants to increase evaporative cooling
  • Place ice packs around the exterior

For sustained high temperatures, consider:

  • Switching to lower-wattage lighting
  • Using LEDs instead of incandescents
  • Adding a small computer fan to circulate air
  • Installing vent holes near the top
  • Using a glass top instead of plastic

Prevention is also key. Avoid placing terrariums near heat sources like appliances, fires, or heating vents. Keep out of direct sunlight, especially in summer. Supplemental lighting should be kept 6 inches above the terrarium or higher.

How Much Humidity Do Terrariums Need?

Humidity measures the amount of moisture in the air. Along with temperature, optimal humidity levels depend on the native climate of your terrarium plants.

Tropical plants need very high humidity from 60-80%. Desert and temperate plants prefer 40-60% humidity. Matching the natural humidity range prevents stress.

Low humidity symptoms:

  • Dry, brown leaf tips
  • Curled or shriveled leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Leaf drop

High humidity problems:

  • Fungal leaf spots
  • Mold
  • Rotting
  • Drooping or falling leaves

Aim for the 40-60% range if housing mixed plants. Use hygrometers to monitor moisture levels and make adjustments.

Humidity Sources for Terrariums

Unlike heating, humidity can’t be generated. But you can provide moisture sources and restrict ventilation to increase internal humidity.

Evaporation: Add containers of water inside the terrarium, like trays filled with pebbles. Misting plants also boosts moisture temporarily.

Moist Substrate: Water the soil well and keep it damp but not saturated. Some terrariums feature false bottoms to store excess water.

Plants: Photosynthesis naturally releases water vapor. Favor moisture-loving plants like mosses, bromeliads, and ferns.

Ventilation: Restrict airflow to keep humidity stable. Open vents sparingly to avoid rapid moisture loss.

Topping Material: Use glass or acrylic panels, not fine mesh. Condensation on sides increases humidity.

Foggers: Ultrasonic/cool mist foggers raise moisture significantly, but require ventilation to avoid excess condensation.

Pebble Trays: Fill trays with pebbles and water, then place under the terrarium to slowly evaporate moisture.

Avoiding dry terrarium air takes diligent monitoring. Decrease ventilation, mist often, and top off water sources to maintain ideal humidity range.

Regulating Humidity in Terrariums

When humidity is too high, take these corrective actions:

  • Open vents to increase airflow
  • Use a small fan to improve air circulation
  • Add a dehumidifier or dessicant like silica gel
  • Use activated charcoal to absorb moisture
  • Increase terrarium ventilation
  • Replace plastic lid with breathable mesh or glass
  • Allow more time under grow lights to dry terrarium out

To counter low moisture levels:

  • Mist plants frequently with spray bottle
  • Use pebble tray filled with water
  • Group plants together to contain humidity
  • Seal vents and openings with plastic or tape
  • Limit lighting duration to retain interior moisture
  • Add a humidifier near the terrarium
  • Use glass or acrylic instead of mesh top

Rapid humidity changes cause plant stress. Make adjustments gradually over several days. Monitor conditions to find the ideal balance.

Ideal Temperature & Humidity for Common Terrarium Plants

To keep your terrarium healthy, match conditions to the plants inside. Here are ideal heat and humidity levels for popular species:

Tropical Plants

Tropical PlantsTemperatureHumidity
Spider Plants65-75°F40-50%

Temperate Plants

Temperate PlantsTemperatureHumidity
English Ivy60-75°F45-60%
Snake Plants65-80°F35-55%

Desert & Arid Plants

Desert & Arid PlantsTemperatureHumidity
Aloe Vera65-80°F40-60%
Ponytail Palms60-90°F35-60%

These ranges serve as general guidance. Tweak conditions based on how your plants respond and grow over time.

How Materials Impact Terrarium Temperature & Humidity

The materials used in constructing a terrarium affect interior heat and humidity levels.

Glass or Plastic Container

Glass retains heat and humidity better than plastic. Plastic is cheaper and lighter but releases moisture and heat faster. Acrylic plastic is halfway between glass and plastic.

For stable conditions, glass terrariums work best. Plastic is okay for drier desert terrariums.

Tight-Fitting Lid

A tight, gap-free lid traps humidity inside. Glass lids do this best. Breathable mesh screen retains less moisture but allows airflow.

Lid openings help regulate humidity and prevent excess condensation. Strike a balance between too much and too little ventilation for ideal conditions.

Substrate/Growing Medium

Substrate influences moisture retention. Soil-free mediums like sphagnum moss or peat retain lots of water. Soil and coconut fiber dry out faster.

Sand and gravel soak up little moisture. Use moisture-retentive substrate for more humidity.


Insulated sides, like double-walled glass, maintain stable temperatures better. Foam insulation also helps regulate heat. Basic thin glass fluctuates more with room temperatures.

For additional insulation, place terrariums away from drafty spots and windows. Avoid direct sun exposure heating one side disproportionately.

Monitoring Terrarium Conditions

The only way to optimize temperature and humidity is to monitor levels in the terrarium. Several useful tools provide terrarium condition data.

Thermometers read current ambient and soil temperature. Look for small minimally-invasive options. Ensure it reads high/low temps plus the current reading.

Hygrometers measure relative humidity. Digital models provide ongoing precise readings. Avoid older mechanical dial hygrometers.

Maximum-Minimum Thermometers record the highest and lowest temperatures reached. This helps track fluctuations when you’re away.

Psychrometers use dry bulb and wet bulb thermometers to derive relative humidity levels. They’re more accurate than basic hygrometers.

Use monitoring tools daily when first setting up the terrarium. Then track weekly or monthly to make sure ranges remain ideal. Keeping plants healthy means staying informed.

Terrarium Temperature & Humidity Troubleshooting

If you notice signs of heat or humidity stress, take prompt action to get conditions back on track.

Low temperature: Increase heating, move terrarium away from cold windows, or provide artificial warmth like a heat mat.

High temperature: Reduce lighting duration, remove heat sources, ventilate, and move to a cooler location.

Low humidity: Seal openings, use glass lid, mist frequently, and move water sources near plants.

High humidity: Increase ventilation, leave top partially uncovered, use a dehumidifier, and remove excess water sources.

Sometimes finding the right balance takes trial and error. Be patient and make gradual adjustments. Consistency is key for healthy terrariums.

Achieving the Perfect Terrarium Microclimate

Optimizing conditions for a thriving terrarium depends on many interrelated factors. Start with the ideal temperature and humidity range for your chosen plants. Select appropriate construction materials to help maintain moisture and heat.

Provide supplemental heating or humidity sources if needed, along with ventilation to prevent extremes. Monitor closely with a thermometer and hygrometer. Adjust as needed until reaching the target levels.

With a properly heated, humidified, and ventilated terrarium, your plants will flourish for years to come! Consistent temperature and humidity encourages healthy growth in this unique indoor garden.

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