An in-depth look at the features of the BiOrbAir, as part of my continued long-term BiOrbAir trial and review.
The BiOrbAir has lots of great features that make this terrarium easy and enjoyable to set up and fun to use. Everything you need to set up the terrarium comes inside the box, as part of the package when you purchase your BiOrbAir. The only additional items you need to either buy or supply yourself is the plants. Terrarium plants are also available on the BiOrbAir website, and you can even purchase a pre-planted BiOrbAir from their website, if it’s being delivered to the UK – pre-planted terrariums can’t be shipped overseas.
Terrarium LED lights
Inside the BiOrbAir there are six LED lights, positioned at the top of the unit, which produce a light at 5,600 Kelvin – which is the same colour temperature as natural daylight. The lights are arranged so that the plants will grow evenly, this terrarium will not require regular turning to prevent plants growing in one direction towards a single light, as is the case with traditional terrariums. As there’s no need to turn the terrarium, unless of course you want to, this allows you to stage your planting. If you wish, you can create a landscape that has a backdrop, and is viewed from two sides, or you can plant a terrarium with a central feature or landscape, that is designed to be viewed from all sides.
The LED lights turn the terrarium into a beautiful feature, casting intricate and delicate shadows on the walls of your home. When you turn the BiOrbAir on, the lights will begin their 24 hour cycle, starting off low and gradually brightening, simulating a sunrise for the first half an hour of the cycle; the lights will be on full brightness for the next 12 hours, before simulating a sunset as the lights fade to dusk for the last half an hour. This is then followed by 11 hours of darkness. The quality of the LED lights allow you to enjoy the BiOrbAir in a basement or somewhere without adequate daylight to sustain your plants. This is a truly wonderful benefit of the BiOrbAir, allowing you to bring the inspiration of plants with you, wherever you live or work, even in an otherwise unsuitable environment.
As the BiOrbAir lights are on a 24 hour cycle, which is started when you switch them on, you control when they start – so whether you wanted the terrarium to be lit up in the daytime, starting in the early morning, or if you want your terrarium lit up through the night, this is easily achieved. It’s also easy to change – to reset the lighting on your BiOrbAir terrarium, you simply hold the lever, that’s discreetly positioned under the BiOrbAir’s lid, for 3 seconds. This will start the lighting cycle from the beginning and the simulated sunrise will begin.
I must be honest, I didn’t think I would ever be a fan of something made of acrylic! This is the material used to create the ultra-clear sphere of the BiOrbAir terrarium. Acrylic was chosen as it is one of the clearest materials there is – acrylic is 23% clearer than glass and 10 times stronger. The acrylic globe of the BiOrbAir works perfectly for viewing and admiring your plants, whether you’ve chosen to plant miniature orchids, intricate ferns or delicately veined terrarium plants.
When I am choosing containers to create a traditional terrarium, I love to use glass, as it allows the condensation to more easily roll down into the terrarium. This is not necessary for this terrarium, as the BiOrbAir has a continually running fan, which re-circulates the air, filtering it and preventing condensation and stagnation; allowing you a clear view of your plants at all times. If you scratch the acrylic globe of your BiOrbAir terrarium, don’t worry – you can remove any scratches yourself using a simple, straightforward, scratch removing polishing kit which is available from Reef One.
Inside the BiOrbAir, the air within the globe is constantly circulated by a fan, whilst also being drawn through a carbon filter, this allows for good air movement around the plants and also prevents condensation on the sides of the globe. The carbon filter absorbs aerosols and keeps the air fresh within the terrarium. The filter needs replacing every 6 months, to keep the air quality at its optimum. I would describe the sound of the fan as being comparable to the sound of a laptop fan running, it’s certainly not any louder. I have not found the sound of the fan to be intrusive. Update – the 2017 BiOrbAir terrarium features a very quiet fan, I cannot hear the fan operating.
Terrarium misting unit
The misting unit – how cool is this feature? The top water reservoir, housed in the top of the sphere, contains an ultrasonic misting unit, which automatically sends out a pretty swirl of mist should the humidity within the terrarium drop below 75 RH (relative humidity).
There is also a discrete, lever type button, which is positioned so neatly (it’s not obvious at all, you’ll have to look for it – the button doesn’t detract from the neat, clean design of the terrarium) on the underside of the BiOrbAir’s lid. Should you wish to create additional humidity inside your BiOrbAir, or if you want to show your friends the misting unit in action, you can press this lever for a second to release a burst of mist into the terrarium. If you hold the same lever for three seconds it will restart the lighting cycle of your BiOrbAir, commencing with the sunrise and following on with the 24 hour lighting cycle. The lever is easy to press and hold, a child or someone with little strength would find themselves able to operate this exciting feature with ease.
In the promotional video on the BiOrbAir website it looks as if the misting unit is in constant operation – it isn’t. The BiOrbAir is large compared to some terrariums, but it’s a contained unit, and therefore as the ultrasonic mister operates only when the humidity level drops below 75 RH it is not operated nearly as often as you might think. As the BiOrbAir is switched on and the lights start their 24 hour cycle, it mists automatically; I have also seen the mister activated at occasional times throughout the day, but it is not misting constantly, and is only activated when required. I placed a humidity sensor with the BiOrbAir globe and it has been exactly 75 RH, showing how effective the ultrasonic mister is.
The mister unit is designed to be used exclusively with the Humidimist water sold by Reef One. Humidimist has been designed to contain the minimum amount of electrolytes required to activate the low water sensor. I wondered at first if I could save some money and use distilled water, but because distilled water is so pure it doesn’t contain enough electrolytes to activate the sensor in the ultrasonic mister unit – the BiOrbAir would think it’s empty and won’t produce any mist, accordingly the humidity levels will drop within the terrarium. De-ionised water also has insufficient electrolytes – the mister will not operate if you try to use this type of water. Tap water is a definite no-go. Reverse Osmosis water can be used, but only if it’s from a high quality system, and is tested regularly for total dissolved solids; as not many people have their own Reverse Osmosis System, this would be an expensive approach!
So the moral of the story is, use only the Humidimist available from Reef One, you don’t want to risk clouding the clarity of the globe by using the wrong water or damaging your special terrarium. A pack of four Humidimist bottles comes as part of the complete package within the box when you purchase the BiOrbAir, and you can buy extra bottles on the BiOrbAir website.
It’s only the misting unit which requires this Humidimist water – the base reservoir can be filled using rain water, or tap water if you prefer. I always prefer to water plants with rain water, as the salts and chemicals that are added to tap water can build up and be harmful to plants, especially in a closed system such as a terrarium.
If you didn’t fill the misting unit, you’d simply get a lower humidity in the globe. The globe itself would come to no harm, but the BiOrbAIR would dim its lights every 15 minutes to let you know that the reservoir is low or empty, I am pretty sure this would be annoying and would spoil your enjoyment of this terrarium!
I haven’t installed a heater in my BiOrbAir, but if this was something you wanted to do, there is an access portal in the base to allow a heater cable and temperature probe to be added.
I have found everything about the BiOrbAir to be well designed, cleverly thought out, and easy to use. The opening at the top of the terrarium is wide enough to give ample room to plant the terrarium. The support trays, (which forms the base onto which the capillary matting sits, the compost is then placed on top of the capillary matting) fit together conveniently and securely. The support tray folds with ease, so that it can be easily placed inside into the terrarium. The capillary matting can then be effortlessly fixed to the support trays, the matting draws up water from the base reservoir unit below, which in turn keeps the compost moist.
Initially I was concerned as to how long the capillary matting would last inside my BiOrbAir. I didn’t want to lose the effectiveness of the watering system that the base reservoir and capillary matting provide over time, and nor did I want to have to re-plant my BiOrbAir every year or two, in order to replace the capillary matting, to keep the automatic watering system working. Thankfully this is not a concern, the capillary matting that comes with the BiOrbAir (it’s also available for purchase separately on the BiOrbAir website) is made of virgin polypropylene fibres and will last for many years without showing any signs of deterioration. The BiOrbAir’s capillary matting is specifically woven and designed to encourage capillary action; the basic strength of the fibres is obtained by needle-punching the polypropylene fibres, which gives a strong elastic bonding to the matting.
Watering terrarium plants
One of the things I have noticed over the years is that folk take a lot of solace and comfort from watering their houseplants on a set day of the week, usually a Friday, although one of my friends waters her plants religiously every Sunday. It seems to be another matter entirely as to whether the plants require water on that particular Friday or Sunday, as great reassurance is taken from the act of watering, and completing this simple, but important task.
Watering your plants on a set day of the week can lead to over or under watering. Both instances are very detrimental to plants, causing them to decline and suffer, resulting in the plants looking off colour at best, or in the worst cases to die. It’s far better to look at your plants and give them water and feed when they require it, it’s also more interesting too! Having said that, if you’re the sort that enjoys creating a watering regime, then the BiOrbAir would suit you very well, as every Friday, or Sunday, or indeed any day you choose to, you could check the water levels in your base reservoir and top up with rain water as required, then check the reservoir for the misting unit and top up with Humidimist, a task that could be easily completed in a matter of moments.
The BiOrbAir makes watering your plants easy – the external water level indicator, a discrete feature at the base of the terrarium, allows you to see at a glance how much water is in the base reservoir. If the base reservoir is showing as low, you just add water a little at a time, pouring it carefully inside the BiOrbAir, towards the outside edge of the globe; where it will run down into the base reservoir below. The water from the base reservoir is then taken up by the capillary matting, which in turn moistens the compost above, and provides an effective, automatic watering system for the terrarium plants.
The watering system and design of the BiOrbAir also works very well at holiday times, if you’re someone who is frequently away from home for business trips, for a week or two at a time, the BiOrbAir would suit you well. For this reason, the BiOrbAir would also be a wonderful addition to an office, being easy to maintain and bringing a relaxing calm, that only plants can, to the office space.
How often do you need to water your terrarium?
If you’re interested to find out how often the base reservoir of the BiOrbAir terrarium requires topping up with rain water, and how often the ultra-sonic misting unit’s reservoir needs to be topped up with Humidimist, I have been documenting my BiOrbAir maintenance to assist you with these questions!
I topped up both my BiOrbAir terrariums with Humidimist into the ultra-sonic misting unit’s reservoir, and rain water into the base reservoir on 6th November 2015.
After a week, I noted that both my BiOrbAir misting unit reservoirs were 2/3 full – at this time it was 7 days from when I last topped them up. Two weeks later the misting unit reservoirs were about 1/3 full. Three weeks later, and the reservoir for my BiOrbAir misting unit had only a couple of mm of Humidimist left! Both of my BiOrbAir terrariums ran out of Humidimist, and started flashing their LED lights to highlight that they required topping up with Humidimist on Sunday 29th November 2015 – 23 days after being filled with Humidimist. So after monitoring both my BiOrbAir terrariums for this period, I would expect to need to top up the Humidimist in my terrariums every three weeks.
You can see the rate of the water loss from the base reservoir in my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir terrarium over the seven week period, in my photographs below – all of these photographs are of my Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir terrarium’s water-level indicator.
I topped up the rain water in the base reservoir inside both my BiOrbAir terrariums, and then left both my BiOrbAir terrariums for seven weeks without topping up the rain water in the base reservoir, while monitoring both my BiOrbAir terrariums over this period. I realise that in my photographs above, in the second photograph of the water-level indicator, it looks as if the terrarium has had a top up – it hasn’t. I am unsure if the angle I was at when I took the photographs has made the water level look higher/lower in the photographs, or if somehow the rainwater I poured in and over the cork and moss takes far longer than I have anticipated to drain through into the base reservoir, and as a consequence this reading and the amount of rainwater inside the terrarium wasn’t fully recorded in the first photograph.
Anyway, as you can see, the rainwater in the base reservoir in my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium has been sufficient to last this BiOrbAir terrarium, planted with moss, and miniature orchids mounted on bark, for seven weeks. The water level of the base water reservoir inside my other BiOrbAir terrarium registered as lower than the reading for this Miniature Orchid BiOrbAir terrarium after the same period of time had passed. This is to be expected, as my other BiOrbAir terrarium has been planted with a variety of ferns, mosses and other terrarium plants, as well as miniature orchids mounted on cork. This BiOrbAir terrarium is quite closely planted, as opposed to the Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir featured in this experiment, which is planted with mosses and miniature orchids which are mounted on cork bark; naturally the larger number and more diverse range of plants growing inside my other terrarium require more water. The water level indicator for my other BiOrbAir terrarium registered as about 10% full after being left for seven weeks.
I would feel confident to leave either of my BiOrbAir terrariums unattended for a period of 3 weeks, provided I had topped up the Humidimist in the ultra-sonic misting unit and topped up the base reservoir with rain water just prior to leaving.
Following this experiment, I would estimate that you might only need to top up your base reservoir with water every five weeks, depending of course on your choice of planting within your BiOrbAir terrarium. Why am I not recommending that you leave your BiOrbAir for six weeks, or seven – as I have clearly done so myself without a problem? Well because the capillary matting within the BiOrbAir, works by drawing up water from the base reservoir below, the capillary matting has longer sections, or tails, that are permanently submerged within the rainwater, these tails draw the water up, and moisten the coir compost above. Naturally the tails, or longer sections of capillary matting, require sufficient water to cover them, to enable an efficient and effective capillary watering system. It’s not worth leaving your terrarium for as long as possible, unless of course you’re on holiday, or in an emergency situation and unable to tend to your BiOrbAir terrarium, as you don’t want to take a risk that your plants might not have sufficient water.
It takes only a moment to check the water level in your base reservoir, and just a few moments more to top up the rain water. Keeping your BiOrbAir terrarium watered is so simple and easy to do, it’s better to monitor your terrarium regularly and provide your plants with everything they require for healthy growth. I’ve now topped up both my BiOrbAir terrariums with rainwater.
- The water level in the base water reservoir of my Miniature Orchid Trial BiOrbAir has naturally dropped over the seven week period.
- The water level in my other BiOrbAir terrarium, which is planted with ferns, other terrarium plants, mosses, and orchids mounted onto cork, has dropped further (to around 10%) during the seven week period, which is to be expected given that there are more plants drawing water in this terrarium.
- I’d feel very comfortable leaving both of my BiOrbAir terrariums for three weeks without any attention, provided I had topped up the base water reservoirs and topped up the Humidimist in the ultra-sonic misting unit just prior to leaving.
- The reservoirs for the ultra-sonic misting units in both my BiOrbAir terrariums required topping up with Humidimist after 23 days. I wouldn’t recommend leaving your BiOrbAir terrarium for longer than three weeks unattended, if the humidity levels inside your terrarium are important to the well being of your plants – your Humidimist will need topping up after this amount of time, or the humidity levels inside your terrarium will drop and the lights inside your BiOrbAir terrarium will flash to alert you to this.
To read about the new features that the new, updated 2017 BiOrbAir terrarium offers, please click here.
Here are some photographs of my BiOrbAir terrariums planted up:
To see more photographs of my BiOrbAir terrariums, please see my monthly reviews and other articles about terrarium gardening.
To read about the new features that the new, updated 2017 BiOrbAir terrarium offers, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you……..
To read the first part of my White Orchid BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid Trial – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir, please click here.
To read the first part of my long-term review of the BiOrbAir – this review starts from planting and covers the next six months after planting, please click here.
To read a planting list of plants suitable for growing in terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.
To read my planting list of miniature orchids suitable to grow in terrariums, please click here.
To read about the general maintenance of the BiOrbAir, and the general care I give to my terrarium plants, please click here.
To find out about the Writhlington Orchid Project, please click here.