I am reviewing and trialling the BiOrbAir, a specialised terrarium created by Reef One. I’ll be updating this page each month with a photograph of my BiOrbAir and an update of how the plants are growing and how well the BiOrbAir is working.
This is the first part of my long-term BiOrbAir review, it starts after planting in September 2014, and continues through until April 2015. The second part of my review, then carries on from May 2015, through until October 2015. You can read the second part of this review here. Naturally, the third part of my BiOrbAir trial and review starts in November 2015, and continues until April 2016, you can read this third installment here.
25th September 2014
I planted my BiOrbAir on 25th September 2014, as part of a feature I wrote for Vantage Point Magazine on terrariums. Here’s a photograph taken after I had finished planting the terrarium. To see the planting list for this terrarium in full, please click here. To read more about the special features of the BiOrbAir please click here. To see photographs and information depicting the size of the BiOrbAir please click here.
This was my first time planting a BiOrbAir, and my first experience of this specialised terrarium. I was just so excited about planting this terrarium! I had so many ideas for different planting schemes!
Apart from your plants, everything you need to plant up your terrarium is included when you buy your BiOrbAir. 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.
I opted to plant a variety of different plants and ferns, so as to find out which plants succeeded in this controlled environment, and which didn’t fare as well. You can see my planting list for this BiOrbAir here.
In this BiOrbAir, terrarium I included plants such as Selaginella kraussiana, Coelogyne cristata and Tillandsia usneoides, which although I was very interested to see how well they grew under the controlled conditions of the BiOrbAir, I didn’t really expect them to survive. I was intrigued to see what would happen, and so I included these riskier planting choices, along with some more reliable types, such as the Chlorophytum comosum ‘Variegatum’, more commonly known as the spider plant, and a Fittonia.
I included a piece of natural oak wood as a decorative feature in my BiOrbAir. Due to its size, it was necessary to cut the piece of wood into two parts, so that it could be inserted into the terrarium. I then used a pencil shaped piece of wood, which was inserted into pre-drilled holes that had been driven into the two parts of my wood feature, to hold them securely together, so that it looked like a single piece of wood when viewed inside the terrarium.
I checked that the wood was visibly free from insects and then I kept it inside my home for a period of time prior to planting, again to ensure it was visibly free from insects. The oak was dry and clean to look at before I placed it into the terrarium. Despite these precautionary measures, by including this piece of natural wood from the garden, there is still a high chance that I may have indadvertedly added a number of pests, such as slugs or snails to my BiOrbAir. Wood effect sculptures and ornaments are available, Reef One even make them especially to fit inside the BiOrbAir with ease, with no need for any preparation or drilling holes before hand! The thing is I like things to be real, I love the natural beauty of wood, and so I have included it in my BiOrbAir.
I used the peat-free, coir compost that was included with my BiOrbAir as the growing media for this terrarium. I followed the straight-forward instructions to pre-soak the compost. This was the only compost I used in this BiOrbAir terrarium, I didn’t add any other growing media or fertiliser, I used only the coir compost provided with the BiOrbAir.
Watering the terrarium plants
I will regularly top up the base reservoir with rain water as required; the water in the base reservoir will be absorbed by the capillary matting, which is fitted to the support tray above the base reservoir, which in turn will moisten the compost above. The absorption of water through the capillary matting will keep the coir compost moist, and as a result, the plants will be watered automatically. This is the only method of watering I will use. As you can see in my photograph above, the BiOrbAir’s external water level indicator clearly displays the water level in the base reservoir.
I will regularly top up the ultrasonic mister unit with Humidimist, a pure bottled water, low in electrolytes, available from Reef One and included as part of the package when you purchase a BiOrbAir. The Humidimist is the only type of water recommended for use in the ultrasonic misting unit of the BiOrbAir and it is the only product I will use.
My BiOrbAir is positioned in a slight recess in a dark room, the light levels in this room would make it very difficult to grow houseplants without additional lighting.
In this review I will document any gardening or maintenance I carry out in my BiOrbAir, and any problems I encounter, as well as my experience of this terrarium.
5th October 2014
Here’s the BiOrbAir on the 5th October 2014, I haven’t touched any of the plants inside since I initially planted the terrarium. I have been absolutely thrilled with my BiOrbAir, I love its features and design. The plants are growing well inside this terrarium, they haven’t needed any attention. The BiOrbAir is a beautiful feature both in the daytime and the evening, when the LED lights only add to the beauty of the terrarium, and to the room in which it’s placed. I love the pretty shadows the light casts upon the walls, and I love being able to see my plants so clearly.
9th November 2014
After initially planting my BiOrbAir in September 2014, I didn’t touch any of the plants inside again until 9th November 2014. This is my BiOrbAir as pictured on the 9th November 2014, before I tended to any of the plants. As you can see the moss at the front of the picture is looking rather tatty and brown.
Here’s the BiOrbAir after I replaced some of the moss on the 9th November 2014.
The plants are all growing well and thriving within my BiOrbAir, it’s only some of the moss I have replaced, as the majority of the moss was still lovely and green. None of the plants required any attention, as they are all growing well.
I could not be more thrilled with my BiOrbAir – I am totally in love with this terrarium and its clever features. The BiOrbAir is such a wonderful terrarium to have, it brings such joy to me, and brightens up my otherwise dark room.
6th December 2014
This week I spotted a couple of small cheeky slugs in my BiOrbAir! I must have inadvertently added them to the terrarium, either when I planted it in September, or at any of the times I have refilled the base reservoir using rainwater collected from my garden. I know I also have at least one slug in the traditional terrarium that I planted at the same time as the BiOrbAir – I can see where the slug has been eating the plants in my traditional terrarium, but as yet haven’t been able to spot him to remove him.
Thankfully in the BiOrbAir I could see the slugs and plants clearly, and so removing the slugs was easy – they have been re-homed in my garden. I am quite happy to have a few slugs and snails in my garden, I would never use slug pellets. All the same, I don’t want any slugs inside any of my terrariums! Thankfully, the slug was easy to remove from the BiOrbAir, and happily now has a new home outside.
How are the plants growing inside the BiOrbAir?
Until very recently all the plants were growing well and seemed healthy and happy in my BiOrbAir. This was until I accidentally poured the rainwater I was using to re-fill the base water reservoir over the Selaginella kraussiana! This plant requires moist, but not water-logged soil and a humid environment; since the day I poured the water directly over and onto it, the plant has looked very sick indeed!
This Selaginella is planted near to the edge of the terrarium globe, next to the moss; usually I pour the rainwater in, at the edge of the terrarium, over the edge of the moss, where it runs down and re-fills the base reservoir below. The coir compost is then moistened by the action of the capillary matting taking up the rainwater to the compost. When I planted up the BiOrbAir, I wasn’t sure if the light inside the BiOrbAir would be too bright for the Selaginella kraussiana, I was keen to see how well it would grow. At first the Selaginella looked very happy, but the plant looked very ill indeed, very soon after its prolonged, direct watering; I think it is just suffering from the very direct watering it received, I don’t think the lights in the BiOrbAir have negatively affected the plant. Will it recover? I will let you know….
So have I killed all the plants inside my BiOrbAir? Thankfully, no I haven’t! Here’s a closer look at how the other plants are fairing:
The Asparagus plumosus is growing well, it has sent up a number of new shoots since I planted it in September. When I selected this plant for the BiOrbAir, I anticipated that in the future I would need to cut it back, as and when it outgrows the space. I am quite happy to do this, as the pretty, feathery leaves, will be a wonderful addition to flower arrangements. As yet, as you can see, so far I haven’t had to cut it back at all.
Today (6th December 2014) I filled up the water in my BiOrbAir’s ultrasonic mister reservoir using the specially made Humidimist water, a specially developed water which is pure and low in electrolytes. I planted my BiOrbAir on 25th September 2014, I have only used the Humidimist water in the reservoir for the mister, from September until now (6th December 2014) I have used exactly two bottles of Humidimist water. I have the third Humidimist bottle ready to open when the mister’s reservoir next needs re-filling.
11th January 2015
I have looked at and admired my BiOrbAir since my last update, I have topped up the base water reservoir with rainwater and the misting unit with Humidimist, but I haven’t touched any of the plants. Some of the moss at the front of the terrarium is turning a little brownish in colour; this is the moss that I replaced in November 2014. It’s just the moss closest to the edge of the terrarium outer edge turning a little brownish, the rest of the moss is looking very bushy, green and healthy. The area of moss at the front of the terrarium with its tinges of brown isn’t detracting from the overall appearance of the terrarium, not in my opinion anyway. I will keep an eye on the condition of the moss and replace it with more from my garden if I need to – I will keep you updated. Any changes I make, or any maintenance I carry out, I will document here in my review.
The one plant in my BiOrbAir which is now a bit of an eyesore is my Selaginella kraussiana. This plant was initially growing well, until I poured the rainwater I was using to top up the base reservoir directly over it . The Selaginella then experienced a quick and dramatic decline and showed obvious signs of deterioration. Since my last update I have been clumsy enough to do this again, and so the Selaginella has had another prolonged soaking! This Selaginella really isn’t going to survive, so I will replace the plant when I have found a suitable replacement.
As you can see in the photograph above, both the Asparagus plumosus and the Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ have some small areas of discolouration at the base of each of the ferns, it’s not very noticeable at the moment, but I will keep my eye on this.
The rest of the plants, ferns and mosses in my BiOrbAir are thriving. I haven’t applied any feed or fertiliser to the plants. The only water I have used is the specialised water for the misting unit – the Humidimist, and rainwater collected from my garden, for the base reservoir. The rainwater in the base reservoir soaks into the capillary matting by design, to in turn moisten the coir compost and provide available water to the plants.
I find the BiOrbAir simple, straightforward and very easy to use. I absolutely love this terrarium!
For a while now I have had woodlice living in my BiOrbAir – they must have been inside in the wood that I added to the terrarium when I first planted it. I never intended to keep pet woodlice! I haven’t wanted to keep the woodlice inside the terrarium, but I also haven’t been very successful at catching the woodlice, and removing them – they are just too quick and agile for me! Since the weather got colder, I worried about taking the woodlice from a warm, safe environment inside the BiOrbAir, to a dramatic temperature change into the cold outdoors. I wasn’t sure if the woodlice would survive, so they have stayed for the time being, with the intention of being released outside at the earliest opportunity when I am certain is safe for the woodlice to be released.
One morning last week I noticed a rather sweet little tunnel in the moss, at the front of my BiOrbAir, had appeared over night. I have seen the woodlice entering this tunnel and making themselves at home; then the other day I noticed some teeny-tiny, baby woodlice! Eeek! Normally woodlice breed in the spring – the warmer temperatures inside the terrarium have provided a ‘spring’ of sorts, together with a safe, protected environment for breeding.
I don’t wish to keep the woodlice, or indeed any other insects or pets inside the terrarium, so as soon as I can release the woodlice outdoors when the weather warms up, I will.
The Woodlouse Wikipedia page points out that despite being crustaceans like lobsters or crabs, woodlice are said to have an unpleasant taste similar to ‘strong urine’!
18th January 2015
Today I removed my dying Selaginella kraussiana from the BiOrbAir; I was unable to find another plant the same, so I opted for something similar and purchased a Selaginella martensii ‘Jori’ from Squire’s Garden Centre in Milford. Here it is planted in my BiOrbAir:
After I had planted the new Selaginella I felt the terrarium looked a little unbalanced; I couldn’t really see my small Adiantum raddianum ‘Fritz-Luthi’ once I had planted the new, taller Selaginella. So I replaced my small Adiantum raddianum ‘Fritz-Luthi’ with another Adiantum raddianum ‘Fritz-Luthi’, the same plant, just this time a larger, taller plant. I replaced this plant for aesthetic reasons, it was 100% healthy and did not need replacing, I replaced it with a plant which was as healthy and the same variety, just larger in size. Here’s my BiOrbAir now:
8th February 2015
The woodlice that have set up home in my BiOrbAir are becoming a nuisance, they are eating my Adiantum raddianum ‘Fritz-Luthi’.
Terrarium slugs and snails
As well as the woodlice, I also have a couple of slugs or snails eating the plants inside my BiOrbAir – you might be able to notice their shiny trails on the leaves in the photographs above. I have previously removed a few slugs from my BiOrbAir, but I have yet to spot these new slugs or snails, to be able to remove them. I can just see evidence of their existence in the shiny trails and eaten leaves.
I could have introduced the slugs or snails when I planted up the terrarium – they could have been introduced as eggs, or as immature slugs or snails hiding in the plants, or in the plant’s compost.
I have watered my BiOrbAir using rainwater I collected from my garden, so it’s also possible that the rainwater was contaminated with slug or snail eggs, and I may have introduced them in this way. Another strong possibility is the wood that I added to the terrarium as a decorative feature, this is certainly where the woodlice came from, and could also have contained slugs and/or snails and their eggs.
I could have avoided this woodlice saga, by simply not adding the wood to the BiOrbAir. I could have added some extra height and interest to the terrarium by choosing an imitation wood ornament, instead of a real one. I chose not to add anything fake, I am never keen on imitation; I simply didn’t feel I would enjoy looking at something that wasn’t real.
Although it’s not real wood, there are clear advantages in choosing a specially designed ornament. Firstly they don’t contain any pests, so you won’t have any risk of adding woodlice, slugs, snails, beetles, caterpillars, etc to your terrarium. Secondly, they are purpose made from a Polyester Resin, a material chosen because it is inert and safe to use, it won’t affect the soil or the plants. Thirdly, these purpose made, wood effect sculptures are designed to fit into the BiOrbAir, they are the right size and scale for the terrarium, and also they fit through the opening of the BiOrbAir; some of the larger ornaments may require rotating to fit in, but they all fit.
My love for my BiOrbAir hasn’t diminished, this terrarium brings me so much joy. It’s a beautifully designed terrarium, I appreciate and value it every day.
My newly planted Selaginella looks as good as when I planted it. The other plants, ferns and mosses are thriving.
1st March 2015
The woodlice inside my BiOrbAir have continued eating and damaging my plants, especially my Adiantum raddianum ‘Fritz-Luthi’ and my Selaginella martensii ‘Jori’. Many of the stems of my Selaginella have been chewed and damaged, but are still attached to the plant, as you can see in my photograph below.
Having had enough of the damage the woodlice have caused and feeling that for their sake it’s now warm enough for the woodlice to live outside, I have used my BiOrbAir gardening toolset to remove both the damaged stems of the Selaginella and the woodlice, re-homing the woodlice outside in my garden.
So far I have successfully removed three woodlice, something that really wouldn’t have been possible without my long handled gardening tweezers. It’s trickier than you think to catch a woodlouse inside a terrarium! Woodlice are fast when they need to be, they quickly drop down into the terrarium plants or moss, making them harder to find and remove. Some of the immature woodlice are also very small indeed. The young woodlice are paler in colour, which makes it harder to spot them, and very difficult indeed to remove them.
I have now left my BiOrbAir gardening toolset and a container next to my BiOrbAir, so that as soon as I spot a woodlouse I can remove it – or at least try to – using the long handled tools. Any woodlice I catch, I will carefully move outside, where they can find a new home in the garden.
I have also removed a dead leaf from my Coelogyne cristata, the only orchid inside this terrarium. It’s quite natural for orchids to shed a leaf or two – I am not at all worried about this orchid. I really didn’t know how the Coelogyne would fare when I planted it inside the BiOrbAir. This is the first BiOrbAir I have planted, so I chose a range of different plants to see how they would grow. I am thrilled that nearly six months after planting they are all doing so well.
Happily I have now found and removed the slug that has been eating my plants. I don’t know why it took me so long to spot this slug, it’s very easy to see inside the BiOrbAir with it’s clear acrylic glove and LED lights which light the plants so beautifully. Anyway I spotted the slug and removed it swiftly and easily with my terrarium tweezers and popped the slug into the garden, where I hope he will live happily ever after.
I then used the long handled scissors to cut a couple of bare stems from my Adiantum raddianum ‘Fritz-Luthi’ – this fern has been readily eaten by both the slug and the woodlice.
My BiOrbAir looks so much better now after just being tended for a few minutes, sometimes one dead leaf, and just a couple of leafless stems can really detract from the beauty of the terrarium. Happily it only took a minute or two to tidy up the BiOrbAir. I am really impressed and delighted at how easy this terrarium is to maintain, and how well my plants have grown inside a dark room of my house, thanks to the specially controlled conditions inside the BiOrbAir.
2nd April 2015
It’s just over six months since I first planted up my BiOrbAir, a specialised terrarium from Reef One. I absolutely love this terrarium, it’s a wonderful way to grow indoor plants and create a beautiful and unique, lasting feature in your home. The specially designed and cleverly incorporated features of the BiOrbAir make this a really easy terrarium to maintain. Watering this terrarium is simple, it’s absolutely fool proof, thanks to the capillary matting and the base reservoir below – you just regularly top up the base reservoir and the watering is done for you, as the capillary matting draws up the water and automatically moistens the coir compost above.
I recently had to make an unexpected trip away from home for a week; I sadly didn’t get a chance to even look at my BiOrbAir in the week before I left. So with at least two weeks without even a glance in its direction, let alone any watering or maintenance (I really have no idea when I last had the chance to look at my BiOrbAir before today) all the plants are watered, the ideal humidity levels are maintained, and the plants inside are thriving.
My BiOrbAir makes a huge difference to my life, it lifts my spirits each time I see this terrarium, I just love it!
This is the end of the first part of my long-term review of the BiOrbAir, to continue reading this long-term review of the BiOrbAir, and to see part two, please click here.
Other articles that may interest you………
To continue reading this review, and read the second part of my long-term review of the BiOrbAir, please click here.
To see the first part of my White Orchid Trial BiOrbAir Terrarium, please click here.
To read the first part of my Madagascar BiOrbAir Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To read about the new features that the new 2017 BiOrbAir terrarium offers, please click here.
To see the full planting list for this BiOrbAir, please click here.
For a Planting List of a wide range of plants suited to growing in terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.
To read about using decorative sculptures, quirky ornaments or natural features in your terrarium, please click here.
To read about specially designed terrarium tools, please click here.
To read the first part of my Miniature Orchid Trial – Growing Miniature Orchids in the BiOrbAir, please click here.
To read my planting list of miniature orchids to grow in terrariums, please click here.