Rainforest Terrarium equipment update, part two
I set my Rainforest Terrarium up in April 2018, to provide a home for a number of the orchids that form part of my National Collection of Miniature Phalaenopsis species and my National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum species. This particular update focuses on how the equipment installed inside my Rainforest Terrarium has performed from March 2019 until May 2020.
As well as the equipment, there are many plants growing inside my Rainforest Terrarium – so there’s a lot to cover in each update for this enclosure, so I’ve divided my review up. This section of my three part update focuses on the equipment inside my Rainforest Terrarium and how it has performed over the past thirteen months.
Of course if you’d like to go back to the start, you can see my Rainforest Terrarium from the very beginning, as it was first set up, in this article.
Here’s a link to the first update I wrote about the equipment inside my Rainforest Terrarium.
If you’re interested, you can find all of the articles I’ve written about my Rainforest Terrarium, here.
Read on to find out how the equipment I use inside my Rainforest Terrarium has performed from March 2019 to May 2020…..
I asked Rich from Rainforestvivs (now The Rich Rainforest), in Cwmbran, Wales, to build this custom built, unplanted terrarium for me. Firstly, let me say that I am still absolutely delighted with my Rainforest Terrarium! I will detail any adjustments I have made and explain more about the equipment I have used and how it has performed since March 2019, in this article.
Rainforest Terrarium equipment for automatic plant care
What equipment am I using inside my Rainforest Terrarium? Here’s the full list of parts and equipment that I’ve been using since April 2018:
- A custom built enclosure from Rainforestvivs that measures 95cm (37.4 inches) x 100cm (39.4 inches) x 45cm (17.7 inches) (W x H x D) constructed from 4mm (0.2 inches) toughened safety glass. Pilkington Optiwhite™ low-iron high-clarity glass was used for the front sliding doors, and the top/roof panel.
- A 3mm (0.1 inch) thick piece of rubber matting, cut to 100cm x 50cm.
- A 20L bag of CANNA Aqua Clay Leca balls.
- Two short sections of plastic tubing, cut to size.
- Sufficient weed suppressant membrane to cover the base of the terrarium twice over, with enough extra material to form a lip around the outer edge.
- MistKing Starter Misting System v4.0 with a ZipDrip Valve, and one extra single and double misting nozzle.
- Two AC Infinity Multifan S1 80mm USB powered fans for internal air circulation.
- Two AC Infinity AirPlate S1 80mm USB powered fans for external air circulation.
- Inkbird IHC-200UK Dual Relays Plug Digital Humidity Controller/Hygrometer.
- Three Skylight Pro RP LED lighting units.
- A time-switch for the lighting system.
- A large bucket with a lid.
- A number of 45mm Suction Cup Wall Hooks.
- Green card for the backdrop, which I have used to hide the lighting cables and the misting piping.
- Zip ties for organising the cables and tubing.
- Peat free coir compost.
- A selection of orchids, moss, and cork – see the full planting list for my Rainforest Terrarium here.
New additions to my Rainforest Terrarium
Since I first wrote about setting my Rainforest Terrarium up and the design of this terrarium, I added the following in 2018:
- Two door handles – to make it easier to open and close the glass doors to this Rainforest Terrarium.
In January 2020, I changed the appearance of my Rainforest Terrarium by installing large sheets of cork, which now cover sections of the back and sides of this enclosure.
Rainforest Terrarium Equipment Performance and Terrarium Conditions
I use wireless sensor tags to collect data about the growing conditions inside my terrariums. Unfortunately, I had some problems with the wireless sensor tag I was using inside my Rainforest Terrarium. As a result of these problems, I switched out this wireless sensor tag for another, which left me without some of my data. In addition to this, the battery inside my wireless sensor tag ran out and it took me a little while before I was able to replace it.
I’ve delayed publishing this article, as I was hoping to be able to find a way to download the data for the past year, but I am unable to retrieve information on the conditions inside the Rainforest Terrarium from April 2019 to the 1st December 2019. Here are two charts showing the data I have managed to obtain:
Rainforest Terrarium Temperatures
Rainforest Terrarium Humidity Levels
Rainforest Terrarium Light Levels
The light levels inside my Rainforest Terrarium are very consistent, thanks to my Skylight LED lights. The room that houses my Rainforest Terrarium receives only very low quality natural daylight, I need to turn a light on to read a newspaper.
If you’re interested to find out how I track the temperature and humidity levels inside my Rainforest Terrarium, please click here.
Rainforest Terrarium Misting Unit
Misting System Settings
On the 18th of March 2019, I adjusted my MistKing misting unit to add an additional mist in the middle of the day. The orchids inside my Rainforest Terrarium then received a mist of moisture every day at:
- 08:30am every morning for 1 minute
- 11:00am every morning for 15 seconds
- 3:00pm every afternoon for 15 seconds
On the 3rd September 2019, I changed the automated misting to reflect the arrival of autumn; so that this Rainforest Terrarium is now automatically misted:
- 8.30am every morning for 45 seconds
- 12 noon each day for 15 seconds
I decided that this was too much moisture for some of my plants, so I adjusted my settings. Currently, my Rainforest Terrarium is automatically misted at:
- 8.30am every morning for 25 seconds
- 12 noon each day for 15 seconds
I’m currently hand misting plants that need more moisture, like Aerangis fastuosa.
I’ve not experienced any problems with my MistKing Misting Unit – I’m really pleased with this misting unit. This is the same misting unit that I installed when this Rainforest Terrarium was first set up in March 2018.
Rainforest Terrarium Fans and Humidity
The fans in the Rainforest terrarium perform two functions:
- The internal fans circulate the air within the tank, which ensures that there are no pockets of still air. This helps to keep the humidity level constant and even throughout the terrarium, which is absolutely critical to avoid buildups of moisture, which can lead to fungus and mould breaking out.
- The external fans are used to circulate fresh air into the terrarium when the humidity gets too high. This ensures a constant humidity, without too much moisture overwhelming the plants, which could lead to fungal problems.
On 26 Jan 2020, I had a problem with the fans that demonstrated how important they are. One of the USB cables that powers the fans became slightly loose, which resulted in the fans powering down for nearly two days. The difference was dramatic – with the cork upon which the orchids are mounted immediately looking sodden, and a large build-up of condensation on the inside of the doors, as the water collected on the glass. Once I’d resolved the problem and fixed the loose connection, within a few hours the terrarium was back to normal, with the cork looking dry, and the glass clear again.
The external fans are also critical to ensure that the humidity within the terrarium is controlled – stale, humid air is driven out of the top of the tank and fresh air pulled in through the vents below the doors. However, it’s critical that the fans are not running all of the time. Several readers have emailed to ask whether they really need the hygrometer to control the external fans, or whether they can just leave them running 24/7. It’s not advisable to do this, because it then becomes extremely hard to keep the humidity levels up – effectively the terrarium loses its separate state as a micro-climate and just ends up sharing the dry, low-humidity climate with the rest of your home. Running the fans on a hygrometer means that they only spin up when the humidity exceeds your pre-determined threshold but – and this is the key point – as soon as the humidity drops below your desired level, the fans shut down, to maintain the humidity within the terrarium.
Rainforest Terrarium LED Lights
Rainforest Terrarium Planting List:
As of March 2020, the following plants are currently growing inside my Rainforest Terrarium:
- Aerangis biloba
- Aerangis calantha
- Aerangis equitans
- Aerangis fastuosa
- Aerangis fuscata
- Aerangis hariotiana
- Aerangis kirkii
- Aerangis luteoalba var rhodosticta
- Aerangis modesta
- Aerangis mystacidii
- Aerangis punctata
- Aerangis spiculata
- Amesiella minor
- Amesiella monticola
- Angraecum aloifolium
- Angraecum bancoense
- Angraecum compactum
- Angraecum didieri
- Angraecum distichum
- Angraecum elephantinum
- Angraecum equitans
- Angraecum pyriforme
- Angraecum rutenbergianum
- Masdevallia rechingeriana
- Paphiopedilum fairrieanum
- Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum
- Phalaenopsis celebensis
- Phalaenopsis chibae
- Phalaenopsis cochlearis
- Phalaenopsis finleyi
- Phalaenopsis gibbosa
- Phalaenopsis honghenensis
- Phalaenopsis lobbii
- Phalaenopsis lobbii f. flavilabia
- Phalaenopsis lowii
- Phalaenopsis lueddemanniana ‘Woodlawn’
- Phalaenopsis malipoensis
- Phalaenopsis micholitzii
- Phalaenopsis parishii
- Phalaenopsis parishii alba
- Phalaenopsis pulcherrima
- Phalaenopsis pulchra
- Phalaenopsis stobartiana
- Phalaenopsis taenialis
You can find out more about each of these orchids in my Rainforest Terrarium Planting List, which also includes information of where I have purchased all of the orchids, cork, and moss for this terrarium.
Other articles that may interest you……….
To see my Rainforest terrarium as it was set up and discover the thinking behind my design and find how everything is designed to work, please click here.
To see a planting list of orchids, ferns, and other plants that are suited to growing inside terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.
To see how my Orchidarium was set up, please click here.
To see the first part of my Madagascar Terrarium Trial, please click here.
To see the first part of my White Orchid Trial Terrarium, please click here.
To see the first part of my Miniature Orchid Trial, please click here.