Building a Tall Orchidarium
In November 2019, I set up this new terrarium, which I’ve christened my Tall Orchidarium. I designate a name to each of my terrariums to help you more easily find every article relating to the particular terrarium you’re interested in. If you want to know more about my Tall Orchidarium, you can find all of my articles that relate to this terrarium by clicking here.
Inside my Tall Orchidarium, I’m growing orchids from my National Collection of Miniature Aerangis and Angraecum Species, my National Collection of Miniature Phalaenopsis Species, as well as a few other miniature orchid species, and a couple of ferns. In this article, I’ll show you how my Tall Orchidarium was designed, set up, and installed.
Custom build Tall Orchidarium, made by Custom Aquaria
I commissioned Matthew, from Custom Aquaria, to build my Tall Orchidarium for me. I am absolutely delighted with the quality and finish of this new enclosure!
Tall Orchidarium size
My Tall Orchidarium measures 140cm (4.6ft) tall, 95cm (3.2ft) wide, and 43cm (1.4ft) deep. I chose these specific measurements, as they allowed me to house my Tall Orchidarium on top of a piece of furniture that I already own.
Choosing the type of glass to use to construct my Tall Orchidarium
When choosing the type of glass to use to build my Tall Orchidarium, I made the decision to incorporate two types of toughened, safety glass. For the front panel, the doors, and the ceiling of my Tall Orchidarium, I opted to use a low iron, toughened glass that would provide me with a clear view of the plants inside this enclosure and create a robust and lasting structure. Low iron glass presents a surface that offers significantly less of the blue-grey tint that glass is usually imbued with, making this type of glass exceptionally clear.
I would have preferred to have used low iron, toughened glass for every piece of glass (apart from the base) that was used to construct my Tall Orchidarium; however, low iron toughened, safety glass is much more expensive than regular, toughened safety glass. Accordingly, to limit the cost of this build, I selectively used low iron glass for the areas that would deliver the greatest visual benefit and offer the most notable improvement when formed from clearer glass; which for this enclosure, was the doors, the front panel, and the top pane of glass that forms the ceiling of my Tall Orchidarium. The other panes of glass that were used to construct the base, the two sides, and the back panel of my Tall Orchidarium, were all formed from regular, toughened safety glass.
Cutting holes in my Tall Orchidarium’s glass to house equipment that will provide automated plant care for my orchids
One huge advantage of having a terrarium custom made to my individual design is when the terrarium arrives, (providing I’ve accurately conveyed my specifications, cut outs, and design) it comes complete with all of the holes needed to house my terrarium’s automated plant care equipment.
Matthew at Custom Aquaria, expertly cut out five small, round holes to house the nozzles for my misting equipment in the roof of my Tall Orchidarium. Alongside these cut outs, two additional 10cm (4in) square holes were also removed, one in each of the two far corners of my Tall Orchidarium’s ceiling; these cut outs were made to accommodate my external fans.
Tall Orchidarium design error
I made one error when I was designing this terrarium – the hole that was specifically cut out for my misting unit’s double nozzle (which is housed in my Tall Orchidarium’s ceiling) is positioned too closely to the door; as a result, the nozzle taps on the glass whenever the misting system operates. I should have placed this nozzle another 5-10mm further away from the door. I hasten to add that this error was entirely my fault; the cut outs in my Tall Orchidarium were all positioned precisely where I directed Matthew (from Custom Aquaria) to make the cuts.
I might be able to solve this problem using a spacer of some kind, to distance the nozzle further away from the edge of the glass; although I’ve not had time to investigate any potential solution, as yet.
Thankfully, despite my error, this misting system still operates OK. However, due to the situation that my misting unit’s double nozzle is now squashed into, with the nozzle being held in such close proximity to the glass, this is naturally restricting the possible angles that the nozzle can be positioned in, which accordingly limits the potential reach of the misting unit’s spray.
Tall Orchidarium doors
My Tall Orchidarium has sliding doors that are removable for cleaning or maintenance. Sliding doors are more robust than hinged doors, hence the reason why I’ve had sliding doors fitted to this Tall Orchidarium and to my Rainforest Terrarium. My Tall Orchidarium’s doors are constructed from low iron, toughened safety glass.
There are two small glass handles that have been glued to the front of the doors; these provide something to grip onto, which makes it easier to slide the Tall Orchidarium’s doors open or closed.
Choosing a base for my Tall Orchidarium
If you’re planning to create your own orchidarium, you’ll need to obtain a sturdy base, which is large and strong enough to support your fully planted terrarium. The sideboard I’ve used to house my Tall Orchidarium is a second-hand, wooden unit that I purchased from Ebay.
Protecting my Tall Orchidarium’s structural integrity
My Tall Orchidarium is made from toughened safety glass. Toughened glass is incredibly strong, but it’s also surprisingly easy to shatter if it experiences any localised pressure. Placing glass on top of glass could easily result in enough pressure to crack and smash the toughened glass of this Tall Orchidarium. Having the tiniest particle of grit trapped between two sheets of glass can shatter one or both pieces of glass.
I ordered a piece of 3mm (0.1 inch) thick rubber matting that was large enough to easily cover the whole of the top of my sideboard. This rubber matting has enough ‘give’ to provide a firm, but safe, non-slip base for my Tall Orchidarium to sit upon.
If you’re planning to set up your own terrarium or bottle garden, I would absolutely recommend you invest in a piece of rubber matting that’s slightly larger than your terrarium. I place pieces of rubber matting underneath all of my terrariums and bottle gardens, however large or small they are. However, a base layer of rubber matting is absolutely essential when you’re installing a large orchidarium or anytime your terrarium would otherwise be resting on a glass, granite, or stone base. It’s better to be safe than sorry; I would always recommend a terrarium or bottle garden, vivarium or orchidarium is placed upon a sheet of rubber matting.
Delivering & unloading my Tall Orchidarium
If you’re ordering a large orchidarium, do remember that this item will be very heavy to lift and not easy to transport. I recommend arranging for your orchidarium to be delivered by a specialised delivery company that’s used to transporting glass structures. I was fortunate to have my Tall Orchidarium delivered by a lovely man called Steve, from animalcourier.co.uk. Steve did an excellent job to ensure that my Tall Orchidarium arrived safely; I would highly recommend Steve, if you’re looking for a courier to deliver your tank.
Toughened glass is very heavy to lift. Glass orchidariums form rigid structures that are difficult to transport and manoeuvre and need to be handled with care. My Tall Orchidarium needed to be kept upright to maintain the structural integrity of the tank; which made it very challenging and awkward to lift.
Before your orchidarium is delivered, you will need to ensure that there is clear entry path into your home. Take care to ensure that you’ve created a clear, wide path that’s free from obstacles, and this unobstructed, wide passageway continues all the way through to the location where your orchidarium is due to be installed.
Do remember that couriers usually work alone, and large orchidariums (like my Tall Orchidarium, Rainforest Terrarium, or Orchidarium) form substantial enclosures that are unwieldy and very heavy to lift; accordingly, you may need to provide an additional two (or three) strong and agile persons to carry your orchidarium from the delivery van to your tank’s eventual destination inside your home.
Equipment used to deliver automated plant care to my Tall Orchidarium’s plants
Tall Orchidarium LED lighting
I first purchased Skylight LED lights when I was setting up my Rainforest Terrarium, back in March 2018. I really appreciate these LED lights’ silent operation, so much so, that I’ve now replaced the Jungle Hobbies’ lights inside my Orchidarium with Skylight lights and I also purchased this Tall Orchidarium’s LED lights from Skylight.
Here are the Skylight LED lights I’m using inside my Tall Orchidarium….
My Tall Orchidarium is lit by two sets of Skylight Pro RP lights and one set of Skylight OPTI V55 lights. These LED lights remain outside of the enclosure; they sit on the top pane of glass that forms the ceiling of my Tall Orchidarium, with their lights shining down through the glass.
All three of these Skylight LED lights are passive, which means they don’t require fans to cool their mechanisms; as a result my Skylight LED lights operate silently. This is important to me, as I do not enjoy spending time near noisy lights or equipment; I prefer the sounds of nature to that of machinery.
Skylight LED lights are modular, thereby offering many lighting options, allowing different configurations to suit your requirements, depending on the size and shape of your tank and the selection of plants you’re growing. I chose to use three sets of Skylight lights inside my Tall Orchidarium. I have these lights arranged in a ‘fan’ shape, on top of the roof of my Tall Orchidarium – the lights have been positioned directly on top of the glass, they look down into the terrarium.
The Skylight PRO RP lights give a good field of light across the whole terrarium; they have a wavelength profile to provide optimum photosynthesis. The OPTI V is a much brighter light with a directed beam; this particular light has been designed specifically for tall terrariums to ensure the enclosure enjoys high quality lighting from the top, all the way through to the bottom of the tank.
My Skylight lights don’t come with a built-in timer, but it was easy to set my Skylight LED lights up on a time switch, which automatically turns the lights on in the morning and off again at night.
Tall Orchidarium misting unit
I purchased my misting unit from MistKing. So far, I’ve had good experiences with the MistKing misting units I’ve purchased for my Orchidarium and Rainforest Terrarium; hence my reason for purchasing another MistKing product for my Tall Orchidarium.
When I placed my order with MistKing, I ordered a MistKing Starter system and then I specified some extra nozzles and added these to my order; this worked out to be a more cost effective solution for me, as it cost less than purchasing a full-spec misting system with 5 nozzles. Price wise, it’s really worth taking time to check the different options and prices available to you; as you can spend more or less money with the same company, for the same components, by simply using another product code as a different method of adding the same products to your basket.
My MistKing misting system came with a digital timer, so all I needed was a bucket with a lid, to use as a reservoir. I’ve opted to use a black bucket and lid. I chose this colour bucket and lid to prevent light from reaching the water in my reservoir.
My Tall Orchidarium’s MistKing misting unit has 5 misting nozzles: 4 single nozzles, which are positioned in each of the tank’s top corners, and one double nozzle, which is situated just in front of the middle of the doors, in the ceiling of my Tall Orchidarium.
Tall Orchidarium misting times
Currently, the plants inside my Tall Orchidarium receive a fine mist of rainwater every day at:
- 7:00 for 15 seconds
- 8:00 for 10 seconds
- 10:00 for 15 seconds
- 12:00 for 15 seconds
- 14:00 for 15 seconds
NB. Please note: I change the operation of my misting units according to the time of year and the plants that I am growing in each enclosure. If you’re interested in how much my orchids and terrarium plants are misted, you’ll find more information in the regular updates for each of my terrariums and orchidariums.
Tall Orchidarium fans
I’ve never experienced a problem purchasing AC Infinity fans (from the UK) prior to this build, but for some reason, while I was installing this Tall Orchidarium I was unable to find any AC Infinity fans for sale, in the UK. I was absolutely determined to purchase this particular brand of fan, as I’ve found that AC Infinity fans have worked both effectively and silently inside other orchidariums I’ve built. I was not keen to risk using another brand, as I am really not a fan of noisy fans or terrarium equipment. In the end, after searching the internet for several days, I found myself unable to purchase any AC Infinity fans from the UK; as a consequence, I ended up sourcing my 8cm (3.2 inches) AC Infinity fans from the US, which naturally was more costly for me than purchasing similar UK sourced products.
I also purchased another brand of 8cm (3.2 inches) fan that I use as an internal fan to circulate the air inside my Tall Orchidarium. Although it was listed as being a quiet fan, this (non AC Infinity) fan does make an audible sound, although thankfully it’s not too intrusive. However, I must say that I do regret not installing an AC Infinity fan; accordingly, I hope to swap this fan out in future and replace the audible fan with another AC Infinity fan.
I realised the risk I was taking when I didn’t purchase any AC Infinity fans for this Tall Orchidarium’s interior air circulation; my reasons for omitting to make this purchase were purely down to needing to minimise the costs of this terrarium build.
The fans inside my Tall Orchidarium are powered by a USB cable, which connects to a plug in the wall socket. The particular fans that I use in this enclosure are designed in a way that allows me to ‘daisy-chain’ two (or more) fans on a single cable; as a result I only need two power connections to run two external fans and one internal fan. The internal fan inside my Tall Orchidarium has its own separate power supply and runs constantly, circulating the air inside this enclosure (24 hours a day).
The other two fans – the two AC Infinity external fans that are housed in the ceiling of my Tall Orchidarium – are connected to a separate power source, which is plugged into my humidity controller – the Inkbird IHC-200 Plug-n-Play Humidity Controller. The sensor for this humidity controller hangs down inside the Tall Orchidarium, it triggers the ceiling fans into operation when the humidity rises above 90%RH. This avoids excessive humidity levels building up inside the Tall Orchidarium but prevents the tank from drying out (which can happen if you have external air circulating into the tank constantly). The humidity levels are controlled, as fresh, drier air is drawn into the enclosure as required when the relative humidity levels rise above my pre-set maximum humidity level. Once the desired humidity level is restored inside my Tall Orchidarium, the external fans will turn off automatically.
The InkBird humidity control is configured to have a 5-minute delay between changes to the operation of the fans – meaning that the fan isn’t continually flicking on and off as the humidity repeatedly crosses the configured humidity threshold.
Maintaining high humidity levels inside my Tall Orchidarium
To ensure constant and consistent humidity, I have three fans that operate inside this Tall Orchidarium. One 8cm fan is housed internally; this internal fan runs constantly, circulating the air within the tank, thereby maintaining continual air flow inside this terrarium, at all times. Good air circulation is important to create a healthy growing environment, which helps to avoid fungal problems and allows the water around each of the plants’ leaves and roots to evaporate before nightfall; thereby ensuring that my plants enjoy optimum growing conditions.
In addition, there are two 8cm AC Infinity fans, which fit inside the custom-cut holes, in the ceiling of my Tall Orchidarium. These fans provide internal/external air exchange. When my Tall Orchidarium becomes too humid, the external fans automatically pull humid air out of the top panel of the tank; as a consequence of this action, the design of my terrarium results in fresh air being drawn into the tank, through the front facing grille, just under the door of my Tall Orchidarium.
Tall Orchidarium temperature readings
I don’t use a heater inside my Tall Orchidarium; this enclosure is warmed by the central heating system inside my home.
Tall Orchidarium humidity levels
Monitoring the temperature, humidity, and growing conditions, inside my Tall Orchidarium
If you’re interested in this topic, I wrote this article to explain how I monitor the temperature, humidity, and growing conditions, inside my Tall Orchidarium.
Watering and fertilising the orchids inside my Tall Orchidarium
Water for my Tall Orchidarium’s misting unit
When my MistKing misting system operates, the system syphons the water from the bucket (this bucket forms my reservoir) to water the plants inside my Tall Orchidarium. My bucket has a lid to avoid spillages and prevent light from reaching the water.
When I first set up my Tall Orchidarium, this enclosure’s bucket reservoir was regularly filled with reverse osmosis (RO) water. However, in 2020, I set up a new rainwater collection system with a filter to prevents any pieces of grit or debris from contaminating the water or creating blockages in my misting unit.
I now use rainwater to mist all of the plants inside my Tall Orchidarium. The area where I live has extremely hard tap water, which meant that even after passing through a 5-stage domestic RO system, my tap water still had around 80-100 parts-per-million (PPM) of impurities. In the wild, orchids enjoy being bathed in very pure rainwater. Irrigating my plants with rainwater with a purity of around 5-7ppm, will be beneficial to my orchids. I’m really excited to have my new rainwater collection system in place!
During autumn, winter, and springtime, I ensure that the rainwater I use to water and fertilise my orchids has been inside my home for a minimum of 48 hours, which gives the rainwater time to acclimatise and reach room temperature; this prevents cold water from shocking my plants.
Tall Orchidarium fertiliser
The orchids that reside inside my Tall Orchidarium are hand misted with fertiliser while they’re in growth. Plants that are dormant are not given fertiliser; these plants receive only rainwater.
To fertilise my orchids, I use Orchid Focus fertiliser from Growth Technology Products. I use Orchid Focus Grow as a fertiliser for plants that are in active growth and Orchid Focus Bloom, for plants that are in bud or in flower. My orchids are fertilised once a week, for three consecutive weeks; then on the fourth week, my plants receive only rainwater. During the fifth week, the plants enjoy fertiliser and the cycle starts again.
I mix my orchid’s fertiliser using rainwater, following Orchid Focus’ instructions.
Tall Orchidarium substrate and drainage layer
Using Leca balls as a substrate
I am actively trying to avoid buying new plastic wherever I can; so instead of purchasing more plastic egg-crate to use to create a false bottom in this terrarium (as was fitted inside my Orchidarium); for my Tall Orchidarium, I opted to use Leca balls – lightweight clay balls, which form an excellent substrate to fill the bottom of the tank.
Leca balls are formed from expanded clay, a material that’s very light, so it doesn’t add too much weight to the terrarium. These expanded clay balls won’t rot or decompose, making this material the ideal choice for use in the wetter drainage area. Leca has quite a number of uses in horticulture. If you’re planning to use Leca in your terrarium, do make sure you take the time to wash and rinse the Leca thoroughly before use.
I lined the surface of my Leca base layer with a couple of sheets of weed-suppressant membrane. The membrane was topped with a layer of cushion moss, which sits directly on top of this covering, adding colour and interest to the base of my Tall Orchidarium.
Draining excess water from my Tall Orchidarium
I added two short lengths of plastic tubing, one in each of the front two corners of the base of the Tall Orchidarium, to allow easy access to the void around the Leca, in the base of my Tall Orchidarium. The plastic tubing creates an open area, with an unobstructed view and gives me access to any water that has collected in the bottom of my Tall Orchidarium; this enables any excess water to be easily siphoned off, drained out, and removed.
Planting my Tall Orchidarium
Cork for my Tall Orchidarium
As you can see, I’ve purchased some substantial pieces of cork (this cork was purchased from Porters Foliage in Covent Garden) to use to line the back of my Tall Orchidarium. In future, I hope to add some additional pieces of cork to fill in some of the gaps inside my Tall Orchidarium.
I had a few pieces of plastic egg crate left over from when I built my Orchidarium (back in 2017); as I had these materials to hand, I decided to use the egg crate to help steady the cork. The pieces of egg crate were positioned on top of the weed suppressant fabric (which was placed over the Leca balls); I figured the egg crate would help spread out the weight of the cork, which would prevent the weight of the cork barring down in one narrow area and tearing the weed suppressant membrane.
The egg crate is not an essential or necessary part of this terrarium build; I simply used it as I had these materials left over and I was concerned about the stability of the cork. I doubt that the egg crate helped to steady the cork, which is supported by being leant against the back of the tank (and alongside other pieces of cork).
Unfortunately, once my terrarium was all set up, I discovered that a colony of non-native ants were living inside the cork I had purchased for my Tall Orchidarium! I wrote an article about this incident, complete with lots of information, tips, and ideas for using cork and looking out for non-native insects; here’s a link.
Planting up my Tall Orchidarium
Lately, I’ve been having a big sort out, moving plants from one terrarium to another. Any flowering size plants that haven’t bloomed for sometime have been moved to new enclosures. I hope the change in light levels and growing conditions will induce these plants to bloom. Some of the plants that I’ve introduced to my Tall Orchidarium were moved to this enclosure to determine whether a change in growing conditions would persuade the plants to bloom. Other orchids were included in my Tall Orchidarium Planting List, as I felt these plants would be happiest in this new environment.
Tall Orchidarium Planting List
Currently, these plants are growing inside my Tall Orchidarium:
- Aerangis citrata
- Aerangis hariotiana
- Aerangis hyaloides
- Aerangis kirkii
- Aerangis macrocentra
- Aerangis modesta
- Aerangis mooreana
- Aerangis somalensis
- Aerangis x primulina
- Angraecum aloifolium
- Angraecum equitans
- Angraecum ochraceum
- Angraecum sacciferum
- Bulbophyllum ambrosia
- Dockrillia striolata
- Humata heterophylla
- Humata repens
- Neofinetia falcata
- Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi ‘Green’
- Phalaenopsis equestris
- Phalaenopsis equestris ‘Aparri’
- Phalaenopsis honghenensis
- Phalaenopsis inscriptiosinensis
- Phalaenopsis pallens var. denticulata
- Phalaenopsis pantherina
- Phalaenopsis parishii
- Phalaenopsis pulchra
- Restrepia purpurea ‘Rayas Vino Tinto’
- Stelis muscifera
My Tall Orchidarium Planting List contains photographs of all of my Tall Orchidarium’s plants, alongside information on each of the plants’ growing conditions, as well as links to other articles I’ve written about these orchid species. Any plants I add to my Tall Orchidarium in future will also be added to my Tall Orchidarium Planting List. You can view my Tall Orchidarium Planting List by clicking here.
Tall Orchidarium list of equipment in full
I’ve used the following equipment inside my Tall Orchidarium:
- A custom built Tall Orchidarium from Custom Aquaria measuring 140cm (4.6ft) tall, 95cm (3.2ft) wide, and 43cm (1.4ft) deep; constructed from low iron, toughened safety glass.
- A 3mm (0.1 inch) thick piece of rubber matting, cut to 105cm (3.4ft) by 47cm (1.6ft).
- Two sets of Skylight Pro RP LED lights.
- One set of Skylight Opti V55 LED lights.
- A time switch for the lighting system.
- An extension cable to power my Tall Orchidarium’s lights.
- Enough CANNA Aqua Clay Leca balls to create a layer at the base of the Tall Orchidarium that measures 6-7cm (2.4-2.8 inch) deep.
- 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 external air circulation.
- One 8cm (3.2in) internal fan to circulate the air inside the Tall Orchidarium.
- Inkbird IHC-200UK Dual Relays Plug Digital Humidity Controller/Hygrometer.
- A large black bucket with a lid.
- 45mm Suction Cup Wall Hooks.
- Green card for the backdrop and to hide the lighting cables and misting piping.
- Zip ties for organising the cables and tubing.
- A selection of orchids, moss, and cork: please see my Tall Orchidarium Planting List for more details about these plants and information about the nurseries where I purchased my plants and materials.
If you’re interested in my Tall Orchidarium, you’ll find all of my articles that relate to this terrarium, here.
Other articles that may interest you……………
For more articles about automated plant care, please click here.
To see a planting list of orchids, ferns, and other terrarium plants that are perfectly suited to growing inside terrariums and bottle gardens, please click here.
To see all of my articles about setting up terrariums, orchidariums, and bottle gardens, please click here.
To see my Rainforest Terrarium as it was set up and discover the thinking behind my design for my Rainforest Terrarium, please click here.
To see my Orchidarium as it was first set up, please click here.
To read about the non-native ants I found inside the cork I used for my Tall Orchidarium and to discover lots of tips and ideas for using cork, please click here.
For a step-by-step guide on how to set up a bottle garden, please click here.
To see my houseplants, please click here.