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Large planted terrarium plan. Questions.

Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:16 pm
by DuaneB
Hey folks,

So I am planning to build a large planted terrarium, much like the ones seen in AC videos.

Fully bioactive and mostly self sustaining, including real plants, isopods, springtails, millipedes, earthworms etc.

I plan to build it and then let it bio balance itself for 6-12 months before adding a colony of ants.

As I normally do, I am performing my due diligence and fully researching all aspects before I even begin and I have some questions...

My main question is about heating.
My home, especially the room that will likely house the terrarium usually sits at around 24c/75f which is ok, but I would like to push this up a little to around 26c-27c or 78-80f.

Now my knowledge of thermodynamics is limited to not much more than 'heat rises' so I need a little guidance.

During my research of appropriate earthworms I was told to never heat the terrarium from below, such as an under tank heatmat, as earthworms dig deeper to cool off. Does anyone have any input on this?
This method makes the most sense to me as, like I said, heat rises and the ventilation will be at the top, therefore heating the air and being more energy efficient but I'm now not so sure it's appropriate for not only the earthworms but the plant roots.

So if people here agree that heating from below is not a good idea, what's the next best way to apply a little heat. High energy efficiency is key. I certainly don't want my energy bill to skyrocket.

I was thinking about a heat pad applied to one side of the tank but I am unsure how well heat would transmit through glass and into the internals of the terrarium.

My other option would be to have some kind of heat lamp, with reflective hood, pointed down through the top mesh. But this seems very inefficient to me as, in my mind, the warm air would make it so far down the terrarium and then go straight back out the top. A huge waste of energy.

Any ideas/suggestions/tips/experience would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Re: Large planted terrarium plan. Questions.

Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:18 am
by Hawkeye
What kind of species of ants do you intend to house in there? Do you want to raise the temperature because of them?

I have similar plans to yours, so you might find my thread or YouTube clips on the design interesting. I have to deal with the opposite problem of having to cool down the earth to simulate winter. I plan on using a coil heater burried in the soil, and run cold water through it. A solution for you would be to have a small aquarium with a heater inside and run hot water through it instead.

The easiest solution however is a heating lamp like you suggested. You will lose some heat through ventilation but I believe that would be negligible. If you want to increase humidity as well, you'll want to have a lid with a small amount of mesh, which minimises heat loss too. The heat from the lamp should be able to penetrate the top layer of the soil, but leave the bottom cooler as soil is a good insulator.

Hope that helps.

Re: Large planted terrarium plan. Questions.

Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:36 pm
by DuaneB
Hawkeye wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:18 am
What kind of species of ants do you intend to house in there? Do you want to raise the temperature because of them?

I have similar plans to yours, so you might find my thread or YouTube clips on the design interesting. I have to deal with the opposite problem of having to cool down the earth to simulate winter. I plan on using a coil heater burried in the soil, and run cold water through it. A solution for you would be to have a small aquarium with a heater inside and run hot water through it instead.

The easiest solution however is a heating lamp like you suggested. You will lose some heat through ventilation but I believe that would be negligible. If you want to increase humidity as well, you'll want to have a lid with a small amount of mesh, which minimises heat loss too. The heat from the lamp should be able to penetrate the top layer of the soil, but leave the bottom cooler as soil is a good insulator.

Hope that helps.
It will be Anoplolepis gracilipes.

I was hoping that the bottom of the tank would help maintain the humidity. I will be having an automated misted system to boost humdity levels and water the plants but the soil itself will have layers.
Layer 1 being pebbles/clay balls
Layer 2 being some kind of fabric mesh, like shade cloth.
Layer 3 being activated, non treated, charcoal.
Layer 4 being coco coir.
Layer 5 being actual soil.

Any excess water should be collected at the bottom of the tank, in the rock layer, and slowly evaporated back into the soil above and beyond, therefore maintaining humidity levels. Obviously this will need to be calibrated and balanced to ascertain an appropriate amount of simulated rainfall vs hydration for both ant and plant life, hence the 6-12 months planned eco balancing period. I want to be absolutely sure the conditions are perfect before committing to a full colony migration.

From my understanding these colonies require humidity levels between 50 and 70%. The proverbial Goldilocks zone. Not too wet, not too dry.

The main issue with heating is the health of the earthworms. I want to give them the opportunity to 'dive' to cooler temps, if required, to cool off and under tank heating would obviously be counter-intuitive. I guess I'll have to give the heat lamps a shot.

Thankfully, with my planned method of implementation, I'll have plenty of time to experiment and find what works best for all concerned before the ants are introduced. Was really just hoping someone might have some first hand experience using earthworms and live plants combined with slight heating to give some insight into energy efficient heating in the prescribed scenario while maintaining a happy environment for all contained life.

Re: Large planted terrarium plan. Questions.

Posted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:01 am
by Hawkeye
You could always try an infra red heater, but I am not sure how much control you would have over the temperature since you only need to raise it by about 2 degrees.

Re: Large planted terrarium plan. Questions.

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 12:29 am
by Queenzona
im also planning to do the same thing as the both of u but not so complex i just plan to do ants and spring tails.. i live in AZ where a room with out ac is not happening.. my rooms are at about 77f - 79f any ideas how to raise temps of soil to 85+.. i planned on using a 10 - 20 gal fish tank, and in the middle using ether some kind of light plastic box, also had thoughts on a block of Styrofoam in the center to for ants to dig need glass.. also had same concerns about sky high energy bills.. for this i found seed mat warmers with temps gauges. only concern would be how to fix it to the side of my tank and how to get a thermometer in the soils for accurate soil temps?? sounds like the both of you already said heating form below would be a bad idea and the was my original plan..

any ideas

Re: Large planted terrarium plan. Questions.

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 11:54 pm
by Hawkeye
Infrared lights.