Terrarium Closing

I would like to begin by saying thank you to anyone who  followed along with my learning project.

Starting this project, I was reminded of the self-directed studies I was tasked with for various classes. I was also reminded of a similar project I had completed in EAE201. This made it somewhat difficult for me to choose a topic as I wanted to choose something I hadn’t already done while still exploring my passion of nature. Choosing to explore closed-ecosystem terrariums allowed me to do exactly that. I was able to learn more about the species within the jar, including ones we aren’t always aware of on a day to day basis. I also learned more about the processes present within an ecosystem. Even better was that I was able to learn and build on prior knowledge from the comfort of my home. I found learning online to be relatively easy as it is something I have been doing since high school; however, I enjoyed how this course encouraged us to explore our topic using as many different sources as possible. Exploring various sources such as Youtube, Twitter, TikTok allowed me to learn way more about the terrariums I was trying to create.

Throughout this project I have taken the time to learn from various sources as well as how to use different programs to share my learning with you all. I feel that what I have learned from this class has already been and will continue to be very valuable later on for me in life.

Terrarium Talk Time

The charcoal terrarium is still doing well. I have yet to see Mr. Grub and Sneak since they’re first appearance; however based on the diversity of life flourishing within the jar, I believe that they are still doing just as well as the other species in the terrarium. In the second image, you can see that Mr. Grub has completely burrowed through the driftwood accent I included within the terrarium. I am happy to see that he has taken advantage of the wood in there.





The tiny terrariums have reached a point where some plants have started to break down and decompose. Personally I do not feel they are getting as much sunlight as they had been during the summer thus affecting their ability to maintain plant health as well as the cellular respiratory previously discussed in the post Pondering Plants & Processes. However, there are new plants still sprouting and flourishing which shows that the terrarium is sustainable still.










The aquatic terrarium has also took a turn but I am less sure of what is happening within this jar. You may recall from my Twitter feed that I had posted a video of little worms ‘dancing’ in the jar. Well, they are still dancing, which I am happy to see. Furthermore, theres some other insects within the water that move around pretty quickly. They are much smaller and less obvious than the worms, but they are still there.

Breaking My Most Important Rule

I opened the terrarium…

Did the world end? No… but it could have.

Monday, my parents and I were in our garage examining some wood we have drying for a project. Upon further inspection, we spotted a rather large “grub” laying on top of one of the bark planks. Immediately, I wanted to see what would happen if the “grub” were put into a terrarium.

I quickly ran into an issue as I didn’t have any materials on hand to start a new terrarium. This is what lead me to break my most important rule. I unscrewed the lid from the charcoal terrarium, breaking the sealed ecosystem I had created weeks prior. My dad helped me get the “grub” into the terrarium as I refused to touch it.

                      Dead-wood borer larva

After getting it into the ecosystem, I quickly placed the lid back on before bringing the terrarium back inside to show my sister. Within the first minute of showing her the charcoal terrarium’s new friend, she had already found and downloaded an insect identification app. We used the Picture Insect – Insect ID Pro app for iPhone to help is identify what kind of bug I had just introduced to my ecosystem.  The “grub” is actually a dead-wood borer moth, meaning if the environment within the ecosystem is appropriate, it should transform into a moth. Below is a quick screencast I recorded to silently show the different features and kinds of information that the app offers.

Overall, I enjoyed using this app, as it made identifying the moth larva a quick and easy process. It is important to note that the app requires payment as suggested by the word “pro” in the title. There is a week long free trial one can test before they must pay for a subscription to use it.

Tuesday, I checked back in on the terrarium. The larva had  moved from its spot in the middle of the terrarium to being out of sight. However, one can  see that Mr. Grub, the larva, has been busy at work chewing through the piece of driftwood.

                   Sneak the snail

Wednesday after class, I decided to try and find Mr. Grub and was once again successful. However, based on the newly formed holes on the driftwood, he appears to have made himself a nice home. Although I couldn’t find Mr. Grub, I made a new discovery, becoming more excited than a kid in a candy store. I have managed to foster a sealed ecosystem ideal to keep a little snail alive. This sneaky snail has managed to go undetected by me for almost four weeks. Stumbling across Sneak the snail makes me wonder what other organisms I have yet to notice.

Pondering Plants & Processes

Time for Research

This week I took some time exploring some online sources to learn more about the plant species within the various self-sustaining ecosystems I have created. I also took some time to refresh myself on the various processes taking place within the closed ecosystems.


Wild Mint

I took some time to find a video that showcases how to identify wild peppermint as I was pretty certain this was the plant growing in my tiny terrarium. Based on the identification characteristics provided by David’s Passage, I am now certain I harvested a peppermint plant from the shale river bed.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Plant has a strong minty smell, particularly when crushed. The mint taste will vary depending on the location in which the plant is growing.
  • Peppermint grows along watery places and requires a reliable source of sunlight.
  •  The plant grows straight upwards and has a purple stem.
  • Plant leaves are sharped toothed or serrated around the outside edge. Leaves grow in opposite-side pairs that alternate between north-south and east-west orientation (vice versa) up the stem. Top appears to be a cluster; however upon further examination one while still see the leaf pattern described above.


Common Terrestrial Moss Species (5:37)

The Urban Nemophilist produced a video exploring different kinds of land moss. I created an infographic using Canva to showcase my learning from this video.


Moss Evolution – A Lecture by Ralf Reski (8:36)

BioTechGermany uploaded Reski’s evolution of moss lecture to YouTube. Reski explains that there are around 120,000 different species of moss. They are miniature forests for even smaller species that live within. Moss has existed on Earth for millions of years and throughout this time the species have made little evolutionary progress. This is due to their innate adaptability qualities which enable them to survive drought and continue converting energy. Each species of moss requires varying needs in regards to  temperature, pH, and nutrients.

The Hidden Superpowers of Moss (4:43)

The SciShow briefly explains the different superpowers of moss such as being used medicinally to absorb, sterilize, and heal wounds as well as being a primary source for carbon storage.

Medicinal Moss

Moss was found to be particularly useful during the wars. It served as a bandaid as it has high absorption levels. Additionally, the acidity level of the moss works to sterilize and kill off majority of bacteria.

Moss for Carbon Storage

“Moss bogs are huge reservoirs of stored carbon that play a major role in keeping our climate stable” (SciShow, 3:44). Carbon is stored in moss via the process of photosynthesis. Carbon releases can occur in large quantities if the peat layer is exposed to dry out, resulting in the bog catching fire.

Biogeochemical Cycles

Water Cycle

The terrariums provide a really simple visual for the water cycle. It shows how the water is filtered through the soil before evaporating when the jar is warmed by the sun. This is then followed by a  condensation period where it collects on the glass of the jar. When there is enough condensation,  precipitation occurs in the form of a water droplet descending the side of the terrarium wall.

Screenshot of the water cycle from the Water Cycle Song on YouTube.

Carbon Cycle

Plants play an important role in the carbon cycle as they absorb carbon dioxide to use in the process of photosynthesis. Two critical processes of the carbon cycle seen within the terrariums are cellular respiration and photosynthesis.


Plants acquire their energy via photosynthesis. This is a chemical process involving water, carbon dioxide and sunlight to be used to create energy for plants in the form of glucose for plants. The stomata on plants surfaces allow carbon dioxide to enter the plant to get to the chloroplast where photosynthesis occurs. The plant then undergoes a chemical reaction in which it takes carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight are used to create glucose and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere while the glucose is used to provide energy for the plant.

Photo by casaltamoiola on Adobe Stock

Soil Sequestration

“Soil contains the largest biologically available pool of carbon on the planet” (Soil Carbon Sequestration, 1:44). Carbon soil sequestration is the process in which carbon is stored within the soil.  Carbon provides soil it’s rich, dark colour, known as humus. Humus is essential for enriching the soil which promotes greater crop production, water retention, as well as nutrient cycling and decomposition.

If you are interested in learning more about the carbon cycle, I recommend checking out the following videos:

1. The Carbon Cycle Process (2:57)
2. Relationship between Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration (3:28)
3. Soil Carbon Sequestration (3:09)
4. How Trees Capture and Store Carbon (2:29)

Camera, Time-lapse, iMovie?

For my sixth learning project post, I decided it was time to create a YouTube video. I did so with the help of the app iMovie. iMovie allowed me to upload and edit the speed of the time-lapses I had taken while creating my first water-based self-sustaining ecosystem. I was able to string the separate clips and a picture into a singular video. Then, I went back and audio recorded over the videos to explain the process I used when creating this jar. After some deliberation, I decided to include some background music into the video. I did so by choosing a song from Apple Music and then reducing it’s volume so that it wouldn’t overpower my voice. Being able to change the volume of an audio recording is one of the features I most enjoy about iMovie. Once my video was complete, I saved it to my iPad before uploading it to Youtube via the app.

Considerations for Next Time:
1. Have a larger percentage of the jar containing water.

2. Create a thinner soil layer as it does not need to be as thick as the one is inside this jar.

3.  Try to find a location that grows under-water aquatic plants rather than above-water aquatic plants. Examine the difference above verse under water plants make.

4. Try creating an aquatic jar that contains a piece of charcoal. How does the charcoal affect the ecosystem of the new jar compared to the jar without charcoal?

Jar Size Matters

This weekend I decided to head down to the Lake to create my big terrarium. While I was there, I took the time to acknowledge that the lake is on the unceded lands of treaty territory six. While I was there I took the time to appreciate my relationship to and with the land. Being that I was taking from the land, I made the effort to give back to it and laid down some tobacco to honour the reciprocal relationship we share. I prioritized doing this as I had failed to acknowledge the land I was on creating my tiny terrariums. As a treaty relative and having taken ECCU400, this did not sit well with me. Land acknowledgements are something I need to continuously work on.

I started the large jar in the typical fashion, layering in differing sizes of rock into the bottom. I then started to add some soil. This soil was more a combination of sand, sediment, and clay. After adding close to an inch of soil, I took my charcoal log and stuck it standing upright into the jar. I then finished off my soil layer by filling in around and above the log.

I am slightly concerned about the effect the charcoal is going to have. Majority of the videos I watched where charcoal was used, it was in a powdered form known as activated charcoal. When I looked around town for the broken down form of charcoal, I was unable to find any. However, Home Hardware has charcoal briquettes and ended up having actual charcoal logs as well which is what I decided to go with. Being that I through an entire mini log into the jar, I am interested to see if there is such a thing as too much carbon within a sealed system. Will the plants not be able to filter out the carbon that comes from the charcoal? Will the log reduce the oxygen level or benefit it as there is more carbon that the plants can convert? How will the access carbon affect the other organisms within the terrarium?

After my base was completed, I set out looking for a small piece of driftwood to include. My mom ended up finding the perfect piece in the water, floating not far from the dock. In hindsight, I probably should have left the jar on dry land while I went to retrieve the stick; however, the anxiety one can induce from having their jarrium almost break on a swaying dock is quite a thrilling experience… Ok, maybe not… and luckily, my jar did not break. After safely getting the jar and stick back to land, I decoratively placed the stick into the soil layer as if it were a tree growing out of it.

Then, I set out to add some plants. I started with some moss that was growing on a sandier patch of soil. While walking along the lake’s edge, I found a different kind of moss that appeared to grow on water soil.

I then came across a cluster of wild daisies, clovers, small green-leaved ground coverage, dainty white flowers, and a tamarack sapling. I gently picked off a the head of a clover flower, the dainty white showers, and daisy. I then gently pulled out the ground coverage plant and tamarack sapling, ensuring that the roots came with them. While collecting and transplanting, a ladybug found it’s way into the jar.

I then sealed the jar before coming back home. On the way home I noticed I had a plethora of different insects which I was excited to see. Once home, I added around a 1/4 cup of water to the jar. I chose to go with this amount as it is a much larger jar than the tiny ones I had used initially. Furthermore, being that there is a sapling in the jar, any additional water will be absorbed by its roots.


I am really interested in seeing how this terrarium does due to the different plants I’ve included. I think the plant that I am most curious about surviving is the tamarack being that it is a pine tree. Assuming that it does grow, I am interested to see how the sealed jar affects it’s process. Additionally, I am excited to see how the different bugs interact within this ecosystem compared to my boyfriend’s.


In conclusion, as hinted at by the title, the jar size one is using for their terrarium matters. Jar size is important in the sense of what and how much of it you want to put inside it. Starting with the tiny terrariums was nice as it gave me a chance to learn the process with a small impact before trying something that may have a larger impact on an ecosystem. However, I have determined that I prefer larger terrariums as they are easier to design, decorate, and include elements such as the charcoal log that would not have fit in the smaller jars. Furthermore, with the larger jars, there is more room for plants to grow which in turn may affect the overall health of other plants within the containment.


Teaching Tiny Terrariums

Last Friday, I invited the school age children (grades 1-3) that I work with to create their own tiny terrarium. The project came about spontaneously. It started with me taking each of the kids into our art room so that they could choose materials for a craft they wanted to make and/or teach to their friends that day. During our search for popsicle sticks, we came across three sealable glass jars. This was perfect being that I had three kids to plan for that day. During the excitement of finding these jars, the other two school age children came back into the art room to hear me excitedly exclaim that I had an idea for the craft I wanted to do. Immediately, all of them were curious and I briefly explained to them that I wanted to go outside with the jars to create mini ecosystems from the plants in our yard. I told them that they would be trying a project that I’m doing for my university class, making them even more excited to be doing “big kid school.”

Throughout the rest of the day it was hard for them to contain their excitement as we waited to go outside as just the four of us to create our project. Our opportunity came during afternoon snack: we decided to stay outside to create our terrariums while the other kids went inside to eat. We then embarked on the following journey:

1. First we layered some smaller rocks into the bottom of our jar. I explained that the rocks were important to create a base to help filter the water throughout the jar while providing other areas for bugs to live within the jar.

2. Next we layered in some soil. I invited the kids to add a handful of soil to their jar. I then asked them why it was important for us to have soil, to which they responded “for the plants to grow in!” We furthered our knowledge by learning that the soil has special nutrients (plant food) that help the plants grow big  and strong while providing a home for the roots.

3. After we finished our dirt discussion, it was time to add our plants. We collected some plants from our overgrown flower beds. These were small pieces of plants that either did or did not have roots attached. I explained that the root is important to help the plant grow and without one the plant often doesn’t survive. However, within a closed ecosystem (such as ours) one can use clippings off of their plants. These clippings can then be planted and should continue to grow the plant as per usual. It is important to note that individuals are more likely to be successful with their gardening when the root is still attached to the plant.

4. Once we were done transplanting, we gathered on the grass to add a capful of water to our small jars. Due to the size of the jars we chose and the thickness of the base layers, I explained that the lid could be left on or removed once the kids got home. If they were to leave their lid on, they wouldn’t have to water their plants as it would be self-sustaining; however, if they chose to remove the lid, they would then have to water their plants regularly.

Although this was not an in-depth and planned lesson, it created an opportunity for the kids to learn more about science and the environment in general. For using this project in the future, I would like to spend more time going over the plant cycle, water cycle, and cellular respiration systems. This will foster a deeper learning as well as a hands-on experience that students can then tie there knowledge to.

Tiny Terrarium Talks

Before we begin, I would like to present you with the option of engaging with my learning project this week via Fotobabble and/or this blog post. If you are interested in following along using the Fotobabble, check out Tiny Terrarium Talks here.


Shale Location
Shale and river bed location we visited to make our tiny terrariums.

This week on my terrarium travels led me and my boyfriend to a shale bed. We had decided that we wanted to go on a terrarium date and being that I hadn’t taken him to the shale bed yet we devised our plan. We decided to start with tiny terrariums as to get a sense of what the process was and see how things worked.


Glimpse at the base layer for our ecosystems.

We started our terrariums by layering some loose rocks and shale into the bottom. Then we added a layer of dirt, followed by a layer of shredded leaves, topped with more dirt. We finished our base by adding a some more shale and rock as decorative features.


Mushroom moss.

As we were headed back to the river bed, we came across moss growing on the ground. It wasn’t typical moss as it had mushrooms and fungus growing on it. We decided to both incorporate a piece into our terrariums. My boyfriend’s had a small plant growing out of the moss and mushrooms while mine was mostly mushrooms.


After climbing down the shale ledge and crossing the small river stream, we found some tiny shells to add to our ecosystems. As we explored the river bed I came across a plant that looked familiar. Although I do not advise touching unfamiliar plants, I decided that this plant was the final element that I wanted to include in my ecosystem. While harvesting a sprig of the plant, it started to release the familiar smell of mint, which leads me to believe that I now have wild mint growing in my terrarium.

Bottom of the river bed.

Before climbing out of the river bed and back up the shale layer, my boyfriend and I added a small handful of river water to our glass jars. Then we tightly sealed the lids, put them away for safe keeping and crossed our fingers that they wouldnt break on our way up.


Mr. Beetle

On our drive home from the shale bed, I was examining both of our terrariums. I noticed a beetle had somehow managed to find a new home in my boyfriend’s terrarium as well as a centipede. Although I have thoroughly examined mine, there is no sign of life aside from plant life and creatures to small to see with the naked eye.


Flourishing mushrooms

The next day when I went back to check on our terrariums I was happily surprised. The mushrooms in mine were happily flourishing and not affecting the other plants inside the jar at all. Furthermore, both my green moss and mint plant had taken over night and were still looking healthy. In my boyfriend’s jar, Mr. Beetle and Mr. Centipede had been hard at work rearranging their new home and making tunnels through the base. Both bugs as well as the small plant growing out of the moss-fungus appeared to be happy and healthy.


Wild mint touch jar lid.

Day two of the sealed terrariums has led to some interesting insights. Surprisingly, my green plants still remain unaffected by the mushroom and mold spores present from the leafs and fungus. Furthermore, my mint plant has grown and is now touching the top of my jar lid. I am unsure whether or not I want to break the seal and trim it, or leave it to see how it responds to its sealed environment. In the second jar, Mr. Beetle is still doing well, however, I have not seen Mr. Centipede. As mentioned in the Fotobabble, I’ll be keeping an eye out for him.


Next week, my goal is to make a large terrarium that has a charcoal feature in it. I am curious to see how the terrarium with charcoal grows and sustains itself verse the terrariums without. Additionally, I am super excited to be making a larger terrarium. I would like to include a piece of drift wood within this jar. I think it would be a cute additional feature where plants can grow or insects can crawl (if any happen to find there way in during the process).

TikTok Terrarium Teachings

This past week I have taken to TikTok to get a better sense of what I’m getting myself into as I embark on this learning project.

After scrolling through countless videos, I have been introduced to the different types of sealable containers one can use, the different styles of ecosystems (forest-based vs aqautic-based), as well as the materials one needs to start their self-sustaining terrarium. One can also choose to make a larger terrarium such as in a chest, or a much smaller terrarium which is often referred to as a tiny terrariumFurthermore, some individuals took the time to explain the science behind including certain materials or items within the ecosystem such as the respiratory process of plants or the benefits of charcoal. This ranged from insects to charcoal that both aid in keeping the aquarium clean.

green moss glasshouse hobby collectiono on forest
Photo by Yanukit on Adobe Stock

Being that there are various ways to approach this project, I am interested in creating a couple kinds of terrariums with different materials as well as in different container sizes. I am planning on making at least four terrariums: the first will be moss only, the second will include a mixture of plants, the third will be the same as the second but will include some critters to help out, and the fourth will be water-based. Additionally, I would like to try creating some terrariums of various sizes to see how the space of an environment effects the interaction between items inside it.

If you are interested in checking out TikTok terrariums further, I recommend starting with the following hashtags:

Although TikTok was a great introduction to self-sustaining ecosystems, providing a plethora of information, I am interested in checking out some other resources to gain a better understanding of the terms and processes being used. I feel this will aid me in my project as I work towards developing a more rounded understanding of the topic and it’s related components as a whole.

Self-Sustaining Terrariums

Plants in a closed glass bottle. Terrarium jar ecosystem. Moisture condenses on the inside. Process of photosynthesis. Water vapor is created in the humid environment and absorbed back into the soil
Photo by Evelien on Adobe Stock

My learning project topic for EDTC300 is self-sustaining ecosystems. It is my goal that by the end of the semester I will have learnt enough information about the various aspects of these ecosystems to create my own self-sustaining terrarium.


Throughout this project, I will learn more about what a self-sustaining ecosystem is, the process of creating one as well as the plants that one can use.  I will further my understanding of plants overall by  broadening my research to include uses, benefits and identifying characteristics of the specific plants that can be involved in creating a self-sustains ecosystem.


Photo by Kaelynn LePoudre

Although I do not know much about the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s, why’s or how’s of creating a self-sustaining terrarium, I do have some knowledge about different plants and how to care for them. I am hoping this background knowledge will provide some guidance as I work through this experience.