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Friday, March 6, 2009

Prevention and Dealing with Pests, Fungus and Disease in Terrariums

Time to discuss something I have largely worked out through trial and error: the arrival or manifestation of pests and fungus or disease in terrariums. The white web-y fungus is the most common disease in my terrariums. It seems to affect: moss I have in quarantine that have not been planted, moss in too small and claustrophobic of terrariums and moss that is not receiving some form of air circulation.

The best solution I have found thus far is to remove the offending chunk of moss from my arrangement or terrarium as soon as I spy it. This is why it is good to pay special attention to your newly planted terrariums. If they don't develop the fungus within a month or so- you can probably assume it will be fine (until the addition of a new plant- then the vigilance needs to begin again).
I have heard that a sprtiz of water with one drop of bleach can help prevent its arrrival but I have yet to really try that on healthy-looking specimens.

I exercise the following methods to prevent the appearance of "undesirables:"
1.) rinsing all containers with a bleach/water mix before planting (with a day or two to dry out).

2.) washing my newly harvested moss while I look for pests or unwanted plants in the chunks.

3.) quarantine new specimens in a "holding tank" for a period of time so I can observe their behavior and adaptation to the terrarium environment.

Washing moss for use in terrariums is an essential step - especially if you are too impatient to quarantine and observe new plants for a while. Make sure to really scrub around in the moss chunks in clean water and remove any weeds, rock chunks, seeds, insect eggs, insects etc.

Two other examples of unwanted pests - a seedling that sprouted in an arrangement and is clearly not a wanted plant- probably a weed. This scenario can illustrate the importance of being familiar with all the plants you planted in an arrangement and how their offshoots or baby plants will look. The pest on the right is a wee wee snail that popped up in my bottle garden. Probably a stow-away. Cute as he is- can't have him hanging around.

Another set of undesirables is gnats - which can speedily overtake the damp and warm soil in a terrarium. I normally try to prevent this by washing my moss, having a quarantine period for all new plants and keeping open-topped terariums covered with a piece of cheesecloth and a rubberband.
A beneficial stow-away worth mentioning: earthworms. An earthworm or two is an excellent and welcome addition to a terrarium - especially large terrariums that will provide the earthworm a nice large habitat. My grand wine jug terrarium is home to a big fella and I am always happy to see him pop up when I am doing maintence in it.


16 comments:

  1. Fascinating. I can't recall those problems with any of mine but fore-warned ... and I like earthworms too.

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  2. Very fascinating, thanks for sharing

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  3. I've been here reading your blog for quite some time. So much great information on terrariums. Do you think cinnamon would work on the gnats problem. It works in my open containers. I just sprinkle a bit on the top of the soil. Welcome to blotanical.

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  4. what if you already have a gnat infestation in a moss terrarium? I've been searching forums and haven't found a context-specific solution to this problem.

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  5. I've been getting terrible fungus problems in my small globe terrarium. I have near a window that is now almost constantly open with the warm weather and even before that, my air unit is directly below the window so air current has never been a problem. I had it set up for over a month with no issues. Large parts of the moss sheet are now dead so I'm going to have to remove it. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi anonymous commenter! If your terrarium received any direct light (aka sun on the terrarium) by being next to your window that may have contributed to high temperatures within the terrarium that can cause mold growth. Terrariums should never be in direct light. A corner across from a window is better - with maybe periodic moments (an hour a week?) near the window if the plants start to turn yellowish.

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  6. My terrariums lately have grown a type of fungus and even tiny mushrooms. Will this kill my irish moss? Is there anything that can be done to "clean" the moss? Or is this harmless?

    Thanks

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    1. Hi Kelly, I do not think mushrooms could kill your moss but if the fungus is web-looking you may be facing trouble. You may try removing the fungus or mushrooms with tweezers or chopsticks to clean it out. Next time you build a terrarium you may want to wash the moss first and watch it for a few days before putting it in your terrarium.

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    2. Mushrooms are the fruiting body of mycelium, which is white and "web-y". Any fungus you see that looks like that is probably mycelium. Whether it will harm your terrarium depends on the species of mushroom.

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  7. I recently made several new terrariums with sheet moss as a filtration layer. All the moss has developed the type of mold shown in your photos. Since it's on the bottom of the terrariums, is there anything I can do about it? I'm also currently at college, so I don't have access to my materials at the moment. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

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    1. If the moss is growing on the bottom of the terrariums it sounds like you may need to start over. The one "last ditch effort" suggestion I can make would be to use bamboo skewers or chopsticks and stab down into the layer to try to disrupt the fungus growth. If you can manage to "stir" it around a bit it might limit the fungus growth(?) but that is a stretch. If the fungus spreads to the plants growing in the top layer you should just dump out and wash the containers with water and a drop of bleach. Best of luck!

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  8. I'm new to this hobby of terrariums/mossariums and have noticed similar growth of fungus/mold in the sheet moss layer. I bought the sheet moss from home depot in a package form and used it without washing. The moisture gets trapped in the sheet moss and now all I see is this white mold growing on it. It was fast, only took overnight to take over the entire sheet moss layer.
    Thanks for all the information on your website, it has been very inspiring for a newbie like me.

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    1. Hi there- thanks for your comment. I have better luck with moss when I break it up into pieces rather than using the whole sheet. That might help next time!

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  9. I just started my terrariums last year of Dec 2013 and it was running fine until i decided to rush and buy some more moss from Petco and i forgot to wish it and now i have web fungi growing on my moss that i anchor to my background wall, they are right wash all plants and moss before you placed them in your terrarium.

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    1. I am sorry to hear of your trouble with fungi on moss. I hope you are able to find a solution.

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  10. Did the cinnamon help? I use it on my orchids but never thought about using it in the terrarium. alice

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