Closed Terrarium vs. Vivarium: Unraveling the Differences for Indoor Garden Enthusiasts

Closed Terrarium vs. Vivarium: Unraveling the Differences for Indoor Garden Enthusiasts


When it comes to creating a slice of nature in our living spaces, both closed terrariums and vivariums offer unique and fascinating ways to do so. However, despite their similarities, these two ecosystems are distinct in function, design, and the type of life they support. In this article, we'll delve into the world of closed terrariums and vivariums, highlighting the key differences to help indoor garden enthusiasts make an informed choice. Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a curious beginner, understanding these differences is crucial in selecting the right setup for your home or office.

What is a Closed Terrarium?

A closed terrarium is essentially a miniature ecosystem encased in a transparent, often sealable container. It’s designed to create a self-sustaining environment where moisture is recycled within the system. This type of terrarium is perfect for plants that thrive in high humidity and low to medium light conditions. Examples include mosses, ferns, and certain tropical plants.

Key Characteristics of Closed Terrariums:

  • Self-Sustaining Moisture Cycle: Water in a closed terrarium evaporates from the soil and plant leaves, condenses on the walls of the container, and then returns to the soil, mimicking the Earth’s water cycle.
  • Low Maintenance: Requires minimal watering due to its self-sustaining nature.
  • Controlled Environment: Offers a controlled environment, making it ideal for plants that need stable conditions.

What is a Vivarium?

The term 'vivarium' comes from Latin, meaning 'place of life.' A vivarium is an enclosure designed to create a semi-natural environment for keeping and observing animals, often including plants as well. Unlike closed terrariums, vivariums are not just about plants; they are built to accommodate various forms of life, such as reptiles, amphibians, insects, or even small birds.

Key Characteristics of Vivariums:

  • Supports a Variety of Life: Designed to house and support animals as well as plants.
  • Controlled but Complex Ecosystem: Requires more sophisticated environmental controls, such as heating and ventilation systems, to cater to the needs of the animals.
  • Greater Maintenance: Generally requires more hands-on maintenance compared to closed terrariums.

Differences Between Closed Terrarium and Vivarium

  1. Purpose and Inhabitants: The most significant difference lies in their purpose. Closed terrariums are exclusively for plants, while vivariums are designed to house both plants and animals.
  2. Environmental Control: Vivariums require more complex environmental controls to maintain the health of the animals, whereas closed terrariums mostly self-regulate their environment.
  3. Maintenance Needs: Closed terrariums are lower in maintenance due to their self-sustaining nature, while vivariums need regular cleaning, feeding, and health monitoring of the animals.
  4. Design and Aesthetics: While both can be aesthetically pleasing, the design of a vivarium often focuses on replicating a specific natural habitat for the animals it houses.


    Understanding the differences between a closed terrarium and a vivarium is key to choosing the right one for your space and lifestyle. Whether you prefer the low-maintenance beauty of a closed terrarium or the dynamic, living landscape of a vivarium, both offer a unique way to bring a touch of nature into your environment.

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