Classroom Bog In Aquarium - Knowledgebase Question

Genesee, ID
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Question by vic3
October 3, 2004
I would like my students to make a bog in a 10-gallon aquarium. Do you have a "recipe" to follow?

Thank you!

Answer from NGA
October 3, 2004
Bog Terrariums are one of the most fascinating mini-environments to create and will allow you to maintain plants such as Venus Fly Traps, Sarracenias (North American Pitcher Plants), Drosera (Sundews), Utricularias (Bladderworts) and Pinguicula (Butterworts). They are fun to watch and educational as well. Relatively easy to set-up, they are not difficult to care for as long as a few basic requirements are met. The following steps will guide you through setting up your own classroom mini-bog:

Step 1 Choose the container. A five or ten-gallon aquarium works well. Once you gain some experience you may chose to set up a larger size tank. Whatever size tank you choose, be sure that it does not leak as it will need to hold water. You will also need a glass lid that will cover about 90% of the top. The tank should not be completely sealed.

Step 2 Fill the tank with moist peat moss to a depth of 3"-4". If desired, washed sand can be mixed with the peat up to a ratio of 1:1 to aid drainage.

Step 3 To create a more natural look, small pieces of Cypress driftwood can be placed in the tank to add interest. The depth of the peat substrate can vary a little as well, creating slight hills or valleys, but bogs are generally flat and appear most natural in that way.

Step 4 Plant the selected plants into the peat. Make a hole large enough to accommodate the rootball of the plant and set the plant, removed from it's pot, into the hole so that the crown (the point where all of the leaves emerge) is sitting at the same level or slightly above that which it was growing in the pot. Gently firm the substrate around the plant's roots. Continue with the rest of the plants placing taller ones toward the rear of the tank and smaller ones near the front. Three or four plants will fit nicely in a five-gallon tank while twice that many can fit in a ten, depending on the species selected. enough and they increase in size. Eventually, some of the Sarracenia will need to be removed as they get too tall for the terrarium.

Hope these basic instructions help you create a successful bog garden for your classroom! joys of owning carnivorous plants but needs to be done in moderation. Only small, soft-bodied insects should be fed to the plants. Overfeeding can kill a leaf and if done in excess can actually kill the plant. Never feed such things as hamburger, raw meat or large insects as they are not digestible and will quickly rot the trap. Generally, the plants subsist on only a very few meals to supplement the photosynthesis that they also perform. Sarracenias and Venus Fly Traps can be fed small flies, spiders and crickets while the Sundews and Butterworts will only be able to handle tiny fruit flies, gnats and mosquitoes. As the plants grow they will produce new leaves/traps to replace the older ones. These older leaves should be trimmed off as they turn yellow and brown to avoid disease.

As winter approaches, the temperate species will want to enter dormancy. This cannot be neglected as the plants will eventually run out of energy and perish if forced to continue grow throughout the year. The only exceptions are the tropical species of Sundew and Butterwort. Dormancy can be handled in one of two ways depending on how your bog terrarium is set up. If all of the plant species in your bog are temperate you can simply allow most of the water to evaporate until the substrate is just moist. If you have a mix of temperate and tropical species then you can remove the tropical species to another bog terrarium to continue growing through the winter and then allow the bog terrarium to go dormant as described above or remove the temperate species to over-winter individually depending on which type you have more of.

After dormancy has ended, bring the terrarium back out into gradually brighter light and warmer temperatures and keep the soil moist but not wet. Once growth resumes, the water level can be brought back up to its normal state. At this time the plants may flower if large

Step 5 Apply a layer of long-fiber Sphagnum Moss across the surface of the peat approximately one-half to three-quarters of an inch deep. Carefully tuck it around the base of each plant.

Step 6 Using either rain water or distilled water, fill the tank to about 1" below the surface of the moss.

There is relatively little care needed in maintaining the bog terrarium once certain requirements are met. Probably the most important need is that for bright light. Most bog carnivores would normally grow in full sun, therefore special attention needs to be paid to this detail. A single fluorescent bulb over the top of the tank may be sufficient if the terrarium will also receive some supplemental light from a nearby window, however a double fixture would be much better. If using light from a window to help illuminate the tank be sure that it does not overheat as direct sunlight through the glass can build up quickly and literally steam the plants inside. When using fluorescent lights they should be kept on for a similar amount of time as the natural day length as this helps the plants to regulate their annual cycle. We do not generally use or recommend plant growth type bulbs unless they are used in conjunction with a cool white or similar type bulb as they are not bright enough on their own. Under no circumstances should incandescent bulbs be used as they produce far too much heat and will quickly burn the plants.

The terrarium will need to be kept moist/wet at all times. Basically you need to always keep the water level just about an inch below the surface of the moss. Never use anything other than rain water or distilled as the plants are especially sensitive to dissolved minerals and chemicals that are found in most tap water and would quickly build up to lethal levels in the confines of the terrarium.

Feeding the plants is, after all, one of the greatest

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