If you’re looking to get into building terrariums, one of the first things that’s probably coming to mind is cost. Terrariums are cool and all, but how much is it going to cost to get into this hobby?
From the data we collected, a low budget terrarium should cost around $30 if starting from complete scratch. The good news is, you can build a terrarium without spending a dime if you wanted to. However, there are some quality of life expenses that may make your new hobby a little more enjoyable even with a small budget of $10-20.
If you are planning out how much you can budget towards a terrarium, this post will help clarify that for you by listing out all the options you can choose from and whether or not those options are worth it. Hopefully this post will give you enough data to make a decision about how you’re going to budget for your next terrarium.
Table of Contents
What are the basic barebones components for a terrarium?
Before we begin our exploratory pricing data analysis of terrarium commodities (terrarium costs in other words), we should probably first understand what are the bare bones basics that you’ll need to build a terrarium. That’s going to give you a picture of what exact items are must-haves and what are nice-to-haves.
By the way, I wrote another blog post dedicated entirely to this topic that you can check out here. But if you just want a quick summary, I’ll cover the essentials of what you need to know here.
Long story short, there are five basic components to a simple terrarium:
- The container
- The drainage layer
- The separation material
- The substrate
- The plants
Let’s walk through each of those components one by one.
The container is pretty straightforward. It’s the thing that holds your entire terrarium together. The container choices are pretty versatile. As long as it’s transparent and large enough for the plants you want to use, you should be good to go. If you’re not sure about the size, the rule of thumb is bigger is better.
The drainage layer does what the name implies: it’s a place for water to drain into. You also have a lot of choices here, but rocks and pebbles are my go-to.
The separation material it’s kind of like a support to the drainage layer. It’s purpose is to prevent plant roots from growing into the drainage layer and sitting in stagnant water. It also prevents the substrate from falling into the drainage layer.
If you want some more info about the drainage layer and the separation material, I have a huge article you can check out here that goes through that in detail along with a table of materials you can choose from.
The substrate is another word for the stuff that your plants are going to grow in. For most cases, that’s going to be soil, although there are a few other options out there that you can choose from.
The final piece to a terrarium is your plants. That should be pretty straightforward, but plant selection should be considered carefully if you don’t have an intuition for what plants will work in a terrarium.
In a closed terrarium, you will want to choose plants that enjoy high humidity and indirect sunlight. Moss and ferns come to mind. An open terrarium on the other hand will be more accommodating for plants that enjoy arid conditions and direct sunlight. If you want to grow succulents, I highly recommend you grow them in an open terrarium. Check out this article if you want to learn more about the differences between opened and closed terrariums.
If you can get your hands on those five components, you should be good to go with your terrarium. However, if you want to grow a moss only terrarium, you can probably do without the drainage layer and separation material.
If you want to create a hyper minimalist terrarium, really all you need is a small patch of moss and something to put it on. That’s pretty much it.
In fact, one experiment that I’ve tried is to just keep a piece of moss in a plastic bag and see how long it lasts. As of writing this post, it’s been a few months since I started the experiment and so far my moss seems to be surviving (although maybe it’s looking a bit brown).
How much do the basic terrarium components cost?
Now that we have an idea of what the basic components are, now we can take a look at how much each of those components is going to cost. For your convenience, I put together a table for you to quickly reference rough price ranges on the low end and also on the high end for each component.
|Component||Possibly $0?||Low budget||High budget|
From the table, it looks like the low budget terrarium is going to cost about $30, while one on a high budget could go up to $165. These are by no means definitive, absolute price cut offs, but rather just ballpark estimates for you to get some idea of how much it’s going to cost you. You can always push those numbers lower or higher if you’re mixing and matching low and high budget components.
So let me do a little bit of explaining as to where those prices came from.
For the container, you’ll probably be using some kind of clear plastic container on the low budget end. You might not be able to find cheap, clear plastic containers on their own, but you might be able to recycle one from something like a container of peanuts. If you have some cash just spare, you may even be able to get your hands on a glass container. The high budget $50 number is roughly what you would spend if you wanted to get a large glass container.
Check out this article for more info on container recommendations.
For the drainage layer, the low budget end will be using something like landscaping rocks, while on the high budget end you might want to use activated carbon for some extra purification and odor reduction in your terrarium.
For the separation material, the low budget end will consist of some kind of plastic with some holes poked open for water drainage. Low budget also includes if you’re using bulk materials that you have bought previously.
On the high budget end, that’s mostly considering if you end up having to buy something in bulk in preparation for future terrariums. In that case, the more terrariums you build, the lower the cost per unit. But separation layer materials in general don’t cost too much, so it won’t have too much of an impact on your total terrarium budget.
I actually wrote another article on this with full price comparisons of all separation layer and drainage layer materials in case you wanted to see price breakdowns for the drainage layer specifically.
The substrate is also another component that you’re probably going to get in bulk, so the per terrarium prices are probably going to be lower than the numbers listed in the table. On the low budget end, you can buy a bag of potting mix soil for pretty cheap at Home Depot. Substrate material on the high end of the budget include more niche substrate materials like coir and vermiculite.
The last and probably the most price variable component is your plants. If you are looking to buy plants, most likely you’re going to spend around $10 on the low end for maybe a small succulent or a bundle of moss on Etsy. This number is probably going to get into the high budget range if you want to buy a greater diversity of plants or something a little bit more niche for your terrarium.
In total, the price for a terrarium will range from about $30-150 assuming you went out and bought every single component rather than recycling something you already own.
But don’t let those numbers stop you from building a terrarium. If you’re on a tight budget, you can actually build a terrarium for free, which I’ll get into below.
How to make a $0 native DIY terrarium
If you notice in the table above, there’s a column that says “possibly $0” with all the values marked “yes”.
What I wanted to get across with that is that you can actually build a terrarium without having to spend any money at all. If you’re resourceful, you can probably get all of the components by recycling/repurposing things lying around your house or gathering them from nature. No shopping necessary.
So let me quickly walk you through how you can build a terrarium for free.
For the most part, this will involve either gathering things from nature or reusing some spare materials you have at home.
For the container, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something that you have at home. Most likely you can find either an empty plastic container or even a used glass bottle or jar for your terrarium. As long as it’s transparent and retains its shape, most likely you should be good to go. The only consideration I would have is if the opening is large enough to fit your hand or your tools in if you have any.
While you’re at it, you should look for any pieces of plastic you have lying around. Plastic bags or saran wrap will probably work for your separation material. Those airbags that come with Amazon packages could also work. For my first terrarium, I used a thin, foam material that was sitting in my recycling bin. Pretty much anything will work as long as it fits in the container and won’t decompose in water.
For the rest of the materials, you’re going to need to visit a local park or trail to gather them. There’s a good chance you might be able to get some from your backyard if you take a quick look.
For the drainage layer, you just need to find some rocks or gravel. You can probably find some near a small river or lake. You can also get some from a gravel road that you might come across. Sand is another option that you can try.
For the substrate, you can use soil. That should be pretty easy to find either from a backyard or from a local park or trail. If you want to be extra safe, you can sterilize your soil by baking it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 F. That’s going to kill off any bacteria and unwanted pests hitting a ride in your soil.
Your plants can also be gathered from nature. If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll easily come across moss just growing in the cracks of the sidewalk or on a branch somewhere on a trail. It should be pretty abundant in most areas. You can also pick up any small plants that you see on the way that you think might fit in your terrarium. Just be aware that it’s possible your plant could outgrow your container if it has a large growth potential. You can judge this by taking a look at what kind of fully grown plants of similar species are nearby.
Once you’ve gathered all the materials, all that’s left is to put it together. I have another blog post about that that you can check out here.
How much will terrarium tools cost?
Tools are by no means absolute requirements for terrarium building. But if you’re looking to take your hobby to the next level, it may be worthwhile to invest in some tools that will make your life easier.
By the way, I have a separate post on this very topic that you can check out here. That one goes into a little bit more detail than I’ll cover here.
Here’s a table that lists out all the tools that you might want to consider and how much they’re going to cost.
|Description||How much value will I get?||Low budget||High budget|
|Terrarium tool kit||Best||$10||$20|
|Microfiber hand towel||Medium||$10||$20|
|Total (not including kit)||$50||$121|
In the table, I listed low and high budget ranges as well as how much value you should expect to get with each tool.
At the top of the list for best bang for your buck and what I personally recommend for you is the terrarium toolkit. The kit has many of the tools listed in the table all bundled together into one convenient package. That saves you a lot of time from having to shop around and it also saves you a lot of money compared to buying each tool individually.
However, there’s still something to be said for buying tools individually. There’s some chance with buying a kit that you’re going to end up with very cheap, low quality tools that might fall apart in just a short amount of time. If you’re willing to spend a bit more money on the essential tools, they can save you some headache later on.
Probably the most important set of tools that you’ll need are the scissors and tweezers. These will be necessary if you want to work with a terrarium that has a very small opening or is hard to reach into.
The tweezers will allow you to pick out any decaying or dying plant parts in your terrarium. No matter how well you take care of your terrarium, inevitably you’re going to get some of these overtime. It can be helpful to remove these from a terrarium to prevent any spreading of rot and remove any odor causing organic material in your terrarium. Best of all, it allows you to do this without disturbing your other plants too much.
Scissors kind of go hand in hand with tweezers. If you run into any issues with rot or if certain parts of your plants start dying off, scissors will help you to clip those off smoothly. The ones I recommend are designed for an aquarium and have a curved set of blades that allow you to reach around corners.
The other thing that I recommend you consider getting is a spray bottle. Water distribution is a pretty important part of watering your terrarium. Having a spray bottle will ensure water spreads out evenly in a mist rather than in small localized areas as droplets. That’s going to help a lot with minimizing your chances of localized areas of over-watering.
The other two components that you can consider getting are the funnel and the microfiber hand towel.
The funnel will help you get drainage layer material and a substrate into your terrarium smoothly rather than pouring it in directly. It makes it a little bit easier to keep things tidy and it lets you add material in with some precision instead of just going all over the place.
The microfiber hand towel is going to be helpful when wiping off condensation from your container walls. Technically, you could just use a paper towel, but a dedicated hand towel can come in handy and saves you some hassle.
The rest of the tools in the table are more like nice to have and I personally don’t think they’re entirely necessary. But you can look into getting them if you want to or if you have a specific problem/nuisance that you think it could help solve for you with your particular terrarium.
How much does a premade terrarium cost?
If you’re not so much interested in doing the work behind building a terrarium, you may be considering purchasing a terrarium of your own.
Here’s a table that lists out some prices that I saw online:
|Pokeball Terrarium||$60||4" diameter sphere||Etsy|
|Moss Sculpture in a bell jar||$520||7" diameter x 12.5" height||Etsy|
|Geometric moss terrarium||$290||4.3"x4.3"x9.5"||Etsy|
|Hanging orchid terrarium||$58||4.25" diameter x 12" height||Etsy|
|Half moon glass orchid terrarium||$130||11" diameter||Etsy|
|Botanical moss terrarium sculpture||$2,200||16"x9"x10"||Etsy|
|Moss terrarium||$50||3" diameter x 5" height||Etsy|
|Moss terrarium||$11||2" diameter x 4" height||Etsy|
|Light bulb terrarium||$26||hand sized?||Etsy|
|Skull moss ball terrarium||$48||4.5" wide x 5.5" tall||Etsy|
|Open moss terrarium||$100||11" diameter x 5" height||Etsy|
|Moss terrarium with stone||$78||4" diameter x 7" height||Etsy|
If you do some browsing online, you’ll see a handful of listings for fully completed terrariums available for sale mostly on Etsy. But only a handful. Along with some listings for reptile terrariums, which I’m guessing isn’t exactly what you’re looking for.
But the few that are listed are definitely spectacularly designed and handcrafted by a pro terrarium builder. If you just want something that will look pretty on your dining room table, this is the best way to do it. The downside is, you don’t get to partake in the enjoyment of building a terrarium of your own and it’s going to cost a little more than if you had done it yourself (but not that much more)
There’s a pretty big range of prices for premade terrariums. On Etsy, I see most prices ranging from roughly $30-70, and a few outliers upwards of $300 and even one at $2,200. That one looks really nice.
The terrariums that you’ll see hovering in the two digit range are typically fishbowl-sized terrarium bowls. They’re relatively small and will look nice as a table decoration.
Anything that you see hitting the few hundred dollars or more mark are typically large terrariums with a very fancy design. Honestly, they’re more like a piece of art than your everyday terrarium.
How much does a terrarium kit cost?
Aside from the few premade terrariums, most of the listings that you’ll see online are for terrarium building kits. Again, most of these are going to be listed on Etsy. However, I do see a decent number of terrarium kits listed on Amazon as well, but a lot of them are marketed towards kids (which is great if you want your kids to build a terrarium).
|DIY Terrarium Kit||-Bark|
|Kit with two hanging glasses||-Round glass container|
-Pear glass container
-Soil blended with activated charcoal
-Mini dino decorations
|Marimo moss ball kit||-Pebbles|
-Round glass vase
-2 marimo moss balls
-Sea fan and shells
|LED terrarium kit||-Gravel|
-Moss & lichens
|Prism succulent kit||-Geometric glass container|
|Moss terrarium kit||-Glass jar + lid|
-Tools (tweezers + scissors)
-Tools (brush + stick)
-Mini dino decorations
|Terrarium Kit||-Tools (brush)|
-Moss & lichens
-Soil blended with activated charcoal
-Mini dino decorations
|Terrarium Kit (for kids)||-LED lights|
-Science learning for kids
|Terrarium Kit (for kids)||-Soil|
-Light up lid
-Mini dino decorations
-Science learning for kids
If you’re not opposed to just a little bit of DIY work or just want to get started building a terrarium without having to do too much research and hunting for materials, a kit might be the best solution for you.
A kit comes with all the materials nicely bundled together just ready for you to assemble it. They’ll usually also come with some instructions for you to follow along.
Terrarium kits will be cheaper than premade terrariums and might even save you a little bit more compared to buying specific materials individually, especially if you just want to make one terrarium. The prices that I see on Etsy are ranging from $10 on the low end up to $30 on the higher end. The price is going to vary depending on if you want a kit with the container or without.
How long does a terrarium last?
In theory, your terrarium should last forever. The oldest terrarium in the world is about 5 decades old and is still thriving. That terrarium is owned by David Latimer who hasn’t watered it since 1972.
In terms of value that you’ll get from your terrarium over time, it’s pretty high. You get to watch a living thing in a bottle grow over many years to come with just a little investment of your time in the present.
I’ve looked around on different gardening sides and I’ve seen mentions of plants that last for just a couple of years. But I think a terrarium is more like an ecosystem that constantly replenishes and recycles itself over time. That factor alone could be why terrariums have been found to last many years with very minimal maintenance. Especially if built properly and properly cared for.
That’s pretty much all I have for this blog post. I hope that gave you enough data and info to make a decision with your budget. If you’re interested in building terrariums, feel free to check out some articles listed below to learn more.