Vivarium Carnivorous Plant

Overview

A vivarium is an enclosed area for raising plants and animals. The word is Latin in origin, meaning "place of life." A specific type of vivarium, a terrarium, simulates a desert, temperate or tropical habitat. A terrarium for carnivorous plants creates a humid environment that these insect-eating plants find amenable and thrive.

Suitable Plants

Not all carnivorous plants do well in a terrarium. Temperate species that like full sun do not do well in terrariums, while tropical species that like high humidity do especially well. Suitable plants include the Australian pitcher plant (Cephalotus follicularis), bladderwort (Utricularia), butterwort (Pinguicula), cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica), marsh pitchers (Hemliamphora), monkey cups (Nephenthes), North American pitcher plants (Sarracenia), South American sun pitchers (Heliamphora), Sundew (Drosera) and the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula).

Potting Mix

To prevent the potting mix from being waterlogged, a 2- to 3-inch layer of rocks is placed on the bottom of terrariums containing carnivorous plants. Alkali rocks such as limestone or marble are not used. A good potting base for most carnivorous plants is a 4- to 5-inch layer of 70 percent sphagnum peat moss and 30 percent perlite. Pat this layer lightly and cover with a 1-inch layer of sphagnum peat moss.

Humidity and Light

Carnivorous terrariums are enclosed to retain humidity but about 10 percent of the top should be kept open to provide ventilation. Condensation should not be allowed to build up on the sides. Fluorescent light bulbs providing 50 percent wide spectrum and 50 percent cool white light should be suspended 6 to 8 inches above the plants.

Water

Since terrariums are humid, water splashed on the leaves and in the crowns of plants will not dry quickly, inviting fungal diseases. Plants are watered around their roots with care taken not to wet the leaves excessively. Carnivorous plants are watered weekly and any water that collects on top should be removed. Tap water sometimes contains salts that can build up in a terrarium. Carnivorous plants should not be allowed sit in tap water because of an accumulation of salt in the potting mix. To prevent the buildup of salt, use rainwater or distilled water.

Most Popular Species

The Venus flytrap is the most popular carnivorous plant because of its dramatic snapping action when it traps insects. The Venus flytrap likes sunlight. If it is kept indoors, it should be placed where it gets lots of light. It also has a winter dormant season; when it is grown in a warm climate, it is kept in the refrigerator for two to three months a year.

Easiest Species to Maintain

The Cape sundew traps insects the same way as a Venus flytrap but it takes about 15 minutes for the trap to close completely. It does not have a dormant period, and it can tolerate temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Hamburger should not be fed to carnivorous plants. They eat insects; they should be fed insects.

Keywords: vivarium carnivorous plants, terrarium carnivorous plants, growing carnivorous plants

About this Author

Richard Hoyt, the author of 26 mysteries, thrillers and other novels, is a former reporter for Honolulu dailies and writer for "Newsweek" magazine. He taught nonfiction writing and journalism at the university level for 10 years. He holds a Ph.D. in American studies.