Here is a sample tropical jungle project step by step from start to finish using Living Background terrarium modeling material.
Step 1: Playin’ With The Mud!
Starting with a clean, empty aquarium or terrarium begin squishing handfuls of Living Background material onto the panel of glass which will be your background. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Sometimes it helps to lay the enclosure on it’s back or side when installing and modeling the material.
Shown here is a standard 10 gallon aquarium that has been customized into a “10 gallon vertical” orientation. Since the bottom will contain about 2 inches of drainage material it is not necessary to run the background material all the way to the bottom of the tank, only the bottom of the soil level. Living Background can be thought of as a vertical soil level.
Step 2: Attaching Branches
You can fix lightweight branches and cork tubes in place using Living Background material but you must be sure to reinforce the area with extra material where you add any attachments to ensure they are fixed and there will be enough material around them for the plant roots to grow in and help secure them. If you get Living background material on the side glass as shown just use a napkin and some distilled water to dissolve and remove it.
Note: Very large or dense woods (such as Malaysian driftwood) are much too heavy to attach with only Living Background. Use common sense when deciding if you can affix your wood using only the modeling material.
Step 3: Drainage All the Way
Line the bottom of your terrarium with some kind of drainage material to separate the soil layer from excess water. Generally aim for a 2 inch layer of drainage material to ensure that your vivarium planting soil is not sitting waterlogged and developing anaerobic conditions. Hydroton is shown here but large aggregate works just as well. If you are planning a water feature you can use pea gravel, Flourite or other aquatic planting soil up front near the glass.
Step 4: Adding Planting Mix
Add your terrarium soil planting mixture. If your vivarium design will have one, dress up your water feature with larger river rocks or items to add visual interest for you and the inhabitants.
Step 5: Fill Up & Begin Planting
Fill your water feature and allow the water to absorb where it needs to and then refill until it levels off. Then begin placing your initial plants, mosses shown here.
Step 6: Keep Adding Plants!
Continue to add cuttings and pieces of plants and mosses where you can find space. Try to use plants with varying growth habits and leaf shapes so each one stands out against the others.
Step 7: Mist And Enjoy
Mist your newly placed plants and cuttings at least once every day when you look at it until they root and begin to show obvious new growth. Once they have rooted an occasional misting is always appreciated but not nearly as critical as in the beginning stages.
Note: Not every plant will be happy where you try to place it. Some plants will grow better than others, some may want to die off and still others may attempt to overwhelm those nearby. So be ready to move some plants and trim others to keep them under control as your design grows in.