Your glass terrarium container is arguably the most important choice you’ll make in your project.
It can dictate the entire approach, from what you put in it to how you build (and where you put it).
Not to mention there are so many different aesthetic directions you can go in.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the best container options, with a fabulous mixture of unusual and classic picks.
So let’s raise a glass!
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The 8 Best Glass Terrariums
It’s only right that we start with the iconic geometric terrarium.
A Pinterest legend, easily recognized by an angular metallic frame with sleek glass panels.
That’s where the consistent rules stop, though. Geometric terrariums come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from pyramids to hexagonal chambers and everything in between.
- Some containers have a missing panel – those are ideal for open terrariums.
- Some containers have a hinged lid, making them suitable for closed terrariums.
One of the main things to double-check when purchasing is that your piece is watertight; many cheaper pieces are more decorative than functional.
Believe me, sludgy soil water leaking all over your furniture is no fun.
Fishbowl / Fish Tank
Fishbowls and fish tanks are ideal candidates for terrariums.
Their literal function is to contain an ecosystem (albeit aquatic), and they’re super easy to source, both from stores and secondhand.
Even though I’ve smooshed them together in one container category, they are undeniably quite different.
So let’s take a closer look.
The Beginner Option – Fish Bowl Terrarium
There’s no container quite as beginner friendly as the fish bowl.
With a nice wide opening, it’s easy to get your hands in, making for much easier planting.
Of course, fish bowls don’t typically come with lids, so if you’re going for a traditional closed build, you’ll most likely need to pick up a lid separately.
I thrift most of my glassware (lidlessly), so I get custom acrylic lids cut to fit.
The Advanced Option – Fish Tank Terrarium
If you want to create a large terrarium, a fish tank is the ultimate go-to, and they’re ideal for more advanced setups.
You can easily slide in a background or attach some lighting.
You can usually find an old tank being flogged on Facebook Marketplace, so I’d recommend starting your search there.
These are probably my all-time favorite glass containers, and one day I’ll get my hands on one!
It’s quite hard to pin down a clear difference between Carboys and Demijohns because they were created for the same purpose – storing and fermenting liquids.
But, they originate from different places and cultures, so they have different visual qualities.
- Carboys originated in Persia. They’re usually transparent and typically more cylindrical.
- Demijohns originated in France. They can be transparent but are often shades of green, and the shape is generally more curved and rounded.
These containers became extremely trendy when terrariums gained popularity in the 60s and 70s (known as bottle gardens back then).
We often get emails from people who’ve inherited living pieces from around that time, and they’re almost always in a container like this.
They’re absolutely STUNNING, but there are downsides.
Because of the narrow opening, it can be very challenging to plant and style (you’ll likely require telescopic tools).
They can also get eye-wateringly expensive – up to $300 and beyond for a large vintage terrarium.
If you’ve got the cash to splash, check out the demijohns and carboys on Etsy.
A more budget-friendly option is, of course, the humble jar terrarium.
And, of course, they come with an inbuilt lid, so that’s the number one issue taken care of there and then.
These projects have a size limit, so they’re perfect for someone wanting a dainty terrarium piece.
Or, if you want to make more of a statement, why not snap up a 4-pack of mason jars for cheap on Amazon and create complementary terrariums designed to look cute together?
Grouping smaller terrariums together looks great.
To the untrained eye, a Wardian case can easily be mistaken for a geometric terrarium, but it’s an entire container category in its own right.
In fact, it was the original terrarium from the 1800s – invented by accident and then developed into a revolutionary product that paved the way for our modern terrarium obsession.
At first, the Wardian case was functional; it facilitated the transport of live plants across continents where previously wasn’t possible.
But it wasn’t too aesthetically pleasing – it looked like a wooden triangular box with slits in to allow for light.
With the transportation of tropical plants came more of a cultural revolution. And by that, I mean the Victorian upper class became obsessed with tropical plants.
With this obsession, Wardian cases went from a functional tool to a super fancy and ostentatious piece of homeware.
Next to the runway, serving Beauty and the Beast vibes, we have cloche terrariums!
A terribly classy way to get your terrarium fix.
Despite the previous image, finding one with a base deep enough for traditional terrarium planting is tricky.
A deep base it’s so uncommon I’d specifically recommend choosing that one if you want to plant your terrarium terrestrially.
But, this does provide a lovely opportunity to go all in with a mossarium concept (moss doesn’t have roots, so there is no need to plant), or you could play with even more
challenging exciting methods like epiphytic planting where the plants’ roots are directly planted into a hardscape piece – rock or wood.
Another one for the upcycling heroes; bottle terrariums are a fantastic option.
And as a bonus, you might just have to polish off a bottle of your favorite tipple to acquire one (oh no…?).
To make it easier (well, to make it possible), specialist tools are a must – thin aquascaping tweezers like these are best.
I also strongly recommend 30 minutes of yoga and meditation before you get stuck in because bottle terrariums are not for the easily frustrated.
Me and terrarium tribe owner Dan gave it a go once… I’m not going to lie to you; there were tears and tantrums.
Of course, terrariums needn’t be grounded; some were born to fly.
Ideal for those who want to make a statement or are simply running out of windowsill space.
It should go without saying that choosing a container like this is a significant DIY structural commitment, and there are certain risks and challenges involved with levitating glass.
Still, the look is worth the logistical work.
And there are plenty of directions to take it in. You could use a sturdy terrarium container and hang it up with a macrame hanger.
Or you could get a purpose-built container.
Air Plants are also a solid choice; they don’t need to be watered as frequently as most plants, which is ideal for an awkward-to-reach piece. (I always find that my plants kept up high get neglected more).
See our hanging terrarium 101 for more advice.
That’s It, Amigos
Whew, this one was bigger than I expected. I hope you found the perfect glass terrarium for you. Let me know if I missed anything in the comments.