Going Big? How to Choose a Large Terrarium Container

When it comes to terrariums, the phrase “bigger is better” rings true in many ways.

After all, a large terrarium has more space, more options, and ultimately more plants (hurrah). But it can also come with more challenges. 

Depending on your needs, the type of large terrarium container you choose can make or break your project. So strap in, as we’re covering everything from colossal carboys to giant tanks, so you know exactly what to look out for.

Go big or go home! Let’s do it.

large terrarium

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Types of Large Terrarium for Plants

Planted large terrariums are just as diverse as small ones, but they tend to follow three distinct types when it comes to containers.

After all, there’s only so much out there that can accommodate a planted ecosystem at scale.

It’s not like there are many oversized mason jars or giant whisky bottles out there, right? (If only…)

You’re generally either adapting what’s already out there, or you’re going the custom route. Which you choose depends on your planting goals and your appetite for challenge.

So, here’s how this might play out.

Bottles

Honestly, you can get some giant bottles if you know where to look.

The kind traditionally used to brew beer and wine (e.g., the carboy or demijohn) can be over 50 liters in volume! They are also somewhat of a terrarium classic.

large terrarium carboy
We spotted this giant carboy in our local garden center (but they do have a whole terrarium range). Here it is on Amazon.

You could call these the ultimate bottle garden containers.

They’re a stunning way to house tropical terrarium plants, but as you might imagine with a bottle, you’re still somewhat restricted by space… and skill. Planting through a narrow opening is one thing, but you’re on to a whole new level of difficulty when your tools don’t reach the bottom.  

Definitely one for more advanced terrarium builders.

Wardian Cases

Speaking of classics, the wardian case was the very first incarnation of the modern terrarium.

Used to transport tropical plants around the world back in the Victorian era, it’s no surprise that they can be scaled to become quite large terrariums. Who knows what kind of monstrous plants needed to be moved to wealthy aristocrats and botanical gardens?

Much like a miniature greenhouse, these elegant containers are a fantastic way to take your terrariums to the next level.

Of course, they’re still a basic glass container, so there are limits to what you can customize or add. But as far as large glass planted terrariums go – wardian cases are an amazing choice.

Great for taller plants that need some real headroom to thrive (like this Blue Star Fern below).

Wardian case
Image credit: LeadHeadGlass on Etsy.

Tanks

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the classic horizontal tank, but there’s also the vertical cabinet style too.

Between these two modern closed terrarium approaches, you have something that can accommodate almost any kind of tropical plant.

Each can be done DIY style by adapting the likes of an Ikea glass cabinet or an old fish tank.

vivarium
Here’s an old fish tank terrarium that my friend Calum has adapted.

Alternatively, many well-known reptile terrarium companies stock these kinds of large tank terrariums (e.g., Exo Terra or Custom Reptile Habitats), but more on that later.

The size makes them versatile and adaptable, each capable of accomodating modern technical systems.

Lighting, ventilation, waterfalls… these tanks can do it all. Plus, it makes it so much easier to be a little more ambitious in your landscape when you can actually get inside!

It’s common to see these large terrariums transformed with elaborate custom backgrounds and hardscape arrangements. 

The clean slate that a tank offers is an attractive proposition for those with an uncompromising vision. There are limits to what you can do in a bottle, trust me.

Finally, these tanks really shine as practical planters and reptile enclosures too (where you’re not fighting the container to get the best from it).

What About Large Terrariums for Reptiles?

Many of the tank-style terrariums can be fitted to accommodate a variety of reptiles.

For example, the standard tabletop Exo Terra terrariums are an excellent fit for little geckos. You can get a vertical tank for the arboreal species or a horizontal tank for the ground dwellers.

But, there are some huge lizards for sale these days.

For the likes of the giant Monitor lizards or Tegus, you’re going to need to go the custom route, and finding these large reptile terrariums for sale is the tricky part. That’s why you can buy some seriously large terrariums for reptiles from Custom Reptile Habitats. 

We are talking about 50-gallon terrariums, all the way up to giant 100-gallon reptile tanks. 

Where to Find Large Terrariums for Sale

Okay, so we’ve outlined a variety of different use cases for large terrariums of different shapes. Now we have to find them.

This can be tricky – seeing as we’re often looking for unusually large, custom, or vintage items – but I do have some ideas of where you might start.

Wrapping Up

There really a variety of large terrarium options once you know where to look.

Which one are you going to go for? Let me know in the comments.

Then for more larger terrarium/vivarium advice (e.g., ventilation, drainage, lighting), check out my Complete Guide to Vivariums!

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