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a miniature garden in an artificial environment, in which small plants and animals may be kept as ornament or for educational purposes. Fish bowls, small fish tanks, large bottles, and carboys are often employed as containers for terrariums; such vessels permit the necessary entrance of light for photosynthesis by the plants, and are suitable for display. The most important aspect of a terrarium is its relatively high humidity, maintained either by using a container with only a small aperture or by keeping the container covered. The humid atmosphere enables mosses and other sensitive woodland plants to flourish.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an enclosure for keeping small terrestrial animals, mainly amphibians and reptiles, and for observing their habits. A terrarium consists of a box with walls that are partially covered with glass or a fine-meshed screen. The bottom has a layer of sand or soil covered with pebbles, moss, turf, and plants. A shallow vessel partially buried in the bottom is filled with water that is periodically changed.

Terrariums are usually lighted and heated electrically; however, natural lighting, preferably direct sunlight, is also necessary. A terrarium must have a constant temperature and humidity level and a flow of fresh air. An open terrarium is a small fenced-off area where animals are kept under natural conditions.


Chernomordikov, V. V. Kak soderzhat’ presmykaiushchikhsia. Moscow, 1950.
Nietzke, G. Die Terrarientiere, vols. 1–2. Stuttgart, 1969–72.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. an enclosure for keeping small land animals
2. a glass container, often a globe, in which plants are grown
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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