How to Make a Forest Terrarium

Repurpose an old fish tank into a beautiful terrarium filled with forest features by following this kid-friendly guide.

forest terrarium
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Skill Level: Kid-friendly

A vintage fish tank picked up at a thrift shop houses this simple terrarium. The tank frames a miniature piece of forest, scaled down for ease of contemplation. A small evergreen breaks the box shape, making this terrarium even more stunning. With this step-by-step guide, you'll soon have a beautiful, miniature forest gracing your space!

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Scissors
  • Sharp knife


  • Aquarium, about 15 x 8 x 10 inches
  • Pea gravel
  • Horticultural or activated charcoal
  • Vinyl window screening
  • Peat moss or potting soil
  • Norfolk Island pine
  • Sheet moss—Green-Preserved Moss Mat
  • Small terrarium plants
  • Decorative rock


  1. place horticultural charcoal over gravel

    Pour Gravel

    Pour a 2-inch layer of pea gravel evenly across the floor of the terrarium. Distribute a 1/2-inch layer of horticultural charcoal over the gravel. The diversity of textures will be visible from the outside of the terrarium since the container is clear.

  2. place window screen in terrarium

    Place Window Screen

    Use scissors to cut a piece of vinyl window screen to 15 x 8 inches, or the size of the base of your aquarium. The screen should cover the charcoal and gravel layers and prevent them from mixing with the next layer you're going to add. Place the screen on top of the charcoal.

  3. place pine into terrarium

    Place Soil and Pine

    Add a 1-inch layer of peat moss or potting soil over the screen. Place the pine where you'd like it; we put ours to the side to make plenty of room for our other forest elements. Surround the pine with more peat moss or potting soil.

  4. cut sheet moss for terrarium

    Cut and Add Moss

    Cut the green mat of preserved moss to fit the terrarium. Into one side of the mat, cut a slit that will fit around the miniature tree. Adding in green moss to your terrarium mimics grass in your tiny forest. Place the moss mat inside the tank so it forms the top layer of your terrarium. Open the slit to wrap the moss around the pine.. Make sure to leave a peak of soil under the mini pine tree so it can breathe, and even add a more realistic affect.

  5. cut slits in sheet moss for plants

    Add in Aesthetics

    Use a knife or box cutter to cut small slits in the sheet moss and tuck in smaller plants. To keep it simple and uncluttered, add either one decorative rock, small statue, or woodland figure. This will really bring life to your terrarium, and create a lifelike affect you will surely enjoy.

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