Is a Venus Flytrap Terrarium a Good Idea?

Is a Venus Flytrap terrarium a good idea? I’ll give you the short answer: NO.

Still thinking about it? Here’s a longer answer: HELL NO. 

Now that that’s out of my system, I’ll explain why.

Issue #1: Humidity


Sarracenia in a terrarium
A good example of what NOT to do!

Contrary to popular belief, Venus flytraps do not thrive in environments with high humidity. Some wetness is fine, but we must consider their original habitat and compare it to the environment we want to create in a terrarium. The flytrap’s native environment consists of open, sunny grasslands and wet savannas. In other words, open space with full sunlight and sandy, peaty soils. A glass enclosure is not going to give the flytrap’s root system enough aeration to survive. It will most likely succumb to root rot and die. Even a terrarium with an open top is going to resemble too much of a jungle environment. It will work fine for some tropical carnivores, but not Venus Flytraps, Sarracenia, and other temperate plants.

Issue #2: Drainage


Drainage in a terrarium is actually an issue with most carnivorous plants due to how they evolved. Most carnivores thrive in soil that is very poor in nutrients and minerals. Their nutrients come from their food. Minerals will build in the soil over time, and if not regularly flushed out with water, will eventually burn their roots and kill them. Terrariums most often do not have drainage holes, so there is nowhere for minerals to be flushed out when watered. This leaves ample opportunity for mineral buildup and shortening the lifespan of a Venus flytrap terrarium.

Issue #3: Heat


Remember when kids would burn up ants and other bugs by holding a magnifying glass over them under direct sunlight? The same thing can happen to a Venus flytrap in a terrarium. It’s true flytraps love all the direct sunlight they can get, but the glass or plastic walls of a terrarium is going to amplify that heat to deadly amounts. I remember one summer here in California, we had several days  of over 100 F (38+ C) temperatures. The hottest it got was around 110 F (43 C). My traps (always outside) survived, but had some burn damage. In my experience, they can tolerate around 100 F for a short period as long as they’re watered enough. But even if a Venus flytrapterrarium is indoors, the temperature inside it can go way up in direct sunlight.

Issue #4: Dormancy


Dormant Venus Flytraps often hug the ground and turn dark, intense colors.If you read my post on different types of carnivorous plants, you know that a winter dormancy is essential to a Venus flytrap’s longevity. A terrarium is certainly not going to allow for that. Sure, you can shorten the photo period to simulate a seasonal change, but this is basically a two-part issue with heat. In a terrarium, you cannot lower the temperature enough to trigger a winter dormancy. Ideally, you need temperatures between 50 – 32F (10 – 0 C). This means you would have to abandon the terrarium entirely for about four months out of the year, which defeats the whole purpose of having one.

Issue #5: Different needs from other plants


Potted Venus Flytraps
A non-porous pot with a drainage hole and tray is ideal for flytraps.

This is the issue that culminates the first four issues mentioned. While some carnivores will fare excellently in terrariums, these environments will just not suit the needs of Venus flytraps. Many enthusiastic new growers will want a diverse collection of carnivores all in one location to admire. They’ll put Venus flytraps in a terrarium with butterworts, tropical pitcher plants,  and throw in some sundews for good measure. While this will look pretty and exotic for a few weeks or months, all of those plants have very different soil, light, and humidity needs. Throwing them all in one tank will simply not work for the long term.

I hope this post clarified on the reasons why a Venus flytrap terrarium is not the best idea. But don’t worry if you had your heart set on carnivorous plant terrarium!  In Peter D’Amato’s The Savage Garden, there is a whole section on terrariums and what types are best for certain plants. I wrote about terrarium-friendly plants briefly in this post. Personally, I’m planning on making a greenhouse-style terrarium for tropical plants as soon as I get a tank and enough space in my house!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any further questions!

14 comments

  1. Kelley says:

    Thank you for saving me a lot of heartache and frustration. I received a Venus Flytrap as a gift and the packaging said to use a terrarium, glad I saw this post before making one!

  2. Kat says:

    Your blog has been very helpful! It also explains why I never had fly traps last long… I’ve been doing everything wrong! Poor little guys… Im going to have to relocate my current fly traps to save them from having the same fait as the last batch. 🙁

    • Maria says:

      Thank you for the comment, Kat! I’m glad my blog has been helpful. It’s never to late to learn, and flytraps can surprise you with how quick they can recover!

  3. mary whalen says:

    Would love to converse with you. I love my flytrap, Clarence, but there is many conflicting info. I can’t figure it out. Got him through the Colorado winter,; want him to thrive. Any help is appreciated.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Mary! I know CO has had quite a bit of snow recently. I think ideally you should keep the plant in the brightest, sunniest window in your house, and supplement with 4-8 hours of artificial light until the freezing temperatures are gone. Then move it outside, starting in shade, and gradually move to full sunlight. Best of luck!

  4. Hope says:

    Do you have any suggestions for what to put them in? (Other than the pot pictured in fact #5?)
    I don’t get much for bugs at home, so I want to give them pin head crickets, but it would be better if they had a some what enclosed container, so that the crickets can’t get out, and my cat can’t get in.
    I was thinking of something like a critter keeper (plastic bin, with a lid that has plenty of air flow, but would help with humidity) but after reading your article, I’m thinking not such a great idea? But I live in write the dry climate, so I’m wondering if it’ll need the help?
    Also, I’d like to get a light for my little plant. Not sure it’s getting the light it needs, and I don’t have many windows where I live. (sorry for so many questions, I just want my little guy to thrive)

    • Maria says:

      Hi Hope! Any plastic pot will do fine. I don’t suggest a closed container, even in a dry climate. My climate has very low humidity, almost like a desert, and my traps are all very happy.

      You can use tweezers or foreceps to hold the cricket so the plant can seal around it. For keeping the cat out, you can put a wire cage over the plant.

      As for light, anything that is daylight balanced will work well.

      Hope that’s helpful, good luck!

  5. Leah says:

    I recently put a terrarium together containing a short sarracenia at the back and a VFT at the front. Theyre not in a proper terrarium, its actually more of an open top glass container. The sarracenia is doing really well, loads of new growth. But the VFT seems to have gone down hill, a few of the traps have died off recently which ive removed. But as its at the very front of the container, it gets plenty of light and air so any ideas what the issue may be? Its just gone down hill suddenly. Theyre in proper carnivorous plant medium which stated it could be used for both plants. It is about to flower though, there are two buds developing on very tall stems, could this be why?

    Thanks in advance!!

    Leah 🙂

    • Maria says:

      Hi Leah. It could be a number of things, hard to tell without a photo. It could be the flower, but also temperature and water. In a glass container it’s possibly getting too hot. They should also be watered with distilled/deionized water if you’re not already. If you recently made this container within the last month or so, traps often die back when adjusting to new environments. It just takes time for them to adjust to new conditions.

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