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DIY IKEA Detolf Terrarium

I can't even begin to express how grateful I am for all the support I've received for my DIY terrarium. To be honest, it wasn't all that time consuming and if people are THAT interested in purchasing a premade one from me, I would up for it, but since it is all glass, the purchaser would have to be local to me (Northeastern, PA).


First things first, you'll want to start off by choosing the cabinet you want to work with. You can pretty much make anything work, as long as you seal it properly. I chose to work an Ikea Detolf, since it doesn't take up too much space.

Although I wish I went with the black, I can't complain about how it turned out. I'm pretty sure the black was sold out anyways, or at least I tell myself that to make me feel better.


Now let's get down to business here.

We're going to simply start by building the cabinet. You'll notice that it comes with glass shelves, but if you're building a terrarium like I did, you might only use 1 of them or even none. When building the cabinet, you'll notice a metal piece, which is used to place the shelves on. You can either choose to put it in (like I did) or you can leave it out. I decided to put it in for a bit of additional support, along with knowing the plants the plants can use it to climb up, especially when I add moss to it.

Once the cabinet is built, it's time to seal it! You'll need:

I love, love, looove the time-lapse feature for this purpose. Here, I'm sealing the top and bottom pieces, along with any gaps with silicone. At this point, I didn't have a caulk gun, so I was making due with a plastic knife and my fingers.

I actually decided to use one of the shelving pieces for the bottom front of my terrarium. This was to ensure that any substrate and décor I place down there won't come crashing out when I open the door. Right after this, another Lowe's trip was made to grab a caulk gun because... no thank you. 🤪


Next up: Decor

You can grab whatever your heart desires, but these are two examples of what I have in mine; cholla wood and Galapagos jungle wood.

This next part was trial and error based, but ya live and ya learn, when winging it. I used the insulation foam to fill tiny gaps that were too wide for just silicone, but then I also tried using it to mount my décor. PRO TIP: You could use it to mount it in there, but lay your cabinet on the ground, so gravity doesn't mess with your masterpiece.

Now, it's time to dry!

I let the foam and silicone cure overnight and went on to brainstorm how I was going to get my plants in there. That's when I decided I was going for a rocky/mossy vibe, so my brown nursery pots will be perfectly camouflaged amongst when all is said and done.

Another tip when adding in the nursery cups, use the silicone as an adhesive, first. After the silicone set for a bit, I went in with the insulation foam and went over the pot, as well as alongside to fill any gaps and to make sure it is secure. This is also a step where you want to make sure you have the cabinet lying down. You can see in the video that one of my pots was giving me a run for my money. **VERY IMPORTANT** make sure you DO NOT put foam underneath the pot. You'll want those drainage holes open for proper drainage of your babes. We definitely don't want them rotting on us!


I'd like to note that I used silicone as an adhesive throughout the entire process. It's exactly what I used in the next step, when covering the back wall. This part gets messy and is the most time consuming, but it adds the perfect, natural element for detailing.

You'll need silicone (again) and I had peatmoss already lying around. As always, lay that bad boy down and go to town! You'll notice that I've upgraded from spreading silicone with my fingers to a rubber kitchen spatula. Here, I'm just spreading silicone and packing peat moss down to give it that natural, grungy look.

Since a lot of silicone was used and the I smothered it all, I let it cure for about a day.

After that, I went in with the insulation foam and filled the entire back glass (which I forgot to film), along with the bottom panel to give it a rocky look, once covered. You can see that the foam is a cream-ish color naturally. After I sprayed it, I went in with the peat moss and smothered it, to dry within the foam. Then, I just touched up all bare spaces with silicone and peat moss.


Moss It Up!

This was a bit tedious, but I went in with some blonde moss along the metal shelf poles to blend them in. Silicone as adhesive, pinch some moss down, then wait for it to dry.

After I finished that, I turned the cabinet on each side and used silicone to adhere moss to the empty glass sides.


Finishing Touches!

I went in with a few different mosses, where ever I felt like something was lacking.


I grabbed these lights from Amazon.

The cord was very distracting to me, but Petco had a moss vine and it blended perfectly! I also grabbed some reindeer moss and more terrarium moss to fill in the back. I ended up screwing in the lights to the top of the cabinet, since the tape wasn't the strongest.


I purchased these fans to mount up in there to get some air circulation.


Instead of a humidifier (in case I happen to get some reptiles), I purchased the Exo-Terra Monsoon Solo II Programmable Misting System from Petco. It is just a mister, as if you were manually misting your plants. It is not a consistent flow of water.

There is a tiny hole at the top of the cabinet and when I saw it, I knew the tubing would fit perfectly.


Last, but not least...

Fill that gorgeous masterpiece up with your favorite tropical plants and even reptiles, if you wish! Just PLEASE make sure you do your research on which critters would thrive in that environment. Not every type will be a match. Better safe, than sorry!


I can move plants in and out and they grow. I'm also able to swap out any substrate I may need to. I filled the bottom of the cabinet with River Pebbles and orchid bark to help keep the mixture airy, yet humid. If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out!

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1 Comment

Chey Derp
Chey Derp
Jan 26, 2021

Hi! Thank you for the tutorial, this is so great! I have a couple questions - Do you have any concern for water gathering at the bottom? Or is this not a concern due to the river rocks/orchid bark diffusing the water back into the air? Also, do you have any concern for mold or fungus growth?

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