Posted in category: Terrariums.

Gnats and little white balls

A few months ago one of the big box pet stores was having a sale on old-style fish tanks – $1 a gallon. I was beginning to wonder if anyone even sold them anymore as I could not find smaller ones online. At that price I thought I could have a nice open terrarium that would sit right on my desk. Alas, the sale was only on 20 gallon and up tanks but the 5 gallon one was still only around 10 bucks so, I bought one anyway.

I had a plan. I was going to build a little bog in one corner for that beautiful spaghnum moss that Eileen on Amazon used to pack my partridgeberry vine. In the opposite corner was going to go a nice new miniature fern – the one thing I was actually going to ask for for Christmas. The rest was going to be a landscape full of partridgeberry, sheet moss, British soldier lichen (absolutely lovely little plants) and other little bits and pieces of things.

mosquito-bitsI had planned on putting some of those Mosquito bits in the dirt from the beginning. I figured that it’s just going to be a way of life anymore that packaged soil was going to come with fungus gnat larvae. My family talked me out of it. Note to self – ignore family when I know I’m right.

So, my little environment was doing fairly well. Since it was right on my desk, it was getting misted several times a day. Early on I made the boo-boo of not watering it enough. Misting is great but it doesn’t keep the soil moist enough on it’s own. I lost some of the lichen – or at least it was looking pretty depressed. When I started watering a little more heavily, the troubles started.

Sure enough, the hordes started crawling out of the dirt. Stupid little black bugs. EVERYWHERE. My family asked where the bugs are coming from. Oh gee, that would be the dirt you said I didn’t need to treat. sigh. This will be the last time I use bagged dirt. I’m done, done, done. Stick a fork in me, no more squishing evil little black bugs, done. Note to bagged dirt sellers – stop putting that stupid vermiculite crap that gets all brown and gross looking into your dirt and start putting something in the dirt that KILLS the stupid gnat larvae.

The experts say just let the soil go dry and the larvae will die. Problem is when you have delicate moss and lichens in that soil – they don’t particularly care for a dry environment. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but trying to dry out/starve the darn bugs may have sadly killed most of my British soldiers. And, I still have bugs everywhere.

Been squishing bugs for weeks. Tried a bit of peroxide and water. 1 part peroxide to 4 parts water. I watched as the darn little buggers shook it off and kept flying. I found a small piece of an old Mosquito Dunk and tried to make a tea with it. Dumped that in too. Seemed to help for a couple of days, but now I have just as many bugs as I did.

I’ll be putting in an order for the bits tomorrow and some of those sticky yellow traps.

My original closed terrarium lasted a year. I thought I would give it another go but leave it open this time because I wanted to plant moss in it. I could also enjoy on my desk – it’s a very big desk. Having it virtually under my nose would help ensure it was misted every day.

It has some bug activity but nothing like the aquarium. It does however have these patches of little white ball things. At first I thought they were hundreds or thousands of little gnat eggs. Thankfully, they’re not. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find anyone who knows for sure what they are. (Those ugly white lumps were in the soil – hate that stuff it gets all brown and gross looking.)
The most information I could find came from a forum on growing cannabis. That site has an amazingly knowledgeable membership in all things about growing, uhm, weed. But, who am I to complain when they allow us non forum members to learn from their expertise on growing outdoor plants inside. They first started seeing these clusters of white spheres in dirt around 2012. The group consensus is that it is some sort of fungus that is attracted to particularly nutrient-rich soils. Oh great, I manage to make a wonderful growing environment and it doesn’t get attacked by hordes of miserable little flying beasts; it gets invaded by teeny white balls.

Sadly, they are forming on one of the clumps of cushion moss and one of the British soldier lichen clumps. I suspect I’m going to lose both of them. 🙁

I figured I had nothing to lose, so I dumped the peroxide mixture on them too. Don’t think it did much of anything but I don’t think they have spread; for now. If anyone knows what those white balls with fuzz, white spheres in dirt, teeny white balls in dirt (yes, I’m trying for phrases to get this post found in the search engines) . . . If anyone knows what these damn, uninvited white things are, please, please, let me know.

I do think my endeavors are leading me to finding an indoor environment that keeps moss happy. Unfortunately, I’m probably going to have to start the aquarium garden over and maybe the cookie jar one too. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the the bits and yellow traps will eradicate my uninvited guests.

Thankfully, I didn’t put my red stem pilea or miniature ivy plants in either terrarium.

4 Responses to Gnats and little white balls

  1. Maureen Vincent says:

    Planning on setting up a closed aquarium terrarium, however your site is making me pretty nervous reading all the things that can go wrong …lol….!!!! Just found someone to take my fish,stones, heater, filter etc, I thought keeping tropical fish was hard enough !
    The activated charcoal is very expensive, so I will be gathering it up very slowly, though I see you mentioned that one expert said you may be able to just mix agricultural charcoal in through the soil. Problem is I can’t seem to locate any, is it much different to the activated charcoal ? Having said all this, I will probably go ahead, thanks for sharing all your experiences, and suggesting some of the plants that could be used. I live in New Zealand and some things aren’t so easily accessible, I usually spend hours on the phone trying to locate things that I want, especially things that may be a bit unusual. So once again thanks again for your very informative site.
    Yours faithfully, and all the best for your ongoing trialling of these pretty little gardens !

    Maureen Vincent

    • Tiny Green Gardens aka Michele says:

      Thank you so much Maureen for taking the time to leave such a great comment. I wish I had seen it sooner. 🙁

      The purpose of the activated charcoal, is in large part, to prevent mold from forming. I think it’s also used to aerate the soil. One vendor puts the charcoal right into their soil mix. If you can’t find charcoal, maybe put some aquarium gravel at the bottom? The biggest thing with a close terrarium is to not put it in direct sunshine. It will cook the plants and probably make a nice mold bloom too.

  2. marie-laure coste dujols says:

    hi! did you ever figure out what the white fungus looking thing is in your terrarium?

    • Tiny Green Gardens aka Michele says:

      Hi Marie,

      No. I never did learn what they were. They did go away and thankfully, I didn’t find myself overrun by little bugs, worms or any other uninvited critters.

      I wish I had been more scientific about getting rid of them. I tried so many different things that I don’t know what it was that finally killed/got rid of them.

      If you’ve got them too, hopefully you’ll have similar success.

      Happy gardening.

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