Fuzzy Terrarium

The two words I drew for the mashup were: MashupFuzzyTerrarium-6949

Terrarium and fuzzy easily go hand-in-hand. Terrariums have recently seen a huge resurgence since their glory days in the ’70s, as noted by this New York Times article. Nearly all of the terrariums in this new craze house soft, fuzzy moss. Not only is the moss warm and fuzzy, terrariums in general can make people feel warm and fuzzy inside. They are usually beautifully designed, house small wonders and are overall very pleasant, like this one from Twig Terrariums:

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.37.13 PM

Seeing that fuzzy and terrarium go so well together, I googled ‘fuzzy terrarium.’ Immediately, I discovered the dark side of fuzziness and terrariums. Countless terrarium owners struggle with unwanted mold growing in their terrariums. These little ecosystems are difficult to balance and white fuzzy mold easily flourishes in the warm, damp environment.

Rather than ignore the dark side of terrarium fuzz, I decided to embrace it. If mold easily grows in terrariums, why not intentionally grow it? That is the basis for the Fuzzy Terrarium.


Mold on food is usually a sign that it lacks preservatives and is natural. I’m sure many of us are still haunted by the images of the never molding McDonald’s fries in Super Size Me. After 10 weeks in a jar, the McDonald’s fries showed absolutely no sign of molding.  You can check out that video here . The Fuzzy Terrarium is a way for you grow healthy mold as an indication of the amount of preservatives in your food. If you have ever wondered if the fries you get from the corner bodega are any better or worse for you than one’s from McDonalds or other fast food restaurants, the Fuzzy Terrarium can help you decide.

I did some tests to see how much mold would grow on different foods over the course of a week. I compared organic tomatoes from the Union Square farmers market to non-organic tomatoes from the corner bodega. The organic tomatoes, on the right, definitely started to mold faster, but then the non-organic caught up and they produced about the same amount of mold:

RegTom  OrgTom

I also compared never frozen, fresh cut fries from an organic burger joint, Bareburger, to McDonald’s fries. There was very little action in both jars for most of the week, but now some white fuzz has started to develop on the fresh cut fries. I think in a few more days there will be plenty of mold. I knew going into this test that nothing would happen with the Mcdonald’s fries. Even though I knew this was the case, it is scary to see it in person.

RegFries  MacFries

Below is my process for building the case of the terrarium.

First, I made a prototype out of foam core:

FoamTerrarium2-6969  FoamTerrarium2-6971

Then, I laser cut pieces of acrylic. I beveled the edges by hand on the band sander since the laser cutter cannot cut at an angle. I then built a jig so that I could assemble the dodecahedron at the precise angles:

LaserCutTerrarium-6973  TerrariumJig-6988

Next, I gathered typical terrarium supplies including sand, soil, charcoal bits, rocks and little figurines and layered these inside of the case:

TerrariumSupplies-1030157    TerrariumLayer-1080428

Here is the final Fuzzy Terrarium:



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