Is There a Difference Between Aquarium and Terrarium? Exploring the Key Distinctions

If you’re a fan of indoor gardening, you’ve definitely heard of both aquariums and terrariums. They’re both wonderful additions to any living space, but they serve very different purposes. While many people use the terms interchangeably, there are some key differences between the two that make each one unique.

So you might be wondering, what exactly is the difference between an aquarium and a terrarium? On the surface, they may seem pretty similar. After all, both of these indoor gardens are designed to showcase and sustain life. However, when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that there are some important distinctions between them. Whether you’re a seasoned indoor gardener or a newbie looking to get started, understanding these differences can help you decide which one is right for you.

While aquariums and terrariums have different features and functions, they both have the potential to bring beauty and tranquility to your home. Whether you prefer to create an underwater wonderland with an aquarium or a lush mini-jungle with a terrarium, there are plenty of options to choose from. So if you’re ready to dive into the world of indoor gardening, it’s time to consider whether an aquarium or a terrarium is the right fit for you.

Types of aquatic animals to keep in aquarium vs. terrarium

When it comes to choosing between an aquarium and a terrarium, the type of aquatic animals you want to keep should be a major factor to consider. Generally, an aquarium is suitable for fish and other aquatic species that live in water, while a terrarium is suitable for reptiles, amphibians and other land-dwelling animals that require high humidity and a well-ventilated environment.

  • Aquarium Animals: If you are interested in keeping fish, there are many types of fish that can thrive in an aquarium. Freshwater species such as guppies, tetras, cichlids, and angelfish are some of the most popular freshwater fish to keep in an aquarium. Saltwater fish, on the other hand, are more challenging to keep as they require specific water conditions and diets. Some of the popular saltwater fish that are kept in aquariums are clownfish, tangs, and gobies.
  • Terrarium Animals: If you want to keep reptiles and amphibians, a terrarium is the way to go. Some of the most common terrarium animals are geckos, chameleons, snakes, iguanas, and turtles. When choosing a terrarium animal, it’s essential to research the specific requirements of the species you are interested in to ensure you can provide them with the proper living conditions.

It’s important to note that there are some aquatic animals that can thrive in both aquariums and terrariums. For instance, some species of turtles and frogs spend much of their time in the water but still need a dry area to rest and bask. In such cases, a partially aquatic terrarium can provide the perfect habitat.

How to set up and maintain an aquarium

Setting up and maintaining an aquarium can seem intimidating for beginners, but with proper research and preparation, it can be a simple and enjoyable process. Below are some key steps to follow:

  • Choose the tank size: The first step is to decide on the size of the tank. The size of the tank will depend on the space available and the number and size of fish that will be housed in it. A general rule of thumb is that each inch of fish requires one gallon of water.
  • Choose the location: Once the size of the tank is determined, choose a location that is near a power source and away from direct sunlight and drafts.
  • Purchase equipment: Purchase the necessary equipment, including a filter, heater, thermometer, substrate, decorations, and test kits to monitor water quality. Don’t skimp on the quality of equipment as it can affect the health of your fish.

After setting up the tank, it’s important to maintain it to ensure the health and well-being of your fish. Here are some key tips:

  • Regularly check water parameters: Test the water regularly for pH, ammonia, and nitrate levels. This will help ensure the water is not toxic to your fish.
  • Change water regularly: Perform partial water changes of 10-20% weekly to remove waste and keep the water clean.
  • Clean the tank: Clean the sides of the tank and decorations regularly to prevent the buildup of algae.

By following these steps and maintaining your aquarium regularly, you can provide a healthy and thriving environment for your fish.

How to set up and maintain a terrarium

If you’re interested in creating a small indoor garden or bringing a piece of nature into your living space, a terrarium could be a perfect option. Unlike an aquarium, a terrarium is designed to house plants, not aquatic life. Here are some tips on how to set up and maintain a terrarium:

  • Choose the right container: A glass container with a lid is preferred for a terrarium. This is because it traps the moisture and creates a miniature ecosystem. Choose a container that’s big enough to accommodate your plants and has enough space for air circulation.
  • Select the plants: Choose plants that are compatible with the environment you want to create. Consider the lighting, temperature, humidity, and soil requirements of different plants. Popular terrarium plants include ferns, succulents, and mosses.
  • Add the soil: The soil should be well-draining and should not retain too much moisture, which can lead to fungal growth. Mix potting soil with sand or pebbles to create a well-draining mix that will allow the roots to breathe.

Once you have set up your terrarium, maintaining it is not very difficult:

  • Watering: Terrariums are designed to be low-maintenance, which means they don’t require frequent watering. Depending on the plants you have chosen and the environment you’ve created, you may need to water your terrarium once a week or even less often. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to mold and bacterial growth.
  • Light: Provide your terrarium with bright, indirect light, but avoid direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can create hot spots and cook the plants.
  • Cleaning: Clean the glass container regularly to avoid the buildup of algae or mold. Use a damp cloth to wipe the inside and outside of the container.

With these simple steps, you can enjoy a thriving terrarium in your home or office. It’s a beautiful addition to any space and can be a great stress-reliever.

Differences in lighting requirements for aquarium and terrarium

When it comes to lighting requirements, aquariums and terrariums have distinct differences. These differences are vital to keep in mind when setting up your tank for light-sensitive plants and animals.

  • Aquarium Lighting: Aquarium lighting is primarily focused on simulating the sun’s rays, so it’s essential to provide the right spectrum of light. Aquariums typically require Full Spectrum Lighting (FSL) that mimics the sun’s natural light cycle. FSL is necessary for the propagation of live aquatic plants found in modern aquarium habitats. Fish also benefit from this lighting as it encourages natural colors to radiate from their scales. The hours of light per day in an aquarium should range from 8-10 hours.
  • Terrarium lighting: Typically, terrariums require less light than aquariums. The condition and light environment needed depend on the animal or plant you keep in the terrarium. Unlike aquariums, terrariums are in a containment that does not have as much moisture as aquariums, making it crucial to have a climate-like condition to match your specie’s required energy source. For a terrarium, a fluorescent bulb with a UVB range of 5-7% will suffice. However, depending on the animal or plant in the terrarium, it may require lower or higher UVB range, and the hours of light per day can range from 10-14 hours.

Additionally, it’s crucial to note that placing a light source close to your aquarium or terrarium can give off plenty of heat, which can change the internal temperature of the tank. A thermometer can be used to check if the tank’s temperature is within the range necessary for the livestock the grow.

Aquarium Lighting Terrarium Lighting
Spectrum of Light Full Spectrum Light (FSL) mimicking the sun’s rays 5-7% UVB range and depending on specie
Hours of light per day 8-10 hours 10-14 hours
Heat emission High Heat Emission Low Heat Emission

Ultimately, the main difference between aquarium and terrarium lighting is the type of light used and how much of it is required. Understanding the differences ensures that your plants and animals get the best possible growing conditions, and the tank can thrive.

Differences in temperature and humidity control for aquarium and terrarium

When it comes to setting up and maintaining an aquarium or a terrarium, it’s important to understand the fundamental differences in temperature and humidity control for each environment. Here we’ll explore the essential factors that make each one unique.


  • Water temperature is the primary concern when setting up an aquarium. Most fish and aquatic plants require a specific temperature range to thrive, and it can be crucial for their survival. This may necessitate the installation of a heater or chiller, depending on the needs of the inhabitants.
  • Humidity is not a significant factor in an aquarium as the water itself will create a natural humid environment. However, if your aquarium has an open top, it’s important to ensure proper ventilation to prevent excess moisture from building up.


  • The temperature requirements for a terrarium will vary depending on the type of plants and animals being housed. Generally, terrariums designed for tropical species will require a higher ambient temperature, while those for desert species will require a drier, warmer environment. Terrariums can be heated using controlled lamps or under-tank heaters.
  • Humidity control is crucial in a terrarium as it can quickly become too dry or too moist. Watering is the most common method of increasing humidity, and some terrariums will require misting throughout the day. Additionally, ventilation can help to regulate humidity levels by releasing excess moisture.


As you can see, the main difference between the temperature and humidity control for aquariums and terrariums lies in the way each environment is set up to meet the specific needs of the inhabitants. Understanding these differences will allow you to create the ideal living conditions for your plants and animals and keep them healthy and happy for years to come.

Aquariums Terrariums
Require water temperature control Require ambient temperature control
Do not require additional humidity control Require humidity control through misting or watering

By understanding the crucial factors that make each environment unique, you can create a successful and thriving habitat for your aquatic or land-based plants and animals.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Owning an Aquarium vs. Terrarium

When it comes to choosing between an aquarium and a terrarium as a pet owner, it is important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of each. While both offer unique experiences, there are significant differences that may influence your decision.

  • An aquarium allows you to take care of fish, which can be calming and relaxing to watch. Additionally, some studies suggest that owning and observing fish can have a positive impact on mental health.
  • A terrarium, on the other hand, offers the opportunity to care for plants and small animals such as reptiles or amphibians. This can be a rewarding experience for those interested in gardening or animal husbandry.
  • One benefit of owning a terrarium is that it can be less expensive to set up and maintain compared to an aquarium. Plants in a terrarium require less upkeep than fish, including less frequent feeding and cleaning.
  • However, if you choose to add animals to your terrarium, the cost of buying and maintaining supplies for them may offset the cost savings compared to an aquarium.
  • An aquarium can be more aesthetically pleasing than a terrarium due to the beautiful colors and movements of fish and underwater plants.
  • One drawback of an aquarium is that it requires more upkeep than a terrarium. Aquatic plants and fish require specific water conditions to survive, and the water and filtration systems must be carefully monitored and maintained.
  • A terrarium, while requiring less maintenance, still requires careful attention to lighting, humidity, and ventilation to ensure plant and animal health.

Ultimately, the decision between an aquarium and a terrarium depends on your interests, budget, and lifestyle. Both offer unique benefits and drawbacks, and it is important to carefully consider which one is the best fit for you and your home.

Category Aquarium Terrarium
Cost Expensive to set up and maintain Less expensive to set up and maintain, but animals can add to the cost
Aesthetics Beautiful colors and movements of fish and underwater plants Less visually impactful than an aquarium, but can be a unique centerpiece in a room
Maintenance Requires constant monitoring of water and filtration systems, frequent cleaning, and specific water conditions Requires careful attention to lighting, humidity, and ventilation to ensure plant and animal health

Overall, both aquariums and terrariums can be an enjoyable and rewarding addition to your home. Consider your lifestyle and preferences to determine which one would be the best fit for you.

Common misconceptions about aquariums and terrariums

When it comes to aquariums and terrariums, there are a lot of common misconceptions that people tend to have. In order to better understand these unique habitats, it’s important to debunk some of the most common myths surrounding them.

  • Myth: Aquariums are solely for fish and water-based animals.
  • While it’s true that aquariums are often used to house fish and other aquatic animals, they can also be used to house land-dwelling creatures such as turtles or crabs in a semi-aquatic setup. These setups are known as paludariums.

  • Myth: Terrariums are only for reptiles and amphibians.
  • While terrariums are often used to house reptiles and amphibians, they can also be used for plants and even insects. Some people even create miniature landscapes in their terrariums to mimic different environments, such as a rainforest or desert.

  • Myth: Aquariums and terrariums require a lot of maintenance.
  • While it’s true that aquariums and terrariums do require some maintenance, the amount of time and effort needed depends on the setup and the animals or plants housed within it. With a properly balanced ecosystem, regular cleaning and maintenance can be minimal.

Another misconception that people often have is that aquarium and terrarium setups are expensive and require a lot of space. While some setups can be costly and require larger tanks or enclosures, it’s possible to create a simple and affordable setup for a variety of animals or plants.

It’s important to keep in mind that aquariums and terrariums are unique habitats that require research, planning, and maintenance. By understanding some of the most common misconceptions and educating yourself on the specific needs of the animals or plants in your care, you can create a thriving and beautiful setup in your own home.

Is there a difference between aquarium and terrarium?

1. What is an aquarium and what is a terrarium?

An aquarium is a container that houses aquatic animals and plants. A terrarium, on the other hand, is a container that houses terrestrial plants and sometimes small animals.

2. Can I keep fish in a terrarium?

No, you cannot keep fish in a terrarium. Terrariums do not have a proper water filtration system, oxygen supply, and other necessary features for fish to live and thrive.

3. Can I keep reptiles in an aquarium?

Yes, you can keep some species of reptiles in an aquarium. Aquariums that are designed for reptiles typically have a secure lid, ventilation, a heat source, and a UVB light to provide the necessary environment for the reptiles to live and thrive.

4. What are some examples of aquatic animals that can live in an aquarium?

Some examples of aquatic animals that can live in an aquarium include fish, shrimp, snails, crabs, and jellyfish.

5. What are some examples of plants that can be kept in a terrarium?

Some examples of plants that can be kept in a terrarium include ferns, mosses, succulents, and air plants.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about the difference between aquariums and terrariums. It’s important to understand the differences in order to provide the proper care and environment for the animals and plants you plan to keep. Whether you are a seasoned hobbyist or just starting out, we hope you found this information helpful. Please visit us again soon for more articles about animal care and conservation.

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