Introduction: Growing a Venus Fly Trap Indoors in a Dry Environment

Picture of Growing a Venus Fly Trap Indoors in a Dry Environment

I've been interested in carnivorous plants since I was a kid, but I haven't had any for about a decade. Recently, though, the idea of growing a venus fly trap in my dorm room hit me. There were a few issues I had to overcome before growing one, though. There are three major environmental factors venus fly traps require: high humidity, lots of light, and a nutrient-poor soil watered with distilled water. The soil is an easy problem to solve. Humidity is a bit trickier, but even in a place a mile above sea level as long as the terrarium has relatively small openings for air the humidity stays high enough inside. Light is another big issue. I don't a whole lot of sunlight through my window, so I integrated an LED light source into the terrarium. I have it running on a timer 10 hours a day, so between this and the sunlight I think it's getting the rough equivalent of a day of direct sunlight.

Step 1: Design

Picture of Design

I designed 6 interlocking panels in SolidWorks that together comprise my terrarium design. My design calls for the sides to be laser-cut from 1/4" acrylic. The interlocking design gives it a cool look, makes it a lot easier to glue the terrarium in the right shape, and gives it a better seal when complete.

Step 2: Laser Cutting

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I used a 100-watt Epilog laser cutter my college has to cut the panels from 1/4" acrylic. The design was intricate enough that any other cutting method would take longer and not give as nice results. Using the laser cutter, the panels came out with very clean, accurate lines. This made the final terrarium look very nice and helped the pieces interlock correctly when I glued them together.

Step 3: LED Light Source

Picture of LED Light Source

In the solid model design of the terrarium, I designed a 5X5 grid of 5mm holes in the top panel. I bought a bunch of white LEDs off eBay and glued 25 of these into the holes. By folding the leads of the LEDs down and soldering them together, I wired all of the LEDs in parallel. I wired up this circuit to a 5V phone charger I had around. It would be good engineering practice to wire these LEDs in series with the LED circuit to drop the voltage across the LEDs, but because there are so many LEDs they can handle this kind of voltage without burning out. I plugged the power supply into a timer so it automatically runs for 10 hours a day, hopefully giving the venus fly trap enough light.

Step 4: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

To assembly the terrarium I glued the panels together with Devcon Weld-it. It is a waterproof, flexible glue that dries clear, bonds plastic, and dries quickly. The catch is that it's super toxic, highly flammable, and emits a lot of nasty volatiles when drying, so I had to be really careful using it. With the interlocking design of the panels, I had to be aware of which surfaces would be contacting when glued, and make sure to spread glue on all of them. I glued two side joints at a time, then glued the bottom on. I taped it together to ensure that it would dry in the right shape overnight. I then ran a bead of glue along each inside seam. Even after all this, there were still one or two leaks, but I was able to seal them easily enough with a drop of glue. After a few days of containing moist soil, there don't seem to be any leaks, so the terrarium seems waterproof.

Step 5: Getting the Venus Fly Trap

Picture of Getting the Venus Fly Trap

Believe it or not, you can buy venus fly traps online. I've bought two of them this way, and they seem to survive the shipping process pretty well. The two websites I've used are:

http://www.predatoryplants.com
and
http://www.flytrapshop.com

The plants from Predatory Plants seem to be a bit healthier and older, but the Fly Trap Shop has a bigger variety, so it's a trade-off. The one I got for this particular project was from the Fly Trap Shop because they were the only ones with the Akai Ryu cultivar in stock. I didn't know this until I started researching venus fly traps recently, but there are a lot of different breeds available (when referring to plants, they like to call them cultivars). The Akai Ryu (red dragon) cultivar, shown below, is red rather than the traditional green. In the pictures, you can see that mine is green, hopefully because it's still young and not because they sent me the wrong kind.

Step 6: Planting

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Venus fly traps require some very specific planting conditions. They need soil that has zero nutrients; they're evolved to live in a nutrient-poor environment and derive nutrients from the insects they eat. They also need to be watered with distilled water, as the nutrients in tap water build up over time and can be hazardous. I suspect that purified bottled water (not spring) will work as well, but I've only ever used the distilled water you can by in gallon jugs at grocery stores. I took a mixture of 1/2 peat soil and 1/2 pearlite, soaked it in distilled water in a ziploc bag, and spread out a layer in the bottom of the terrarium about an inch and a half thick. I made a hole to the bottom and

Comments

AlexS267 (author)2016-02-27

May I know the wat to create poor nutrient soil watered with distilled water?

Venus fly trap need soil with poor nutrient soil to grow in amI right to say that?

Does any soil without nutrients works?

MichaelB735 (author)AlexS2672016-07-05

The reason for the poor (ideally "no") nutrient soil is that Venus Fly Traps evolved to absorb their nutrients through flies and other small insects; their roots do not serve any real purpose other than anchoring them in the soil. If you served the plants nutrients or minerals in the soil, they will not be healthy, and could even die, because it is too much for them to handle.

bigerboy654 (author)2015-07-17

Can anyone send me seeds or mini plant because i live in Puerto Rico and no one sell them

mseba (author)2012-02-26

use aquarium lamps for growing plants led lights are not the same.... nice done

mrmerino (author)mseba2012-03-29

I am not totally sure, but I am like 90% sure that chlorophyll just needs red and blue light to survive, green is useless.

mseba (author)mrmerino2012-03-31

not sure but i think u are wrong.... for ex. "flora glo" is a neon specially made 4 growing plants it imitates the natural light... i do not think we are taking about surviving here, its about growing....

SIRJAMES09 (author)2012-02-21

never fails....there's a critic in every crowd. :P

Having said that, people need to realize that this is YOUR instructable, & in this blog, you are going to do things YOUR way. It's ok to disagree, but do it in a respectful manner.

Now for my opinion.

I Love it!!! :) I think the box is like majorly cool looking!!! It's just a wee bit beyond my skills to make one, but I still think it's cool!

I have seen different jars & & other glass containers in places like Jo Ann Fabric & Crafts, and I just wonder if they might work for this....I love terrirriums and have several store bought ones that I either bought or received as a gift....plants like this have always fascinated me but I never knew where to get them or how to keep them alive.

TY Sir for sharing this, this has given me a place to start research on these kinds of plants.

Biotele (author)2012-02-20

I grew a Venus fly trap in a Fountain soda glass sealed with saran wrap for years. I just put that glass next to a window. I never watered it or fed. It grew extremely well. Once it flowered.

skrubol (author)2012-02-20

Most likely your power supply is drooping to where the LED's can survive. If you connected standard white LED's to 5v they wouldn't last long (seconds or minutes.)

Madrigorne (author)2012-02-20

This is a cool box, I can easily scale this design for the type of seedling I want to grow. I would use silicone sealant to seal the box however, it's flexible and not nearly so nasty/toxic. This would be a great multicube tank for growing aquatic plants too. Good instructable.

formellini (author)2012-02-15

venusflytrap must live outdoor

Vlorbschnat (author)formellini2012-02-15

The only issue with growing them inside is that their food supply inside is limited, except during the summer when my room is filled with flies. The way I solve this is to feed mine with little crickets from PetCo. This is my second fly trap growing indoors, my first one grew very well for about 6 months.

formellini (author)Vlorbschnat2012-02-16

this plant must have a winter rest outside or will die in less than a year.
is not a dog and you don't have to feed it.
use only distilled water and leave it outside iven if is snowing or freezing.

Madrigorne (author)formellini2012-02-20

You can give it dormancy in the fridge/freezer for a couple of months, so long as you understand its life cycle. Not everyone lives in a place where an outdoor space is available. As long as you meet the plants needs, it will thrive. I love this terrarium box, its a beautiful creation, self contained biocube good for keeping up the humidity for a plantling, while also offering protection against indoor pets (I have cats). I would use this for an exotic/poisonous seedling started.

ac-dc (author)2012-02-19

Quote: "By folding the leads of the LEDs down and soldering them together, I wired all of the LEDs in parallel. I wired up this circuit to a 5V phone charger I had around. It would be good engineering practice to wire these LEDs in series with the LED circuit to drop the voltage across the LEDs, but because there are so many LEDs they can handle this kind of voltage without burning out."

You may have been lucky, generally speaking it is not true that a person can expect to wire LEDs like this and have them survive. Further, how long have they been running? They may have very short lifespan and quickly reduced efficiency if the LED die runs too hot.

Generally speaking one should never run an LED without current limiting in the drive circuit. That can be a purpose designed switching driver or with budget/simple implementations, more often a series resistor to limit current.

However, a 5V source is fairly poor for white LEDs due to them having a forward voltage around 3.2V. This means you have to drop a large %, 1.8V input which creates heat and wastes some power. It would be better to use a regulated 12V switching wall wart like those often supplied with consumer electronics, then wire parallel strands of 3 LED in series. Next consult the datasheet for the forward drop of the type of LED you use (3.2V mentioned above was only a ballpark # for this size) and plug these numbers into an LED calculator (found via web search engine) to determine the ohms resistance and wattage of resistor needed for each parallel series of 3 LEDs.

With the number of LEDs (and their being 5mm type) it is very unlikely you are giving them the equivalent of a full day worth of sun. Supposing roughly 2 lumens per LED x 25, 50 lumens of light (this would be at ideal drive current which we haven't established as mentioned above), it is only a small fraction of what the plant would receive if it had direct sunlight in a good location. However, only giving it enough light to survive works too! If it thrives too well you'll outgrow the terrarium too soon.

tsinnock (author)2012-02-19

venus flytraps also need soil much deeper than that!!!

lance.plater1 (author)2012-02-19

Nice project, but the only problem I see with four years of growing carnivorous plants is that venus fly traps need to live outside and have a dormancy period where they will live outside in conditions no less than 4 degrees for all winter. Also, VFT's don't like humidity. I leave mine outside in full distilled water all summer where they produce 2" traps and flower profusely. I also leave them outside all winter. Right now your flytraps are dormant and may need to go in the fridge or be placed outside until march or april. Then, you can bring them inside, but no death cubes, just put them in full distilled water under bright lights if you want to grow them inside. Then put them in the fridge for winter or put them outside under the snow (VFT"S live in partially snowy areas in the Appalachian mountains). Really cool design, but if you want your VFT's to produce big traps and stay alive, then leaving them out of humidity and putting them in dormancy is the way to go. A carnivorous plant that would be perfect for that type of terrarium would be a tropical pitcher plant (latin name Nepenthes)

lizardknits (author)2012-02-19

A glass fishbowl with a piece of plexi on top also works, and is much cheaper when you find a fishbowl at the thrift shop.

em21701 (author)2012-02-19

As a college student with access to a laser cutter and solidworks you must be in engineering. A quick real world lesson for you. If you can make all the parts the same except for the top, mass production would cost less. if you make more of these consider making the sides come up to the center then jog out and continue to the top, instead of the tabs and pockets that you have here. Done right you should be able to make all the parts exactly the same, then just add a configuration with vents for the top. All-in-all this is pretty clever.

rhilderbrand (author)2012-02-19

The last step appears to be cut off. All I see is "I made a hole to the bottom and".

Andib (author)2012-02-19

Do you think you could use a baseball case instead? Then just drill holes on top? Like the overall idea though!

fjchorn (author)2012-02-18



Nicely done, do you think the leds will have the right type of light to power your plant?

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