Why Is Activated Charcoal For Terrarium Necessary?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering if it’s necessary to have activated charcoal for terrariums. The short answer can be yes or no – but only to a certain extent.

Why is using activated charcoal necessary to a certain extent?

Before we get started, let’s make sure you have the right vivarium type. If not, you might want to take a look at the types of vivariums. You’d be surprised.

Over the years, more terrarium owners are advised to add charcoal to their little ecosystem – but why is that?

In this activated charcoal for terrarium guide, you will find:

  • An explanation of activated charcoal
  • The usage and how it goes with terrarium
  • The reason why it isn’t necessary
  • And much more!

Before we get started, check out this video about false bottoms! (Activated charcoal included!)


Are you ready to learn about activated charcoal for terrariums? Let’s go!

What is Activated Charcoal?

activated charcoal for terrarium
Photo by Pixabay

Activated charcoal is a unique dark powder created from stuff like charred bones, the shells of coconuts, or even coal.

For some terrarium owners, this is a substrate for them. If you didn’t know, activated charcoals are very absorbent, which can be beneficial in certain ways.

They can trap:

  • dangerous toxins
  • chemical molecules

How do activated charcoals trap the toxins and chemical molecules?

  • They trap these toxins and molecules because of the charcoal’s electrical charge. Being a negative charge, they pull in a positive electrical charge, which is gas and toxins.

This is one of my favorite facts about activated charcoal. It’s pretty interesting to learn about.

Hopefully, you got something from this brief explanation of activated charcoal – let’s discuss why terrarium owners use them in their ecosystem!

Why Do People Use Activated Charcoal With Their Terrariums?

activated charcoal for terrarium
Photo by Scott Webb

Now one question that comes to mind is “why do people use activated charcoal with their terrariums?”

While it’s not necessary, having activated charcoal can produce many positive results for your mini-ecosystem.

Results for having charcoal with terrarium:

  • Removing unnecessary toxins
  • Absorbs terrible smell
  • Helps with drainage

The list gives you an idea, but let’s go further in-depth!

Helps With Toxin Removal

One of the positive reasons for adding activated charcoal in a terrarium is because of it being able to remove toxins.

That’s right! No terrariums need to live with toxins! 👿

As explained above, the activated charcoal creates negative electrical energy that attracts positive energy, which is toxins.

They can attract toxins and chemicals in:

  • Soil
  • Air
  • Water

This is a great solution for people who aren’t using distilled water for their terrarium. This also doesn’t mean that you should be using unfiltered water.

In one of the guides, I mentioned the reasons why you shouldn’t be using unfiltered water.

Don’t do it. It can cause serious harm to your plants!

Helps Prevent Odor

Yes, that’s right! They can also help prevent odors and the unnecessary smell in your terrarium. You ever wondered why your terrarium smells?

Your terrarium can create a horrible smell with decaying plants and rotting roots. This problem occurs when least expected, so it’s best to be prepared and set-up properly!

The charcoal in the terrarium absorbs not only toxins but the smell inside of your ecosystem.

When your terrarium smells, you absolutely should not depend on charcoal because there is usually more than 1 problem when it comes to this situation.

Problems like:

  • Rotting roots
  • Watering with unfiltered water
  • Decaying plants
  • Overflowing of water

Helps With Drainage

Every terrarium owner knows that having a drainage layer is a necessity.  This helps prevent overflowing of water, which can reduce the chances of having your plant roots rot.

Tip: Never overwater your terrarium. If it’s flooded, I recommend reading the three methods for removing excessive water.

Fortunately, you can use charcoal as a drainage layer, which serves greatly especially for a substrate.

Is Activated Charcoal For Terrarium Necessary?

is activated charcoal for terrarium necessary
Photo by jambulboy

While it’s necessary for some people that are in really terrible situations. It’s not really necessary for people that take proper care of their terrariums.

Yes, I’m talking about people that are watering their ecosystem properly! Why isn’t it necessary?

This isn’t only a yes or no answer – I’ll need to explain to you.

  • Yes, because it’ll help tremendously.
  • No, because you’ll need to change it every few weeks.

The best way for me to answer this is that it’s only necessary when you are dealing with toxins, chemicals, or using the wrong water for your plants.

What you should know about activated charcoal:

  • Activated charcoal can become oversaturated once they absorb enough toxins, chemicals, and gasses.
  • They don’t last forever, so it becomes powerless after a certain amount of time.
  • According to a few bloggers, it’s recommended to be replaced every 2-4 weeks.

Another question I often see is about charcoal from BBQ and fire pits.

Can You Use BBQ And Fire Pit Charcoal For Terrariums?

bbq and fire pit charcoal for terrarium
Photo by Pexels

Using BBQ and fire pit charcoal has probably crossed your mind before, but let tell you this.

You should never use BBQ charcoal for your terrarium!

This isn’t recommended because BBQ charcoal could contain other chemicals (meant for cooking and burning), which can harm your ecosystem.

If you’re in need of the right activated charcoal, you can click here. There are a bunch of other charcoal brands that are perfect for terrarium owners!

Highlighting The Important Details

  • Activated charcoal is only necessary to a certain extent. The answer can’t simply be yes/no.
  • Charcoal is beneficial because it removes toxins and chemicals.
  • It can be a hassle to change because activated charcoal requires changing every few weeks.
  • Having activated charcoal for terrarium can help with drainage.
  • You can’t use BBQ charcoal because it could cause more harm than good to your ecosystem.

From VivariumTips,


Overall, I believe that using activated charcoal for terrarium can improve your ecosystem a lot. If it requires constant change, then it’s best to use it when you really need it.

Remember: Activated charcoal won’t solve all of your problems! There is usually more than one problem.

You shouldn’t depend on activated charcoal to fix your problems. If you’re terrarium smells, then there’s definitely another problem that you should take a closer look at.

Here are some helpful articles related to terrariums:

If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to comment below because this will help future readers!

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