Watering moss terrariums

Dear Moss Rock,

Hi! Let me just say, I’m a huge fan of your blog. Keep up the wonderful work!

Anyway, I have a question about tap water. I have three moss terrariums (all open) and I have been watering for a few weeks with tap water. The moss kept getting progressively browner because my tap water is apparently moderately ‘hard.’ But after some research, I’m starting to collect rainwater and I might even go buy some distilled water.However, will the moss that is already slightly brown bounce back from the damage once I start watering with rainwater/distilled, or should I harvest new moss?

Thanks in advance!


Dear Lauren,

Lauren, there are several factors that could effect my advice, what species you are working with and what you mean by brown.

If the species are pleurocarp, then chances of recovery in your terrarium are fair. If the species are acrocarps, to regenerate, they will need the help of Mother Nature.  To do so,  return to the earth for about three months.

If the color brown is dark brown, then too little light or too much moisture is the cause, if pale brown or tan your likely to have too much light or stress from impurities in the water.

You may want to see the post Knowing your acrocarp from your pleurocarp to help determine which type you are dealing with.

It is important to know that not many mosses will survive indoors for long and despite excellent care, they may be doomed. Bringing mosses in for a visit is a better over-all approach to indoor moss gardening than attempting a long term stabile artificial ecosystem.

As for the water source, rainwater is superior to distilled, a better type of bottled water is one filtered by reverse osmosis, which removes chemicals but not trace elements. Good luck Lauren and be sure to share photos of your creations on our Facebook page! page!

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock


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One thought on “Watering moss terrariums

  1. Sofie Permana

    Hi David,

    I tried to put your moss inside terrarium using organic potting soil (Fox Farm Ocean Forest Potting Soil). Within 2 days the moss change to light brown! The rest of the moss that are in other containers with no soil (same light and water misting) are fine. What happen? Is potting soil not good for moss? Please help! What kind of potting soil is ok for moss? I want to be able to take care of the moss correctly.

    Thanks so much.



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