Making A Shinto Kami Jungle Terrarium

Hello there, it’s been about a month since our last project, and for good reason. I’ve been on a deep-diving adventure into Japanese culture. There are so many amazing things about that country I’m not entirely sure where to start. This Japanese-influenced bantamarium experience is going to be broken into a four-part series and this Buddha/Shinto kami jungle terrarium is going to be part one.

If you aren’t familiar with what a bantamarium is, I strongly recommend you take a look at this deep dive I put together. In a nutshell, it’s a concept I’ve been working on where we bring a diorama to life. The goal is ultimately to make photo-realistic vivariums anyone, no matter the skill level, can make!

Bantamarium: Everything You Need To Know

Putting Buddha In a terrarium

Ok so, I went to this project with an extreme novice level of awareness about Japanese culture and its ties to Buddhism. Like any typical American, my naive mind went into this thinking Japanese decor will just be a few Asian-themed buildings, maybe a rock garden, and a Buddha terrarium… I’m definitely putting Buddha in a terrarium!

Buddha Terrarium

Now when I look back at the start of this experience, after weeks of research and a newly found religion, I feel a sense of humility I haven’t felt in quite some time. With that being said, a mini-series consisting of four living dioramas barely scratches the surface of the level of depth I think the Japanese culture deserves.

This series is going to focus on one aspect of their culture… religion. One of the two popular religions will be the focal point of our theme… Shintoism. (So yes, there will be more series about Japan to come later in the future).

Making A Shinto Kami Jungle Terrarium

Our first project of the series is a really good introduction to the theme and overall idea I wanted to capture. It’s also a fairly easy vivarium to make compared to what’s to come in the lineup. Since I really had my mindset on a Buddha terrarium, I comparably found a way to incorporate the idea into a more Shinto-influenced tank. We will be making a terrarium that has a kami sculpture in it.

Shinzo Kami Terrarium Decor

For those wondering why it looks a lot like a Buddha Sculpture and is not familiar with what a kami is… Shintoism is a type of religion closely influenced by many aspects of Buddhism. For instance, many types of kami statues were closely modeled to resemble similar elements found in Buddha statues. We will get more into this as we go… For now, let’s make a terrarium!


Get The Complete Kit

This project is now available as a complete kit! Check out available sizes:

Glowing Campsite Terrarium Kit

Shinto Kami Sculpture Decor Construction:

Shintoism is based on the idea that Spirits live in all the things around us. Elements like water, wind, and fire would have a spirit according to Shinto. In nature, almost anything could possess a spirit as well… like trees, rocks, or even fish.

These Spirits are referred to as kami. A simple, yet not completely accurate, way to view kami is to think of them as a type of demi-God or deity. Our model was designed to mimic an old sculpture made during the Heian period (794 – 1185).

At the time this tutorial was written, I offered these models unpainted and unassembled. we are proud to announce that our terrarium decor has been improved since then and is now available completed with color. If you so choose to add personalized details, these models are still paintable. Just remember to properly seal them with an aquarium-safe sealant and allow it to cure before use.

Making Japanese Jungle terrarium decor:

For this terrarium, I chose to go with the smaller vase as it seemed like the perfect proportion to build around my tiny shinzō decor (fun fact: shinzō is what the Japanese call sculptures or paintings of kami deities). Look at you so far… You came here thinking you were just going to find another basic tutorial about terrariums…

Before adding any substrate to the vase, I arranged a few lava rocks in a donut pattern to act as a pedestal for my Shinzo. I hot glued the rocks together but I don’t think this is really a necessary step. Once the rocks are centered in the vase, I filled the center with black aquarium substrate.

I started the substrate off with about half an inch of sand. This felt like a nice contrast of color to build my base layer. The rest of this scape is going to be pretty dark so this is a nice way to help add character to our overall design.

Next, I’ll go with a good amount of black aquarium gravel. I want to offset this layer so that the back of the jar has about two and a half inches of gravel and the front has about half an inch. This slope not only creates depth but also helps make the scape appear larger when viewing from the front.

Once the substrate is in place I place Shinzo in to get a better idea of how I’ll build the terrarium around it. I’m a huge fan of black Lava rock and think that it will blend perfectly with the gravel. I’m stacking it in a way that looks natural as if the rocks created the gravel sediments the plants eventually grew on.

Japanese Jungle Terrarium Plants

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’d know my obsession with moss. They’re tiny, easy to maintain, and come in an infinite array of styles. For this terrarium, I decided to mix in a few species to create a very urban, abandoned look.

Starting with my classic Barbula Sp. Moss, I sprinkled it around and made sure to fully carpet the front. This is a lush, carpet-growing Moss that will create a natural green floor. I usually end up with a fully carpeted mat after a few weeks of acclimation.

My next choice for moss is Phoenix Moss. This moss is a really good mid-ground moss that resembles palm bushes in wild jungles. I’m curious to see how this particular moss grows against the others since it grows considerably slower. I tried to place this closer to the base of the sculpture and also around the midground area.

I had some Thuidium Delicatulum laying around from another project and felt like its fern-like appearance would be perfect for the background of this terrarium. This fern moss adds a lot of personality to the enclosure as well as the dense foilage you would expect to find in an untampered jungle.

Jungle Terrarium Animals

My usual cleanup crew (springtails) went in after I completed the build. These guys do a great job keeping the mold at bay. I was able to capture a tiny red millipede from my backyard and thought he would really capture the essence of the wild nature scene I wanted to create.

Mini Campsite Terrarium Care

As with most of my miniature terrariums, this tank should do well on its own. As things grow in, the natural takeover will only further enhance the scenery. If you haven’t already, mist down the scape and seal it with a little plastic wrap. Open it every once in a while to allow fresh air to circulate.

Making A Shinto Kami Jungle Terrarium

Final Thoughts

Even though I didn’t fulfill my expectations of creating a Buddha terrarium, this Shinto deity terrarium more than exceeded my goal of capturing an aspect of Japanese culture with a Buddhist-inspired statue. I’m happy with the overall design and will add this to the winning shelf and get prepared to get into part two of the Shinto Series.

If you’re interested in seeing updates on how this as well as other enclosures progress follow me on social media. If you’d like to get your tall tweezers on one of these limited edition vivarium decors yourself, check them out in our shop.

Jungle Kami Terrarium Kit | Mini
Shinto Kami Sculpture (Shinzō)
Japanese Pagoda/Tōrō Lamp Decor
Shinto Shrine Decor Set

More In Make:

Making A Bonsai Treehouse Village Terrarium
Making Prehistoric Desert | A Dinosaur Terrarium
Making Jurassic Jungle | A Dinosaur Terrarium

Need More Help?

Didn't find the answers you were hoping for? Check out our troubleshooting archive for more helpful information.