DIY Miniature Terrarium Waterfall

DIY Miniature Terrarium Waterfall

Alright, I admit; I LOVE NATURE! Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful woodland view of a waterfall?! So why not bring some of that pleasure into your home? This DIY miniature terrarium waterfall is quite easy, and this tutorial will help you build whatever you can imagine. Large or small, you can make your own fantastic piece of nature. No special tools needed and how difficult can it be to make some stones?

It all started when I eyed that HUGE cloche. Bam! I knew I wanted a waterfall, a rocky, easy to maintain faux one nestled in the damp terrarium. The old college days of model building came back to mind. Styrofoam (polystyrene) is as easy to cut as butter so the only limit is your imagination. Don’t use the green ‘oasis’ since it absorbs water (only use in a dry setup). A bit of paint, some glue, add some resin ‘water’ and you will be amazed.

You will need:

  • 1″ thick (or similar) pink or blue styrofoam board (about 8″ x 10″) scraps
  • Mat knife or sharp kitchen knife
  • low temperature hot glue gun & glue
  • acrylic paint (any kind) white, black, yellow, red, blue & brushes
  • clear plastic container or bottle (recycled)
  • Alumilite Amazing Clear Cast resin
  • toothpicks/skewers
  • Shoe Goo

I planned on having the ‘water’ cascade down from 2 falls and have a ‘bowl’ near the bottom. It was a work in progress. Since the styrofoam has a standard thickness it is easiest to layer the waterfall so that gluing is easiest by stacking the layers. Make some random shapes to stack and create the height. Its almost like building blocks!

Remember that rocks are ‘random’. The more variety of size and shape the better. I had a few rocks to look at as well. Rocks are chipped from larger rocks so chopping off pieces will make them look authentic. Add cracks and indents.

I gave the bottom 4 feet. You can add ‘planters’ on the side to hold moss and plants as well. Or little pockets for moss.

When you are pretty happy with the ‘stack’ you can glue it together. I like immediacy so I used low temperature hot glue. It will be sitting in a terrarium so it won’t get a lot of wear and tear.

For realism add some texture like cracks and holes with toothpicks or even real rocks.

It looks a bit odd and narrow but I imagine the plants that will be nestled up the sides. The base allows the plants to have room for the roots there too.

Looking pretty (pink)rocky…

Painting Rocks:

Time for colour! Mix up some black and white paint with bit of red and yellow. Rocks have a lot of odd colours mixed in so don’t be too worried.

Some can be lighter, some darker. It is usually darker where the moss grows, underneath and in the cracks.

Looking good!

Variety of tones is good.

To get texture ‘dry-brush’ the lighter paint over top. Dry-brushing is taking very little paint on the brush and lightly running it over the surface to catch only the top details. Even add lichen and moss look.

Aren’t you amazed how this styrofoam resembles rock?!

Light as a feather rock structure, but not done yet…

Water Features:

For the waterfalls use some plastic sheeting from containers or bottles that can be bent when quickly held over a candle. Cut the strips to fit your falls of water. Look at images to see that the ‘streams’ do break into smaller ribbons as they fall.

This is the rough fit for the falls

Now lets add some faux water and fish! (you just HAVE to have fish) Do not polyester resin as it will ‘eat’ the foam. Alumilite Clear Casting Resin works great.

Measure equal parts…

And mix well until clear. For this use bubbles aren’t so bad.

Pour into the ‘bowl’ making sure it doesn’t run out the front. If need be, prop up the front.

Go ahead  and add some small pebbles.

And some tiny fish… and I mean tiny! Just a bit of paper with some dabs of orange and black. Push them into place with a tooth pick.

Oh look! There are fish in that water! Place your waterfalls into place so that they can cure into the resin. Add a touch of glue if needed. Let the resin set (at least 8 hours)

For the ribbons of falling water I used Shoe Goo since it is relatively clear and super thick.

Put a dab on s scrap of paper and take a toothpick to smear it up and own the waterfall

Even the bubbles look good! A frozen waterfall.

Isn’t there something quite charming about the world of miniatures and especially waterfalls?!

This ‘water’ will not need to be cleaned or changed.

I know this has been a long post so I will explain planting in terrariums in this post. Good job! Go ahead and build your waterfall… No need to feed the fish.

Start gathering some plants.

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  1. Oh – I love a few fake pets that don’t need to be fed nor cleaned up after and plants that need no tending … but fake rocks and water that looks more real than real – haha – really!

    This project would make me smile every time I saw it!

    1. Hey ya! Isn’t having a home full of things that make you smile what it’s all about?! My terrariums are pretty self sufficient, just need to chop back the jungle once in a while. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Thank you! I’m hoping to craft a concrete faux-stone waterfall for the pond. I wish spring would just hurry up! Stay tuned

  2. Your miniature terrarium waterfall is wonderful, Barb! “I’m hoping to craft a concrete faux-stone waterfall for the pond.” — YES! Exciting…looking forward to seeing your larger version. Are you going to do it in a similar way? It’s easy to cover styrofoam with Quikwall and strips of fiberglass scrim.

    1. The covered styrofoam is one way I was thinking, but I hate to have to get that much styrofoam. Maybe some reusable method… Still too cold up here any ways…

        1. It could work as long as you give the concrete time in water to leach out the alkalinity. Plants can’t handle it. You could also mortar together small rocks; lot’s of possibilities! Good luck!

  3. You are an incredible artist! If I made this, I think it would turn out to be a hot mess! So glad I discovered you as I will attempt to make some of your creations.

    1. I’m always glad to inspire someone to use their creativity. I believe that if more people enjoyed the sense of acccomplishment from ‘making’ we’d have a happier world. Good luck!

  4. Beautiful and great ideas here. May I make a brainstorm thought. The water that is falling appears stiff and not liquid. What if you double layers the plastic and/ or incorporate seran wrap for a softer, more liquid effect. And at the bottom where the water falls into the pools, what if you used seran wrap a little wadded then pour the clear over?

  5. Hello dear Barbmaker , Amazing waterfall with a perfect pond and I realy love those nice koi Fishes . Great Idea and clean artwork .
    I’m gonna doing same thing for top of my miniature backyard’s pond .
    Best regards