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Exploring the Benefits: Calcined Clay vs. LECA as Terrarium Drainage Layers

Exploring the Benefits: Calcined Clay vs. LECA as Terrarium Drainage Layers

Terrarium enthusiasts are well aware of the importance of a reliable drainage layer to maintain optimal moisture levels and create a thriving environment for plants. Two popular choices for this purpose are calcined clay and Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (LECA). In this article, we'll delve into the unique characteristics and advantages of each to help you make an informed decision for your terrarium setup.

Calcined Clay as a Drainage Layer:

Calcined clay, often known as "Turface" or "Oil-Dri," is a versatile substrate that has gained popularity for its excellent drainage properties. Produced by heating clay to high temperatures, calcined clay particles are porous, promoting efficient water drainage and aeration. This helps prevent waterlogging, a common issue in terrariums that can lead to root rot and other plant health issues.

Advantages of Calcined Clay:

  1. Excellent Drainage: Calcined clay's porous structure allows water to pass through easily, preventing water accumulation at the bottom of the terrarium.
  2. Promotes Aeration: The air pockets within calcined clay particles enhance soil aeration, crucial for root health and overall plant well-being.
  3. pH Neutral: Calcined clay typically has a neutral pH, ensuring it won't significantly impact the acidity or alkalinity of the terrarium soil.

LECA as a Drainage Layer:

Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate (LECA) consists of expanded clay pellets that are lightweight, providing a unique set of benefits for terrarium drainage layers. These pellets are created by heating clay in a rotary kiln, causing the material to expand.

Advantages of LECA:

  1. Lightweight: LECA is exceptionally lightweight, making it easy to handle and creating a minimal load on the terrarium structure.
  2. Moisture Retention: While allowing for drainage, LECA retains some moisture, contributing to more consistent humidity levels in the terrarium.
  3. Insulating Properties: LECA provides insulation, helping to regulate temperature within the terrarium and creating a stable environment for plants.

Choosing the Right Option:

The decision between calcined clay and LECA depends on factors such as the specific needs of your plants, terrarium size, and personal preferences. If your focus is on maximum drainage and aeration, calcined clay might be the preferred choice. However, if you're looking for a lightweight option with moisture retention capabilities, LECA could be more suitable.


Both calcined clay and LECA offer valuable benefits as drainage layers in terrariums. Understanding their unique characteristics allows you to tailor your choice based on the specific requirements of your plants and terrarium environment. Experimentation and observation will ultimately guide you toward the ideal solution for a healthy and vibrant terrarium setup.

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  • Rebekah Walenta


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What a shame ----  you do not have permission to view this page : D