Pros and Cons of Formicarium Building Materials

From Ant Keeping Wiki

Substrates and Materials For Building Your Formicarium with Pros and Cons:

 

Materials[edit]

Firebrick[edit]

(K-23 refractory brick, fired clay)

Pros:

Cons:

  • Mold resistant
  • Easily absorbs water
  • Fairly lightweight depending type of firebrick
  • Fairly easy to carve with a dremel

 

  • Can be somewhat difficult to find a local source (usually pottery supply stores). Expensive to ship
  • Several different types of firebricks made by different manufacturers can affect absorption and carvability
  • Some ant species can chew through it in time

 


Ytong[edit]

Pros:

Cons:

  • Mold resistant
  • Easily absorbs water
  • Fairly lightweight
  • Fairly easy to carve with a dremel

 

  • Very limited availability in some areas. In some areas like North America, it can be extremely difficult to get ytong. Expensive to ship.
  • Several different types of ytong made by different manufacturers can affect absorption and carvability
  • Some ant species can chew through it in time (less likely than with firebrick)

 

Grout[edit]

(unsanded and sanded)

Pros:

Cons:

  • Mold Resistant
  • Absorbs water, but absorbs it fairly slowly. Although it holds the moisture for a long time.
  • Fairly heavy when compared to hydrostone
  • Easy to pour into any mold
  • Easily obtained at any stores that sells floor tiles.

 

  • Must be mixed with additives like perlite and/or sand.
  • The exact mix affects weight, strength, and water absorption.
  • When fully cured it is hard to carve with a dremel
  • If it is less than 3/4 inch thick, it can crack easily
  • Unsanded grout and sanded grout behave slightly differently. Pure Unsanded grout absorbs water slowly, Pure Sanded grout does not like to absorb water at all. Some other slight differences as well.

 


Hydrostone/Gypsum[edit]

Pros:

Cons:

  • Mold Resistant
  • Very good water absorption and distribution
  • Fairly lightweight
  • When cured it is fairly hard
  • Easy to mix and pour into any mold

 

  • Limited availability - can be hard to find in stores, and shipping it can be expensive
  • Sweat - Hydrostone residue appears on the outside formicarium walls as it absorbs water. This does not affect keeping ants, it just looks ugly. The residue can be wiped off when wet or dry, and the residue slowly stops occurring after 3 months. If the water source is below the nest, it may cause holes to form.
  • Can discolor the hydrostone if some food left in nest gets moldy.
  • Once fully cured, it is hard to carve with a dremel.
  • Very heavy to handle even after dried.

 


Plaster of Paris[edit]

Pros:

Cons:

  • Easily available and can be found at any craft store
  • Good water absorption
  • Easy to mix and pour
  • Somewhat hard when cured, somewhat easy to carve especially if damp.

 

  • While itself wont mold, it does allow organic material to mold faster
  • Plaster rubs off easily if it rubs against anything
  • Wet plaster gets very soft

 

Acrylic[edit]

Pros:

Cons:

  • Mold resistant
  • Water absorption/humidity depends on nest setup, it can vary from needing water 2x/day to twice a month
  • Fairly cheap to make or easy to build. Easy to buy, with many designs available online.
  • Good visibility

 

  • Unless the floor has a substrate, species with formic acid may have problems if they deposit small drops of formic acid on the floor and stumble into them shortly afterwards.
  • Some species have difficulty walking/climbing on smooth acrylic
  • Air flow (and humidity) may vary with different designs

 


Soil filled nest[edit]

(narrow vertical, narrow horizontal, or box shaped)

Pros:

Cons:

  • Most natural method
  • Get to view digging ability and ants choose tunnel sizes and shapes
  • Easily watered
  • Plants can be grown in box shaped soil nest

 

  • There are many types of soil, and each behaves differently.
  • Vertical and box shaped soil filled nests can be prone to tunnel collapses. Horizontal nests with 4-8mm of height remove the potential for tunnel collapses.
  • Visibility isses with dirt smears on glass and ants placing soil against glass to block light.
  • Mold problems can occur
  • Difficult to convince colony to move

 



Sand filled nest[edit]

100% sand without added filler or clay.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Easy to get and fairly cheap

 

  • Tunnels will collapse because there is nothing holding them up

 

Clay nest[edit]

100% clay.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Easy to get and fairly cheap
  • Holds moisture very well
  • Easy to build any shape or size
  • Natural looking aspect

 

  • N/A

 

Sand + Clay Mix filled nest[edit]

Sand mixed with clay.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Both are fairly easy to get and fairly cheap
  • Tunnels hold up even when wet

 

  • Getting a good mixture may be hard for some people - 90% sand + 10% clay is suggested
  • Too much clay allows more moisture absorption, but harder for ants to dig
  • Too much sand allows for easier digging and more tunnels, but less moisture

 



Gel/Agar[edit]

Gel nests seen online are not designed for a long term colony. They have nutrients in the agar solution which causes various problems. Please do not use that type of gel unless you like dead ants.

 

Agar (100% agar gelatin used for Cooking)

Pros:

Cons:

  • Can see the ants dig
  • Can be used in test tubes for queens that do not do well in ordinary test tubes

 

  • Can be difficult to re-hydrate
  • Difficult to convince colony to relocate
  • Ants tend to have a hard time distinguishing peices of agar from their brood.

 

Pumice[edit]

Pros:

Cons:

  • Mold resistant
  • Easily absorbs water
  • Fairly lightweight depending type of pumice
  • Easy to carve with a dremel

 

  • There can be lots of variation from one pumice stone to another. Each stone may behave a bit differently in regards to carveability, water absorption, and strength.
  • Can be somewhat difficult to find a local source depending on your location (some pet stores carry it). Expensive to ship
  • Some ant species can chew through it in time

 

Notes[edit]

  • If ants drag food into the nest, the food may mold, even if the nest material may not.
  • Products under different brands, and in different locations, may be slightly different.
  • Different ways of setting up the nest can affect how often the nest needs to be watered, as well as ventilation, and other things.

 

 

 

Credits[edit]