How To Setup Test Tube Founding Chambers

From Ant Keeping Wiki

A complete guide to test tube founding chambers. This should help out anyone who is new to ant keeping: purchase, prep, and create standard test tube found chambers.


Purchasing test tubes is the obvious first step. There are many different size test tubes out there, so which do you chose? The standard sized test tube setup is 16mm x 150mm, meaning the outside diameter of the test tube is 16mm and the total length is 150mm. There are lots of suggestions using larger diameter or shorter test tubes, and it's up to you whether you want to go larger or now. Suggestion would be start with the most common size, and later if you find them not to work for you, then adjust accordingly. 

When it comes to material used, there are 2 options: Glass or Plastic. While you may think plastic is a better idea since it's less likely to break (or come broken from shipping), Glass, or in this case, Pyrex glass (or Borosilicate), is the ideal and best option most of the time, since:

  1. Non-porous making it easier to clean
  2. More transparent
  3. Doesnt show fingerprints as easy so seeing the ants or taking pictures of them less of a problem
  4. Isnt damaged from sunscreen on your hands and doesnt scratch easily.

Of course the obvious con to glass is it can shatter if dropped or bumped hard. So, unless you are a person that is clumsy or are prone to break things, glass is preferred.

After saying all this, one thing you could use plastic test tubes for is for collecting queens when you are anting. They wont break so storing them in your pocket or backpack isnt a concern. If nothing else is available, then this would be a good option. However, may want to check out Anting Checklist for other options before doing so.

There is a list of test tube suppliers on the Resources page.




After receiving your test tube shipment, first thing you need is washing them thoroughly with warm, soapy water. This is a commonly forgotton step as most people believe test tubes come sterile. However, more often than not, they aren't (unless the description expicitly says STERILE) and are typically stored in a large warehouse collecting dust and contaminates prior to being shipped. Make sure to rinse them well with clean water to remove any soapy residue afterwards. A lot of premature colony death can be contributed to contaminated test tubes after their water was ruled out (more on this in later step).

After this step, most people will let their test tubes air dry on clean paper towels before storing them away in other clean containers or plastic ziplok bags for use when they actually get queens instead of moving to the next step and having test tubes filled with water. Why? Because the moment water hits air, the clock is ticking; It's only a matter of time before mold starts to grow and test tube needs to be cleaned again before use.

Protip: After cleaning the test tubes and letting them dry, put a cotton ball into it to prevent any contaminates from entering test tube. Also very handly later than having to get out cotton balls to prep the tubes with water as each already have one.