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AntsCanada vs TarHeelAnts Formicaria (and beginner/noob questions!)

antscanada tarheelants farmicarium beginner noob comparison nuptial queen artifical camponotus tetramorium solenopsis florida omni hybrid nest stronghold phalanx fortress questions

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#1 Offline jdsaunders1390 - Posted March 22 2017 - 12:19 PM

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Hello everyone! I have just recently become interested in ant keeping, and am looking for a formicarium to buy. I have seen many suggestions to DIY, however, I would like to buy one that I know will work for my first formicarium. The two most well known brands of formicariums that I have seen for sale are AntsCanada and TarHeelAnts. If you have other brand suggestions, please let me know.

 

Starting with AntsCanada, they have the Omni Nest, Hybrid Nest (genus specific nests), and the Omni Nest Vertical. I have seen a lot of problems with the Omni Nest vertical in online reviews (flimsy manufacturing, difficulty watering, etc), and will likely avoid that one. I did not, however, see many reviews on the original Omni Nest or the Hybrid Nest. Here are a few things I have noted: The hybrid nest has a few issues, including the front glass (it can allow smaller species to escape unless you silicone it, which will then make the nest much harder to clean), the current 5-6 week backorder, the current lack of the large sized hybrid nests, the inability to open separate compartments like you can with the Omni Nest, and the fact that you need to disturb the entire nest to replace the humidity medium under the nest. For the Omni Nest, I have read that the water medium can evaporate very quickly, there is a way for small ants to escape through the water medium chamber, there is no cover included to keep the nest dark, there is no built-in area for a heating cable (though you can likely use a heating pad under one part of the nest), and there are less entrance ports available than in the hybrid nest.

 

Now to TarHeelAnts. The 3 formicariums I liked the most were the Phalanx, Fortress, and Stronghold. The Fortress is just a smaller version of the Stronghold. I like that the Stronghold has two outworlds (so they can be switched and cleaned), so I will exclude the Fortress. Both the Stronghold and the Phalanx seem to be nice setups. I like that the pieces attach together well, especially the Stronghold, and I really like that the water towers and Nestmates decrease how often you need to water the nests. What I don't like is that they do not include a cover to darken the nest, they appear to be harder to connect to other nests/outworlds than the AntsCanada formicariums (maybe that is just in my head though), and the material would be harder to clean when reusing the nest (when compared to the acrylic of the AntsCanada nests).

 

All this being said, I think any of the above nests would be fine for my first nest. I did not see many reviews online, however, and do not want to buy a setup before hearing nonbiased testimonials if possible! 

 

A little more information about my situation: I am located in north central Florida and have never owned an ant colony before. I plan to catch my own queen(s) so that I know it is a local species, and because it would be more rewarding to catch my own. I would like to have a Camponotus sp. and a Tetramorium sp. since they are good beginner species, however, I will likely raise whatever species I can find when nuptial flights start in a couple of months. There are a lot of Solenopsis around here and I would like to avoid them as their sting hurts and they are not typically recommended for beginners. If I only catch Solenopsis queens and cannot find any others, however... I may still try to use them. 

 

Other questions: I understand that nuptial flights typically occur in the summer (though maybe all year around in warm, wet places like Florida?), and that it is best to keep a queen in a test tube until she has 20-50  workers. For those reasons, I know I have a long time before I need to buy a formicarium. I have, however, thought of stealing a queen from an established colony (if I can find their queen, or convince the colony to relocate the queen into a test tube and then capture her). Is this an okay practice? I am not sure how a queen will do if she suddenly goes from a full nest of workers down to maybe a hundred or so that I can capture along with her. Back to the nuptial flights, I have found some winged males after brushing the dirt off of some established ant mounds (I know, I'm so mean!), and am wondering if that means that nuptial flights will be happening soon. How soon before flights occur do the winged males start to appear in the nest?

 

Sorry for the long post and I thank you all in advance for your help!


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#2 Offline Loops117 - Posted March 22 2017 - 12:37 PM

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All of the setups you chose are for larger colonies, usually of a year or older. Anything you're going to want to start off with would be a founding setup such as Tar heal ants Atom or Mini Hearth, and ACs Starter gear pack.

 

If you're first starting off, i would say to go with the starter gear pack. It comes with a set of test tubes, which you'll really need. It also comes with two tube portals which make managing a small founding colony a LOT easier.

For my recommendation, i would say to go with the DIY route. As i can see you would rather not, try to find a smaller vendor such a Ant-topia that's found here on this site.


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#3 Offline Jelly - Posted March 22 2017 - 12:37 PM

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Hi, I personally did this same comparison last fall. When choosing a formicarium it really boils down to what ant species you plan to keep in them. I recommend you focus on catching a queen first, as you will have many weeks or months in a test tube setup before you even need the formicarium. 

 

Having said that, you can't really go wrong with an omni nest or the any of the TarHeel setups. They are made to house a variety of different ants and your personal preference on design will be the most deciding factor.



#4 Offline XZero38 - Posted March 22 2017 - 12:47 PM

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I have my myrmecocyctus mimicus colony in the largest THA atom setup which i believe is the atom C. I put the queen in there when i first captured her and the colony has been slowly growing to the point where they are going to outgrow the atom. Right now i would guess that the colony is somewhere in the range of 20-30 workers. So the Atom series by THA is a great one to go with for a founding queen/brand new colony. Obviously the one you buy will be based on the species that will be going in it.


Edited by XZero38, March 22 2017 - 12:47 PM.

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#5 Offline Kevin - Posted March 22 2017 - 12:54 PM

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As a consumer I would personally prefer THA over AC by a long shot, but I would still be resistant to buy THA.


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#6 Offline Antsinmycloset - Posted March 22 2017 - 1:01 PM

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Has anyone actually bought any AC or other 3D printed formicaria? I'm really curious how the plastic holds up a year or two later, especially if you have one of the more bitey ant species.



#7 Offline benjiwuf - Posted March 22 2017 - 1:07 PM

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The plastics used are all availible to read about easily online. Just do a quick search for PLA, ABS, PET and the like. Each have positives and negatives. Personally I have used all three with ants for about a year now with no side effects to date from any of them. I cannot comment on the more destructive ants though as I have not yet kept any to fruition.

#8 Offline Jelly - Posted March 22 2017 - 1:07 PM

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Has anyone actually bought any AC or other 3D printed formicaria? I'm really curious how the plastic holds up a year or two later, especially if you have one of the more bitey ant species.

Completely depends on your species, some won't chew away at the plastic. As for the plastic itself, it won't degrade over time.

 

The AC 3D printed formicaria are nice but come at a high cost. They do work great though, as you have probably seen from the YouTube channel, even his Solenopsis Geminata can't escape.



#9 Offline Serafine - Posted March 22 2017 - 1:27 PM

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You gonna need test tubes first. And depending on the species they can last you quite long. Most ants will grow out of their test tubes within 3-4 months after they got their first workers (although it is perfectly possible to keep for example a 300 worker Lasius colony in multiple test tubes placed next to each other), some species however (mostly Camponotus) are growing so slowly that they'll likely spend their entire first year in test tubes.

 

I think the more important thing, especially for a young colony is the outworld (unless you buy one of the THA mini-formicaria, but I don't really see a point in them as founding nests unless you have a species of super tiny ants like Pheidole sp or Solenposis xyloni that can actually use it as a nest for quite some time - for larger ants test tubes do the same while being cheaper). Most ant species don't really need a nest until their test tube is full of ants but having a foraging area makes feeding them and cleaning up their garbage so much easier. The Omni nest has an integrated outworld, so you could just add a really thin layer of sand-clay mix to the bottom of the foraging area, put a test tube in there and wait until the colony is big enough to move into the actual nest.

 

You should also research about the colony growth rate your ants of choice have. Solenopsis invicta (red imported fire ants) will burst out of an omni nest within a few months as they have a RIDICULOUS growth rate (and you do NOT want to keep these as a beginner). Most Camponotus will probably not fill it until they get their population explosion in year 3 or 4. Also the Omni nest (and acrylic nests in general) isn't too good at keeping hydration, so it won't work well with ants that need it very moist (Myrmica for example). You can add a bottom layer of sand-clay mix to the chambers but that won't help too much. If you have an ant species that needs it moist the hybrids or THA formicaria will serve you way better.

 

If you are interested in the hybrid design you could take a look at SimAnts and their Pro nests which are essentially the same as the hybrids but modular and manufactured with german precision. However I do not know if they ship to Canada or the US.

https://www.simants....=c34&cPath=1_34


Edited by Serafine, March 22 2017 - 1:34 PM.

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#10 Offline jdsaunders1390 - Posted March 22 2017 - 1:28 PM

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The Ant-Topia and THA founding colonies did not interest me because I will likely keep my ants in test tubes until there are more of them. I did not see a big benefit to switching from test tubes to the founding formicariums. 



#11 Offline Kevin - Posted March 22 2017 - 1:45 PM

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Has anyone actually bought any AC or other 3D printed formicaria? I'm really curious how the plastic holds up a year or two later, especially if you have one of the more bitey ant species.

Completely depends on your species, some won't chew away at the plastic. As for the plastic itself, it won't degrade over time.

 

The AC 3D printed formicaria are nice but come at a high cost. They do work great though, as you have probably seen from the YouTube channel, even his Solenopsis Geminata can't escape.

 

Actually, many, including myself, believe the AC formicaria are inefficient and do not provide the optimal setting for ants.

 

 

The Ant-Topia and THA founding colonies did not interest me because I will likely keep my ants in test tubes until there are more of them. I did not see a big benefit to switching from test tubes to the founding formicariums. 

Some species, such as Camponotus, like a more realistic setting, like something to cling to. Wood, sand, grout, etc. Plastic and glass is just too slippery. What some people are doing now is designing 3D printed formicaria to coat with gypsum cement and hydrate it to provide the best formicaria solution. I am personally working on a design right now, and it will be for sale soon.


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#12 Offline thosaka - Posted March 22 2017 - 2:13 PM

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I have both the small vertical omni-nest and the camponotus hybrid nest.

 

For me, the only issue I had with the vertical omni-nest was the blue sponge that soaks water. When the sponge expanded, I couldn't put the lid on top of the sponge, so I had to either cut down the sponge to a smaller size or not put the lid on at all. I haven't really used the omni-nest because my biggest colony only consists of 6 ants, but from design and appeal perspective, it is really really neat. It also allows you to close off or open up rooms with the inserts you can slide through the nest. I also deconstructed it all, and washed them like brand new and reconstructed them with ease.

 

I had no issue with the hybrid nest. When you stated someone claimed the ants escaped through the glass, I wondered how that was possible. I am looking at my hybrid nest and there is literally no gap between the glass and the nest itself. Unless they lifted the glass up and escaped, which I doubt, or the person who made the claim had a defective nest, I don't see it as a possibility. The hydration system doesn't come with a lid so you need to put a small paper or notecard on top to keep dust out. Also be wary that the test tube Mike gives you with the nest is fairly long, so although it will fit into the nest, because of its length, it might come loose. I had to find a shorter test tube with the same diameter to solve this problem.

 

Good luck finding your nest!


Edited by Tagassi, March 22 2017 - 2:16 PM.

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#13 Offline dspdrew - Posted March 22 2017 - 5:03 PM

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The Ant-Topia and THA founding colonies did not interest me because I will likely keep my ants in test tubes until there are more of them. I did not see a big benefit to switching from test tubes to the founding formicariums. 

 

I can tell you what the benefits are. Test tubes get nasty sometimes, or they run out of water, and the whole colony needs to be moved to a new one. Formicariums can usually be easily cleaned out and re-hydrated without moving the colony. Also, test tubes like to flood from time to time and drown your whole colony. I've kept LOTS of ant colonies and I have lost quite a few to test tube floods.


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#14 Offline Miles - Posted March 22 2017 - 5:07 PM

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Put simply, test tubes are not the pinnacle of ant keeping, and in my experience are actually a very poor way of starting colonies. Since switching to founding formicaria, my new queens have without a doubt started larger, healthier colonies and those are the ones that are thriving today.

 

I contributed an article on this topic a few years ago. Here's the link.


Edited by Miles, March 22 2017 - 5:08 PM.

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#15 Offline jdsaunders1390 - Posted March 22 2017 - 7:08 PM

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Great article. I can see how founding chambers would be preferable to test tubes now. I may consider purchasing a couple of them. Do you put a queen directly from capture into the talus and then just do the same thing as a test tube setup? (Ignore the queen until it has the first set of workers, and then start feeding?) Also, is the Talus still your favorite for founding queens, or do you like any of their other founding formicariums?

I also have a question for dspdrew. You mention that founding formicaria are easier to rehydrate and clean than test tube setups. I wonder, however, how you can clean a founding formicarium without moving the colony. I would still think taking the top off/opening a founding colony would stress the ants, and if they don't move, you would need to try to clean around them. The test tube setup, however, you can convince the queen to move to a new, clean tube with heat and/or light, and then your dirty tube is empty and ready to clean. What are your thoughts?

#16 Offline Miles - Posted March 22 2017 - 9:13 PM

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I believe the Talus formicarium has been discontinued. I recommend the THA Mini Hearth for this purpose. Yes, the queen is placed directly in the habitat following collection.


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#17 Offline jdsaunders1390 - Posted March 22 2017 - 9:26 PM

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It looks like they still have the Talus ($37), as well as two versions of the Mini Hearth ($30-31).





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: antscanada, tarheelants, farmicarium, beginner, noob, comparison, nuptial, queen, artifical, camponotus, tetramorium, solenopsis, florida, omni, hybrid, nest, stronghold, phalanx, fortress, questions

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