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Phasor's Phormicariums

nest diy formicarium

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#1 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 10 2021 - 9:23 AM

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In this thread I'll be posting progress of all the formicariums, outworlds, and other DIY projects I make relating to the ant keeping hobby. I'll also discuss ideas, designs, plans, and methods for them, as well as seeking advice.

I got a bit of a head start before starting this topic, so I'll catch you up on the three I've made so far.


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This is the first formicarium I made, a combo nest/outworld. I may have started off a bit ambitious. It's Ultracal 30 poured into the acrylic box, decorated with gravel and stones and fake plants, then slid out for carving. I really wanted a two section, expandable nest design so I could use it sooner with a smaller colony, and open up the larger section once more room is needed. Not sure how well that would work, and there were a few things I tried that didn't work out so well, but mostly is pretty good. This was just a learning experience anyway.


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Next, I got some 4x6 acrylic sheets and some clay and tried a molded nest with a water tower, again with Ultracal. This turned out pretty nice, though the chambers are pretty big. It's difficult to mold small things with the clay. I resisted making a water tower at first, but eventually gave in.


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My most recent nest is a bit different. I cut one of my acrylic sheets in half and made a custom mold out of foam core, to make a smaller nest on an incline. I tried to carve the chambers level with the ground, so angled against the glass, which was difficult freehand. This one turned out pretty nice, though my carving leaves something to be desired.

I have all three testing with water, heating pads, and a thermometer/hydrometer to see how they are before moving ants in. And so far, all three are way too humid. I need to figure out how to better regulate moisture, but they basically immediately are at 99% humidity, and the glass gets soaked with condensation. Any advice to deal with that is welcome, and I'll keep trying.

Anyway, that's what I've got so far. More to come!
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#2 Offline antsandmore - Posted February 10 2021 - 9:39 AM

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that's great!


Ants I am keeping:

  • Crematogaster colony, queen and 100+(?) workers
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#3 Offline MysticNanitic - Posted February 10 2021 - 9:40 AM

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Nice job, these look great!  I'm partial to all-in-ones like your first attempt.  I think you could pretty easily drill a vent hole or two and make a nestmate style removeable vent with mesh and tubing.  You could put a little cotton in the tube for fine-tuning the airflow.



#4 Offline Syber_ant - Posted February 10 2021 - 9:44 AM

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Some of them look professinal!



#5 Offline gs5248 - Posted February 10 2021 - 11:17 AM

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These formicarium's are awesome! I like first one the most.


Edited by gs5248, February 10 2021 - 11:20 AM.

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#6 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 10 2021 - 11:32 AM

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Thanks! I do think the first one looks nicest, mainly because of the outworld. However, due to the nest, the walls are only a couple inches tall which concerns me some.

I hadn't really thought of adding extra vents in to help with humidity, I might give that a try.

#7 Offline AntsUtah - Posted February 10 2021 - 1:38 PM

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Looks great! You should make a video or tutorial of some kind.


Edited by AntsUtah, February 10 2021 - 2:00 PM.

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Leave the road, take the trails. —Pythagoras

 

My DIY Formicariums

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#8 Offline gs5248 - Posted February 10 2021 - 9:53 PM

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Have you housed any ants in them? I have not really seen anyone housing ants in ultra cal 30. But if it works that would be really cool, since it does not expand nearly as much as hydrostone.



#9 Offline Scherme - Posted February 11 2021 - 3:30 AM

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Great thread. I have also been working with ultracal 30 for various projects. 

 

I have hesitated to pour anything that would need to be removed after, did you prep the surfaces at all so you could slide it out after it is dry?


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#10 Offline ANTdrew - Posted February 11 2021 - 3:44 AM

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Thanks! I do think the first one looks nicest, mainly because of the outworld. However, due to the nest, the walls are only a couple inches tall which concerns me some.

I hadn't really thought of adding extra vents in to help with humidity, I might give that a try.

The short outworld walls may be an issue with escape proofing, at least for Crematogaster. Is that lid a tight fit?

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25  

Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.


#11 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 11 2021 - 4:36 AM

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The short outworld walls may be an issue with escape proofing, at least for Crematogaster. Is that lid a tight fit?


The lid is secure, it was an airtight container so it has I think a silicone gasket that's pretty snug. I'm not worried about escapes in that one when the lid is shut, just when I open it for feeding and cleaning. Either way, I probably won't be keeping the Crematogaster in that particular nest. I'll use another one of those containers that's just an outworld, and have a separate nest attached. Maybe one of the other two, or one I haven't made yet.
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#12 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 11 2021 - 4:41 AM

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Great thread. I have also been working with ultracal 30 for various projects.

I have hesitated to pour anything that would need to be removed after, did you prep the surfaces at all so you could slide it out after it is dry?


I did coat the inside with a bit of vegetable oil, but I'm not sure how much it helped exactly. Probably more than I realize. It was still rather difficult to get out though. Best bet is to turn it upside down and slap the Dickens out of it. Similarly, it was tough to get back in once finished. I'm still not sure it slid all the way down, as any sand or dust that falls between the sides will jam it up. Maybe sanding the sides down just a little will help, though you really don't want a gap there.
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#13 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 11 2021 - 4:44 AM

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Have you housed any ants in them? I have not really seen anyone housing ants in ultra cal 30. But if it works that would be really cool, since it does not expand nearly as much as hydrostone.


Don't have any ants yet to house, just some queens with brood. I've still got a few months at least before any colony is big enough to need an actual nest. I have heard some warnings that Ultracal can break down or even "sweat" some form of crystal if it's in constant contact with water, but we'll see.

#14 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 13 2021 - 7:53 PM

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Started another nest yesterday, but had to stop because my dremel broke. Parts are on the way (hopefully the right ones) so here's progress so far.

 

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Don't really want to be spinning this at tens of thousands of rpm...

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To be continued...


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#15 Offline steelplant - Posted February 14 2021 - 3:41 AM

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I carve mine with a screwdriver and it works really well if you don't want to wait for the dremel bits.

#16 Offline ANTdrew - Posted February 14 2021 - 3:42 AM

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Have you tried molding with clay or wet sand?

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25  

Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.


#17 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 14 2021 - 11:17 AM

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This feels like it would be too hard of a material to carve with a screwdriver, but it might be worth trying. I could also try using a regular drill with the carving bits, instead of the dremel.

And the second nest I made was molded with clay, and I tried doing that with this last one, but trying to get consistent, even shapes is difficult, and trying to press small chambers that are close together is nearly impossible. There might be other ways to try though. Haven't done wet sand yet, but I'm sure I'll try it soon. I got plenty of materials, I plan to try a lot of different things (though I'm almost out of ultracal)

#18 Offline ANTdrew - Posted February 14 2021 - 11:21 AM

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Yeah, clay or sand would be to make wierd naturalistic shapes.

"The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer." Prov. 30:25  

Keep ordinary ants in extraordinary ways.


#19 Offline Canadant - Posted February 14 2021 - 4:24 PM

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So what exactly is ultracal? I would like to use something carvable aw well rather than using clay to form tunnels etc. I really like your first design. Seems easier to pour in and remove the brick and carve then replace. I would like to make something like a tha nucleus design where the ants can be viewed from the side rather than top down.

Cool stuff. I have a dremel too.
"You don't get what you want. You get what you deserve".

#20 Offline PhasorShift - Posted February 14 2021 - 4:43 PM

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Ultracal is gypsum cement I guess designed to make molds and casts, so it catches detail very well. It's just like hydrostone, but harder and doesn't expand. It's not the easiest thing to carve, but it's manageable. Very dusty. You can also use clay or sand to mold chambers, like people have said.
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