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Dspdrew's Formicarium 06 Research and Design (Updated 11-26-2023)

formicarium container out world enclosure how-to diy design nest dspdrew tutorial

177 replies to this topic

#1 Offline dspdrew - Posted October 9 2014 - 12:11 PM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
I've started experimenting with a very small formicarium that can be used for colony founding. This will also be compatible with the larger formicarium so that it can easily fit together to allow the colony to move out of the smaller one and into the larger one when the time is right. The top portion will fit on top of the larger formicarium in place of the out world with a hole in the same spot, leading down into the larger nest. Once they've moved in, you can then replace this with the regular out world for that formicarium.
So far this is pretty similar to the typical petri dish setup, only I am trying to find a way to keep it hydrated for a long period of time, as I will always do with all my formicariums.
The bottom container will hold water that will be wicked up into the inner chamber in the top container only, leaving the out world dry.
I used a layer of Hydrostone on the bottom of the inner chamber that's connected through three round holes to another layer of Hydrostone on the bottom. The sponge soaks up water and transfers it to the Hydrostone layer on the bottom, and up into the layer of Hydrostone inside the inner chamber. This is working so far, but the 1/4 inch hole in the inner chamber is letting a little too much of the humidity out and into the out world portion. I haven't decided if I want to make this adjustable yet, and if I don't, it will have to be 1/4 inch to make sure most of the largest queens can still fit through it. Never mind the extra layers of plastic and Hydrostone under the inner chamber, because I'll be cutting the bottom off those little containers, eliminating some of them.
I decided I'm going to put a thin layer of Hydrostone in the bottoms of all my out worlds to allow absorption of any excess liquids, and better grip for the ants. This layer of Hydrostone does not connect in any way with layers of Hydrostone on the bottom of the inner chamber and on the underside of the top container, or the ports between them, therefor it should stay dry.
The inner chamber will also have a removable lid to allow for microscope observing, and easy cleaning.
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#2 Offline dermy - Posted October 9 2014 - 12:21 PM


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That looks awesome drew! Can't wait to see ants in it!

#3 Offline Tpro4 - Posted October 9 2014 - 2:15 PM


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How much will you charge your this kind of formicarium I love the design
Remember Dragon Warrior, anything is possible when you have inner peace. - Master Shifu

Current Queens:
1 Unknown Pogomyemex
1 Solenopsis Xyloni

#4 Offline dermy - Posted October 9 2014 - 2:24 PM


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I don't think he is selling these yet, he is still testing and making various changes to the design and such.

#5 Offline dspdrew - Posted October 9 2014 - 3:02 PM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

Yeah, I have no idea. I'm not even making for the purpose of selling them. That's why they're made exactly how I want them.

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#6 Offline dspdrew - Posted December 18 2014 - 9:02 AM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

I'm still testing out the hydration on this small colony founding formicarium. By now the water tank has mostly dried up, but the sponge is still damp. Even though there is hardly any water left in the tank, the inner chamber still feels quite moist. I think what is happening, is whatever moisture is left in the tank, is evaporating and condensing on the bottom of the nest just like my original plans for hydration. I also noticed that there was obviously a flaw somewhere, because the water is clearly making its way through to the Hydrostone in the bottom of the out world. Because of this, and the fact that I have had the lid off this whole time, the water has likely evaporated much faster than it normally would have. Two weeks is not too bad, but not anywhere close to the three months of hydration you get out of the regular formicarium. Now (October 27th) I'm going to test it again with the lid on the entire time to see how much longer the water lasts that way. As for the leak, I'll just leave that for now, and make sure it doesn't happen on the next prototype.

#7 Offline Crystals - Posted December 18 2014 - 9:29 AM


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You might need a small bead of silicone along the bottom joint before adding the hydrostone layer.

"Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astound the rest." -- Samuel Clemens


List of Handy Links   (pinned in the General section)

My Colonies

#8 Offline dspdrew - Posted December 18 2014 - 10:54 AM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

Well the bottom of the inner chamber is going to be cut completely off. It wasn't on this one. I also have to make sure it has a better weld.

#9 Offline dspdrew - Posted June 17 2015 - 1:48 PM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
So I changed my mind quite a bit on this design. I'm still going to use the method of hydration I have here in this first design, only much more like my fungus-grower formicariums.
Here is a really crappy looking sample I just threw together to see if this is what I want to move forward with.
I used the same containers as the first design, but I plan on designing my own that will be a bit skinnier but still fit together with the other formicariums. The nest portion will consist of two chambers, a hydrated one, and a non-hydrated one. Connected to the non-hydrated chamber, will be the out world chamber. The out world chamber will have the ventilation. I don't have it done in these pictures, but there will be a screen or ventilation holes in the top or the sides of the out world chamber. I think this should keep the out world chamber dry enough to keep a lot of mold from growing on left over food and whatnot, while giving the most distant chamber enough moisture for the ants to drink.
This is a thin unglazed ceramic tile I cut to fit. The tile will absorb water from the water tank without slowly dissolving over time as gypsum-based materials do. It's very important that the port through the bottom of the container never ends up exposed allowing ants to escape.
This is the port in the bottom exposing the ceramic tile.
This is the water tank with a small sponge used to transfer water through the bottom of the nest to the tile.
Here it is all put together with Hydrostone poured over the tile and all over the bottoms of the other two chambers. Since this is made up of little pieces of plastic solvent-welded together, I tested it earlier to ensure there are no leaks through the walls of the hydrated chamber.
Keep in mind, this is just an example of my design, so some minor details will be completely different, one being the lid most likely.
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#10 Offline dspdrew - Posted May 30 2016 - 2:53 AM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
The queen I had in this last design didn't do very well. I never tried it out again after that, because I got busy on other things. I'll give it another try and see how it goes. It is using Hydrostone to cover the tile, which I know now is a problem, so I'll have to change that.
In the mean time, I threw together two other little founding formicariums just to try some things out. There's nothing all that unique about these, except for the fact that they have a long term hydration system. They both are using the same water tanks I use on a lot of my setups, and a tile for the hydration.
So far both queens I put in them seem to be doing great. I purposely chose two that had not laid any eggs yet in their test tubes, unlike most of the others, but a couple days after putting them in these setups, they both laid a bunch of eggs.
I'm really starting to like the second one, because it's small, and I can fit three of them on each small water tank. I could fit eight of them on one of the large water tanks.
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#11 Offline NightsWebs - Posted May 30 2016 - 9:00 AM


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Drew, the two problems I always have in my extensive any keeping career (over a year now) is keeping clear formicariums nests dark and foraging areas light (day night cycle) and space.  I absolutely love the Talus founding formicariums but they take up an enormous amount of space.  The test tube design in the small boxes I bought from Crystals was great and I still need to add hydrostone to the bottom of all of them. In any case, Drew I like the design and the fact that you have 3 formicariums in such a small space is awesome not to mention it fits the modular design idea you have been following all along for your other formicariums. Thanks again for all your hard work, innovations and sharing your vast knowledge in ant keeping.

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Current Colonies;

Acromyrmex Versicolor

Dorymyrmex Bicolor

Pogonomyrmex Californicus
Pogonomyrmex Rugosus

Pogonomyrmex Tenuispinus
Novomessor Cockerelli
Myrmecocystus Mexicanus


Last Update: 08 Jul 2016



#12 Offline dspdrew - Posted June 13 2016 - 12:42 AM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
So here's another larger founding nest I made with the plastic tile insert and Hydrostone instead of cement this time. Since the tile is now separated from the rest of the floor by the plastic insert, I can use Hydrostone again. The tile will stay wet without soaking everything else around it.
Here's the prototype of the small founding nest. Once I finish my cast resin vertical nests, I'm going to make both of these with a hole in the foraging area that lines up with the entrance of the vertical nest, so that the colony can be easily transferred.
I put the nest container in the center of the foraging container so that it can be viewed from the top with out the plastic lip obstructing the view.
Here's the plastic tile insert.

#13 Offline dspdrew - Posted June 14 2016 - 9:37 PM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
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#14 Offline Runner12 - Posted June 20 2016 - 1:36 PM


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Never used hydrostone before, but having an issue keeping a taller setup hydrated, how high could a column of hydrostone sitting in a reservoir wick water?

If I were to build a nest with a pillar in the center that was two feet tall would it keep the dirt around the pillar damp all the way up?

#15 Offline dspdrew - Posted June 20 2016 - 5:46 PM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA

In 100 percent humidity, I would guess it could eventually make up up past six feet.

#16 Offline Runner12 - Posted June 20 2016 - 7:54 PM


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Ok thanks

#17 Offline dspdrew - Posted August 8 2016 - 11:48 PM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
This is a little single. These are the formicariums I am selling some of my P. rugosus in.

#18 Offline dspdrew - Posted August 15 2016 - 11:26 AM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
I think I'm going to start using rubber plugs from now on similar to those used in basketballs and volleyballs. This way you can dispense liquid food without even opening the nest.

#19 Offline sgheaton - Posted August 15 2016 - 11:41 AM


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Take it a step further with lab self-sealing stoppers! 

"I'm the search bar! Type questions into me and I'll search within the forums for an answer!"

#20 Offline dspdrew - Posted September 2 2016 - 9:49 PM

  • LocationSanta Ana, CA
Lots of tiles. :)

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: formicarium, container, out world, enclosure, how-to, diy, design, nest, dspdrew, tutorial

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