Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post your builds, private or commercial set ups. This is where we will document the creation of housing or the planning and construction of projects from scratch. This differs from the Journal Section because this section does not concentrate on the Ants or the other animals that are being kept, this section focuses on the progress of the build.
Kalidas
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Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Sat Nov 02, 2019 5:11 am

So I wanted to try and build a formicarium for leaf cutter ants (specifically Acromyrmex Versicolor, since they live near me). The idea is to take firebrick and to cut out a cave like shape ( think hearth style formicariums) and then I will place the formicarium in an acrylic box with another box on the bottom with water. Using sponges and an aquarium heater I will use the warmed up water to humidify and heat up the ant chamber.

Was actually able to get some work done on the bricks I had bought. Step one of the my "natural" formicarium for leaf cutters is on the way.

https://i.imgur.com/kJ8fXrI.jpg

The general shape. I am trying to replicate the shape leaf cutter ants naturally make for their fungus gardens.

https://i.imgur.com/TO79qhr.jpg

The inner layer. What the "cave" shape will be.

https://i.imgur.com/JOV5swL.jpg

Top layer finished.

https://i.imgur.com/NQdT9cW.jpg

Front view

https://i.imgur.com/FX7J8lX.jpg

Bottom layer

https://i.imgur.com/Nb1WU9m.jpg

Front view

https://i.imgur.com/R8XgpiR.jpg

All together now.

Next will be to drill the holes for the sponges to go into.
I even found some nice acrylic boxes I can use as both the holder for the bricks and for the water reservoir online at hobby lobby.

Kalidas
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Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Sat Nov 02, 2019 5:14 am

https://www.hobbylobby.com/Crafts-Hobbies/Model-Kits/Display-Cases/Standard-Display-Case/p/901?gclid=Cj0KCQjwr-_tBRCMARIsAN413WQnnIu0nGvtSVKMf2Zyo8L1ZtMvcUBc3IUW142b9S239xs1sgO1dVgaAiLkEALw_wcB

The length is a quarter of an inch longer, the width is just an 8th of an inch longer, and the height is a quarter of an inch shorter. I could fill the space where the case is too big with some decent filler, maybe hydrostone, maybe just more sponges not sure yet. As for the it being a little shorter taking a quarter of an inch off the top and bottom of the bricks won't be hard at all... What one eighth of an inch from both top and bottom? Easy.

And they stack! What means an empty one at the bottom would be PERFECT for a spot to put the water in.

Kalidas
Pupa
Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Sat Nov 02, 2019 5:16 am

Another update, lol. Just finished drilling the holes for the sponges.

https://i.imgur.com/uBNju2Z.jpg

Holes! The front ones had me so nervous, just one mistake and the entire thing would be ruined, but I did it!


https://i.imgur.com/uYXcGr8.jpg

The other side, and I drilled out a small hole (not all the way through) to fit a larger center sponge. As we can see a small hole did poke through, but I'm not worried worse case I can just fill it in with grout.

Honestly I am very proud of my work, I am NOT a handyman at all. So the fact it came together pretty good it's just awesome.

Kalidas
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Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Mon Nov 04, 2019 3:46 pm

Update time. Went around shopping for things for my first tests of the formicarium.

I will call this Alpha Test One.

So I had went out and got a small 5 watt aquarium heater, some large sponges, a cheap one dollar Tupperware, and a cheap one dollar picture frame(for the glass).

So before you see these numbers some perspective. This entire thing was hastely and badly constructed. I didn't pre-measure the holes in the Tupperware I just guesstimated by eye, I couldn't find scissors so I used a knife and my hands to tear pieces of sponge off, the glass panel was not a perfect fit and I did not stick it to the bricks so it's not on very well and there are openings, same with the connection of the bricks and the Tupperware the sponges don't align perfectly and the bricks are too big so again there are holes and gaps. I hope when I get everything actually set up properly these numbers will do a lot better. I started the test at 6:30 pm

https://i.imgur.com/9FeU9bB.jpg

Here's where it started

https://i.imgur.com/GJd9osz.jpg

Water reservoir, again not well constructed at all

https://i.imgur.com/kb7KnKU.jpg

This was after about an hour. 10% increase of humidity

https://i.imgur.com/bSjEjiM.jpg

Before going to bed at around 11:00 pm nearly up to 70% humidity, a 20% increase.

https://i.imgur.com/TMxQvZs.jpg

It went up a little more but not much maybe by 1 or 2% temp went down but that's expected over night because it's been getting pretty cold at night. The fact it didn't drop below 70f(21 c) is pretty good actually. This was taken 12 hours later at 6:30 am

So with how badly constructed it is I am surprised it was able to raise the humidity by nearly 20%, even 12 hours later. I am hoping my actual design will do even better and it should. If I could see double these numbers I would be so happy. I also got a circular air stone (just need the air pump) that could also help raise the humidity even more.

I am going to keep this whole thing running till tonight and check it when I get home as Alpha Test 2. Once I get the cases I want to use I will actually pre-measure and take my time setting it all up correctly. I also decided I liked the idea of the glass window in the front. So I will probably drill out a little bit around the edges and use magnets to keep the glass over it and aligned with the bricks. This way there will be glass covering the hole along with the case that will go over the entire thing.

I also plan on using tweezers to help get the sponges through the holes, that was probably the hardest part. Well so far testing is going well.

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Acromyrmexbob
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Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Acromyrmexbob » Mon Nov 04, 2019 6:39 pm

Its almost a military campaign you are conducting!! Alpha Test 1 etc!! :o
One thing. Dont trust the humidity meter, they can be 10's of % inaccurate! But it is looking good. If the stone is soft enough to carve, the ants will cut through it. They can manage to cut through plastic sheet, plaster, wood and a whole host of other materials. They then use the dig out to block the window and everything gets messy. Just a thought.

Kalidas
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Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:15 pm

Lol a little bit.

Oh that's good to know. I didn't know they were so inaccurate. Is there a better way to test humidity? I also noticed some small condensation on the meter.

I'm aware, that's why I'm getting an acrylic hobby display case to keep the bricks in. The occasional cleaning may be needed. Maybe a red sheet over the viewing window will discourage them from covering it?

Kalidas
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Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:16 pm

Acromyrmexbob wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 6:39 pm
Its almost a military campaign you are conducting!! Alpha Test 1 etc!! :o
One thing. Dont trust the humidity meter, they can be 10's of % inaccurate! But it is looking good. If the stone is soft enough to carve, the ants will cut through it. They can manage to cut through plastic sheet, plaster, wood and a whole host of other materials. They then use the dig out to block the window and everything gets messy. Just a thought.
Now to be fair I carved the bricks with a Dremel and a drill. It's soft for sure, softer than normal bricks, but still needed tools to be carved.

I did have a question though maybe you can have a good answer. An idea I had was to maybe add a very thin layer of grout(or plaster)with Substrate stuck to it for aesthetic reasons (and maybe a layer of loose substrate to hopefully appease their digging needs).

Then I would add super tiny holes directly to the sponges so as to create open pathways for the water to freely flow into the chamber. Would such an idea curb the digging or at least slow it down, while still helping to humidify everything. Or maybe just leave it as is?

Also do you think they would ever dig the brick entirely out or just bits and pieces that will have to be occasionally cleaned up?

Kalidas
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Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:10 am

Okay minor update, we'll call this Alpha Test 2

Came back home and 24 hours later the humidity dropped back down to 50%. Not unexpected again this whole thing is really badly constructed so I didn't imagine the humidity would stay.

But I did notice the sponges in the bricks felt very dry, so I tried something just to see if the whole system was even working right. I added 5mls of water to each sponge and yeah the humidity increased very drastically in a very sort time. At 80% now two hours later.

I am hoping the water will be able to flow up through the sponges in the actual design when it's all done. I hope it's just the fact that the sponges are not great. I really just tore a bunch of pieces off and stuffed them in the holes so it's no even one solid long sponge but a bunch of tiny sponges. Worse case scenario I could add water to the sponges from the top every day, kind of like watering my plants... It's kind of like watering plants watering a fungus.

Kalidas
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Posts: 72
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:14 pm

Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Kalidas » Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:45 pm

I then did more work last night. I removed the old sponges pieces added longer more single piece sponges through the holes (in one piece yay) and then I filled all the spots, holes, and gaps in the design with cotton balls (not the best barrier material buts it better then nothing) and yeah the humidity stayed at a good constant 80% all through the night. So improvement! I think the full correct design might actually work... Awesome

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Acromyrmexbob
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Re: Naturalesque Leaf Cutter Formicarium

Post by Acromyrmexbob » Thu Nov 07, 2019 12:06 am

Nice one. Remember you are not actually needing the water to travel through the sponge to make your humidity high. Humidity is only affected by gaseous water, not liquid. Perhaps the sponges are actually counter productive, they are actually forming a block to prevent the water vapour getting to t=your nest chamber. You should try removing the sponges completely and see what effect it has on your humidity.

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