So, you re thinking about buying an ant farm? Well, this seemingly simple project will require you to gain some basic knowledge of ants and their survival needs. Below you will find a wealth of information that can help you make a more informed decision about what farm to buy and what will be required to maintain it.

When you re ready to make your purchase, see our detailed reviews of all the top ant farm stores.

Types of Ant Farms

There are a few different types of ant farms with different substrates. Traditional ant farms were filled with sand. With a sand kit, it is important that once your ants start tunneling you move the farm as little as possible to avoid caving in the tunnels and smothering the ants.

Modern ant farms are filled with a space-age gel. This type of ant habitat is the product of a NASA experiment to see if ants could survive in zero gravity. The gel is designed to provide all the water and nutrients required to sustain the ants for their normal lifespan.

Setting Up Your Ant Farm

Different varieties of ant farms require different setups. Traditional sand-filled farms come with a bag of sand that must simply be poured into the ant habitat. Gel kits come pre-filled with a space-age gel. All you have to do is take your gel farm out of the box and it is ready for use.

As the gel material is foreign to your ants, it may take them a few days to realize that they can eat the gel and to start tunneling. Most farms come with a tool for starting tunnels, and your ants may build on the tunnels you start or they may just follow your example and create their own tunnels.

Ordering Live Ants

Ant farms come with a coupon for ordering live ants. The manufacturer of the kit may determine what company you order your ants from, or the manufacturer may sell ants directly. In some cases, as with Insect Kits, the ant farm distributor sells ants as well and they can be ordered along with the kit (though they still may not arrive simultaneously).

Although ant farms are timeless toys that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, ants are live animals that require special care. Distributors of live ants may delay shipping in extreme temperatures. Some live ant providers also offer express shipping and temperature-regulating devices like hot/cold packs to help keep the ants alive during shipping. All the ant suppliers we queried said that they will replace your ants if they are DOA (dead on arrival), but you may have to pay additional shipping or select certain shipping options when you place your order.

Most ant farms come with a tunnel-starting tool that can also be used for removing dead ants from your farm and for collecting ants from outside. If you collect your own ants, make sure you get them all from the same location and do not mix different types of ants. Make sure the ants are large enough that they can t escape through the ventilation holes on your farm.

What Kind of Ants Will I Use?

Most ant suppliers use harvester ants because they are large enough to be contained in virtually all ant farms. It is illegal to ship queen ants across state lines, as it may cause competition between introduced and native species.

Feeding Your Ants

The gel-filled ant farms contain all the water and nutrients your ants need for survival. Make sure to keep your kit sealed so the gel does not dry out.

In sand-filled ant farms, you need to add a few drops of water and small bits of food every few days. Ants also love a special treat of water with sugar dissolved in it, but this can t take the place of fresh water for drinking.

How Long Do the Ants Live?

Depending on the age of the ants, the source of the ants, the conditions of the kit and several other factors, your ants may live anywhere from one to six months. Because you can only have worker ants in your farm, they will not reproduce and you will need to remove expired ants regularly. The remaining ants in the farm will usually move dead ants to the top, so they are easy to remove.

Most farms can be used twice before you have to remove the substrate and start from scratch. For sand kits, you can simply buy new sand to start over. For gel kits, no site sells replacement gel inserts and you ll need to buy a whole new farm if you want to go through more than two batches of ants.


Ant farms have been pleasing insect enthusiasts and curious kids for decades. The newer gel-filled kits require much less maintenance than original sand-filled kits, making them an easier commitment for parents. The advent of the space-age nutrient gel has revolutionized ant farms tremendously and this variety has all but replaced the traditional sand kits.

Ant farms are a great tool for observing the behavior of a unique, community-oriented insect. While it is impossible to fill your kit with an entire colony of ants with a queen, your harvester ants will still offer a fascinating glimpse of ant behavior. The ants only last a few months too, making them good starter pets for kids whose parents aren t yet sure they re up to the task. If your child can t take care of an ant farm, it s probably too soon to get a puppy.

Check out our lineup of the top ant farm stores online.

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