I need feedback on my design and plans!

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Hawkeye
Posts: 989
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Location: Almelo

I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 59822Post Hawkeye
Tue Jun 25, 2019 2:43 pm

Hello Antfarmers!

I am completely new to keeping ants, in fact, I still have to start... I would love some feedback from you guys on my design for an enclosure. I have based this idea loosely on the youtube videos from AntsCanada, combining the floating island, the golden springs and other elements, but any input will be appreciated.

ImageImageImageImageImage

I plan to house a colony of carpenter ants (Camponotus ligniperda) which are more common in other parts of Europe ( I live in the Netherlands) but do naturally occur in our country as well. The terrarium part in the middle is 68cm wide, 43 cm deep and 40 cm high, giving them 103l / 27 gallons of digging space...

The worker ants can grow up to 1,5cm in length, so the setup should be about 45 times their body length. Now I assume these ants normally travel considerable distances in the forest to forage for food ( I could be wrong ), so I am not completely sure if this setup is adequate. Developing from an egg into a worker could take up to 10 weeks, so the colony probably won't outgrow the terrarium very quickly but still, I am eager to hear what you guys think.

I read that these ants prefer to build their nests in (rotting) wood or under stones. This could actually work to my advantage as adding pieces of wood and rock, would create some height, increase the traversable surface area, make for an interesting environment and hopefully increase their visibility as well.

I have surrounded the terrarium with 15cm of water on the left, front and right and 8cm of water at the back. A little 'beach' at the front should give the ants easy access to the water to drink or dispose of rubbish. The waterfall in the left corner combined with the little divider should provide a nice flow of water. I plan on using an external pump, sucking water from the refugem and pumping it into the aquarium. The overflowing water can then flow back through a tube to the refugem, completing the circle. The divider is slightly lower than the water level, so some of the water will be recirculated. I didn't want the divider to be a bridgde for the ants to reach the outer walls. Now since these Ants prefer to live in forest areas, I assume they won't like to cross the water, and therefore I won't risk the ants escaping. But as I said, I am completely new to this... So if you have any ideas?

The aquarium part holds about 318l or 84gallons of water, with another 106l / 28 gallons in the refugem. I have concocted a mixture of Asian species of fish, shrimp and snails, which should complement each other nicely. (based on what they eat, their size, where they hang out, how friendly they are, the ph value of the water etc. etc.)

At the bottom layer
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The sewellia lineolata (max 9cm) should mainly stick to the bottom. It's omnivorous, but prefers algae and waste matter

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These snails will help to control any algea and decaying plant matter in the aquarium

Image Image
These neocaridina cf davidi shrimp should keep the aquarium clear of dead ant bodies and other waste (some will be placed in the refugem to breed)

In the middle layer
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The Colisa lalia (max 6 cm) is omnivorous and likes to eat larvae of mosquitoes and such. I am hoping they like ants too

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Betta splendens male super delta. I'd like a male and female of this species which grow to max 6 cm. Also omnivorous

At the top layer
... actually I am not quite sure yet. I am thinking about adding a school of rasbora espei, but I am not sure of their added value. Several species of guppies would certainly make for a colorfull display, but I'm afraid the males (the colorful ones) will start fighting


The refugem has several functions besides increasing the volume of water.
- I want to fill a good portion of it with porous rocks, so beneficial bacteria and mosses can easily settle.
- Next I want to add fresh water muscles as a natural water filter (1 mature muscle should be able to clean about 10l per hour) In aquariums they tend to bury themselves in sand, but they might actually like to settle on the stones as well, as the refugem wouldn't house any natural enemies.
- Furthermore, I would like the refugem to be a breeding place for shrimp, water fleas and possibly little snails. I am hoping their offspring will be sucked up in the water flow and be dispersed in the aquarium to be gorged on by my omnivorous creatures. The snails could both be food for the ants and the aquatic creatures once they have been crushed.
- finally the refugem will be the place to house a heating element out of sight, to keep the water at a steady temperature.

I am eager to find out what you guys think.

Hawkeye
Posts: 989
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Location: Almelo

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 59883Post Hawkeye
Thu Jun 27, 2019 8:47 am

Hello again,

I've done some further digging (no pun intended) and have made some changes to the design.

ImageImage

Aquarium
As not all fish or creatures might enjoy a strong current, I wanted to incorporate a more tranquil location for them to relax in. So I decided to design a 'bay' area at the front. As an added benefit the new bay area will be a prime location for some extra water plants, rocks etc. Making it a perfect spot to relax for my creatures. To give them some more room I decided to raise the tank by 10cm, which allows for some bigger water plants as well.

Paladerium
To counter the loss of surface for the ants, I have increased the width of the tank by 20 cm and decreased the width of the water on the left, right and rear of the terrarium, giving them an extra 3cm in each direction. Next I increased the 'beach' to 54cm wide, and it now actually hovers over the water, instead of going inland. Needless to say, this will be fertile ground for mosses and I expect the ants to use it for easy access to the waterfront. Raising the paladerium by 10cm allows for more digging space. I was concerned about the size of the surface being sufficient for a colony, but seeing as usually only about 25% of the colony venture out of the nest, and wood, rocks, plants, etc. will add more surface area, I am by now pretty sure my ants will love the space.
ImageImage

Refugems
To improve (living) conditions in the refugem, I decided to have not 1 but 2 of them working in tandem. Having all the creatures in just one small tank might be a little crowded, besides I wouldn't want the shrimp in there to feast on the water fleas before they reach the main aquarium. I guess I will have to find out how well these little creatures can actually withstand the currents once they are in there. I might find out that as soon as I deposit them they will be dispersed throughout, but I'll just have to wait and see.

To facilitate water changes I have added a tap between the 2 refugems. That should make it a lot easier and won't disturb the creatures in the main aquarium, other than the current being turned off for a bit. All in all the water volume has increased to about 500l, which should help considerably in providing a stable environment.

Seeing as the external filter pump comes with a spray arm, but I have designed a waterfall to further facilitate the currents, water from the main aquarium will flow into the first refugem using the spray arm. This should help add some extra oxygen to the water. To have better control over the water flow inside the refugems, I redesigned the dividers to force water up and down, guiding it past rocks and muscles, etc. to enjoy their benefits.

The first refugem will hold shrimp, rocks, mosses, plants, and muscles. Making it more of a sump than a refugem, as the main focus will be on filtering out debris, waste, algae, etc.

The second will house even more muscles, water fleas, snails and a heating element. Depending on the conditions, the second refugem might get an extra air pump. As the muscles can filter about 10l/h and I will have about 500l to filter out, I will probably add some muscles to the main aquarium as well, placing them under the waterfall. This should alleviate the pressure on the external filters, minimize maintenance, and increase the amount of time in between water changes.

Bioactive environment
To further promote the bioactive-ness of my water environment I am thinking about adding water striders to the mix of creatures. This will probably help keep the fish more active as they have to hunt them, provide a more varied diet for them and -depending on how well they breed- it will be a natural source of food. The only concerns I have is that I am not sure if the fish will overfeed themselves, or just eat what they need. Do any of you have an idea?

Eager to hear from you guys! Any tips or feedback are more than welcome...

Hawkeye
Posts: 989
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Location: Almelo

An update!

Post: # 59937Post Hawkeye
Fri Jun 28, 2019 7:09 am

Hello, fellow ant lovers,

A quick update on my progress:

Pet store
I have visited a local pet store, hoping to get some feedback on my design. The salesperson didn't know what a formicarium was, which was weird, but I guess ant keeping just isn't that popular in the Netherlands (yet?) Anyway I showed him my posts on this forum to give him a general idea of where I'd like to end up. He was pretty much blown away by my plans to try to create a self-sustaining biotope. He loved the idea and the challenge of combining two area's of expertise (ant keeping and caring for an aquarium.) He then proceeded by offering up that his store pretty much catered for novice aquarians, using standard aquariums, and that my plans might actually go over his head...

Fighting fish?
He did actually sell some of the fish that I want to put in the water, like for instance the betta splendens male super delta. He explained that due to the size of my tank, I might be able to put in more than one male of the same species, but the chances of them running into each other and then proceeding to fight were high. With a couple of females, the chances of them trying to reproduce would be good, but he warned me that their eggs would probably be eaten by the other creatures. Apparently, they give off some scent which makes them easy to find. So if I did want to breed them, I would have to use a separate tank like my refugems!

Filterpump
Talking about my refugems, and using them to breed food, I thought about the water flow, but didn't take the filtering part of the external filter pump into account enough. Seeing as I wouldn't like any offspring to end up in the microfilters of my pump, and eventually die off from lack of light/food, I will have to make sure I prevent them from being sucked into the water inlet. I am guessing filling it up with some biofilter should do the trick. I could always cover it with a sock filter as well. That does mean that I will have to scoop the critters from the refugem to deposit them into the main aquarium, but that's a small price to pay.

Benefical plants
The carpenter ants are known for caring for aphids so I want to use this to my advantage. In the formicarium I will plant a Chinese Spring Rose ( Helleborus Foetidus ) which actually blooms pretty much throughout the year. The color of the flowers depends on the temperature and the amount of light it receives. The plant is relatively sturdy and easy to keep, as long as it receives enough water. Now from my experience, I can tell you that aphids love these plants. I have had to fight off invasions of them in the past, but my ants will likely be delighted with them. The plants are susceptable to snails as well ( There's one in the picture )
Image

Now I still have to find out if the carpenter ants actually eat seeds as well. If that is the case, I will try to add some seed-bearing plants like poppies for instance. That should provide them with a source of protein other than insects.

Nesting in wood
As these ants like to nest in wood, I want to give them ample space for their architectural marvels. I plan on giving something like this:
Image
Well something a bit smaller obviously, as this one is about 75 cm tall! I'll probably add some air plants, hedera and maybe another climbing or hanging plant to complement it.

Wood lice?
Now once I have actually built the setup, adding the substrate, gravel, porous rocks, water plants and the beneficial bacteria, etc. I will need to have it run for at least 3 weeks before I can even think about adding any fish etc. As the waters need to settle, the bacteria need to grow and so on... Now I don't want to introduce the ants until everything has settled down, so that means I will have an empty formicarium for about a month. So I have been thinking about adding some woodlice to the formicarium prior to the ants' arrival. Like springtails they dine on decaying plant matter, enriching the soil with nutrients with their droppings. My thinking is that they will possibly do some work for the ants, digging into the wood. Next to that they will likely be a welcome, protein-rich, house-warming gift for the ants, once they enter the lush environment I intend to create for them.
What do you guys think? Should I add them?

Hydro pellets
Now when it comes to filling up the formicarium with soils, I am still a bit in the dark as to which would work best. Here's my plan so far. On the bottom, I want to place a layer of about 3 cm high of hydro pellets and then cover that layer with some cloth used in gardening to prevent weeds from growing. ( literally translated it is called root cloth, but I am not sure that's what you guys call it too ) Image
Anyway the idea is that I will have a place for excess water to build up, so it can't flood the nest, or cause the roots of my plants to start rotting.

Charcoal?
On top of that cloth a layer of charcoal, which would help to filter out unwanted toxins but apparently is a very good environment for springtails as well? Can any of you guys confirm this? To fill the rest I plan on using a mixture of (cut-up) leaves, moss, sand, wood chips, potting ground ( like the stuff you buy for potted plants ) and possibly some small pebbles. I would like the mixture to resemble the forest floors they are used to.

As always, I am eager to hear your opinions and welcome additional info!

Hawkeye
Posts: 989
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Location: Almelo

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 60035Post Hawkeye
Sat Jun 29, 2019 6:58 am

Hey antlovers!

A quick question. Would it be wise to drill some holes into the wood before I insert it? It might make it easier for the ants to start burrowing into it?

Camponotus
Posts: 192
Joined: Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:48 am

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 60036Post Camponotus
Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:04 am

Your plan seems ok

Hawkeye
Posts: 989
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Location: Almelo

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 60038Post Hawkeye
Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:21 am

Camponotus wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:04 am
Your plan seems ok
Thanks! I would hate to build a 600-650kg paladerium only to find out it wouldn't be suitable for the ants.

Hawkeye
Posts: 989
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Location: Almelo

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 60052Post Hawkeye
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:21 pm

I was under the impression that this species of carpenter ants doesn't really hibernate, I think I read that somewhere in a description of the species, but I just saw people posting messages of putting their colonies in cellars to promote hibernation.
Now if this species does need colder temperatures to hibernate, that would pose a problem, since I can't move the 650kg setup once it is installed (at room temperature) and I doubt I will be able to coax them into leaving the tank safe for flooding everything.
Any ideas guys?

Camponotus
Posts: 192
Joined: Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:48 am

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 60057Post Camponotus
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:47 pm

Maybe have them in cold places and put heating mat?

AntSquirrel
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Jun 25, 2019 4:23 pm
Location: Utah

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 60061Post AntSquirrel
Sat Jun 29, 2019 5:42 pm

Wow! That's a pretty impressive plan! My concerns with it though might be nuptial flights or too much water for the ants. Most camponotus ants from what I understand prefer fairly dry ares. Although the nuptial flights might not be an issue if they decide conditions aren't right.

AS FOR THE FIGHTING FISH! I know a little about that! I might recommend against them for this set up. Bettas are amazing fish, they're colorful, easy to take care of, fairly intelligent for fish, and can even be trained to some extent. HOWEVER they can be extremely aggressive.
When putting them with tank mates it's better to put them with peaceful, noncolorful and/or super fast creatures. Even then it's best to try to find a betta with a fairly good temperament, which varies from individual to individual. Bettas will often hang around the top of the water, but may go to the bottom to rest, they may pick on your shrimp or other colorful creatures.
Males are more aggressive than females, but even females will fight if you aren't careful. And never EVER put in two males where they can get to each other. Sometimes being able to see their own reflection or another male can be good entertainment so they can show off, which is good for some, but can over stress others.
I have a male betta now, and I use to have some neon tetras in with him. He's fairly peaceful for a betta, and neon tetras are known to be one of the few tetras that don't nip fins of other fish so much. Plus they're fast enough to get away from an angry betta. My betta didn't mind them at first, but my neon tetras loved to nip his fins, which ended up in his fins getting torn to pieces! Despite all the things I read that said they don't. My poor betta put up with this for awhile until eventually he took out the eye of one of the neon tetras. That's when I had to rehome my tetras. This keeping in mind this betta was the calmest one I've ever owned. Other more aggressive ones probably would probably be the first to attack.
As great pets as bettas can be, they're not always so great to keep in community tanks. So keep that in mind
Camponotus Modoc Queens:
Gold: Four workers
Bronze: It's complicated
Silver: Gone :,<

Tetramorium Caespitum Queens:
Rose: 5-6 workers
Iris: Likely not fertile
Wings: Almost certainly not fertile
Stubby: Gone :,<

Hawkeye
Posts: 989
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2019 4:38 pm
Location: Almelo

Re: I need feedback on my design and plans!

Post: # 60064Post Hawkeye
Sat Jun 29, 2019 6:15 pm

Camponotus wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:47 pm
Maybe have them in cold places and put heating mat?
I plan to install the tank in either my study or the living room. Having it in the cellar or a shed wouldn't make much sense and I doubt it would get enough natural light for it's inhabitants.

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