The Cave features a plastic/grout hybrid frame with hydration chambers located on two sides; the main inner chamber is based on a hexagon shape that makes very efficient use of space, the texturized interior provides an ideal substrate and allows ants to use all the available space as they can cling on to walls easily.
This nest is ideal for big mature colonies in need of ample space. A total of 5 long chambers provide a gradient of humidity across the nest.
Includes a pair of pre-cut high light transmission red films.
Specifications and Instructions
Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 5 cm +/- 3%
Tubing outside diameter options are: 9.5 mm (3/8″) or 12.7 mm(1/2″).
Conservation clear glass (2 mm thick) mounted with Neodymium magnets.
The frame is 3D printed using INGEO PLA 3D850 plastic (it is plant based, recyclable, non-toxic, safe for ants and superior to all other standard brands of PLA).
The water chambers are made with a special formulation of porous grout to ensure water transport; inside walls have multiple layers composed of sanded grout and mineral additives.
Formicarium only – 265 grams.
Glass outworld 12x10x8 cm with substrate – 250 grams.
Plastic outworld 10 cm³ with substrate – 200 grams.
Before introducing any species, please fill-up both water chambers with distilled water to their max capacity; we recommend introducing ants 24 hours after initial hydration.
Avoid intense vibrations or impacts as this can crack the grout and glass.
Hydration Chamber Instructions
The front glass has been carefully paired with the unit to ensure a good seal using magnetic force while still allowing for air exchange, the rear glass is sealed in using aquarium safe silicon. Glass is waterproof, and the plastic frame around it is close to being waterproof, this means containing humidity inside is easily achieved. The grout mix on the inside, is only water-resistant meaning water does not easily go through it but it does get absorbed within, the internal grout formulation makes it very porous and absorbent like a sponge. The water chamber transfers humidity to the inside walls of the nest, similar to the cotton inside a founding test tube but we are capable of controlling the amount of liquid on the other side and thus the internal humidity.
OK, so how do we do it? There are two combined methods to control humidity inside the formicarium;
1. Dosing the water and frequency (the common method)
2. Controlling the gap between the front glass and frame (delicate adjustment).
1. When water is added to the chamber it is expected for it to slowly absorb into the rest of the inside walls. How quickly the water disappears is an indicator of how dry the nest is, rarely should you need to keep the water chamber filled all the way up at all times as this would only be ideal for high humidity species. Watering the chambers 25% to 75% once a week seems to keep the inside humidity around 40% to 60%, but this also depends on temperature and external humidity. The water chamber slowly distributes the liquid through the entire nest, this creates a gradient in humidity, the water may disappear from the water chamber, but it is now stored within the walls of the nest and will slowly evaporate as it is sealed inside by the frame and glass. If you overfill to often or more than needed the walls inside the nest will become soaked and a mould outbreak can easily happen if organic matter is present. If your ants spend the majority of the time right next to the hydration chamber walls this may be a signal that they prefer higher humidity and an indicator that you could provide water more often.
We suggest observing the glass and grout surfaces for condensation, having some condensation early in the mornings is normal (or with any drop in temperature) but if it is always there or it takes longer to disappear as the day warms up this means you need to add less water and less often. On the contrary, if you never see condensation even with quick reductions in temperature then you may need to add more water and more often, you can test this easily with a tiny piece of ice against the glass, pay attention to the time it takes to see condensation form on the inside and use that time as a reference.
2. The second method relies on calibrating the gap between the front glass and the frame, doing this allows for more air exchange and less humidity as it escapes easily. The glass sits perfectly flush against the frame so by adding 1 little piece of paper next to each magnet, in between the glass and frame we are adding a small gap that will increase air-flow and evaporation (the average printer paper measures 0.2 mm in thickness). This method is considered advanced but the unit has the precision to achieve such delicate calibration.
All of our grout formulations are MOLD resistant, BUT > any leftover food or organic materials as well as excess humidity can result in mold, the key is to provide foods that can not be dragged into the inside, always use feeding dishes and liquid feeding trays, clean up as often as possible, keep humidity to the minimum needs and ensure your colony has a small tight space to ensure they keep it clean.
How to clean
Cleaning your formicarium is very easy. Remove the front glass with a gentle pull to detach the magnets and gently remove all the dry debris, apply slight pressure to avoid cracking the interior grout.
Once done, we recommend using 3% USP hydrogen peroxide and a very soft brush to clean the grout on the walls; it can be purchased at any pharmacy. The mildly abrasive properties of hydrogen peroxide act as a gentle non-toxic bleach. If you have any hard to remove stains, you can also let it sit submerged in a 50/50% solution of distilled water and hydrogen peroxide for 10 to 20 minutes, once done and ready rinse with distilled water and let it air dry for at least 24 hours without the front glass before it is ready for its next use.
Do not use any soaps or acids like vinegar to clean your grout formicarium as such acids eat away the lime, calcium and other minerals in the grout, they could also leave toxic residues within the porous grout.
The design corresponds to our second generation of “Hybrid” formicariums; an external layer printed with a sturdy frame of plastic sealed with clear glass, an internal layer made of grout, sand and mineral additives. Paired with a watering chamber specially designed to distribute moisture evenly through the chambers.
The exterior layer is very water-resistant and very efficient at retaining humidity, due to the slow evaporation the inner layer maintains very constant levels of humidity, it needs very little water and controlling the dosage of water and frequency determines the overall inner relative humidity of the nest, very little water is needed.
The inner cavity has a sandy rugged texture similar to the one found on our grout inserts and other high-quality formicariums on the market; provides benefits like better flooring and grip (cocoon spinning species benefit a lot), reduced stress levels due to a more contained space with crevices to store brood, brood rests against a humid warmer material as opposed to bare plastic, no flooding issues. This overall helps brood develop faster as well as greater total worker counts by making the environment more natural.