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What is a Gel Ant Farm?

By Deirdre Jones
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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For years, ant farms have been wonderful educational toys for kids ages 5 years and up. Watching the behavioral characteristics of ants in their native environment is a fascinating study for both children and adults alike. Traditionally, the ant farm was housed in a slim plastic casing filled with dirt that simulated the natural ant environment. However, this traditional ant farm is quickly being replaced by the gel ant farm.

The concept of the gel ant farm is pretty much the same as any regular ant farm, but with a few added bonuses. As opposed to classic dirt-filled ant farms, the gel ant farm requires much less work, so observers are free to watch science at work without much effort or upkeep to the ant gel colony. There is no watering or feeding required — the gel contains all the nutrients and moisture the ants need to survive. For this reason, gel ants are viewed as easy pets and are a popular gift for birthdays and other special occasions.

Just like the ant farms of old, many of the newer gel ant farms can be interconnected via tubes to build larger ant communities. The nutrient-rich gel included is usually tinted blue or green. Some gel ant farms also include light-up bases that help to see the tunnels the ants construct even better. A lighted gel ant farm can also double as an interesting nightlight for an older child who is too old for a nightlight but who is still not quite comfortable with complete darkness.

The gel for a gel ant farm arrives as a solid in the slim plastic casing that will house the ants. Tunneling begins when the ants are added to the gel. Once the ants are added, they get to work immediately constructing the colony. After a few weeks, there are normally tunnels available for observation and study. Some gel ant farms include a magnifying glass to provide an even closer look as the ants burrow and expand their colony.

Depending on the time of year the ant farm is ordered, the ants may or may not be included. Extreme temperatures can kill the ants. If the ants are not shipped with the ant farm initially, ordering instructions are included that specify when the ants will be available and how to order them. A gel ant farm is an excellent tool for introducing young children to science that also provides a means for exploring and learning about other habitats in the ecosystem.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005477 — On Sep 05, 2021

Gel Ant Farms are not good. They will eventually kill the ants in the long term.

By Animandel — On Aug 07, 2014

Every ant farm story I have heard ends with, "And the ants were crawling all over the floor." This includes my personal ant farm story. When I was a kid, one of my classmates brought his ant farm to school one day for show and tell.

All of us in the class thought the case and the ants were so cool. Today, I can't understand why I was so taken with those ants. I had seen plenty of ants and I never had any affection for them until that day in class.

I went home and begged my mother and father to take me to buy an ant farm. They eventually gave in and we ordered one through the mail. I never told them, but by the time the glass case arrived I was long past wanting those ants. When the package arrived I didn't even know what it was.

When the case fell off the table and broke after a few months, I was so happy. I no longer had to pretend that I loved my ant farm. To this day, whenever my mother sees an ant in the house she says it's a descendant of the ants from my ant farm

By Drentel — On Aug 06, 2014

That fact that ants need little care is a good thing. Every kid I knew growing up who had an ant farm eventually lost interest in the ants in a matter of weeks. I can remember playing with ants in the yard, but I never wanted to put them in a container and bring them into the house. Of course, my mother would have had something to say about that anyway.

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