ACFK-3 From AntsRussia Review
Review Purpose and about AntsRussia
The purpose of this review is not to criticize, diminish, lessen, embellish, promote or praise any brand, or products. The main concern is to provide ant keepers (novice and expert) our experiences while using commercial formicaria to facilitate their choice when considering which would be the most suitable for their actual, or future queens, and colonies.
AntsRussia is already a well known formicarium builder and supplier with hundreds of sales delivered all around the world. They are present in all major social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and they have their own website as well with e-mail contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Their products range from 3d founding formicariums for early colonies to acrylic, wood and ytong/hebel formicariums capable of housing several year old colonies, besides providing some other accessories.
The AntsRussia ACFK-3 formicarium consists of horizontal nest made up of three layers of materials. A bottom layer of opaque white acrylic, an intermediate ytong/hebel layer and on top a transparent acrylic cover.
The nest dimensions are as follows:
200 x 120 x 24 mm, offering a nest volume of 115 cm3.
The AntsRussia website gives out a reference for the number of ants capable of living inside the nest at a 70% occupancy.
Ants up to 3mm in size: max 5000 individuals
Ants up to 8mm in size: max 550 individuals
Ants up to 15mm in size: max 100 individuals
The nest has two possible external connection point and is divided into four separate areas that can be opened or closed in case of necessity. The areas vary on size, so depending on what you want to do you can choose the most adequate combination to fit your colony.
The nest comes with a set of dividing stoppers, closed, open hole or open square, suitable for the different types of ants you are keeping.
The nest also has a side water reservoir for humidifying the nest.
The formicarium doesn’t include any outworld area as an option.
Product purpose, target audience, suitable species
The ACFK-3 formicarium is intended for small/medium colonies with the ability to house them over a long time with the option of providing new additional areas as the colony grows. Since the expansion can be achieved progressively it is possible to control the living space properly and avoid having the ants create trash areas inside the nest.
The horizontal nest with an acrylic transparent cover offers the possibility of observing and photographing/recording the colony very easily.
This formicarium can be used by any beginner to advanced ant keeper, and it is very easy to use.
The suitable species can be from 8mm to 12mm. Messor, Aphaenogaster, Camponotus, Lasius, Formica, Diacamma, etc.
We wouldn’t recommend it for smaller ants like monomorium, tapinoma, and even solenopsis, etc, because they might find small openings on the interface of the area stoppers to escape from. Also ants known or with tendency to chew through ytong aren’t really advisable.
Price, Payment, Handling, Shipping and Packaging
Regarding the price, it is being sold at $35.82 USD (shipping not included).
The payment is all done through the website which is very convenient. Regarding handling and delivery, we found the service to be very informative, you will get an email every step of the way, from order placed, paid, to shipping, and on delivery with tracking number, but unfortunately somehow slow all the way through.
From the payment day to when we received the formicarium it was a month and one week from Russia to South China.
Packaging was great; all items were individually and properly wrapped in protective film.
My experiences, my mistakes and my recommendations
My first trial with this nest was with a Diacamma colony I had, which was housed very poorly. I thought transition would be easy and eagerly accepted by the ants. Well it wasn’t. The first thing they decided to do, was to use the extra housing space as a trash deposit.
One thing that is important to note is that I only humidified the nest using the side water reservoir, and given the size of the nest, one can see that it wasn’t enough, and probably the reason why the ants didn’t move in. I tried to add more water and cover the nest and kept at it for a few days, and still they wouldn’t move, they ended filling the first two cells completely with dirt.
So I decided to disconnect it and try with a new colony I had just received, an Aphaenogaster senilis colony from Spain.
This time, I removed the lid, cleaned all the dirt, washed the formicarium properly and left it to soak all the water it could for 5 minutes. Re-assembled the nest and connected it to the Aphaenogaster colony outworld with the two test tubes they were living in. I only opened the first smaller area for them.
For the first few days they inspected it, and again introduced some garbage. At this moment, I decided to give them a bit more area to see if the formicarium would get more interesting for them, and it did.
The next day, 40% of the ants had moved in, and the following two days, the queen and remaining workers ended up moving.
The colony has since then remained peacefully living inside. There is no garbage accumulation, since it is discarded to the outworld.
The queen continues to lay eggs, and brood is differentiated and kept in separate cells, which is very interesting to watch and keep an eye on their development.
Photography and video recording is easy, but for macro shots taken on a 20 to 40 degrees angle from the horizontal, keepers will notice the interference of the acrylic on the image result, which introduces some distortion to the photo.
The side water reservoir that can be filled regularly to keep humidity levels stable on one side only, since the distance to the other end is too big for the water to reach. Another option for constant humidity levels is to soak the nest on a wide platter for a few minutes.
One thing to be careful about is overflowing the side water reservoir, the water will infiltrate directly into the cells flowing between the acrylic and the ytong and panic the colony.
One issue to highlight from my experience using the formicarium is that there is a very small gap between the ytong and the dividing stoppers. In my instance the ants detected the small air flow (or something else they didn't like), and used soil, that I always provide in my outworlds, to plug the gaps. The accumulated soil became a problem when I removed the dividing stopper as the soil fell into the recess for the stoppers. In order to complete the expansion you must reinsert another dividing door that has a hole in it, and as the soil falls right in the recess, it prevents me from inserting the dividing door all the way through into it's slot as shown in the images below.
To solve it I will have to use a tool to remove the soil from the recess. During this operation it may be possible for some ants to escape and it will not be as smooth as one would wish for.
The final and weakest point of this formicarium is the ytong material. I have no idea how it happened and when (production, handling, shipping, or my handling), but two cracks appeared at the corners of the formicarium, near the bolt areas where the material is weaker. It is not a serious or complete crack and so the nest continues to be fully functional, but it is important to highlight the fact the nest should be handled gently to avoid damaging it.
There will never be a perfect formicarium, except those built in the wild by our ants, and even those are not always good enough for them at some stage, forcing them to move on into a newer one.
One important aspect is to consider what species one has, what are their requirements, and what has to be compromised to achieve the best solution possible. Sometimes it's visibility, other times the chance of expansion, or the humidification of the nest, or the nest life span, or size, etc.
This being said, it's impossible not to like the looks and versatility of this formicarium.
I am really fond of this design, the versatility and life span it can offer. While writing this review, a crazy idea came into my mind of the possibility of housing two different colonies of the same species (or not) and opening the common door at some stage (don't do it for different species) for merging the colonies (if species allow it, for example anoplolepis gracilipes, etc), or just see how single queens can compare the colonies development side by side etc.
I think this is a very good formicarium, the price is attractive and it gives a good run for your money given the possibility of interior expansion.