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Keeping ants as pets

Updated: May 8

So you are interested in keeping ants as pets? Then you have come to the right place! In this blog, we'll tell you a bit more about how to keep ants as pets. But maybe you are mostly wondering, why keep ants as pets? What's the fun in that?

This is a question we often get and are happy to answer. Keeping ants is not like keeping a dog or rabbit that you can cuddle and pet. Ants are an object of study, meant to be observed. Compare it a bit to fish. They swim around in a tank, you have to feed and clean them, but apart from that you can only look at them. It is exactly the same with ants. Only, the nice thing about ants is that a colony also expands. An ant colony is constantly changing and you are always facing new and exciting challenges that make it great fun to keep ants as pets.

But how should you care for, clean and study these animals? We are happy to explain that to you.

Starting to keep ants as pets

Before we start on how to keep ants as pets, we need to make one thing clear. Whereas with other pets it is fairly common knowledge how to take care of them, with ants it works slightly differently. Every colony is different. Each ant species is also different. So the care for each ant species is also different. For example, one species needs more heat. While the other species does not. But don't worry. All our ants come with a description of how to keep them. So this insight into keeping ants is a general description of how to care for most ant species.

Most people (in Europe) start with one of the following three species: Lasius niger, Lasius flavus en Messor barbarus. Do you get it pronounced? Most ant species have Latin names but in the Netherlands we know these species as the black road ant, the yellow meadow ant and the harvester ant. These species are very common and you can find out more about them by clicking on the names.

Most ants start out in a test tube. This is the ideal environment for ants to establish their colony. Yes, a queen establishes a colony all by herself. How that works we explain in this blog. Once the colony is founded, the ants move to a nest also called a formicarium. These come in different shapes and sizes.

Most ants generally eat sugar water and insects. The harvester ant as its name suggests, Messor barbarus, eats seeds. They collect these in the wild and chew them into ant bread. You offer this food in an outside world. The outside world is an area separate from the nest, often open, where the ants can collect their food and deposit their waste. The nest is the underground part and the outside world is the above-ground part.

Tips for keeping ants as pets

You are almost ready to start keeping ants. We do have a few good tips for you that you shouldn't forget.

1. Make sure your ants can always drink water

A common mistake made by beginners is not to give the ants drinking water in the

outside. This is very important because without water, the ants quickly dry out and die. This, of course, is something you don't want. You can offer ants water in a test tube or in a drinking fountain.

2. The ants should experience as little vibration as possible

Ants do not like vibrations. Every time vibrations occur around the nest, the ants think the nest will collapse and then they panic. This panic is not good. Especially not for the queen. The stress she experiences can affect the queen's lifespan. So make sure the ants are on a cupboard or table that does not rattle too much and is not touched too often. A separate table or wall shelf is best. A queen NOT sitting still is not a good sign.

3. Your nest should always be 50% full

Many beginners move the ants to too big a nest too soon. This is not good for the ants. In a nest that is too large, part of the nest is used as a waste chamber. This can go mouldy, which is something you don't want in your ant colony. Make sure the ants occupy at least half of the new nest. If you're not sure or in doubt, you can always contact us or ask someone in the community for advice.

4. Don't leave food in the outside world for too long

If you leave your food in the outside world for too long, it is likely to get

mould and possibly attract pests such as mites. Mites love waste and ants also produce waste. If you keep the outdoors neat and clean, you prevent the chances of this happening. It not only gives you more viewing pleasure but also makes keeping ants much more fun.

5. Inform yourself well and ask around in the ant community

You are not alone! There are lots of people who keep ants. Some are real experts and know everything there is to know about ants. We have a large network of groups that includes many passionate ant keepers. You can join these groups via this link. This is the best and fastest way to get answers to all your questions. If you really can't figure it out, you can always send an email to or contact us in another way. Planning to keep ants as pets? We would love to help you!

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