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If you know a child—or even an adult—who is fascinated with insects, an ant farm makes a great gift. These relatively low-maintenance habitats not only serve as a learning tool, but they also act as an introduction to pet ownership.
We researched dozens of habitats to find the best ant farms, evaluating them on size, cover security, and added features. Our top pick, Uncle Milton Giant Ant Farm, is an updated version of the company’s tried-and-true model. Its panel provides twice the viewing area of other ant farms and double the security with a self-locking device that makes it impossible for ants to escape.
Here are the best ant farms for all levels of interest.
Best Overall: Uncle Milton Giant Ant Farm
Can be connected to other farms
Ants must be ordered separately
Offering twice the viewing area of its predecessor, Uncle Milton’s Giant Ant Farm allows kids—and adults— a bigger look at the underground world of ants. Plus, viewing is made even easier with the kit’s white sand, which provides a good contrast to help your critters to stand out.
Made of durable plastic, each kit comes with tubes and ant ports that allow you to connect the farm to other structures. Also included: a STEM learning guide that teaches you about the life of ants and how to help your colony thrive. We especially love the self-locking feature that makes it impossible for ants to escape, but still easy to feed them.
Although the company provides a voucher for free ants, previous users recommend finding a local ant supplier, as shipping is dependent on temperatures and can be delayed as a result.
Best Budget: Nature Bound Toys Ant Treehouse Habitat Kit
Perfect for yard ants
Can be connected to other farms
May be difficult to fill
Nature Bound’s ant farm—well, treehouse—may cost less than others, but that doesn’t mean it skips on features. With a sturdy frame and clear window, it’s easy to watch ants dig and tunnel through the sand and “play” on the treehouse. Each kit comes with a feeding stick that makes it easier to give your critters the nutrients they need. Although you can purchase ants separately, Nature Bound and many users suggest collecting ants from your yard, as they are the ideal size.
Some customers had difficulties initially filling the farm with sand and putting the pieces back together. However, they note that they got the hang of it after a few attempts.
Best Set: Insect Lore Ant Mountain with Live Ants
Activity guide adds to the experience
Cannot be shipped to Oregon, Hawaii, Mexico, and Canada
Insect Lores’ two-sided viewing habitat comes with all the tools needed to get your ant farm started—including the ants! Each kit includes special “easy dig” sand and a sand rod, both of which help your ants during the tunneling process. You will also receive an activity guide that helps you learn more about the critters in your care.
Unlike many kits on the market, Insect Lore’s mountain comes with a tube of 25 Harvester ants to get your colony started. Note that this does come with a caveat or two: First, you have to pay close attention to the temperature in your area when ordering. According to the company, temperatures must be between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit to allow for the safe delivery of your ants. Second, the kit cannot be shipped to Oregon, Hawaii, Mexico, and Canada due to restrictions.
Best for Kids: Educational Insights GeoSafari Ant Factory
Three feeding holes
Canal starting tool
Pegs keep it from tilting or toppling over
Sand not included
Can’t be connected to other farms
We think that the Educational Insights’ GeoSafari Ant Factory is worth the higher price tag. The crystal clear panel makes it easy to see your ants at work, while the brightly colored features make the structure appealing to the eyes. Of course, those colorful components serve a purpose: The blue locks are secure enough to keep ants confined to the farm, but they slide open with ease when it’s time for feeding. Meanwhile, the red grips prevent the farm from tipping and toppling over.
Each kit comes with a canal tool so you can help kickstart the ants’ tunneling process, as well as a 24-page guidebook that provides car tips and an introduction to ecology.
Keep in mind that unlike most kits, sand is not included. Fortunately, only two cups are required, so the added cost should be minimal.
Best for Adults: AntHouse Sand Ant Farm
Transparent structure allows for better viewing
Acrylic material makes it more durable
Included water and food dispenser
AntHouse’s ant farm is suitable for ages 10 and up, but the sleek design may make it more appealing to adults. While most ant farms have a plastic structure, AntHouse is 100 percent acrylic. Not only does this make it more durable, but it allows farmers a 360-degree view of their colony.
The farm is broken into two sections: The first, a half-inch sector where ants can tunnel through the provided sand-and-clay mixture. The second, a 3-inch area where ants can lounge on the provided stones, nest on the moss, or eat from the included water and food dispenser (a feature we especially appreciate).
Keep in mind, this farm is smaller than others on the market and is not ideal for those who want to grow out their colony.
Best No Frills: INNOLIFE Ant Farm Ants Castle
Transparent structure allows for better viewing
Gauze lid aids in air circulation
Smaller than most farms
As fun as a farm’s design may be, ants don’t need plastic trees or picnic backgrounds to thrive. INNOLIFE’s ant farm provides everything your insects need to survive. Available in three sizes, each kit comes with a suction pipe and water bowl for easy feeding, as well as a brush and tweezer to make cleanup a breeze. INNOLIFE’s farm also includes sand and a connection pipe so you can build out the farm. INNOLIFE’s farm also has a gauze top to help with air circulation.
This structure is smaller than most, so it’s not ideal if you want to house a lot of ants. But what it lacks in width and height it makes up for in depth, giving you an even greater look at your ants at work.
Best Professional-Grade Ant Farm: Ants Canada 'All You Need' Tetramorium Hybrid 2.0 Gear Pack
Ants Canada’s tetramorium hybrid farm is “designed for professional ant colony keepers,” containing multiple features that allow tetramorium ants—aka pavement ants—to thrive. First, there’s the mold-resistant nest that features pre-existing tunnels built specifically for pavement ants. The nest also has a custom hydration and heating system to create the perfect climate for your critters.
Additionally, there’s the AC Outworld, a transparent space for ants to conduct non-tunneling tasks like foraging for food, dumping garbage, and even disposing of their dead. The mesh surface allows for optimal ventilation, while the lid’s deterrent lip keeps the critters inside the farm.
Because of the professional-level features, this farm has a much higher price tag and is best suited for people who see ant keeping as a passion rather than a passing fad.
Our number one pick is Uncle Milton’s Giant Ant Farm, an updated version of the company’s classic habitat. A large panel and white sand make it easier to view your ants at work, but the self-locking device makes it impossible for ants to escape. If you're looking for something with a lower price tag, go with Nature Bound Toys’ Ant Treehouse, which has a sturdy frame, clear viewing area, and a feeding stick that makes it easier to give your critters the nutrients they need.
What to Look for in an Ant Farm
It may seem obvious, but you want to make sure your future ant farm fits in its designated space. By measuring this area beforehand, you minimize the chance of needing to relocate the farm, which will disturb the ants. You will also want to make sure the space can accommodate additional ant farms, should you decide to grow out your colony in the future.
Very few ant farms come with their inhabitants, meaning you will have to buy them separately—or collect yourself. It’s important to know which type of ant is best for the farm you’re purchasing. Most models are suitable for harvester ants, black garden ants, or wood ants. Specialty models, however, may be designed for a specific species, some of which can be hard to obtain.
The last thing you want is ants escaping and infesting your house. Although all ant farms come with lids, some come with extra security measures, like a deterrent lip or security locks. These are especially crucial if you or someone you live with has a bad habit of knocking things over.
Why type of ants are best for ant farms?
There are more than 12,000 species of ants in existence, but very few are suited for life on an ant farm. According to National Geographic, harvester ants are the best species for ant farms. Other great options for ant farms include black garden ants and wood ants, as they are easy to care for and fun to observe. Garden ants are also low-maintenance inhabitants, and are easy to collect.
Are gel ant farms good for ants?
Gel ant farms may appeal to owners because they require less maintenance, provide better viewing, and have a more solid structure than sand ant farms. But several websites, including Cruelty-Free Soul and Ants Canada, say gel ant farms can be dangerous for ants. To start, ants thrive in darker spaces, but the gel brings more light and brightness into the farm. Additionally, the scent of the gel makes it difficult, if not impossible, for ants to communicate through pheromones. Finally, and more importantly, gel ant farms lack the substances ants need to abstain nourishment and grow.
How many ants should be in an ant farm?
A typical ant colony houses between 1,000 to 100,000 ants. Of course, your contained ant farm won’t be able to hold that many critters. Most experts suggest starting off with 20 ants, including a Queen, and watching as they multiply.
Do I need a Queen ant in my ant farm?
If you want your ant farm to thrive for years, a Queen ant is an essential resident. As the sole egg-layer, the Queen ant is essential to producing more worker ants who will provide food and clean the nest.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Leah Rocketto, a writer who has spent a decade creating lifestyle content. For this article, Leah researched dozens of ant farms, carefully evaluating each habitat’s basic features, extras, and customer reviews. She also utilized expert takes on Ants Canada, one of the leading organizations in ant keeping, myrmecology, ecology, and habitat conservation.