Updated June 2022
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

33
Models
Considered
100
Consumers
Consulted
20
Hours
Researched
Category cover

Buying guide for Best ant farms

As a child, did you enjoy watching ants at work? Ants are fascinating. Milton Levine, a businessman from California, made a sizeable fortune inspired by his boyhood fascination with ants. In 1956, Levine spotted a mound of ants at a family picnic. The ants provoked a memory of how he had collected glass jars of ants when visiting his uncle’s farm in Pennsylvania.

Turning to his brother-in-law and business partner, E. J. Cossman, Levine said, “We should build an antarium.” The resulting product of Milton’s ant-inspired idea, Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm, has been a favorite toy of children for generations. The ant farm portrays a country farmhouse with a windmill and barn connected by a warren of ant tunnels, all encased in plastic. But Uncle Milton’s farm isn’t the only ant farm for kids these days. There are several good ones to choose from, and we’re here to tell you more.

Content Image
As children observe the colony, they will learn that ants are purpose-driven creatures who work together toward a defined goal. Even little ants can teach us important life lessons!

Key considerations

Entertainment and education

Ant farms are highly entertaining. The ants are always busy, and there is always something interesting to watch. You might keep an ant farm as a casual hobby or as a means of learning. A teacher might keep an ant farm for students to study and explore.

.The study of ants and their behavior is known as myrmecology.

Setting up the ant farm

Adult supervision is recommended when setting up and managing an ant farm. Carefully follow the instructions provided. Keep in mind that some ants bite or sting as a protective response when touched, handled, or disturbed. If someone has a sensitivity or allergy to insects or their stings or bites, take extra precautions when setting up and maintaining your farm.

Following instructions

Ants ordered online are typically red harvester ants. They gladly accept offerings of honey and sugar water. Harvester ants are very easy to maintain. Your ant farm kit will come with complete instructions and a best practices guide. Follow the directions, and your ants could live up to six months in your ant farm.

Preventing accidents

If you have rambunctious children, a rowdy dog, or an inquisitive cat, set your ant farm up and out of harm’s way. You do not want your ant farm to experience a “crash and smash.” However, most brands of ant farms are designed to be unbreakable and escape-proof.

If your ant farm does get upset or overturned, your ants will survive, but the shake-up could cause tunnels to collapse and will disturb the harmony of the ant colony.

Dietary needs

Ants require sugars (fruit, raw honey, or sugar water) and protein to survive. Sugar gives the ants the energy they need to go about their busy lives. Protein (bites of egg, cockroaches, or mealworms) are necessary for the growth of the colony. Be careful not to overfeed. Remove uneaten food to prevent mold growth in the ant house. You should receive some specific instructions regarding feeding with your ant farm.

Housekeeping

As you observe and learn more about your ant farm, you will discover that your ants work hard to keep the colony clean. They will make a refuse pile for all debris and a graveyard for their fallen comrades. Following the instruction in your kit, remove debris from the ant farm as it accumulates.

Content Image
For your safety
Adult supervision is recommended when handling ants. Some ants sting, some bite, and some both sting and bite.
STAFF
BestReviews

Features

Ant farm materials and design

Sandwich style: A “sandwich” type ant habitat, of which the popular Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm is an example, is typically a transparent box made from plastic or glass. The box is thin enough that the cavities and tunnels created by the ants are visible. The transparent nature of the box allows the viewer to watch the ants at work and study their behavior. This type of ant farm is normally filled with sand and soil and is an excellent teaching tool for young children. Designed as toys for children, sandwich ant farms are only meant to house worker ants.

Formicarium: A formicarium type ant habitat, designed for classroom use or laboratory research, is usually made from plastic (acrylic) or 3D printed with transparent plastic. Because they are constructed to scientific standards with the highest-quality materials, formicariums cost more than sandwich ant farms. A formicarium is typically filled with sand, soil, vermiculite, sawdust, and mineral fragments. Significantly superior to the sandwich type ant farm, today’s modern formicarium designs allow no chance of tunnel collapse.

Some formicariums offer multi-unit connecting models can accommodate additional sections, expansion bridges, and chambers. The complexity of the ant farm limited only by the imagination of the designer.

Formicariums, specifically designed for the scientific observation of the life of the ant colony, include an oversized chamber to house a queen ant with the workers. Without a queen, the colony will only survive for the duration of the life of the worker ants. Without the queen to lay eggs, no new ants are born, as all worker ants are sterile. An ant colony cannot survive long without the queen.

Fill material

Fill is the organic material included with the purchase of the ant farm or provided by the purchaser that the ants use to construct their intricate tunnels and eating and living chambers.

Natural fill materials: Natural fill material is typically composed of a mixture of sand, soil, mineral fragments, sawdust, and vermiculite.

Filler gel: Some ant farms feature a translucent green or blue filler gel. The gel allows the viewer excellent visibility; the ants can be observed digging from a 3D perspective. The gel is edible and acts as a food source for the ants. However, it does not provide adequate nutrients for the ant colony, making nutritional supplementation necessary.

Using blue or green gel in your ant farm does not prevent you from feeding and interacting with your ants. However, it is best to serve them from the bottom compartment, confining all free food to the “dining hall” section of the ant display. 

Lights

Many ant farms feature soft light (blue or green) to enhance the viewer’s ability to view the ants at work. This kind of ant farm makes a great night light for a child’s bedroom or a soft mood light in the classroom.

Ants provided

Some ant farms include the ants with the initial purchase; others require you to make a separate payment when you order ants to stock the farm. Several ant farm kits on the market include a coupon for ordering ants to be shipped through the mail.

You may also gather ants in the wild to inhabit your ant farm. Carpenter ants and harvester ants adapt well to an ant farm environment.

Queen ants cannot be shipped across state lines. If you wish to add a queen to your farm, shop for a queen from an ant supplier within your state.

Content Image
Did you know?
Queen ants can easily be distinguished from worker ants, as they are considerably larger in overall size and present a bloated belly full of eggs.
STAFF
BestReviews

Ant farm prices

Budget-friendly

In this price range, ant farms are novelty toys that are not meant to last. They are likely manufactured from inexpensive materials and may break and spill if the case drops. Ant farms in the budget-friendly price range sell for $8.99 to $11.99. If you wish to order ants, a tube of approximately 50 ants costs an additional $8.99 or so.

Mid-range

In the price range between $13 and $32, expect to find sturdy, well-constructed ant farms that are guaranteed not to break. These farms make excellent teaching tools in the classroom and are entertaining in the home, as well.

Expensive

If you desire an elaborate system of multiple chambers with connecting passages, you can find several manufacturers that offer connecting systems. With a system like this, which costs anywhere from $32 to $300, you can create an ant farm of your own design. These types of ant farms are frequently used in classroom settings.

"There are more than 12,000 species of ants living in a diverse array of habitats in locations around the world. More than 700 species of ants live in the U.S."
STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • If ordering ants, avoid purchasing during periods of extreme temperatures, both hot and cold. Ants cannot survive shipping when the thermometer climbs above 85°F or below freezing.
  • Be patient when setting up your ant farm. Give the ants time to adjust to their new habitat. Some species of ants start tunneling immediately, while others may huddle in a cluster for days until they acclimate to their new surroundings.
  • Some ant farm kits include diggable sand. Others require you to supply your own fill material. Do not use beach sand, as it contains salt and may harbor toxic algae or chemicals. Use horticultural sand, also known as landscape sand, available from local home and garden outlets.
Content Image
You can nurture your child’s interest in science and help them develop responsibility as they feed the ants and take care of their needs.

FAQ

Q. What should I do with ants when they die?

A. As they expire, you will need to remove them regularly. As mentioned, the average life span is six months, but lifespan depends on the age of the ants when you get them, the source of the ants, the condition of the kits, and other mitigating factors, such as temperature and humidity.
 

Q. Can I mix ants I find in the garden with ants that came with my ant farm?

A. You should not mix different kinds of ants together. If you find and capture your own, they must be gathered from the same source or ant hill. If not, they will fight and kill each other.

Our Top Picks