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What is a Gel Ant Farm?

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  • Written By: Deirdre Jones
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 31 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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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.

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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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