Ants Only Need 4 Things to Survive!

Ant keeping may initially seem complicated, however there are only four things ants need to grow and produce a thriving colony. These are Food, Water, the correct Environment and Oxygen. And all you need is patience, as colonies take time to grow!


Ants need protein and sugars to grow and be healthy. Normally ants get their protein from eating other insects, but in captivity live insects are difficult to find. As a substitute, you can buy high protein ant food (see our Ant Park products), protein jelly or buy insects from your local pet store – crickets are a favourite for most ants. Protein is the most important food to ensure fast growth of your colony because the Queen uses the protein to produce eggs and to feed the ant larvae until they are fully grown.

Sugars are the main food eaten by ants for energy. To ensure your ants get the sugars they need, the best solution is a tiny spot of honey once to twice a week. Not too much, or tiny ants can drown in the honey, and larger ants get stuck in it! I made this mistake when I was first starting out, and I lost a couple of beautiful queens. Alternatively, you can purchase high sucrose food that is specially developed and rigorously tested on ants. 

Different ant species have varied dietary needs, so research the specific requirements for your queen’s species. Generally, a guide is: Sugar, Honey, Jam, Nectar, Protein Jelly, Worms, Shrimp, Flies, Caterpillars, Crickets, Snails, Meal Worms. Ensure a constant supply of fresh food and remove any spoiled or uneaten food promptly to prevent mold or bacterial growth.


Every living creature needs water, including ants. You can set up a test tube solution, which is advisable in the founding stage. Or you can set up a water feeder or shallow water tray in an outworld connected to a test tube or formicarium (ant nest). Monitor the water level regularly and refill as needed. Ants require a fresh supply of water, so make sure it doesn’t dry out.

If you are worried about your ants drowning, Ant Park Water Hydration Gel is also a very good way of providing additional water for your ants. You can provide these in a small feeding dish on the surface or mix them into the soil when setting up a new habitat to help with moisture retention.


The Environment in which you keep your ants is very important to their survival. When keeping ants, you should try and replicate the natural conditions they live in. This means providing them with suitable amounts of food and water as well as ensuring the conditions are similar to outdoors. There are a few things you need to consider:

  1. Nest and Substrate:
    • In the early stage, when the Queen only has a few eggs and minimal workers, she can be kept in a test tube setup as shown in the photo. This allows water through the bottom blocking cotton and air through the top. She is also in a small confined, environment which would be similar to her natural environment.
    • Alternatively, you could put the Queen in a very small formicarium (ant farm), however it needs to be escape proof and have adequate ventilation.
    • Once you have over twenty workers (depending on species), you can move them from the test tube to a formicarium (ant nest), or you can connect the test tube to an outworld. This outworld must have an appropriate substrate that the ant would find in their natural environment. For example, Bull Ants need red sand lining their outworlds, while Green Weavers that are arboreal prefer leaves and sticks.
  2. Temperature and Humidity:
    • Research the preferred temperature and humidity levels for the specific ant species you have.
    • Maintain the appropriate temperature by placing the setup in a suitable location, away from extreme heat or cold. If necessary, you may need to run a heat cable next to the nests that require warmer weather (ie Melophorus). All our mesh nests have room for a heat cable to run underneath them.
    • Monitor and regulate humidity levels by using a moisture system if required. All our mesh nests can be hydrated by soaked cotton underneath the nest.
  3. Lighting:
    • Many ant species prefer low levels of light or darkness, so it is essential to keep their setup in a dimly lit or dark area. We do sell black test tube covers and red light enclosures that will ensure your ant is relaxed and able to lay.
    • Avoid exposing the ants to direct sunlight or bright artificial lights. This will stress the Queen and she will be unlikely to lay, or even eat her eggs.
  4. Observation:
    • Observe the queen and her behaviour regularly, but avoid excessive disturbances that may stress or harm her.
    • Keep the setup clean and remove any debris or dead insects.
    • Occasionally check the setup for any signs of mould, pests, or other issues that may require intervention.

4. AIR

Yes, ants, like all living creatures, require air to survive. They are aerobic organisms, which means they need oxygen to support their respiration and metabolic processes. Adequate ventilation is crucial for the health and well-being of the ant colony. It allows the exchange of oxygen and the removal of carbon dioxide, helping to maintain a suitable environment inside the test tube.

Make sure you have cotton in the end of their test tube (which is breathable), or an outworld that has tiny holes to allow air flow. When setting up a test tube for ants, it is essential to ensure that the chosen material for ventilation provides enough airflow without being too large or allowing the ants to escape.

Remember, caring for ants can be a complex process, and different ant species may have specific needs. It’s crucial to research the specific requirements of the ant species you are keeping, ensuring their well-being. Additionally, some species may be protected or regulated, so it’s important to check local regulations before capturing or keeping ants.