Monday, August 7, 2017

Shoutout to the City of Anture

I don't know how this escaped my notice for long. I think I was dimly aware of it a few years back but forgot about it when Googling "Anture" and "City of Anture" didn't turn up any results. The City of Anture is (was) a project by one 'Iris Corven' to build an underwater ant farm. Sound familiar?
I found out about it because Mr. Corven commented on a recent post on this blog. If you're reading this, for some stupid reason I can't reply to comments here, I dunno if it's a problem with Chrome, with Blogspot, with Google accounts or what.

But what a cool project you built! It looks to be one of those gel ant farms where the substrate they burrow through is also their ongoing source of both food and water. A great choice for a self-contained underwater ant colony as this way, you never need to bring it to the surface to replenish the food or water.

 The only points I take off are for the tiny aquarium it's in, and the fact that the colony is 1atm. I made this mistake too with the very first Hampture prototype, using a stagnant air return tube. Connecting it directly back to the surface that way makes the air pressure inside the habitat the same as at the surface.
This is a bad way to go, since it means there is a pressure differential involved. The water pressure outside the habitat is greater than the air pressure inside, which can lead very easily to leaks. Maybe not at first, but as wear and tear accumulate.

 The surprisingly easy solution to this? Don't have an air return tube. Let it bubble out. It has to overcome the outside water pressure to do so, which means it first must build up to a slight internal overpressure.

This overpressure ensures that wherever there is a crack, air can bubble out, but water cannot seep in. The water would have to get past the higher pressure air. This is called an ambient pressure habitat, and it's inherently safer/more fault tolerant than one atmosphere.

Ants don't need much airflow compared to hamsters, but there are in-line valves for aquarium pumps that let you reduce the airflow to the desired amount. This will reduce the bubble plume and won't dry out the top layer of gel.

There's also no ballast weights on the habitat. It seems he glued(!) it to the bottom of the aquarium. I would not recommend this. The stress will eventually overcome the glue and shoot the ant farm up to the surface. Properly attached ballast weights are needed.

This is a very cool overall idea that could easily be revisited with these small changes. It would be really cool to see footage of an ant farm like this with LED lighting inside the top of the lid (to make the ants more visible in the gel) sitting on the bottom of a pond or lake.

The edible gel gives this project a lot more autonomy than a hamster habitat. If somebody set up an underwater ant farm of this type, ambient pressure, in a pond next to their home and used grid power for the air pump (or better yet the pump is inside so cold weather doesn't kill it, and there's just a fucking long air tube running to the pond) it could potentially be fine by itself for several months.

There's also a wide variety of different gel antfarm enclosure designs to play around with, that would look more suitable as an underwater structure:
They are overwhelmingly very close to airtight because of the necessity of not having any small openings ants could escape through, so they don't look difficult to make watertight, especially given that ambient pressure habitats don't even really need to be fully watertight. 
If you're reading this Iris, I salute your efforts so far, but you stopped too soon! There's so much untapped potential here! I have my hands full with hampture but would love to see you pursue more ambitious versions of Anture in tandem. With LED lighting, ballast weights, ambient pressure, in a natural body of water. All that good stuff.

If you need help/advice with stuff like ballasting, buoyancy calculation for weights, electrical power supply for lighting or heating, drop those questions in the comments on my blog and I'll somehow get back to you about it. 


  1. USB guy here with some ideas and suggestions. Firstly, I'd suggest checking out Dollar Tree or other cheap stores, definitely GoodWill and thrift stores for supplies and ideas. Dollar Tree has tons of Solar powered pathway LED lights (for $1 each, obviously) and lots of electrical cables, tools, craft supplies, etc. With some wiring changing, soldering, etc you could no doubt wire several of the solar panels and their AA/AAA rechargeable batteries together, seal them in a water tight container you can put on shore, in a pool float of some sort, or maybe a pole or something so the solar panels are just below/at the water surface so they can be a renewable source of power. You can then solder the lights inside the aquariums that'll turn on automatically when the light hitting the panels goes away (which is how the pathway lights function normally to light up the ground/path at night).
    You could probably also wire the air pump to them (or a bigger solar panel/battery array) with a plug in timer or something of your own imagining that'll turn on the pump (possibly with the unit inside the first/main aquarium, which could probably double as a weight if it's heavy enough.)

    Those are a few ideas I've come up with after just reading your post. I highly suggest checking out Dollar Tree's if there are any nearby you, they always have a ton of highly useful, inexpensive products, and tend to to get lots of well known/name brand tools, electronics, craft/office/school supplies that give me all sorts of ideas for uses and inventions when I go through the store weekly or bi-weekly. LIke mine has window sealing kits full of sheets of heat shrink wrap that you could wrap the aquariums in, then use a hair dryer on to make the sheets cling/seal them up as an extra safety measure.

  2. PT.2
    They also have these little bubble blowing whales powered by 2 AA/AAA batteries that use a small motor with an impeller/propeller in something that's very similar to my blacksmithing forge hand/electric blowers, along with electric tooth brushes you could take their motors out of. Some other things they have: String LED lights, small LED lamps with two metal rings along the base that are contact sensitive, when you touch them it turns the lamp (or whatever you wire them to) on, then touch again to turn them off. Lots of choices of USB cables, bags of great CAT NIP (which would normally cost $10+ at all other stores for the amount/quality, I mention this because I remember from your LR comic, pics after your move saying you have cats, but also maybe hamsters like it? Packs of 100-200 Popsicle sticks of varying sizes, Hair clips, bobby pins, rubber bands, hair ties/scrunchies/those super tiny rubber bands people use for braiding hair or whatever(which I've found highly useful for fixing things, like keeping a windshield wiper on your car if it breaks), packs of clothes pins both regular and super small size (about the size a hamster would use to hang up their clothes, which along with the hairclips & bands can be highly useful for hanging/clamping wires or hoses), lots of varieties of seeds for planting/gardening supplies like mesh gardening fabric you can line the base of tanks with, then a layer on top with soil inside the two layers (and maybe glue or sew them together to keep the soil/water gel beads/growing medium contained) and make holes/slits in it for planting seeds(or get them to sprout/grow outside the tank, then transplant them into it). They have plant labeling sticks/tags, thick rubber coated bendable/pose-able wires, jute/synthetic sting rolls, little packs full of picture hanging wires, screw eyehooks, screw hooks, etc.
    Sorry about the rant, I could literally keep talking about all this for a great deal longer, but I've spent well over an hour writing all this, and I figure you probably won't want to read this all lol. Good luck to your project, I look forward to the next update.