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I bought this with the hope of connecting it to my son's Antosphere set. Both are made by Wild Science and this can be connected to the ants home quite easily with a length of plastic tubing. However, I did have a few concerns with this as part of the ants habitat. The first is that the lid just sits on top. It is easy to set it down imperfectly and leave a small gap. If I do buy another to extend my ants home, I will be taping the lid down to avoid accidents. The next issue is that it would be difficult to trim plants or replace them in the lid, and of course all would have to be plants that can remain indoors with limited sunlight as the sun's rays would not only be reduced by the window, but also by the dome itself. My boys wanted really exciting plants, so I didn't see it working with ants. If you do wish to use this for ants though, and you choose the right plants, it is a low maintenance set up with the water being recycled over and over again. Set up correctly, you can keep this sealed indefinitely as a self sustaining habitat. We have the same thing in ant pods though, we have some pods that have plants and a complete water cycle, and with three antospheres we didn't really need more space for the ants.
We ended up with two of these. One is a desert habitat with cacti and succulents. This requires very little water anyway, and it is easy to flood. The second is a carnivorous plant habitat and needs to be kept humid. the dome is just the thing for this. Both sets often go out into the garden to allow extra sunlight and with the lid off the carnivores can try catching their own bugs. The lid makes it quite handy if you want to throw in some flying bugs for easier capture.
What's in the box?
The main unit is a four tiered planter. You can only plant normal plants in the middle two layers. The top layer is a water reservoir or as they call it, the highland lake. This is where you add water to the system, and excess water will accumulate in a sealed system. There are two planting levels, the highland and lowland levels. The highland levels will receive the most moisture in a sealed system. The bottom level collects excess water that runs down from the terraces. I have cress growing in the carnivorous plants ecodome but hope to replace this with semi aquatic varieties at some stage. This is not deep enough for true water species though. The desert habitat holds a resurrection fern in this tray.
You also get a roof or lid a small cup which fits into a hole on the top of the lid, stickers, thermometers, growth measuring sticks, water depth strips, a measuring beaker filter netting to allow water to move between layers without washing away soil, pebbles, vermiculite and water gel, a paper wind turbine, a pipette, two large plugs to fit into the holes on the sides, with two smaller plugs which you can run tubing through to connect this to other sets, and stickers to decorate the main unit. There is also a funny paper thing which I could not figure out what it was meant to be without the instructions, but it turns out it is a dust mask. It doesn't look a very good one though, and I really don't see the need for it.
What's not in the box:
You will need some type of soil mix and of course plants.
Setting up was a doddle. The most difficult part is applying the stickers. The manufacturer does suggest setting this on a tray, as if you seriously over water there can be leakage. I have also noted that if you leave the main plugs off and add water, water can run out the holes onto your phone if you are foolish enough to leave it beside the unit - oops.
At the simplest level this is a greenhouse. It is a fun way for children to grow plants and learn about different types of habitats. We do leave ours sealed at times and when it is closed up you can really see how the water cycle works. If you start off with plenty of water at he bottom, which mimics an ocean, and then allow sunlight and heat to reach the unit you can see vapour form in the dome, which will turn to water on the roof. This then falls down into the highland lake and onto the planting terraces as rain. If you place the wind turbine in the hole you can play about with heat sources and ice to make up and down drafts. If you do want to leave it sealed - you can connect it to ant farms as well, and I am seriously considering a third set with very small tolerant plants to do just this.
I would note that for those of you who like carnivorous plants, this is really a brilliant set up. they do need to remain humid and the dome is ideal for that. Plus carnivorous plants can not tolerate straight tap water. If you add water to the ocean, by the time it evaporates and drops down again it is pure as rainwater. A bit of peat in the upper reservoir can keep things nice and acidic as well. I am thinking of adding midge larva and sealing this up completely for awhile at some point as well.
Needless to say - we love these sets. The children have had so much fun with them and I do feel they are very educational as well. They are expensive. Amazon Marketplace sells these at £43.88 by the time you add in postage. However I picked up for £13.99 on ebay new and delivered. Unfortunately a piece broke off the dome in shipping with the first dome, which now houses cactus, but the seller was really brilliant and sent me a second one for free after I sent in photos. She still has three more listed and I may very well take one myself. This is definitely worth shopping round for.
In case you are interested measurements are as follows;
The base is 10" high x 15" wide and 8.5" deep. The lower water reservoir holds only 1" of water. With the dome in place this is 15 1/2" high.