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Laterite from modelling clay

I used to place the AP laterite plugs in my 100g plant tank
occasionally when it was available, but it seems to be unavailable for
some time now and I miss it.

I recently uprooted my overgrown tank and restocked it with trimmings
and started looking for some laterite for the soil.

I found something that seems very promising and quite inexpensive.

I bought 25 pounds of red clay from Laguna Clay company for a few
dollars. I think the shipping costs more than the clay.

When it arrived a few weeks ago it seemed to be identical to the AP
plugs. It is a bit larger than a shoebox in size and weighs, oddly
enough, about 25 pounds. The clay is deep red, fairly soft and doughy,
and very moist. It is packed in a box, enclosed in a plastic bag with
a twist-tie at one end. When dry it is the same orange color as plant

I took a small amount about the size of my thumb and dissolved it in 
about 3 cups of water and let the water settle for a while undisturbed.

After about 2 weeks, long after the water cleared, I took a water
sample from the 3 cup bowl and measured iron between 0.5 and 1.0 ppm
in that water according to the LaMotte Low-range Iron test.

This seemed like a great deal, so I made a number of plugs and let
them dry out for a week. Then I buried them here and there throughout
the sand I use for soil in the tank.

Nothing seemed to go wrong with the fish, and the plants didn't seem
to mind so I added a lot more a week later.

That was about a week ago and things seem to be going quite well, the
plant colors are vivid green or red where they should be, and the fish
don't seem to notice anything out of kilter.

By letting the plugs dry out before burying, the tank doesn't get
cloudy at all. I remember the first time I used laterite and had
red water for a week.

I ordered 25 pounds of red modelling clay: "#EM-207 RED" from

    Laguna Clay Co.
    14400 Lamitas Ave.
    City of Industry, CA   91746
    (818) 330-0631

They take VISA orders by phone. I live in CA and got my order in about
2 days.

25 pounds should last me a lifetime. I think the AP laterite was quite
expensive, there were something like 10 plugs the size of my thumb for
several dollars. That's a tiny fraction of the 25 pound brick I now
have. After using what must be a few pounds, I've hardly made a dent
in the hunk.

And no, don't ask me to ship you some, go buy your own;-)

    Jim Hurley         mailto:hurleyj at arachnaut_org
 Arachnaut's Lair    <URL: http://www.arachnaut.org/ >