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Re: Artist's Clay?

Mike Bishoff wrote:
> Date: Thu, 29 May 1997 23:21:17 -0500 (CDT)
> From: Cynthia Powers <cyn at metronet_com>
> Subject: Artist's Clay? (fwd)
> - ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Thu, 29 May 1997 20:44:40 -0700
> From: Mike Bishoff <mbishoff at excell_com>
> To: owner-aquatic-plants at actwin_com
> Subject: Artist's Clay?
> OK, here we go...
> Until someone says no, I'm planning on using one-half to one pound of very
> brick red artist's clay as a substitute for laterite clay. The supply house
> tells me it's natural and high in iron oxide, therefore it's deep brick
> color. Lots of other various other tones of "red" too, but this one seemed
> the best for no other reason that gut feeling.
> It may not be laterite, but it is locally and easily available. I'm
> planning on letting it dry out and then smashing it into dust and mixing
> with 2-3mm gravel and placing in first 1'' of substrate, then a layer of
> fine sand and then 2-3mm gravel. *Very* low tech...
> Thoughts?
> Mike
> "It's easier to dream than do, so get to it."

  I've been potting for about 3-4 years now and when I decided to start
a plant tank, the elements that are deemed desirable for plants seemed
very familiar to me as I was doing research.  It took me a while to put
2&2 together (I'm slow sometimes ;)) but I finaly realized where I had
seem similar lists, most are found in clay!  Having realized this I set
up my tank using a mix of clays covered with sand.  The tank is doing
very well, but that's another story.  I would recomend not using a clay
that is "made up", but instead the dry powdered raw materials.  One the
main materials used in most red earthenwares ( the clay I suspect you
were thinking of using ) is is called Redart and is mined by Cedar
Heights Clay.  This clay (as in raw powdered) contains 7.04% Fe2O3
(amoungst many other oxides such as Si,Al,Mg etc.) hence the red color. 
That is a lot of iron.  I used a mix of fire clay and ball clay (I
believe kitty litter is made of ball clay judging by color and
texture).   The ball clay I used is called OM4 and has 1.0% Fe2O3 in it
and the fire clay (Goldart) has 1.23%.  The ball clay is very fine and
the fire clay is much coarser.  I felt that this combination of textures
was a better one than just the fine clay.  These clays are much cheaper
than preprocessed "wet" clays.  In smaller aquaria this is not much of
an issue but in larger aquaria the difference could be greater.  I have
not compared prices to kitty litter but costomers always have to pay for
labor so I would think that litter would be more expensive.  Both
options are cheaper by far than the comercial substrates however.  I
also think that the powders are easier to use, if used in a dry tank, it
won't smear and stick to the glass. Speaking from experience wet clay
will get over everything eventualy ;). When using the powders however
the air must be removed from it.  I did this by compressing it to the
bottom of the tank with my hand,  the powder will act almost fluid like
until it air is out of it, you will understand what I mean if you try
it.  This will take a while.  After that I took a pencil and poked holes
in the compacted clay to break it up a little (not to much).  Then I
added washed sand and the rest as they say is history :)
  On a final note please wear a respirator when doing this, clay dust is
NOT good for you (as isn't any fine airbourne particle ie. asbestos,
coal dust etc.).

Have fun,
  Bjorn Straube