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Re: steel wool (actually, about Ironite)

On Sun, 11 Oct 1998, BlackNet Runner wrote:
> hmm, I once used steel wool for a source of iron.  Now I use a much
> better product that's called ironite (see www.ironite.com) I have a 25
> lbs bag on the porch.

Ironite's been mentioned on the list a few times over the last few 
months.  It's a lawn & garden care product intended to supplement NPK 
fertilizers.  It does provide iron and other trace elements.

Ironite isn't made for the aquarium trade, but that isn't necessarily a
problem.  Some of us use - among other things - kitty litter, soil and
Plantex CSM (and similar products) that also aren't intended specifically
for aquarium use. 

> What convinced me that ironite is much better is a little experiment
> that I did.  I used 2 test tubes and filled both with tap water, in one
> I tested  just water by it self (for a basis of change), in the other I
> added 2 grains of ironite.  Results?? :) the ironite drove the iron
> level WAY high.  Now I use ironite in the tanks after measuring the iron
> levels.  These so called "plant fertilizers" that you get in the local
> shops are mostly bogus for iron usage.  They may contain iron but not
> enought for a densely planted tank, maybe for trace elements..

The iron in ironite isn't chelated.  That's why it spikes the test kit 
results.  An equal or even greater amount of chelated iron may not 
register at all on the usual iron test kits.  You would get the same 
result from copperas, which is agricultural grade ferrous sulfate.

Ironite is marketed in arid areas as much for acidifying soils as it is for 
adding trace elements.

The iron and other metals in Ironite is present as soluble sulfates and
sulfides (pyrite, in the case of iron).  The soluble iron will oxidize and
precipitate in a rather short time, possibly before the plants can use it. 
When it does oxidize it will also acidify the water.  The sulfides will
also break down.  The iron and sulfur content will be oxidized producing
acidic conditions and the iron will precipitate as the hydroxide.

The iron isn't necessarily unavailable to plants once it's precipitated, 
but it is at least less available. 

I suspect that in normal aquarium use you wouldn't be adding enough 
Ironite to effect your pH.  This may not be true if you use it as a 
substrate additive where it might lower the substrate pH.

Last spring the State of Washington issued a warning about toxic elements 
in Ironite.  The full text of their statement can be found at:


There is some discussion on the web about concerns over Ironite, including
(I think) a reply by the manufacturer. 

Briefly, Ironite is made from mining mill tailings - usually a real grab
bag of heavy metals - so it actually contains more stuff than they claim
in their labeling.  In particular, the State claims that Ironite contains
levels of lead and arsenic that are potentially dangerous to humans. 

What does that mean to your aquarium?  I don't know.  The APD archives 
contain some testimonials to its safe use.  Personally, I wouldn't 
concider it.

Roger Miller