What is laterite?
Laterite word is derived from latin word “later” meaning brick. Laterite is both, a form of soil and rock. It is in the form of clay which upon drying hardens and forms the topmost layer of soil in humid and warm areas such as some tropical and sub-tropical areas. Its formation occurs when weathering (a process of breakdown of soil, rocks, minerals, wood and artificial materials upon contact with water/moisture, atmospheric gases and organisms) under strongly oxidizing and leaching conditions. It is the leftover of a silicate rock if we remove most of silica, alkali and alkaline earth metals.
Laterite was first discovered in India by a Scottish scientist Francis Buchanan-Hamilton and it was considered reddish weathering product of Basalt but that is not the case of all laterites to be rich in iron or red in color. Understanding of laterite can be developed by not considering it to be a particular parent rock, or a single formation method, or some climate change, or geologic age. Instead it is a form of rock that is formed as a product of set of physico-chemical conditions in a parent rock that contains iron, in a terrain that is well-drained and has high moisture content for hydrolysis to take place during weathering, has high oxidation potential and such conditions to persist for thousands of years.
Laterite most of the times is pisolitic (pealike). Its appearance is slaggy, like Lava and the surfaces exposed are blackish brown to reddish in color. When broken fresh the color of laterite is red, yellow and brown and is soft when broken fresh that hardens as time goes on.
The composition of laterite is mainly iron oxide minerals which are goethite HFeO2, lepidocrocite, FeO(OH); and hematite, Fe2O3. Lateritic soils contain clay minerals that are deficient in silica. Other contents of laterite are titanium oxides and hydrated oxides of aluminum, of which the most abundantly and commonly occurring is gibbsite, Al2O3·3H2O. bauxite is the aluminium rich form of laterite. Laterite is also a source of nickel and is mostly mined in Cuba and Caledonia.
Iron rich forms of laterite are used in construction. In addition to civil engineering it is also used in agronomy and mining. Initially, laterites were used for the construction of monuments and dwellings, megaliths in central Africa “Tazunu” are also composed of laterites. In construction laterite is currently used for the production of Compressed Earth Blocks and highly aesthetic buildings are also being constructed with laterites. Laterites rare also used in agriculture as they have cation exchange property and also water holding capacity due to smaller size of the particles but they lack fertility due to leaching. But they respond to manuring and irrigation. It is also used in waste water treatment to remove phosphorus and heavy metals from the sewage water.
Can I use laterite stone in aquariums?
One of the most prominent use of laterite is in the aquariums, where it has been used for long time ago because of its rich iron content and Cation Exchange Capacity. In aquariums it has been used as granular or in the form of clay balls. It has reasonable contents of iron (Fe), calcium (Ca), potassium (K) and manganese (Mn). So it has potential benefits of nutrition supply for the aquatic plants that cam improve growth conditions for growing plants. It is an excellent substrate improver that leads to development of exotic plants and robust growth of these plants.
It is a negatively charged clay that attracts plant nutrients and delivers the nutrients to plants in forms that are easy for that plant to absorb. Its large surface area as compared to plain gravel allows the plant root hairs more space to absorb the nutrients. Undesirable algal blooms in the aquarium can be successfully avoided by laterite as its aging can remove excess phosphorus that is the cause of these algal blooms. It can be used in aquariums by mixing it with one third of the total gravel.
Where to get laterite for tank?
Laterite can be purchased online with a single click on Amazon where laterite is available in several forms and by several sellers to choose from. Flipkart and Petplant.co.uk are other websites to get laterite. Indiamart is Asian website to purchase laterite online.
An example of laterite clay powder is FlorinBase laterite powder. It is ideal to use under gravel or substrate in aquariums of freshwater. Dulaprit K is laterite in pellet form for the aquariums.
Is the laterite aquarium best for my home?
Laterite aquarium has laterite as substrate along with gravel. Laterite aquarium has aesthetic appearance as it will add to the beauty of the home. Moreover, laterite has potential benefits for the plants in aquarium because it nourishes the plant roots by providing minerals essential for growth. It also inhibits the formation of algal blooms so the growth of algae in home aquariums is easily avoided. So, laterite aquarium is a best choice for home aquarium as it provides both; aesthetics and nourishment for plants.