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Thread: Clay

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Clay

    I recently exchanged e-mail with a fellow who recalled a post I made on the NI board a couple of years ago. He wanted to talk about clay, and no longer could access the old post. So, for his benefit and that of the curious among you, I'm re-posting here.

    Alan has again raised the "mud ponds are natural" topic, this time with some emphasis on the mud. First, a disclaimer. I have never been to Japan. I've read that the Japanese mud ponds are either lined with clay or are dug in clay. There are many types of clays, each with its own properties. Some photos show reddish soils, which could indicate iron content (good for neutralizing the hydrogen sulfides from anaerobic processes), but I have no knowledge of what clays are involved in the Japanese mud ponds. I understand that the soils vary among locales, with some deemed superior for one koi variety over another. So, what follows are generalities that may have no relevance to the Japanese mud ponds, or may only apply to a select few.

    Think for a moment about the unique qualities of clay. When it is dry it is hard as rock and can literally become brick. It seems nearly impervious, but add water and you have a squishy mud that oozes through your fingers. Stir up a glass of clay in water and you get a hazy cloud. Let light shine through at an angle and you may see shimmers. Let it settle and the sides of the glass will be covered in residue so fine that it looks and feels like slime. Clay is composed of infinitesimal particles that can pack together to be virtually impervious or float in suspension for long periods. In Florida we have many lakes that exist solely because layers of clay prevent drainage through our otherwise sandy soils. Break through the clay layer with a backhoe and the lake may well drain away, which has happened on more than a few occasions.

    Those microscopic clay particles have a peculiar property. In water dissolved nutrient will exist as positively charged cations and negatively charged anions. The microscopic clay particles have excess negative charges on the crystalline surfaces. (That shimmer in the water.) These surfaces attract cations, becoming a storehouse for metals, minerals and nutrients of all sorts. [Rooted plants release hydrogen ions which exchange places with the adsorbed nutrient ions, making the nutrients available to the plant.] The clay powders recommended for koi ponds act to capture ions in solution, thereby "purifying" the water.

    age break:

  2. #2
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Some clays can hold ammonium in both exchangeable and "fixed" positions. An equilibrium of sorts develops both between the ions in fixed/exchangeable positions; and between ions in solution and adsorbed. As ammonia ions in solution increase, such as through koi respiration, decomposition etc., more attach to exchangeable positions on the clay crystal. There is gradual movement to more permanent fixed positions not so readily consumable by plants and microbes. As ammonium levels in the water column are reduced, the process is reversed. The clay releases the ions into the water.

    So, in addition to algae consuming ammonia and denitrification occurring in the anaerobic substrates, the clay is adsorbing nitrogen and acting as a reservoir of nutrient. Similar processes occur in humic soils, but these do not have the stability of clay. In a lake the entire lake bottom is a giant denitrifying machine, producing copious quantities of hydrogen sulfide, methane and other substances noxious to our fish. Where clay is present, some of the nitrogen is captured in the clay, together with other minerals and nutrients. There can be a purification effect. (There can also be highly anaerobic processes occuring if humus materials have been isolated under a layer of clay. Oxygen migration into those lower substrates is greatly reduced.)

    These are broad generalities. Not all clays are the same and some have far less cation exchange capacity than others. Does this contribute to understanding Japanese mud ponds? Don't really know. A person would need to study each pond and its substrates. Still, I expect something of the sort is occuring. It might also ease the koikeeper's mind to appreciate that we cannot control all these multiple processes. We can only hope to know enough to minimize the energy we expend working against Nature. The Japanese breeders have figured it out based on generational experience. Bet few of them ever heard of a cation, but they create some gorgeous fish.

  3. #3
    Daihonmei aquitori's Avatar
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    Mike do you find a difference in the type of clay that is being sold? Like Refresh Brand in solid and powdered form, compared to Koi Clay..

  4. #4
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Tony, the greatest benefit of the finely milled clays for koi ponds is the adsorption of pollutants. All of the brands on the market are going to perform about the same on this point, IMO.

    But, there is another level of benefit in the chemical effect of the clay on the water structure. I'm not in a position to make that comparison. And, even if the precise composition of the various brands was known, I do not think that would be all you would need to know to pick the "best" for your pond. You would also need to know your water's structure and know what was the ultimate combination for the koi you are raising.

    The clay sold for koi ponds is montmorillite-type clay. There are many sources for this type of clay, all basically alike but also different. Some will have more calcium; others will be higher in other trace elements. Unless the koikeeper is deeply into chemistry, I do not think a decision for one over another could be made. The "best" would be the one that can provide trace elements otherwise deficient in a system.

    In other words, what works "best" for one koikeeper might be the "worse" for another. For virtually all koikeepers, I would think "they are all the same". But for the very few who pay very detailed attention to water composition, one may be better to reach that koikeeper's goals. (Not so sure the fish would notice, though. )

  5. #5
    Tosai
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    clay - Montmorillonite

    Hi Guys,

    I wrote an article on clay some years back and would like to share it again with you as it ties in with what Mike has been saying...


    Montmorillonite
    The addition of montmorillonite clays to fish ponds have proven benefits. Many koi keepers used these clays with great success. Montmorillonite clays are commercially available under various brand names depending on the country of origin.

    Montmorillonite clays, vary in chemical composition and purity, enhance water quality, replenish and augment minerals and remove certain unwanted wastes. The uses and benefits go further than this. Montmorillonite improves the lustre and skin quality of koi as well as heightening the colour. Added to food it is claimed to aid digestion and increase the koi’s ability to assimilate the vitamins and minerals required in their diet.

    Some claims are made that organic waste such as DOC will be removed from the pond. The ionic exchange capacity is increased. Some koi keepers use very high dosages to remove suspended algae.

    There are several forms of brand names of montmorillonite available on the market. Some products are a pure montmorillonite clay. Others are a less pure form and have to be processed to remove and eliminate impurities they are mined with. Some brands claim to have bacteria additives. Other may have additives to the clay such as extra minerals, above what is naturally found in the clay. Whilst others are a montmorillonite clay / zeolite powder formulation.

    It is interesting to note that a 100% montmorillonite will form a gel when mixed with water and not dissolve into the system. So in this case a little “impurity” is actually required.

    The montmorillonite minerals are composed of hydrous aluminium silicates in the form of extremely small particles. They take up water between their layers, causing swelling, and change the interlayer spacing according to the mineral variety. In addition to being involved in inorganic exchange reactions, they react with and absorb some organic liquids, such as amines, glycols, glycerols, and other polyhydric alcohols.

    Montmorillonite was named after its discovery locality, Montmorillon, France in the 1800's. Bentonite (Montmorillonite) was discovered in Wyoming, in Fort Benton shale - hence the name bentonite.

    One of the confusing aspects of commercially available montmorillonite clays is the use of two names for exactly the same mineral. Montmorillonite clays are bentonite clays and bentonite clays are montmorillonite clays. They are not two separate minerals as we think. They are one and the same thing. All types of bentonite clays are grouped together under the Montmorillonite or Smectite group of clays. To speak of one is to speak of the other.

    Marketing of various brand names using the different terminology for the same thing, in the same text, is often responsible for the confusion that arises.

    The description of montmorillonite is :- one of a number of clay minerals within the Smectite Group. It forms by weathering or hydrothermal alteration of other aluminum-rich minerals, and is particularly common in altered volcanic ashes called bentonites.

    The description of bentonite is :- a native, colloidal, hydrated, non-metallic mineral of the Smectite Group that is primarily composed of the mineral montmorillonite.

    And further - Montmorillonite is a member of the general mineral group - the clays. It is the main constituent in a volcanic ash called bentonite.

    Montmorillonite has the chemical formula (NaCa)0.33(Al,Mg)2Si4O10(OH)2.nH20. It has a relative density (specific gravity) of 2.0 to 2.7, and a hardness of 2. Many trace elements and minerals are contained in this clay such as - Silicon Dioxide, Aluminium Sulphate, Iron Oxide, Iron compound, Sulphur Dioxide, Calcium Oxide, Magnesium Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Potassium, Sodium, Calcium carbonate, Phosphorous allotrope. It is typically white, grey, or buff in colour but may have tints of yellow, pink, or blue. Montmorillonite has a pearly or dull lustre and is translucent.

    In some areas the clay is near the surface. In others, many meters of soil has to be removed to get to the clay vein which may be only a meter or two wide and a meter deep, but runs for many kilometres. Just across the border in Mozambique there is a large deposit of bentonite at the surface. It has the most incredible pale yellow colour and is very pure.

    In some parts of the world montmorillonite clays were formed during the Jurassic period many millions of years ago. Others originate from later periods. Just like all minerals in the earth, the quality of the deposit will vary from area to area and country to country. Whilst some are of excellent quality others are not very pure.

    Montmorillonite/bentonite clays are mined in various parts of the world. A very large deposit and a 90% pure form is mined in the U.S.A. in Wyoming. Other deposits are found in Italy, Cyprus the Philippines, Brazil, England, Japan and the Philippines - and a very high grade is mined in a certain part of South Africa.

    Montmorillonite can be found in low grade deposits which will contain about 30% - 40% of its base elements. Whereas a high grade or pure form will contain over 90% montmorillonite in its natural form.

    By treating Montmorillonite with soda ash, the meta-bentonite Sodium Bentonite, can absorb water to about 20 times their dry volume and give rise to permanent suspensions of gel like masses. The sub-bentonites, containing calcium become Calcium Bentonite, do not swell to this extent but are still capable of absorbing from their surrounding at a phenomenal rate and contain as many minerals as Sodium bentonite. Calcium bentonites are nonswelling and break down to a finely granular aggregate that is widely used as an absorbent clay. I would recommend that you use a calcium bentoine for the pond for these reasons. The Sodium bentonite also works well but is less easily dissolved into the pon dwater.

    Montmorillonite contains a balance of minerals in their natural colloidal form, making it easily assimilated. The minerals present in montmorillonite enhance the production of enzymes in all living organisms.

    The deposits containing only 30% - 40% of its base elements (montmorillonite) are considered a low grade in the mining industry. In order to improve the grading (purity) some products have to be refined or processed. The other 60% - 70% of unwanted material has to be removed. Only after refinement does it achieve a 80 or 90% purity as claimed. Montmorillonite are naturally mineral rich clays, formed many millions of years ago under certain geological conditions - therefore, it appears that some products have a small percentage of minerals added to bring the quality up to an acceptable level.

    Montmorillonite absorbs water and fluids readily, swelling to a gel-like mass. This property makes it useful economically. Many industries, including textiles and chemicals, use it as an absorbent to refine out impurities. Montmorillonite is also used in drilling lubricants and as a plasticizer in moulding sands used in foundries.

    Because montmorillonite clay is used as a human health food as well as in the fish industry, claims by health experts make interesting reading. An average mineral analysis of Montmorillonite by health experts demonstrate it contains no less than 67 minerals, including vital trace minerals. Recently it has been recognized and utilized by the cosmetic industry and by soil experts, who value it as an exceptionally good agricultural enhancement: crops grow faster, taste better, and are more resistant to disease.

    Bentonite/Montmorillonite is used to seal dams, in bonding foundry sands, asbestos, and mineral wool, as drilling muds, in portland cements and concrete, ceramics, emulsions, insecticides, soaps, pharmaceuticals, and paints, in the manufacture of paper, for clarifying water, juices, and liquors, and as a water softener to remove calcium from hard water, removing colour from mineral and vegetable oils, also used as catalyst supports and absorbents in petroleum refining. Bentonite is also used as a binder in the animal feed industry.

    If you every decide to buld a plastic lined pond use bentonite as a backing. By mixing bentonite into the soil and making it damp you get a wonderfully smooth, flexable protective backing to the liner when you fit it.

    The idea that Montmorillonite clays could be used in the remineralisation of ponds originate in Japan. Natural mud ponds are lined with bentonite to seal them. It was also discovered that feeding small quantities to koi and occasionally bathing then in it or adding regulated dosages to the pond resulted in wonderful and significant effects on their colour and lustre. Montmorillonite can be easily added to your daily ration of food in small quantities. This is an excellent idea as it will replicate the koi feeding continuously off minute mineral rich particles on the floor of mud dams. Use calcium bentoinite for koi food.

    Montmorillonite is used directly in the pond water each week in a recommended dosage. Use a calcium bentonite in the pond. Some products disperse more easily than others. Some have to be mixed with water before application whilst others can be sprinkled directly onto the pond surface. The pond will clear in about 6 - 10 hours, depending on the amount of organic material in the pond. Do not be worried in a new pond if the water does not clear in a day or two.

    New ponds will take a long time to clear as the montmorillonite is trapped into the organic material in an established pond.

    The difference between sodium bentonite and calcium bentonite can easily be seen. Sodium bentonite clumps more strongly and has a very alkaline pH. Therefore it is a good idea to rather use Calcium Bentonite in koi ponds.

    Although bentonite is found in many clumping cat litters and koi keepers are often tempted to use them in ponds these are best avoided. Manufactures of clumping cat litters often add chemicals to introduce a fragrance to the cat litters. Some cat litters are sprayed with a plastic compound to reduce the dust associated with the clay. Other cat litter have colorants added for commercial appeal. Unless you are absolutely sure – avoid clay cat litters in koi ponds.

    Regards,

    Chris Neaves

    P.S. Montmorillonite (calcium bentoinite) also makes a wonderful face pack!

  6. #6
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Excellent, Chris!

  7. #7
    Oyagoi koiczar's Avatar
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    Thanks Chris. That was solid information - The kind everyone here looks for in a post

    Thanks Again

    Mike

  8. #8
    Daihonmei aquitori's Avatar
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    Cool, thanks for the info...

  9. #9
    Sansai adreamer2's Avatar
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    Wow! That's great info!!! Thanks for posting it....


    Adreamer2

  10. #10
    Daihonmei PapaBear's Avatar
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    Great Article

    Thanks Chris.
    I had actually read that article several months ago while discussing the topic on another forum and found it quite helpful. My original familiarity with bentonite was as drilling mud and your description of its gelling properties is spot on.
    A question for you. I've wondered how it would do as a "potting soil" additive for bog gardens. What I've considered is blending bentonite, diatomatious earth, and small aggregate for use as a rooting medium in bog fringes. Do you think it would offer some of the CaCO3 buffering and water polishing benefits to a pond if used that way?
    Larry Iles
    Oklahoma

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