Charlotte

Can I use slate?

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Hi

I am setting up a naturalistic terrarium and want to incorporate some rock work to hide pots and the area at the base of the terrarium where I syphon out excess water. I bought 100% natural slate (the shale mulch type used in garden for decoration) and I am washing it very clean. I am finding its pretty mucky but it appears to be just powdery slate fines. It's washing off dark grey no signs of soil. Once clean will it be safe?

Terrarium will be dominated with Heliamphora, a few highland Nepenthe, Australian and African sundew, Mexican Pings and Utricularia. Plus lots of moss. 

Thank you!

 

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Hi Charlotte,

I used slate in aquariums for fish that like soft water and never had problems. It's probably best to just check by putting a small amount of vinegar onto the surface and it should fiz if has any alkaline  inclusions in it. Slate comes in different colours from different areas so if you take a small piece along to your local landscape, large garden centre or aquarium shop you may be able to match it with some larger chunks for between pots which would look good. I also use bogwood between mine but you have to keep an eye on it as it can develop moulds in the high humidity. It looks great with various mosses growing on it though.

Good luck

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Hi Charlotte,

Slate originates as clay or volcanic ash, and is neutral in reaction, so is ideal for anything that likes pH 7 or below. All that muck that comes with it is just powdered slate.

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I agree with Karsty, though the exact composition of slate is somewhat variable. Keep an eye on the terrarium to see if the plants like it.

Regarding the vinegar proof, it only serves as an orientation of the presence of a limited number of carbonates, mainly sodium and potasium carbonates, but those are very soluble and normally not present in many rocks. With the common calcium carbonate it will work if the solution is not too cold and if the rock contains not many impurities. But you may have, for instance, magnesite (magnesium carbonate) and even dolomite (magnesium and calcium carbonate) and will not see bubbles at all. What is more, not even using stronger acid solutions, such as clorhidric acid, you will always see fizz on a rock containing carbonates (with calcium carbonate works well in this case).

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Thanks everyone. It took along time to wash the muddy stuff of it but got it clean in the end. I incorporated it into the terrarium along with pumice gravel and perlite as I wanted a really free draining mix. The back of the terrarium is a drip wall so water constantly runs down the back over capillary mat and flows through the open media. I'm getting about 82% humidity without a lid. Still need to add the fans and misting unit but it's getting there. 

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