With Limestone being a popular vivarium rock to use in hardwater enclosures, I wanted to cover a more soluble variation of the stone in this article. Elephant Skin Stone is a rock growing in today’s aquarium hobby and for good reason. This weathered Dolomite Rock is a rather difficult stone to find and has advantages that typical Calcite-based stones don’t usually come with. Today we will do a full deep dive into the hardscaping rock and cover every aspect you should know before using one in an aquarium.
Traditional Name: Elephant Skin Stone
Common Names: Dolomite Rock, Dolomitic Limestone, Dolostone
Origin: Modified Limestone
Habitat: Caves, Caverns, Mountains
Color: Light Gray, Dark Gray, Reddish Brown
Density (g/cm3): 2.85g
Hardness: 3.5 – 4
PH Impact: Alkaline (Raises PH)
Elemental Type: Sedimentary Rock (Magnesium, Calcite)
What Is Elephant Skin Stone?
Elephant Skin Stone is a sedimentary rock composed of mostly calcium magnesium carbonate. Commonly referred to as weathered Dolomite Rock and Dolomitic Limestone, this stone is the result of Dolostones that have been chemically weathered from wind and rain penetration. Often sold as a medical supplement as well as an industrial product, this rock has become a very popular stone to use in aquariums as a background scape and centerpiece.
Elephant Skin Stone Facts
Dolomite as a mineral is a unique saddle-shaped crystal. Like a rock, it virtually has the same chemical makeup with the addition of impurities from other minerals. The minerals can be found in sedimentary rocks as well as metamorphic rocks. The weathered elephant skin texture is a rare occurrence that only takes place when Dolomite Rocks are revealed above the earth’s surface for a long period of time.
Depending on the state of impurities like metal mixed into the composition, Elephant Skin Stone will either be various shades of gray or reddish-brown. Oxidized iron and magnesium will cause the rock to appear browner or reddish-brown. The nonoxidized state of the same medals will cause the rock to look grayer in color. In most cases, this stone will be found with a combination of both colors exhibiting across the surface.
The texture of the Elephant Skin Stone is quite self-explanatory. When Dolomite is worn down from water and wind, the surface takes on a unique resemblance to that of an elephant’s skin. This texture makes the stone extremely valuable for hobbyists looking to use it in many types of vivariums.
The density of Dolomite is an average of 2.85 grams per centimeter cubed. This would make the rock rather heavy to work within large amounts. Due to its rarity, most enthusiasts opt to use this stone very selectively, either way, making it less liable to potential damage.
Elephant Skin Stone is a modification of Limestone that is left in areas where magnesium-rich groundwater flows throughout the rock. These areas will typically include caves and caverns. On occasion, shifts in the earth’s crust will cause huge amounts of Dolomite Rock beds to rise above the surface forming mountains. A notable location where this happened would be the Dolomites Mountains in northeastern Italy. The elephant skin texture typically takes place once the stone is above ground.
Being that Elephant Skin Stone is mostly composed of both equal parts calcium and magnesium, it will generally raise PH and water hardness as it begins to weather. This is ideal for saltwater tanks as well as brackish water enclosures that require higher levels of water hardness. Dolomite can also be a good addition to soils that need buffering down from acidic levels.
A side note worth mentioning here, Elephant Skin Stone is ultimately the same as Carboniferous Limestone with the addition of magnesium. Because of the magnesium-rich minerals existing in this rock, it will typically be less soluble in acidic waters. I will go more in-depth with how to manage this rock in freshwater in the next section.
The high PH/hardness influence would make the Elephant Skin Stone ideal for hard water as well as saltwater ecosystems. Placing this rock in freshwater setups would not be recommended as softwater thriving inhabitants would suffer from a sudden PH level increase. On the contrary, since this type of Limestone would be less soluble in acidic conditions, the utilization of materials like driftwood and highly acidic substrates like sphagnum moss may buffer the water and make the stone suitable for freshwater vivariums.
I would preferably use this rock in vivariums like aquariums, ripariums, and paludariums that are exclusively built for harder water conditions and saltwater environments. Using these rocks in terrariums might limit the ability to house pets that thrive in tropical environments. So use it cautiously and do additional research before adding reptiles or other animal species to an enclosure that has Dolomite present.
As I mentioned early, Elephant Skin Stone is ideal for enclosures that need high water parameters. This is the perfect stone to consider for saltwater aquariums. Dolomite is a great alternative to Limestone and is less soluble in acidic water. As the stones weather, they leech beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium invertebrates and other inhabitants will benefit from them. This stone is a rather hardy rock that will last a long time with no sharp edges when broken.
This stone can be devastating to freshwater enclosures. Softwater-dependent inhabitants will quickly perish as inevitable water parameters arise from the usage of Elephant Skin Stone on its own. The acidic water these types of tanks establish will cause the rock to weather prematurely leading to possibly collapsing.
The density of Dolostone is another precaution to worry about. Heavier stones like these will need to be placed securely to prevent damage if falling occurs within the vivarium. Never place the rock on the bare bottom of the tank or up against the side glass. The concentrated levels of pressure focused on the edge of the rock could cause the glass to crack.
Buy Elephant Skin Stone
Elephant Skin Stone can be a rather difficult rock to acquire. If you are lucky enough to stumble across some, due inspect them closely for authenticity. For the sake of assuring the stones, you seek to purchase are safe for vivarium use, I’d highly recommend going with a source that is selling Dolomite specifically marketed for aquarium use. This will guarantee the product bought is authentic and 100% safe for tank mates. Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info:
Elephant Skin Stone Recommendations
Here are a few more useful tips when working with Elephant Skin Stone for the first time. Inspect the rocks to see what type of Dolostone has been acquired. Based on the color as well as the sturdiness of the stone, you should be able to identify the possible minerals compacted into the formation of this rock. Before placing Dolomite Rocks in any type of vivarium, always soak the stone and do a visual assessment to assure there are no pests or toxic minerals contained within the rock. As usual, clean the rocks to remove access dust or loose particles from the surface.
Cleaning Elephant Skin Stone
In most cases, newly Elephant Skin Stone will need slight preparation before going into a vivarium. This will matter more for aquariums rather than terrariums since unclean stones can cause water to change color. Begin by placing stones in a bucket of cold water. Scrub and redip each stone thoroughly in the bucket of water. Rinse and repeat this process until you are able to place stones in a clean bucket of water and observe no noticeable change in color. Avoid using chemicals or strong water pressure on the sedimentary rocks so they aren’t worn down drastically and lose their aesthetics.
Breaking Elephant Skin Stone
Dolomite is a fairly easy rock to break into smaller pieces if needed. In fact, a little too easy! In many cases, hobbyists will simply bash a towel-covered piece of rock with a large hammer. This is great for breaking the stone into lots of tiny pieces of rock… The downside to this is the potential pile of the undesirably crumbled pebble.
Another way that I much prefer it with a rock chisel kit. Chiseling off parts of the rock along the cleavage is a more controlled way to break Elephant Skin Stone into desirable pieces. No matter which way the rock is broken up, make sure to wear safety goggles because parts of the rock will go air born. Also, reclean rocks as needed once they are broken.
Rocks Similar To Dolostone
When designing a new enclosure for the first time, it would be best to stick with one kind of stone to use as a hardscape. Furthermore, this type of rock can be hard to come by depending on where you are located in the world. If for any reason, you find Elephant Skin Stone difficult to acquire, or simply want to consider something different… There are a wide variety of stones to consider. Here are some other types of stones one might find are worth taking a look at in the place of Dolomite:
Elephant Skin Stone is a rock I predict will continue to grow in popularity amongst vivarium enthusiasts. It offers a very unique take on aquascaping and is pretty tolerable to most conditions. Using this rock incorrectly could lead to permanent damage. But with proper understanding, a little can go a long way. If you are reading about this rock for the first time, what are your thoughts towards Dolomite and its use in an aquarium/terrarium? What would be the perfect inhabitants to pair with this unique vivarium rock?