Aragonite is a carbonate mineral, one of the three most common naturally occurring crystal forms of calcium carbonate, CaCO3 (the other forms being the minerals calcite and vaterite). It is formed by biological and physical processes, including precipitation from marine and freshwater environments.
The type location for aragonite is Molina de Aragân in the Province of Guadalajara in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, for which it was named in 1797. The mineral is not (as often assumed) named for the region of Aragon: Molina de Aragân is located in the historic region of Castile, albeit only 25 kilometers away from the border with Aragon. Aragonite is found in this locality as cyclic twins inside gypsum and marls of the Keuper facies of Triassic. This type of aragonite deposits are very common in Spain, and there are also some in France and Morocco.
An aragonite cave, the Ochtinsk˝ Aragonite Cave, is situated in Slovakia. In the US, aragonite in the form of stalactites and "cave flowers" (anthodite) is known from Carlsbad Caverns and other caves. Massive deposits of oolitic aragonite sand are found on the seabed in the Bahamas.
Aragonite forms naturally in almost all mollusk shells, and as the calcareous endoskeleton of warm- and cold-water corals (Scleractinia). Several serpulids have aragonitic tubes. Because the mineral deposition in mollusk shells is strongly biologically controlled, some crystal forms are distinctively different from those of inorganic aragonite. In some mollusks, the entire shell is aragonite; in others, aragonite forms only discrete parts of a bimineralic shell (aragonite plus calcite). The nacreous layer of the aragonite fossil shells of some extinct ammonites forms an iridescent material called ammolite.
Aragonite also forms in the ocean and in caves as inorganic precipitates called marine cements and speleothems, respectively. Aragonite is not uncommon in serpentinites where high Mg in pore solutions apparently inhibits calcite growth and promotes aragonite precipitation.
Aragonite is metastable at the low pressures near the Earth's surface and is thus commonly replaced by calcite in fossils. Aragonite older than the Carboniferous is essentially unknown. It can also be synthesized by adding a calcium chloride solution to a sodium carbonate solution at temperatures above 60 └C (140 └F) or in water-ethanol mixtures at ambient temperatures.
In aquaria, aragonite is considered essential for the replication of reef conditions. Aragonite provides the materials necessary for much sea life and also keeps the pH of the water close to its natural level, to prevent the dissolution of biogenic calcium carbonate.