Have you ever cracked a geode and found water inside? Although not all geodes contain water, many do. The reason why some geodes have water has everything to do with how they’re formed.
Geodes are formed when mineral-rich water seeps into hollow stones, depositing minerals. Some of this water can become trapped inside the geode, failing to evaporate away as the exterior of the rock forms and seals the interior. These unique types of geodes are called enhydro agates.
This article will explore how water ends up inside geodes and why this water is so crucial to geode formation. Read on to discover everything you’ve wanted to know about why some geodes are wet inside (and others aren’t).
How Does Water Get Inside Geodes?
Water gets inside geodes via the porous exterior of a stone’s surface. Geodes are naturally hollow due to trapped gas, so water can quickly fill the inside of a geode, remaining there for long periods before seeping out. When minerals build up inside a geode, they can trap any remaining water.
Although rocks look solid, many of them are slightly porous. The small openings between the particles of a stone allow water to seep into them. In the case of geodes, this water enters the hollow chamber inside the rock.
If the geode is recently formed (aka, only contains trapped gas), this water can collect inside it, slowly seeping through the stone’s porous surfaces. But as this water filters through the hollow spaces of a geode, it can deposit a wide variety of minerals.
Over time, these minerals adhere to the interior surfaces of the geode, forming non-porous crystals. When this happens, the mineralized surfaces act as a shield, blocking the water’s exit path out of the porous parts of the rock.
This is why you’ll occasionally find geodes that contain water. These geodes are called enhydro agates (Greek for “water within rock”). And while it might seem strange to find water inside geodes, they wouldn’t exist without water!
Water Is Crucial to Geode Formation: The Steps Explained
Without water, a geode would simply be a hollow rock. It wouldn’t contain any of the colorful and visually appealing mineralization that makes a geode what it is.
That’s because geodes primarily start as air-filled stones, formed either by rapidly cooling lava (igneous geodes) or water erosion inside sedimentary rocks like limestone. These stones are hollow.
The only minerals these pre-mineralization geodes contain are those found in their stony surfaces. So, for example, a geode formed by cooling lava might have “walls” made of basalt or feldspar but an empty interior.
Minerals like quartz can only enter this chamber with the help of water.
Water: The Ultimate Transportation Medium
When you think of transporting something, you likely think of picking it up with your hands or using a car to help you haul it to a specific destination. But while there are many ways to transport something, water remains one of the most effective transportation mediums on the planet.
Not only can water support heavy cargo ships and boats, carrying them vast distances with relative ease, but it can also transport microscopic particles and organisms. It can even carry minerals and flecks of precious metals.
The water that seeps into a geode to form mineralizations isn’t purified. Although this water filters through the ground, it’s unlike the filtered bottled water you’ll find for sale at your local grocery store or gas station.
That’s because this water “collects” minerals as it travels through the soil.
For a visual representation of this process, think about how water moves along a street gutter during a rainstorm. While rapidly flowing toward storm drains, it picks up items it meets along the way, including leaves and fallen twigs.
It essentially does the same thing when draining into the ground, only on a much smaller scale.
Earth’s Soil Is Rich in Minerals
While we may associate minerals with mines, quarries, and precious stones, most of the minerals that form rocks and jewels can be found inside the soil. That’s right—the average handful of soil contains quartz, calcium, and iron particles.
When rain seeps into the ground, these minerals can attach to the droplets, getting carried deeper into the soil before reaching non-porous bedrock or an aquifer. When this mineral-rich water meets a hollow porous stone along the way, it slowly drips into the rock’s interior via the microscopic openings in the stone.
Once inside, the water might take a while to drip back out, especially if the rock’s bottom is covered in non-porous minerals leftover from previous groundwater interactions.
Consequently, the rock’s semi-porous surface acts as a filter, allowing tiny water molecules to pass through while holding on to the larger mineral particles. With time, these mineral particles can accumulate, forming the crystals that make geodes what they are.
How These Minerals Trap Water Inside a Geode
Although you might not think gravity plays a significant role in geode formation, this invisible force is partially responsible for water getting trapped inside geodes.
You see, when gravity pulls down the mineral-rich water droplets inside a hollow rock, the particle-sized minerals often remain behind while the water continues its downward trajectory. Think of tea dregs sitting at the bottom of an emptied cup; it’s a similar phenomenon.
As more mineral-rich water enters and leaves these rocks, the layer of minerals at the bottom of the rock form thin layers.
If these minerals are primarily non-porous, like quartz, they form a barrier that prevents water from escaping. It’s like adding a sheet of plastic wrap to the bottom of a colander, layer by layer; eventually, any liquid you put into that colander won’t be able to drain out.
But heavy rainfall can increase the rate at which water enters these rocks, forcing the water level inside to rise. As the water reaches still-porous areas along the inside of the rock, it drains away.
However, this water also leaves behind mineral deposits, which accumulate to form their own unique layers. This process repeats again and again, leading to increased mineral build-up along the bottom and sides of a young geode.
After thousands, millions, or even billions of years, there’s sometimes almost no space left inside the rock for water to enter or exit. If any droplets remain when non-porous minerals “seal” the rock, it becomes an enhydro (water-filled) geode.
Do All Geodes Contain Water?
All geodes contain water at some point during formation, but this doesn’t mean that every geode you crack open will contain water.
Some minerals formed inside geodes are non-porous (like quartz and amethyst), and these can prevent water molecules from escaping a geode. But other common minerals found inside geodes (namely agate and jasper) are slightly porous.
Consequently, some geodes trap water very effectively, while others allow it to seep away (albeit very slowly), even after mineralization. As you might imagine, the likelihood of finding water in a geode is much higher in stones containing non-porous minerals like amethyst and quartz.
However, finding a geode that has water in it is rare. Consequently, enhydro geodes are often more valuable than their water-free counterparts.
Can You Tell That a Geode Contains Water Before Opening It?
In some cases, it might be possible to tell that an unopened geode contains water. If, when handling a geode, you can feel its weight shift slightly as you move it back and forth, it might contain water.
This sensation is similar to the one you’d experience if you gently shook a raw egg. Except, in this case, it isn’t the yolk you’ll be feeling rolling around, but ancient water.
Cleaned and polished geodes can also reveal watery interiors with the help of light. Emily Wick, an American artist with a penchant for geodes, used a flashlight to reveal that a geode she purchased was indeed full of water.
Depending on the thickness of your particular geode, you might be able to do the same. Still, even experienced geode hunters can miss the signs that a geode contains water.
In this video, you can see a highly experienced rockhound open a geode and find water, surprising him in the process:
Can the Crystals Inside a Geode Have Water in Them?
After opening a geode and gazing at its crystals, you might notice that some of these sparkling minerals have what seem to be trapped air bubbles. While these might indeed be little bubbles of trapped gas, they could also be pockets of air and water.
Some crystals are prone to developing fluid inclusions, which are essentially microscopic pockets inside minerals containing some type of liquid, usually water. Quartz is particularly prone to developing these little bubbles.
When you cut into a geode, crystals containing fluid inclusions may break open, releasing a small amount of liquid. But whatever you do, refrain from drinking the liquid that comes out of a geode.
Is It Safe To Drink the Water Inside a Geode?
Opening geodes can be back-breaking work, and upon discovering water inside a geode, you might be tempted to bring the rock to your lips and have a sip. But drinking the water found inside a geode is often a bad idea.
The water inside a geode isn’t purified and might contain a wide range of potentially harmful elements, including unknown microbes and microorganisms.
Because geodes require anywhere between several thousand and several million years to form, these bacteria and microscopic organisms aren’t likely to be anything your body has ever experienced. In fact, the water inside some geodes can be billions of years old.
While this might not seem like a big deal, it’s crucial to note that bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms that predate humankind pose a massive risk to global health. Because people have never encountered these ancient organisms, we don’t have any built-up immunity to them.
This distinct lack of acquired immunity has spelled doom for many indigenous people and could become a problem for modern or future communities. Some scientists have theorized that the thawing permafrost in Arctic regions could release primordial microbes that humans have never encountered before.
Although these microscopic organisms might be tiny, they can potentially have devastating effects, especially if spread throughout large populations. And the same kind of ancient organisms found in thawing ice could be present in the water inside of geodes.
So, while it might be tempting to have a taste of Earth’s primordial waters, it’s not the safest choice. Even though it’s statistically unlikely for you to become ill after consuming the small amount of water trapped inside a geode, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How To Find Enhydro Geodes
There’s no guaranteed method of finding enhydro geodes, as many experienced rockhounds can collect these water-rich rocks without realizing what they contain until it’s too late (i.e., until they’re opened).
That said, there are two primary methods you can use to increase your chances of finding geodes with water in them.
For example, you can:
- Purchase enhydro geodes from reputable online retailers.
- Search areas that are known for having quartz or amethyst geodes.
If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands and feel like having an adventure, heading out into the great outdoors in search of these unique rocks could be a great option, though there’s no guarantee you’ll find a geode with water in it.
So, if convenience and reduced risk appeal to you, buying an enhydro geode online could be the better option. Still, let’s explore both of these methods to discover which might be the better choice for you.
Buying an Enhydro Geode Online
One of the simplest ways to acquire a water-filled geode is to buy one online. Many online retailers offer unopened enhydro geodes, though they’re often quite small, measuring between three and nine inches (7.6cm to 22.8cm) in diameter.
Still, these uncracked geodes are relatively inexpensive, with most retailing for between $20 and $50 apiece.
If you live far away from natural geode hotspots (deserts, quarries, exposed limestone formations), buying a water-filled geode online could be the most cost-effective and time-saving method. But rockhounding for enhydro agates could be more satisfying, especially if you’re an avid rock collector.
By the way, if you want to know if collecting geodes is actually worth it, check out my other article on the subject: Are Geodes Worth Anything? Complete Valuation Guide
Rockhounding for an Enhydro Geode
The best places to search for water-filled geodes are locations known for having plenty of quartz-rich geodes. After all, quartz is non-porous, so geodes that are primarily filled with this mineral have a greater likelihood of retaining water.
Quartz crystals more commonly form in igneous (volcanic) rock, so searching ancient volcanic ash beds is a great way to kick off your search. Still, many of these ash beds are protected areas due to their high fossil content, so gaining access to them can be challenging.
For example, Yellowstone National Park would be a fantastic place to search for water-rich geodes.
After all, this park is home to ancient volcanic activity and plenty of water, two qualities that make it a likely source of quartz geodes. But rockhounding in Yellowstone National Park (and almost all U.S. National Parks) is illegal.
Consequently, it’s typically better to visit geode beds throughout California, Utah, Iowa, and Illinois. The best of these geode hotspots include:
- The Keokuk Geode Beds (Iowa/Illinois)
- The Dugway Geode Beds (Utah)
- The Hauser Geode Beds (California)
- The Cinnamon Geode Beds (California)
Be sure to bring a shovel, a bucket, and some protective gloves when heading out to these popular geode-hunting locations. And, whatever you do, resist the urge to crack open your geodes!
Otherwise, you might end up spilling the precious water trapped inside your rare enhydro agates.
Can Any Type of Rock Contain Water?
After discovering your first water-filled geode, you might begin to wonder whether all rocks can secretly harbor a few drops of water.
The answer to this question is a little complicated, as any porous or semi-porous stone likely contains some moisture, especially if kept in a humid environment. If this moisture condenses (turns from a gas into a liquid), you have a water-rich rock.
But water can only end up trapped inside a rock when mineralization occurs rapidly enough, or in just the right sequence, to prevent the water from evaporating or draining away. The only potential exception is an aquifer, which is almost always full of water.
Aquifers don’t trap water so much as they store and release it, acting more like soft sandstone sponges than hard quartz lockboxes. In this way, they’re unlike water-filled geodes.
Water seeps into geodes early during their formation, when their interior surfaces are still porous. When non-porous minerals like quartz or amethyst accumulate in the hollow spaces inside a geode, they can prevent any remaining water from seeping out of the rock.
Still, not all geodes contain water. Those that primarily contain semi-porous minerals like agate are often dry when opened.
If you find an enhydro geode, it’s important to resist the temptation to drink the water inside. Although this water might appear clear and potable, it could contain dangerous bacteria, pathogens, or ancient microorganisms.