Aquarium Salt: When and How to Use It Properly
Can aquarium salt be used in freshwater tank? Some people recommend dosing it all the time to provide fish with essential electrolytes, while others say it’s mostly used for treating diseases. After years of testing with hundreds of fish, we’ve witnessed the true power of salt. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is one of the best, all-encompassing “medications” on the market that’s effective against bacteria, fungus, and external parasites. It’s inexpensive, easily available in all countries, doesn’t expire, and can be used in low- to high doses.
However, the reason why we typically recommend our trio of medications to beginners is because different kinds of fish have different tolerance levels to salt, and it can be hard to figure out and remember the correct dosage for each species. Another disadvantage is that salt cannot be used with most live plants and snails. Finally, it’s easy to accidentally overdose salt, which may kill everything (not just the bacteria) in your freshwater aquarium. This highly effective remedy can be used by both novice and expert fish keepers.
How does aquarium salt work?
Salt essentially causes death by dehydration. By raising the salinity of the aquarium water, water is sucked out of the bacteria, fungus, or parasite as osmosis seeks to balance the salt concentration on each side of its membrane or skin. These tiny microorganisms dehydrate faster than the fish (because the fish has more mass and stored water), and therefore the pathogens end up dying before their hosts do. However, salt is not 100% bulletproof because some microorganisms can tolerate higher salinity.
Aquarium salt can eliminate parasites and pathogens through the power of osmosis.
Should I Use Salt All the Time?
The sodium chloride should not be taken as a preventative or health booster. It would be like a healthy person misusing antibiotics and taking a pill every day to minimize risk of infection – eventually a superbug may appear that is resistant to the antibiotic and then your treatment options are greatly limited. In the same way, any fish disease that gets past your protective “salt barrier” will be quite resilient and require a much higher salt concentration to cure, which may be detrimental to the fish. Salt can be a powerful tool that you add to your arsenal if it is used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.
How to Use Salt for Medication
There are many types of salt. Salt can come in different sizes, purity levels and chemical compositions. However, for this article we will be using regular aquarium salt or NaClrock salt. We won’t use table salt, marine salt or Epsom salt. (Also note that the measurements below refer to the United States (US), customary units. They do not reflect the UK imperial systems. Our method of treatment starts with the lowest level of salt and gradually increases if the symptoms persist.
Salt is available in many sizes and shapes, so be sure to use aquarium salt for our treatment.
Level 1 Treatment
1 Tbsp Salt for 3 Gallons of water
Add 1 tablespoon (3 Tbsp) salt to 3 gallons water. The salt can be poured directly into an aquarium or hospital tank. However, some people prefer to dissolve it in a small amount of water before adding it. This level of salt is like using Neosporin topical ointment for a small cut (in other words, it’s not very strong). It is used to treat mild cases of fungal and bacterial infection. It gently irritates the slime coat of the fish, which causes it to produce more beneficial mucus, which can prevent some parasites or microorganisms reaching its body.
Our fish store has sold thousands of fish and kept them safe. Keep the fish in the salt solution for 4 to 5 days, and then increase the concentration if there’s no improvement.
Level 2 Treatment
1 Tbsp Salt for 2 Gallons of water
For the next level of treatment, use 1 Tbsp salt per 2 Gallons of water. Level 2 treatment is capable of combating a wider range of illnesses. This recipe can be used to treat ich, also known as white spot syndrome, for 10 days. If the symptoms don’t improve after 5 days, you can increase your concentration.
Level 3 Treatment
1 Tbsp Salt for 1 Gallon of water
When medications and the lower salt levels have no effect, it’s time to bring out the big guns. Raise the concentration to 1 Tbsp of salt per gallon of water, and this potent solution will knock out nearly everything. Level 3 treatment can be very difficult for scaleless fish and sensitive species. Make sure you do your research. Rasboras and tetras, silver dollar, livebearers, and most other cichlids (aswell as their fry), have been found to be quite salt-tolerant. Even Neocaridina cherry shrimp are quite hardy in salt, but we haven’t done much testing on Caridina crystal shrimp yet.
Salt in aquariums does not evaporate. When water evaporates, salt is left behind. When performing water changes, make sure to only add salt in the correct proportion. For instance, if you’re treating 100 gallons of water at level 2 for ich, you need 50 Tbsp of salt initially. To maintain the same concentration, you can add 20% (or 10 Tbsp) of salt to your water if you need to make a 20% water change (20 gallons). Be careful when measuring the salt because it’s easy to overdose the amount, and unlike most medications, salt does not breakdown over time.
Salt doesn’t evaporate or disappear unless the water it was dissolved in is removed. Be careful not to overdose your aquarium.
How long should salt treatment last?
Leave the salt in the aquarium until the fish looks healthy and then remove the salt by doing water changes.
– At the end of treatment, do a 30% water change without adding any salt and then wait a week for observation. – Repeat the 30% water change but do not replace the salt. If the disease does not return, wait another week. If the disease comes back, you can dose back to the original salt level and add some salt to increase the solution’s strength. Either the original salt concentration was not strong enough to overcome the illness or the fish didn’t spend enough time in salt solution to fully dehydrate the pathogens.
Can I Use Salt for Fish in Quarantine?
Yes, it is possible to treat new fish with the level 1 low sodium dosage for two weeks. This will eliminate roughly 60% of all possible diseases. This technique can be used to heal any fish that has been injured and requires some time in a hospital tank.
Although it may seem easy to grab a packet of fish medication, salt is amazing because of its ability treat mysterious diseases that are difficult to diagnose. Certain countries have started to restrict the sale and distribution of antibiotics to pets in order to reduce the risk to humans and the environment. Aquarium salt could be your best friend in the future when it comes treating sick fish.