Aquarium Salt: When and How to Use It Properly
Is it safe to use freshwater salt in aquariums? 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 hundreds of fish, the true power of salt has been revealed. NaCl (Sodium Chloride) is one of our favorite, all-encompassing “medications”. It’s effective against bacteria and fungus as well as external parasites. We love it because it is cheap, readily available in every country, never expires and can easily be used in low or high concentrations.
We recommend the trio of medications to beginner fisherman because different species of fish have different tolerances to salt. This can make it difficult to determine and remember the proper dosage for each species. Another problem is that salt can not be used with most snails and live plants. Salt can also be accidentally overdosed, which could cause your freshwater aquarium to die. This highly effective remedy can be used by both novice and expert fish keepers.
How Does Aquarium Salt Work?
Salt is the main cause of death due to dehydration. As osmosis seeks balance in salt concentrations, aquarium water can be made more salin. These tiny microorganisms dry out faster than the fish because they have more mass and store water. As a result, pathogens die quicker than their hosts. But, salt isn’t 100% bulletproof because some microorganisms can survive higher salinities.
Through the power of osmosis, aquarium salt is able to eliminate many pathogens and parasites on fish.
Salt should I be used all the time?
As a preventative measure, or as a health booster, sodium chloride salt should never be taken on a daily basis. This would be similar to a healthy person taking antibiotics every day in an effort to reduce the risk of infection. Eventually, a superbug could emerge that is resistant to antibiotics, and your options for treatment are severely 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. It is better to use salt sparingly, only when it is absolutely necessary, to make salt a valuable tool in your arsenal.
How to Use Salt as a Medication
Salt comes in many different sizes, purity levels, chemical compositions. But for the purposes this article, we’re using NaCl or aquarium salt. Not table salt. The measurements listed below are in the United States (US), customary units and not the British imperial system. If the symptoms persist, we start with the lowest salt level and increase as needed.
Salt can come in many sizes, so ensure you use aquarium salt to adhere to our treatment protocol.
Level 1 Treatment
1 Tbsp Salt Per 3 Gallons Of Water
Add 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) of salt per 3 gallons of water. Some people prefer to dissolve the salt first in a small glass of water. This salt level is similar to Neosporin topical cream for small cuts (in other words it’s not very powerful). It can be used to combat mild cases of fungal or bacterial infection. Plus, it gently irritates the fish’s slime coat, causing the fish to make more beneficial mucus that can block some parasites and microorganisms from reaching its body.
We’ve kept and sold thousands of fish at our fish store, and this level of salt is safe for virtually all fish – except anchor catfish. If the fish doesn’t improve, keep them in the salt solution for four to five days.
Level 2 Treatment
1 Tbsp Salt Per 2 Gallons Of Water
For the next level of treatment, use 1 Tbsp salt per 2 Gallons of water. Level 2 can treat a greater number of illnesses. For example, you can use this recipe to treat ich (a common ailment also known as white spot disease) for a period of 10 days. If symptoms persist after five days, increase the concentration.
Level 3 Treatment
1 Tbsp Salt per 1 Gallon of Water
It’s time to unleash the big guns when lower salt levels and medications don’t have any effect. This powerful solution will eliminate almost everything if the salt concentration is increased to 1 Tbsp per gallon. Level 3 treatment is very hard on scaleless fish and other sensitive species, so please do some research beforehand. Rasboras are salt-tolerant, as well as tetras and silver dollars, ranios, tetras and livebearers. Neocaridina cherries shrimp and Caridina crystals shrimp are both salt-tolerant.
Note: aquarium salt does not evaporate or get filtered out. As water evaporates, the salt is left behind. When performing water changes, make sure to only add salt in the correct proportion. 50 Tbsp is all you need to start treating 100 gallons water at level 2. You can then do a 20% change of water (or change out 20 galallons of water) and add 20% of the salt or 10 Tbsp to the new water. To keep the same concentration, increase the salt by 20%. 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’s dissolved into is removed. Be careful not to overdose your aquarium.
How Long Does Salt Treatment Last?
Keep the salt in the aquarium till the fish is healthy. Then, do water changes to remove the salt.
After treatment is complete, perform a 30% water change with no salt addition. Then wait for a week to observe. – If the disease doesn’t come back, do another 30% water change without replacing the salt and 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. The original salt concentration may not have been strong enough to eliminate the disease.
Can I Use Salt for Fish in Quarantine?
You can treat fish with the low-sodium level 1 for up to 2 weeks. The solution should eliminate approximately 60% of possible illnesses. You can also use this technique for healing any fish that got beat up and needs some solitary recovery time in a hospital tank.
Although it may seem easy to grab a packet of fish medication, salt is amazing because it can treat mysterious diseases that are difficult to diagnose. To reduce risk to the environment and human health, some countries have begun to ban the sale of antibiotics in the pet trade. Aquarium salt could become your next best friend in treating sick fish.