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.
Our trio of medications is recommended to beginners because different types of fish have different salt tolerance levels. It can be difficult to remember and figure out the right dosage for each species. Salt can’t be used with most living plants and snails. Salt can also be accidentally overdosed, which could cause your freshwater aquarium to die. Both novice and experienced fish keepers will benefit from this highly effective remedy if they use accurate measurements and are careful with their usage.
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. Some microorganisms are capable of surviving higher levels of salt, so salt is not an all-purpose bulletproof solution.
Through the power of osmosis, aquarium salt is able to eliminate many pathogens and parasites on fish.
Do I need to use salt 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. Any fish disease that reaches beyond your “salt barrier”, will require a higher salt concentration to cure. This could be harmful 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 as a 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, the measurement listed below refer to United States (US) customary units, not the UK 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. You can pour the salt directly into the aquarium or hospital tank, but some people like to dissolve the salt in a small cup of water first. This salt level is similar to Neosporin topical cream for small cuts (in other words it’s not very powerful). 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.
We have sold thousands upon thousands of fish from our fish shop. This level of salt is safe to eat , 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 Water
Use a concentration of 1 Tbsp of salt per 2 gallons of water for the next level of treatment. Level 2 can treat a greater number of illnesses. For example, this recipe can be used for treating ich (also known as white spots disease), for a duration of 10 days. However, if the symptoms are only getting worse after 5 days, try increasing the concentration again.
Level 3 Treatment
1 Tbsp Salt per 1 Gallon of Water
If medications and lower salt levels don’t work, it’s time for 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 is very hard on scaleless fish and other sensitive species, so please do some research beforehand. We personally have found rasboras, danios, tetras, silver dollars, livebearers, and most cichlids (as well as their fry) to be fairly salt tolerant. Even Neocaridina cherry shrimp are quite hardy in salt, but we haven’t done much testing on Caridina crystal shrimp yet.
Aquarium salt doesn’t evaporate or get filtered. The salt is retained by water as it evaporates. Therefore, only add salt (in the proportionate amount) when doing water changes. 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). It’s possible to overdose on salt, unlike other medications.
Salt does not evaporate or disappear unless you physically remove the water it’s dissolved in, so be careful to not overdose your aquarium.
How Long Does Salt Treatment Last?
You can leave the salt in your aquarium until your fish are healthy. After that, you can remove it by performing 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.
Is it possible to substitute salt for fish in Quarantine
Yes, you can treat new fish using the level 1 low salt dosage for 2 weeks. This solution should eradicate roughly 60% of potential 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.
It may seem simple to grab some fish medication. But salt is extraordinary because it can treat difficult-to-diagnose diseases. Plus, certain countries are starting to restrict the sale of antibiotics and other drugs used in the pet trade to minimize risk to human and environmental health. In the future aquarium salt could become your best friend for treating sick fish.