Aquarium Salt: When and How to Use It Properly
Is it safe to use freshwater salt in aquarium salt? 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. We love it because it’s cheap, readily available in all countries, never expires, and can be easily used in low to high concentrations.
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. Another disadvantage is that salt cannot be used with most live plants and snails. 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 causes death through dehydration. The aquarium water’s salinity is increased to draw out the bacteria, fungus or parasites. Osmosis attempts to balance the salt concentrations on the skin and membranes of each organism. Because the fish have more water and mass, these microorganisms are more likely to die than their hosts. 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?
The sodium chloride should not be taken as a preventative or health booster. 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. The same goes for fish diseases that get past the “salt barrier”. They will need a much higher level of salt to cure them. 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
Salt comes in all sorts of particle sizes, purity levels, and chemical compositions, but for the purposes of this article, we’re using normal aquarium salt or NaCl rock salt – not 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
For every 3 gallons of water, add 1 tablespoon (Tbsp). 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 amount of salt is comparable to Neosporin topical oil for small cuts. 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 Water
Use a concentration of 1 Tbsp of salt per 2 gallons of water for the next level of treatment. 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 per 1 Gallon of Water
The big guns are ready when medications and lower salt levels fail to work. 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 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.
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. If you have to perform a 20% water alteration (or change out 20 galallons of water), then add back 20% of the salt or 10 Tbsp salt to the new water. This will maintain the same concentration. 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?
Keep the salt in the aquarium till the fish is healthy. Then, do water changes to remove the salt.
– After the treatment has ended, you can do a 30% water alter without salt. Wait a week before you start to monitor. – Repeat the 30% water change but do not replace the salt. If the disease does not return, wait another week. – If the disease returns, dose back to the original salt concentration and add a little more salt to increase the solution strength. The original salt concentration probably wasn’t strong enough to completely conquer the sickness, or the fish did not spend enough time in the salt solution to dehydrate all 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 will eliminate roughly 60% of all possible diseases. This method can also be used to treat fish who have been hurt and need some time alone in a hospital.
While grabbing a box of fish medication may seem like the easiest answer, salt is remarkable because of its ability to treat mystery diseases that are hard 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 be your best friend in the future when it comes treating sick fish.