Salt can be detrimental to certain fish species. So, do African cichlids need salt?
African cichlids don’t need salt. However, you can add salt in their tanks as it has its benefits. The addition of salt helps increase the water hardness and pH level, relieve stress, and treat diseases. Cichlid salt is also beneficial to African cichlids as it contains all the essential minerals.
Although salt is not an absolute necessity for African cichlids, there are numerous benefits of adding salt. Let’s talk about these benefits now.
Why Is Cichlid Salt Beneficial To African Cichlids?
African cichlids need specific water parameters for their survival and growth. They come from lakes where the water is very different from tap water.
So salt is needed to make the water more similar to lake water. It helps African cichlids to adapt to their new environment.
Salt helps the African cichlids in the following ways.
1. Increase Water Hardness
Hardness refers to the concentration of calcium and magnesium ions in the water, also often expressed as calcium carbonate concentration. These two elements are responsible for making the water hard or soft.
African cichlids prefer moderately hard water for optimal health. So cichlid salt is widely used in aquariums to increase the water’s hardness, mainly if the water is soft. It helps to keep the water at its ideal hardness level.
Also, cichlid salt contains mixtures of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium salts meant to mimic the mix of minerals found in the rift lakes.
2. Increase Water pH
pH is the measure of how acidic or basic the water is. It’s measured on a scale from 0 to 14, where 7 is neutral (neither acidic nor basic). The higher the number, the more alkaline or acidic the water is.
African cichlids inhabit lakes with waters enriched by calcium and bicarbonates from the surrounding rock beds. This makes the pH requirements of African cichlids higher than neutral.
African cichlids prefer pH in the range of 7.8 to 8.5. Cichlid salt can help in increasing the pH level of the water.
An optimal pH level is also vital for maintaining the health of African cichlids. They may experience stress if the pH level of the water is not ideal.
So it’s vital to maintain the desired pH level of the tank water. As the usage of cichlid salt creates the kind of water conditions found in the African Great Lakes region, aquarists use it widely.
3. Treat Diseases
Salt is a natural antibiotic, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal substance. So it’s widely used to treat diseases in fish.
Adding a proper salt dosage can help eliminate bacteria and fungi from a fish tank. It also reduces ammonia levels.
It has been observed that African cichlids usually suffer from many diseases like bacterial infections, fungal infections, fin rot, swim bladder disorder, ich, Malawi bloat, flukes, popeye disease, wounds, lacerations, etc.
Adding salt can help in treating these diseases. Salt also helps in reducing the amount of ammonia present in a fish tank. This helps to control the growth of harmful microbes in the aquarium.
However, it’s important to note that salt should be added gradually so that the fish don’t suffer any adverse effects.
You also shouldn’t just rely on salt for medication. Severe illnesses of African cichlids need proper treatment.
4. Other Benefits
The primary purpose of using salt in African cichlids’ tanks is to increase the water hardness and pH level of the water.
However, there are several other benefits that African cichlids get due to salt addition, such as:
- Better breathing and digestion,
- Stress relief,
- Enhanced coloration,
- Lower aggression,
- Improved breeding, and
- Increased activity levels.
What Type Of Salt Should Be Used For African Cichlids?
The typical salts used in cichlids tanks consist of calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, and magnesium hydroxide.
African cichlids need minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and a small amount of carbonate, sodium, and potassium. All these minerals are found in cichlid salt. So it’s the most suitable salt for African cichlids.
Cichlid salt is also readily available in most pet stores. You can even prepare cichlid salt at home by mixing baking soda (sodium carbonate), Epsom salt (magnesium), and reef salt (magnesium, calcium, potassium, and other trace elements) in proper proportions.
Apart from cichlid salt, you can also use aquarium salt sometimes. However, aquarium salt isn’t enough as it mainly contains sodium chloride. You should also avoid ordinary table salt.
How Much Salt Should You Use For African Cichlids?
Salt is not needed for African cichlid fish, but it can help prevent diseases and maintain a healthy environment in the tank.
That’s why many aquarists prefer salt to maintain the health of their African cichlids. However, you should be careful while adding salt to the African cichlids’ tank.
The recommended dosage of salt for African cichlids is in a ratio of 1:5, meaning one tablespoon of salt for every 5 gallons of water.
Salt doesn’t evaporate like water. It will remain in the water unless you perform a water change. So if you intend to add cichlid salt for the second time, it should be in proportion to the percentage of water change.
It’s also equally important not to overdose your African cichlids with salt. Overdose of salt can cause fluctuations in the pH level of the tank water, which can be highly stressful for the African cichlids.
It’s recommended that you add only enough salt to your tank to ensure that the water remains palatable for the African cichlids.
It’s also essential to monitor the amount of salt added to your tank because too much salt can cause problems with your fish’s gills.
Salt also alters the natural pH and hardness of the water. So it’s advisable to check the hardness of the water before adding salt to the tank water.
How To Add Salt To A Fish Tank?
Salt should never be added directly to the tank water because it can get concentrated in some water regions as it dissolves.
Instead, the salt mix should be dissolved first in the water. Then, you should mix this solution thoroughly into the tank water. This way, the concentration of salt remains constant throughout the tank.
Also, if you use cichlid salt, dissolving it in the water helps to avoid burns. Cichlid salt contains calcium carbonate that can cause irritation to the human skin.
It can also harm the fish if they come in direct contact with cichlid salt.
It’s best to follow the directions mentioned on the packaging when preparing the salt mixture.
Is Cichlid Lake Salt Suitable For African Cichlids?
Cichlid lake salt is a chemically sound mixture of salts that replicate naturally occurring conditions of Rift Lake African cichlids.
It contains all the physiologically essential elements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and trace components like aluminum, iodide, and iron.
Cichlid lake salt is suitable for African cichlids as it helps to replicate their natural environment’s water conditions. Besides, it only affects the water’s hardness.
Cichlid lake salt can be used initially to set the minerals levels for a new aquarium or to add minerals in the replacement water while performing water changes.
Since this salt is formulated, the dosages vary as per the lake of origin. So it’s better to consult an expert before using this salt.