What Is Aquarium Salt? (Why And When To Use It)

Image of a fish tank with aquarium salt in it

There are different types of salt, like table salt, rock salt, etc. But what is aquarium salt?

Aquarium salt is pure, untreated sodium chloride without any artificial additives, sugar, color, iodine, and anti-caking ingredients. It’s widely used in aquariums as it has anti-bacterial properties, helps improve fish’s gill function, cures their skin diseases, and eliminates harmful pathogens.

There are various benefits of aquarium salt in improving the overall health of fish. So, let’s delve deeper to understand the role of aquarium salt.

Why Should You Use Aquarium Salt?

Aquarium salt is pure and hence is most effective in treating fish diseases. Fish benefit from aquarium salt when it’s added in proper concentration.

Many aquarists use aquarium salt as a crude medication to help the fish fight various parasitic infections and diseases like flukes, ich, fin rot, fungus, etc.

Aquarium salt eliminates the pathogens such as fungi and bacteria by increasing the water salinity, thus causing them to dehydrate. So it helps the fish prevent attacks from harmful pathogens that can adversely impact their health.

Aquarium salt also speeds up the healing process of fish wounds, thereby reducing their stress.

Another benefit of aquarium salt to fish is that it adds electrolytes to the freshwater. This improves the gill functioning of the fish, allowing them to breathe easily.

Finally, aquarium salt is readily available at most pet stores or online and is affordable than most over-the-counter fish medications.

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When To Use Aquarium Salt?

Aquarium salt shouldn’t be used in freshwater tanks unless needed. It also shouldn’t be used as a health booster or medication unless the fish is sick and needs treatment.

If the aquarium salt is used frequently, any fish that passes the salt barrier will likely become more resilient to salt. So you will need a much higher salt concentration to cure the fish diseases.

Increasing the salt concentration can also lead to an overactive slime coat. In extreme cases, excessive salt can even dehydrate the fish.

A freshwater fish can lose water through osmosis when placed in a tank with too much salt. So aquarium salt needs to be used sparingly in freshwater aquariums and only when necessary.

How Aquarium Salt Helps Treat Skin Diseases Of Fish?

Aquarium salt is often recommended for treating various skin problems of fish, such as fin rot and ich.

Fin rot is usually caused by either fungal or bacterial infections. It also causes the fish’s tail or fins to appear frayed.

On the other hand, white spots are visible on the fish’s scales if they’re suffering from the ich disease. Other symptoms are the fish trying to scratch their bodies on hard surfaces like tank walls, decorations, and substrate.

Fortunately, you can cure both these diseases with an appropriate aquarium salt dosage.

You can use aquarium salt in different proportions to treat the fish. However, some fish, like catfish species, are sensitive to salt. So it’s always recommended to acclimatize the fish to the salty conditions first.

You need to always start the treatment with the lowest salt concentration and gradually increase the salt if the symptoms persist. Besides, it’s crucial to be careful while measuring the salt as it’s easy to overdose the water with salt.

Salt also doesn’t break down over time, unlike most medications. So its concentration needs to be appropriate in the first place.

You can read more about treating fish with salt over here.

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Is Aquarium Salt Good For All Fish?

Aquarium salt is not suitable for all fish. Some fish like cichlids or goldfish respond nicely if a small amount of aquarium salt is added to their freshwater aquariums for a medicinal bath.

However, other fish like corydoras catfish, South American tetras, koi, barbs, etc., are known for their salt intolerance. Even small invertebrates like snails are very sensitive to salt.

Similarly, freshwater shrimp don’t need aquarium salt at all. However, they can tolerate aquarium salt in small doses. But when the salt concentration increases, it can adversely impact their health.

Moreover, scaleless fish can’t tolerate too much salt as they don’t have the added barrier of the scales to protect them.

If these fish are exposed to a high salt concentration, they can lose their equilibrium and may simply roll over.

Studies have shown that fry are not as tolerant to salt as large, mature fish. Rothen et al. (2002) studied the effects of salt on the fry of zebra danios, blue gouramis, Buenos Aires tetras, and black widow tetras.

They found that all fry tolerated 1 ppt of salt but started to suffer at higher salt dosages. Only blue gourami fry had little effect for doses as high as 3 ppt.

Is Aquarium Salt Suitable For Plants?

Salt is not suitable for aquarium plants as it dries out their roots and leaves. So you should avoid it in planted tanks.

Aquarium plants drink water from the soil through their roots. When the soil has a high salt concentration, the plants absorb and retain this salt. This expels the water from the plants and leads to dehydration in aquatic plants.

Plants only need a tiny amount of salt to survive. This amount of salt is naturally found in soil, and you don’t need to add any extra.

If you want to treat a sick fish by adding aquarium salt to the water, you should shift the fish to another hospital tank for treating it with aquarium salt.

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Is aquarium salt the same as sea salt?

Aquarium salt is different from sea salt. Aquarium salt is sodium chloride or NaCl that doesn’t contain trace minerals or elements. On the other hand, sea salt contains trace minerals and elements.

Sea salt is often used in saltwater tanks. However, you shouldn’t use it in freshwater aquariums as it contains chemical buffers that can harm the fish. Sea salt can also affect the freshwater tank pH drastically.

So you should use aquarium salt in freshwater aquariums instead of sea salt.

Is aquarium salt and table salt the same?

Aquarium salt and table salt are not the same. Table salt is often treated with chemicals such as iodine and anti-caking agents that are harmful to fish. On the other hand, aquarium salt is specifically designed for aquarium use.

However, table salt that’s non-iodized and doesn’t contain additives can be used in freshwater aquariums.

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