Monday, November 18, 2013

Salt in Freshwater Aquariums

Salt in Freshwater Aquariums

Veteran aquarists know that salt is an important component in freshwater setups. Adding salt became a popular practice among aquarists during the 1990’s in an effort to prevent disease as well as promote a balanced osmotic pressure.

Important reasons for adding salt to freshwater aquarium tanks:
  • Medication 
  • Stress reduction 
  • Reduction of osmotic pressure 
  • Increase water hardness 
  • Inhibit nitrite uptake 
  • Promote the slime coat 
  • Promote wound healing 
  • Create a better environment for fish that come from brackish water 

However, the addition of salt to freshwater tanks is not without its drawbacks. Freshwater fish and plants that are commonly placed in an aquarium originally come from habitats with very little salt, if any. Freshwater fish may adapt to water with salt content which is measured in parts-per-million (ppm) but it will certainly die when exposed to seawater with a salt content measured in parts-per-thousand (ppt). Since most freshwater aquarium plants can barely tolerate salt, you should try to avoid adding salt when you are trying to keep live plants in your tank. Plecostomus and some fish species that originate from very soft water do not tolerate much salt and thus addition and/or salt exposure should be avoided when you’re raising any of these fish species.

Salt can kill fish ectoparasites

Parasites that inhabit the external part of animals are called ectoparasites. The substance has been found to effectively kill some common fish ectoparasites. Some of these parasites include anchorworms (Lernaea), ich (Ichthyophthirius), and costia. The usual dose is mixing 1½ cups of salt for every 10 gallons (38 liters) of water. The salt levels inside your aquarium should be maintained for at least three weeks to effectively eliminate the parasites. This is certainly exposing your aquarium inhabitants to a lot of salt to kill these parasites!

The sad fact is, not all fish species can tolerate this much amount of salt. The common fish species that demonstrate tolerance to these salt levels include livebearers, koi, Central American cichlids, and African rift lake cichlids.

Saltwater dips

Some aquarists choose to use saltwater dips to eradicate external parasites. Skin flukes (Gydodactylus) can be killed by a saltwater dip with specific gravity that is maintained at 1.009-1.023 for at least 30 minutes to two hours. When fish is subjected to a saltwater dip, you should closely monitor the fish for signs of excessive stress, and return the fish to freshwater when the need arises.

Salt in quarantine tanks

If you have a quarantine or hospital tank where you put in fish that has lost scales or has a damaged shin, you can mix a therapeutic dose of aquarium salt, which is (1 teaspoon for every 10 gallons of water). This is a good way to promote osmoregulation for it helps the fish maintain the salt (NaCl) in its body during the wound healing process. Once healing is complete, you can do a 100% water change to remove all the salt from the aquarium.

However, there are aquarists who choose to treat external parasites with other fish medications that are deemed safer for their fish population.

Salt – to add or not to add?

The practice of adding salt to freshwater aquarium will depend on several factors including where you live, your management practices, species of fish that you are raising, or whether you have plants in your aquarium or not.

However, considering the potential hazards that adding salt may bring to your fish and plants, it is recommended that you carefully consider the pros and cons of adding salt before making it a part of your regimen.

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