Aquarium Salt and bettas...

  • #1
This was raised in another thread, but it got me to thinkin... (uh oh )

... I want to say that you shouldn't putting aquarium salt in the water if you have a betta. Bettas are freshwater fish, not salt water and it could harm him/her. Salt is meant to be used as a medication only. Just letting you know.

On the box of API Aquarium Salt that I bought last week it says "provides essential electrolytes freshwater fish need to reach peak coloration and vitality. Use when setting up a freshwater aquarium or fish bowl, changing water and treating fish disease."

I have read on other betta sites and forums that people routinely use aquarium salt in their betta's water to prevent bacteria and not just for medicating.

Can anyone please explain to me the difference in philosphy on this? I believe it was FLBettaCpl that said elsewhere "it dries them out" (sorry for the misquote). How can you tell?

Cujo is currently in his hospital tank (not cycled, just a 2.5 gallon tank with filter/heater, 100% water changes every 4 days with Prime) with a small amount of salt and the appropriate dosage of Bettafix. He's been off his meds since Friday and seems to be doing fine. I'm just trying to figure out the right thing to do. Again! lol
  • #2
There are several theories behind salt. I'm typing this from memory so if anyone sees something wrong here, please correct me.

Salt changes the osmotic balance of water, and since fish are obviously adapted to live in water, their bodies are much more open to losing water when the osmotic balance gets off (basically, the water wants to leave their cells to balance out the salt outside).
Opponents of salt use also state that it irritates their skin, which is what promotes the production of slime coat.
Advocates state that salt promotes the production of slime coat.
Advocates point out that salt adds electrolytes to the water.
Opponents counter that they're freshwater fish and thrive in the absence of salt, so the electrolytes provided by salt are unneeded.
Salt can be used as medication in certain circumstances such as a) if there is swelling... think about if you gargle saltwater if you have a sore throat. It tastes nasty but the swelling decreases because the water in your cells leaves to balance out the suddenly saline solution next to them. b) freshwater microbes aren't adapted to living in saline conditions either, and fish can tolerate more of a range than many microbes can.

Some people use salt constantly for the reasons cited by advocates. I personally don't recommend it. There's a difference between gargling saltwater when you have a sore throat, and putting salt in the water you drink every day. I use salt only for medicating sick fish.
  • #3
I bought a box of the salt myself when starting up because of the thinking that it would prevent disease.. it didn't. With freshwater fish, it's not going to provide any real benefit except in medication situations like Cujo is in now. I've read of medication treatments for desperate situations where higher amounts of salt is used to pull excess water from a fish.

I don't use it, but I figure it someone wants to use salt, then it's up to them. i'd just recommend a testing kit for salinity if so. Saltwater tank owners will attest to the joys of maintaining a particular salinity.
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  • #4
So this is a controversial topic then? No more takers? Thanks EmilaI and FLBettaCouple for your replies and insight.

We have a saltwater tank where we are starting a nano-reef. I could use the hydrometer from that, I'm sure. What kind of values would I be looking for? We are supposed to maintain 1.021 for the reef tank, so I'm guessing much less than that probably...
  • #5
I'm not sure what to look for on a hydrometer, other than most aren't sensitive enough to measure the salinity of freshwater. but I did find this info giving numbers in parts per thousand.
The average ocean salinity is 35 ppt. This number varies between about 32 and 37 ppt.
Freshwater salinity is usually less than 0.5 ppt.
Water between 0.5 ppt and 17 ppt is called brackish.

I also found this explanation of what I was thinking about with bettas getting water sucked out by salt:
Most marine creatures keep the salinity inside their bodies at about the same concentration as the water outside their bodies because water likes a balance. If an animal that usually lives in salt water were placed in fresh water, the fresh water would flow into the animal through its skin. If a fresh water animal found itself in the salty ocean, the water inside of it would rush out. The process by which water flows through a semi-permeable membrane (a material that lets only some things pass through it) such as the animal's skin from an area of high concentration (lots of water, little salt) to an area of low concentration (little water, lots of salt) is called osmosis.
  • #6
Salt is considered a medication for freshwater fish of which Bettas are definitely considered. There are some of us who definitely have strong feelings about adding unnecessary things to the water because of the osmotic balance of the fishes internal chemistry. As the other post mentioned. the water in the fish's body will try and achieve a balance of the salt and water concentration of the salt and water concentration in the water in the tank. Since the fish is normally to be kept in freshwater to be in a living environment to add salt means that extra water from the fish's body will be lost into the tank water causing the fish to become dehydrated and since bettas have the tendency to become constipated they have enough problems with digestive and other problems without being further dehydrated to complicated their problems more by dehydrating their systems more.

  • #7
isn't there a tiny bit of salt in ALL water? the process of evolution and the way bacteria interactes with macro-organisms would necessitate a simulation of what is natural...I usually drop just a few crystals in my tanks every month or so, and certainly in my medicine tanks
  • #8
freshwater's salinity is naturally either 0 or so low that it's almost unmeasurable (except by super sensitive hydrometers) even where freshwater meets brackish water. In a natural system, the little to no salt in freshwater is moved along, but in a tank system it can accumulate and build slowly until even adding tiny amounts will give a tank brackish levels of salinity - draining freshwater fish of body water.
  • #9
FLBettaCouple, that makes a lot of sense. That's probably why it's not so bad to use it in a quarantine tank, too - because the water in there is thoroughly changed frequently. I'm going to stop using it in my main tank.
  • #10
FLBettaCouple, that makes a lot of sense. That's probably why it's not so bad to use it in a quarantine tank, too - because the water in there is thoroughly changed frequently. I'm going to stop using it in my main tank.

cool. eventually the salt in the tanks does go away so what little buildup you might have (very little probably with the small dosing that you did). The reason we actually stopped using it was I felt lazy & didn't feel like adding it after a few times. LOL.. then later I read about it here at fishlore.

btw: have you posted pics of your fish and tanks? I'd love to see them and i'm jealous of your featherfin baby.. I can't find them anywhere around here.

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