Aquarium salt issue

woeisme(z7b NC)June 2, 2006

Rather then continue this in the other thread started by Lexie, I chose to copy and paste it to a new thread. This is always a "hot topic" on fish forums. I had reccomended to Lexie to use salt to help her fish with fin rot recovery. Because she was on a tight budget I told her it was OK to use plain table salt, this of course brought question if it is really safe. This is something that has always confused me and I have read tons of articles about the pros and cons. My conclusion is that tablesalt iodized with an anti-caking agent is safe, in some cases safer then aquarium salt in freshwater uses. I just find this "debate" interesting, and always like to learn new things. That is my only motive for writing this. This is what someone ( sorry I cant remember their user name) wrote after researching the subject, it is actually a copy and paste of an article (I'm not sure if thats Ok to do? But the poster didn't take credit for writing it so????).


Here it is- I will respond to each section


"Woeisme, I did some deeper research on the salt issue. One of my sources was a very experienced moderator from Koko's Goldfish World. He is the god of diagnosing and treating illnesses along with a lot of chemistry and mircobiology. This is what he has to say:"

My responce- I don't doubt that the man has tons more experience then me and I have actually refered to his site many times for useul info but I find alot of flaws in this article

""The only salt that should be considerded for use in "freshwater" aquariums is pure NaCI. Nothing else. No binding agents, no anti-caking agents, nothing. Both of these agents "can" cause gill problems. Especially in a high salinity "dip". Certain additives in salts could prove a problem in a high salinity dip."

My responce-

The purest salt I have come across is plain water softening salt and/or solar salt and table salt - 99.5 to 99.8 % pure. This statement is contradicted later in this article. I also don't reccomend a "salt dip", IME isolating a fish and gradually raising the salinity is much safer. The shock of a dip is stressful and IMO hurts more then helps.


"A Perfect Example; Yellow Prussiate of Soda, alternately Sodium Ferrocyanide (most commonly used anti-caking agent in table salt) is akin to cyanide and under certain conditions, can be a serious threat to aquatic organisms. Read on:

Studies on the effects of sodium ferrocyanide date back at least a half-century. A 1950 report showed that when the chemical is exposed to sunlight, it can break down into free cyanide, which is highly toxic to aquatic organisms even in small doses.

Can ANY of use be sure that those circumstances, where this can happen, is not apparent in our tanks???? "

My responce-

I "think" this particular anti-caking agent is no longer in use. However, it is about amount. When diluted in water it is even less. Cyanide can be present in any water supply as well as rivers and lakes.


Pure NaCI can be found in freshwater aquarium salt, ice cream salt/rock salt and some other sources as well. Water softening salt is not too good to suggest because many contain binding agents to keep it in pelletized form. However, there ARE non-pelletized formulas wich are essentially solar salt or kiln dried salt and are safe to use in aquariums.

Now, I am well aware that MANY folks have used all kinds of salts in a "pinch" or "all the time" and without any adverse reactions to boot. BUT, it is highly recommended to exhaust all avenues for a pure salt. Then and only then would I EVER suggest using non-pure sources of salt.

Always remember that there are as many ways to keep fish as there are fishkeepers. No one single way is the correct way. However, keeping things pure and simple is the best policy............."

In the future, I think you should stay away from table salts, especially with iodine and anti-caking agents. Its better to be safe than sorry, right?


My Responce-

Pure NaCl is found in the above mentioned salts, but tablesalt has less impurities then most mentioned, examples:

freshwater aquarium salt- This is dehydrated sea water. Sea salt is not regulated and has more elements in it then tablesalt. Actually in most cases iodine and iodides are greater in sea salt then iodized tablesalt. Other elements are copper ( can be harmful to inverts and plants) and calcium carbonate (will raise pH and KH). Even though these things are present in sea salt they are also trace elements of freshwater. Matter of factly iodine is a freshwater trace element for freshwater fish. They need it for the same reasons humans do, preventing growths. The amount reccomended is actually more then is put in tablesalt when diluted in aquarium water.

ice cream rock salt - This stuff is full of who knows what. Ever thorow a handful on the ice in your driveway barehanded. Tons of dirt. This stuff is for melting ice (unless its food grade) and is not refined at all.

According to Morton who makes the softener salt they don't use anti-caking agents for salt pellets, or very little. It is just compressed salt.

In the end I have never heard of any fish dying because of using any of these salts, exception salt baths that can shock the fish and cause it greater harm then good. I just use tablesalt because its handy and cheap. Out of the salts I do use the anti-caking agents are Sodium Silicoaluminate - Non toxic to fish and humans, another form of this is Zeolite. Zeolite is used in fresh and saltwater aquaria to trap ammonia. Also, Calcium Silicate- a mixture of Limestone and Diatomaceous earth, both harmless (unless inhaled in dry form) and used in aquaria. Limestone to raise pH and decorate rift lake, saltwater and brakish tanks. D.E. is used as a filtration aid to polish water.

I just don't see any harmful things in tablesalt. And it's great on hot buttered corn on the cob ;b

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Well I don't think I can debate much further because that is about as far as my knowlege goes. I would only like to point some things out.

Yellow Prussiate of Soda is very much still used as an anti-caking agent in table salts. I think we can all agree that a salt with that in it should be avoided at all costs ;)

Salt dips and baths are only usefull if you know what you are doing. I don't recomend that anyone tries it without help and guidance from some one knowlegable. This treatment is mainly used for treating external parasites on large, salt tolerant fish such as goldfish. If you get the wrong salt, the wrong salinity, the wrong length of time, fail to pull them out if they don't take it well, or dip a weak, small, or salt-intolerant fish, things can go very wrong.

Wierd little thing I just noticed. Woeisme, you say an anti-caking agent commonly used is Sodium Silicoaluminate, another form of zeolite? I think it is a bit humorous that if you add salt to water that contains zeolite, the zeolite will release all of the ammonia it has soaked up prebiously. How small the aquatic chemistry world is :)

That quote is by Paul, screen name Toothless, and I got his permission to copy and paste his thoughts onto my topic. If you have questions I don't think he would mind you politely asking him, but do not badger or argue with him. He's very busy and I'm sure he prefers to be left out of it.

I'd love to hear others opinions on the subject. Keep it polite please, no verbal attacks.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2006 at 2:38AM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

I wouldn't badger anyone. I didn't intend to. I just think this is an interesting topic because of its controversy. I am no authority on this subject by any means. I am just sharing things that I question about this subject. I meant no personal attack or disrespect to anyone, just like to learn from people. I also have spoke with a chemist for a pharmaceutical company and aquarium hobbyist. He was my neighbor as a kid and had awesome aquariums. He instructed me to use tablesalt a long time ago. I did question him again about it a couple years ago I was assured that any anti caking agents used in salts are so minimal that even if they are toxic would not be a factor.
Littlehippygirl, you bring up a good point about salt removing ammonia in zeolite. If you have an aquarium that already has salt in it then add zeolite, the zeolite will still absorb ammonia. If you have zeolite in your filter for the purpose of absorbing ammonia, then add salt and raise salinity the ammonia will release from the zeolite. Salt is also used to make a brine that will regenerate zeolite so it can be reused. Link below for zeolite. I was only using this comparison because zeolite is used in aquariums, I didn't mean it was an added benefit, sorry for any confusion to anyone.
I apologize to anyone that took my critique as anything but good old discussion. I have no intention of making a typical message board type feud. The thing I do love about different veiws is that it inspires research, nothing wrong with learning something new.

Here is a link that might be useful: zeolite

    Bookmark   June 3, 2006 at 9:56PM
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"If you have an aquarium that already has salt in it then add zeolite, the zeolite will still absorb ammonia"

That is something I did not know before :) I've never used zeiolite in aquariums (for other readers, yes, a cycled tank is a much better option unless there are special circumstances).

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 1:25AM
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woeisme(z7b NC)

Sorry, been real busy. I forgot to add Activated Carbon would most likely remove the Y.P.S. before it had a chance to "become" free cyanide. Acording to the link below and other sources cyanide isn't toxic until it gets to the 2ppm level. I guess that's why I've been told that the level in table salt isn't a concern. That and the exposure to sunlight. I wish others had input to share, but I guess it is a boring topic to most. Little stupid crap like this I find facinating though.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2006 at 2:27PM
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I wish I had input to share, too. ^^; I've never added any kind of salt to a fish tank 'cause I've never needed to. I do find this thread interesting to read though, in case I should ever need to use salt.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 1:30PM
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not boring at all, woe, just out of my league! :)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 1:04AM
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I am just having a look at this old thread and will comment only on the zeolite. The natural zeolite is of the clinoptilolite mineral referred to here I would suspect. It is formed from volcanic ash that falls into a saline lake.
It has an order of preference for cations. At the bottom is sodium then ammonia then things like potassium, magnesium, calcium and at the end the high preference are heavy metals such as lead, cadmium etc. What this means is that clinoptilolite will more likely hold and not exchange out those higher in its order of preference. So it will not exchange lead for sodium or ammonia for sodium.
We mine and process clinoptilolite natural zeolite and sell large quantities into the swimming pool market to replace the filter media in sand or diatomaceous earth filters. In salt and chlorinated swimming pools it works the same.
For aquariums the clinoptilolite, natural zeolite is very suitable but I would still blend in activated carbon. The zeolite is good for molecules and individual atoms of up to 120 in molecular weight and then activated carbon is better for anything larger. Organic molecules you also wish to remove may be quite large in size. Zeolite will be great on removing ammonia and still allow table salt to be used.
As stated above, it is true a brine of very concentrated table salt will exchange out other cations such as ammonia as it will simply overwhelm them. You could also just buy more zeolite!
Natural zeolites vary in hardness and any preloading with cations. Zeolite from young deposits of only a few million years of age will be soft and chalky and likely still be loaded with cations for example of potassium and calcium. Older deposits hundreds of millions years in age are harder and less loaded with cations. The latter is more suited to aquariums.
If in doubt when you buy some, sit the zeolite in a bucket of water of a heavy mixture of table salt for a few hours to a day before loading your filter (with some activated charcoal).

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 11:14PM
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