How Do You Prepare Salt for a Marine Aquarium?

One of the classic fundamental questions for maintaining a saltwater aquarium is how to prepare salt and regulate the overall salt levels within the tank. This can be particularly difficult for newcomers because, unlike the concept of changing the water for freshwater tanks, changing salt is naturally alien to us as non-saltwater beings.

Sure, we get the concept of needing freshwater, since we require clean drinking water as well, and so this aspect of freshwater tank care is hardly mind-blowing.

But preparing and maintaining salt levels?

That’s “a whole different kettle of fish” – forgive the pun, and the frustration that comes along with handling and maintaining a fish tank is enough to leave you feeling ‘salty‘ indeed.

pro tip – do not use table salt

Thankfully, with these tips, you’ll be able to prepare salt for your new marine aquarium and keep it in good order.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When You Prepare Salt

First, let’s get a couple of common mistakes out of the way.

First things first, do not use table salt. This is not the type of salt that is needed or good for your fish or tank. Rather, you’ll want to look out for sea salt in special packages. This type of salt is the type these fish experience while in the wild, which is different from the table salt.

You also want to avoid simply dumping in live sand, gravel, or any other features before you wash them first. Even if they have come directly out of a bag, always be sure to wash them, lest any latent chemicals or contaminants get into the water.

Speaking of which, if you are filling up a new tank, you’ll want to add the water before adding any live rocks or sand. If these materials contain chlorine, it will be released into the water and kill any plant life you may have introduced. You thus need to be very careful about the balance of chlorine and salt in your tank and will want to match the amount you put into your specific tank size’s recommended ratio.

Adding the Sea Salt Mix

With that basic prep out of the way, we’re now ready to start adding in the sea salt itself. It’s also worth noting at this point that there are several different types of sea salt, each with their own benefits. You’ll thus want to read up on each and see which best suits your needs.

Once you have decided on the aquarium salt you like best, begin adding it to the tank. Be sure to add salt slowly, and add less to the tank at first than you think you may need. It’s very easy to add more salt, after all, but a nightmare to take salt out once it’s already in the tank. You’ll then need to stir the water, either by hand or with a powerhead. While the latter option obviously means spending more money, powerheads are far faster and more efficient at mixing salt and water than you can hope to be working by hand.

Keep mixing until the water turns clear.

Finally, you’ll want to test the salinity of the water to make sure that you have prepared everything correctly and achieved a good balance. To achieve this, you will need a refractometer or hydrometer, and look for a reading between 1.019 and 1.023 if your tank only has fish in it, and between 1.023 and 1.025 for coral tanks with reefs in them.

The balance in a saltwater tank needs to be extremely precise, so if these numbers are off, you’ll want to double-check everything and check saltwater tanks online for assistance and advisement with your specific situation before adding any fish.

Saltwater tanks can be higher maintenance than their freshwater counterparts, but by following this guide, you’ll be able to set one up with ease and enjoy the incredible sea life they support.