What To Look For In An Aquarium Salt

At a specific gravity between 1.022 to 1.025, a good aquarium salt will deliver consistent levels of pH (8.0 to 8.3), alkalinity (8 dKH to 10 dKH), calcium (380 mg/l to 400 mg/l) and magnesium (1100 to 1300 mg/l)

aquarium salt

Various brands of aquarium salt

Aquarium salt should also contain zero levels of nitrate and phosphate.  All modern salt mixes make this claim but it wouldn’t hurt to test from batch to batch.

So What Is The Best Aquarium Salt?

Aquarium salt is the lifeblood of our marine systems and it is imperative that we choose a reliable and consistent brand.  Below, are a few notable brands that I have used over the years.

Instant Ocean And Reef Crystals

Domestic brands such as Instant Ocean and Reef Crystals are widely used with much success by hobbyists as well as by many public aquariums and research facilities.  Although both are produced by the same manufacturer, I prefer Instant Ocean over Reef Crystals.

Tropic-Marin Aquarium Salt

I’ve always gotten good results with Tropic-Marin brand salt mix although it is more expensive than domestic brands.  Produced in Germany, Tropic-Marin makes the claim that theirs is pharmaceutical grade salt with a precise blend of ingredients along with 70 trace elements that are found in natural seawater.  But more about trace elements later.

Tropic-Marin vs Tropic-Marin Pro Reef

I prefer the regular variety Tropic-Marin Sea Salt over the Pro-Reef, although I’ve used both with equally good results.   Tropic-Marin Pro-Reef is formulated for aquariums that run a calcium reactor with alkalinity measuring in at 6.5 to 7 dKH as opposed to regular Tropic-Marin which yields an alkalinity of 9 to 10 dKH.  Calcium reactors tend to raise alkalinity, hence the lower alkalinity levels for Tropic-Marin Pro salt.

Red Sea Salt

Red Sea salt is produced by evaporating natural seawater.  Although their product has received some negative press as far as quality control in the past, I personally have had only good experiences with it.  Red Sea salt was the very first salt mix I used on my first saltwater aquarium!

Red Sea has really upped their game in recent years.  Their Red Sea Coral Pro salt is one of the best available today and is not too expensive.

Batch Testing Aquarium Salt

No matter the brand of salt I am using at a particular time, I always test a newly purchased batch of salt to see if the parameters match up to the manufacturer’s claims.  This means testing for alkalinity, pH, calcium and magnesium once the batch of salt has been mixed up with RO/DI water to a Specific Gravity of 1.025.

Aquarium Salt And The Truth About Trace Elements

Grab a salt shaker off the dinner table and sprinkle a few grains onto your hand.  You now have all the trace elements in natural sea water in the palm of your hand!  Salt naturally contains these trace elements as impurities.

The only thing that might matter is that the trace elements in your aquarium salt be in the proper ratios as they would appear in natural seawater.  But since these trace elements are in quantities measured in parts per billion (PPB), they really shouldn’t matter that much.

You cannot go wrong with testing each new batch of aquarium salt you buy and making sure that the parameters of pH, alkalinity, calcium and magnesium are within range.  Your tank inhabitants will thank you for it!

More pages on Saltwater Aquarium Maintenance:

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