Mr. Saltwater Tank TV: Friday AM Quick Tip: New Salt Bucket? Do This Step First

Think mixing up saltwater is as easy as adding salt to water? Think again. If you miss this crucial step, you’ve missed a lot.

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Comments for this article (44)

  • JΓΆrgen Johansson says:

    A bit hard to shake a full 25kg bucket of salt. Doesn’t feel like it gets especially mixed.

  • David says:

    It seems like you’re ‘scraping the bucket’ with this ‘tip’ Mark! Jorgens comment is spot on. How are you supposed to mix/shake a (full) 25kg bucket of salt??? CRAZY suggestion. I say suggestion, not tip, as it’s nothing short of ridiculous to suggest it. Surely the manufacturer mixes a huge batch in one go. How does the calcium/magnesium separate out in the bucket?? Why doesn’t the manufacturer mention this if it’s a problem? If it IS a problem, why don’t they half fill the buckets so we can do this?? I don’t believe your reasoning of separation in the bucket, or the need to do it, sorry.

  • Matt says:

    David I think you’ll find that any company worth their salt (ahem) will tell you to do exactly as Mark suggests …

    It is difficult to mix completely. In an ideal world you’d use the whole barrel at once but that’s unlikely for all but the biggest water changes. I myself use a larger container to ‘decant’ my salt into, give it a whirl and then use it. Test results from unmixed salt can vary wildly…

    I suggest you consider more research into the matter before making deplorable statements based on a lack of knowledge… Good luck chap! πŸ™‚

  • Paul says:

    What does any one think of Miracle Mud for a 2000 gal reef tank? 1000 gal viewing

  • David says:

    Matt, I looked at 4 buckets of salt before I made my comments, and NONE of the instructions mentioned mixing the salt in the bucket before use. So before YOU make comments, I suggest you follow your own advice. And as for people using the whole 25kg at once, if doing 10% water changes, you’d have to have a 1,400 gal tank, and not tiny US gallons either! I don’t believe many people have a tank that large. And how exactly would you give 25kg of salt ‘a whirl’ in a, say, 50/75L container??? Or do you use a cement mixer??

  • David…I checked with a salt mix manufacturer before I created this tip and they agreed that salt mixes need to mixed before use. Yes the manufacturer mixes the salt mix completely before it leaves their facility. And the different sized particles can separate out during shipping.

    While a full salt mix bucket isn’t light, you can easily roll it around on the ground and turn it upside down to mix up the particle sizes.

  • Matt says:

    Hi David… I’m intrigued as to the brands of salt your looking at. I accept that here in the UK the instructions may be a bit more honest but I find it difficult to believe that four quality (I’m assuming) salts say nothing about the need to ensure a good mix before use? You see I do follow my own advice and I checked three different barrels before passing comment πŸ˜‰

    So… lets have them and maybe we can call them up and ask them what they actually do recommend… πŸ™‚

  • Terry Hesterman says:

    I use an empty salt bucket and split new bucket of salt between two for easier mixing.

  • Bryan says:

    I am a bit more in David’s court at least for the first 1/2 of my bucket. I use Tropic Marin Bio-Actif and it is very tightly packed in the bucket. Plus the salt is also inside a plastic bag. I can see maybe after using 1/3 of the bucket that I could perhaps mix the salt in the bucket. I think the only way I could truly mix the salt enough to actually matter would be to shovel the salt into a giant Tupperware container and stir it up with a big spatula. But rolling the bucket around would not make any difference unless I have already used 1/2 of the (unmixed) salt first.

  • Bryan..I use bioactif as well. I pull out the plastic bag of salt, then empty it into the bucket. Roll it around and bit and I’m good to go.

  • Reefcoastie says:

    Good tip mark, as much to people’s disbelief Red Sea even recommends mixing up your batch before using. It’s normal to have settling during shipping and vibrations. Elements having different weights will move highly or low, This stuff happens. If u have a huge containment of your fav salt, just use a wooden spoon as I do. Just don’t let your wife see you with her cooking supply’s πŸ™‚

  • Christian says:

    I have enough buckets, I just buy it by the box. It’s cheaper and it comes in four bags. I just empty one bag at a time in the bucket so mixing is not so much an issue and it helps avoid clumping because only one/fourth of the box is exposed to anything at a time.

  • David says:

    Terry, If you split the bucket in half and then mix each half, then you are NOT mixing the salt correctly (IF indeed this needs doing at all!). If there’s, say, too much calk in the top half and too much mag in the bottom, what have you achieved? What you’re doing is a complete waste of your time and effort. To do this mixing, as suggested by Mark and others on here, you MUST mix the whole bucket at once. And, Bryan, thank you for your support, but this applies to your method too. If you cannot mix a whole bucket in one go, then you’re fooling yourself into thinking you’re doing something worthwhile. Tropic Marin Bio-Actif does not mention this need on their 25kg bucket and nor does D&D H2o Ocean Pro+ and nor does Red Sea Coral Pro – I’ve just re-checked.

  • Bryan S says:

    I don’t recall Mark saying that you absolutely have to do this. It is only a suggestion. My friend and I buy salt by the barrel and roll it around on the ground before divvying it up into buckets. This suggestion came from the manufacturer. Some elements in the salt are heavier than others and may settle to the bottom during shipping. If the bucket is too heavy to shake you can roll it around and have the same effect. Good tip Mark.

  • Johan says:

    Good choice in cars!

  • Terry Hesterman says:

    David, I guess my post was incomplete. After splitting contents of new bucket to “reconstitute” I put entire mix back in one bucket. Just offering a suggestion to those worried about heft of one container πŸ™‚

  • dave decarli says:

    mark is 100% correct. but if your bucket is full well then use your head people take out half shake it and then shake the other. mark gives great advise and you as a person needs to take it from there and use your head. he cant stand there and hold your hand he is trying to help you and you are beating him up for trying to help. wake up and take pieces of his suggestions and apply them to your app. people are just lazy and he goes out of his way to try and help and make this hobby better and you beat him up.

  • Bryan says:

    I will take Mark’s suggestion and give it a try! I have not ever emptied the plastic bag into the bucket, but I can see that just by doing that, I am already mixing the entire contents of the bucket. And without the plastic bag, the salt will less fill the container so mixing by rolling will do more. I do understand and agree that the components of the salt can separate in shipping. The fact I never thought about this being something I should do goes to show you that the suggestion was useful to me. Thanks for the idea.

  • Mark says:


    To help mix up my salt, I used a small plastic concrete mixer. I just pour the bag in the mixer hit the switch for 2-3 mins and good to go. I can also add dry trace elements if needed. Works well and saves my back.

    I store my salt in the mixer. Have an air tight lid for it.


  • Mike says:

    oh boy, so much tension on here…..geez, Mark is here to offer time, know-how and advice. Lets make sure we respect that. We may not agree with everything Mark suggests, but he doesn’t have to offer us ANYTHING. Thanks for your time Mark, it is appreciated.

  • David says:

    Terry, Mixing half and half and then putting back together does NOT mix it correctly – you’re wasting your time. I get Marks idea of rolling the plastic bag around on the floor for a while – without a cement mixer, that seems a good way. And, Dave Decarli, you use YOUR head. You’re making the same mistake as Terry. Mixing halves and then putting it back together will not achieve what you’re trying to do. I agree, Mark DOES give good advice, generally, and I’ve been grateful for it many times in the past, but I still think it’s very difficult for most folks to do this effectively, IF it’s needed at all. Terry and Dave are not doing it correctly and are wasting their time. If it’s needed, why don’t the major brands say to do it on their buckets?

  • Billy says:

    Pouring all of the salt out of the bag and back into the bucket mixes it, but it also opens up a whole new can of worms. Now, unless you use this salt quickly, or store it in a bucket with a gasket seal, you have to deal with humidity contamination and the resulting precipitation. Tropic Marin buckets have no seal and the salt was designed to be stores in the bag, call Lou at Tropic Marin USA and ask him.

  • Leo says:

    Mark has a GLI :p
    I used to have an 07 GTI, loved it. Now I have a Golf R πŸ™‚ VW FTW

    Do you always use IO reef crystals. I always find that in my mixing bin it always left a sort of brown oily film on the sides at the top and always had a bit floating on the surface. Do you notice the same thing?

  • Fernando says:

    Plus, you dont know how long that bucket’s been sitting on the shelf… If you have a saltwater tank im sure you have a couple of buckets sitting around. Pour half of your new salt mix into a second bucket and mix it… Easy… When i bought a new salt mix i did noticed that the waterchanges were different as were the water would be cloudy for longer than the normal even after leaving the new water and salt stirring for 2 days with a powerhead. That made me thinking i should start shaking all new salt mixes.

  • David says:

    Fernando, read the previous posts. You’re wasting your time doing it that way. Mark (not OUR Mark) has the best idea with his plastic cement mixer. Billy is spot on. Leo – I sometimes get this brown film on the sides of my bucket if I don’t use it within 48hrs (using Bio-Activ). It’s a translucent homebrew container and I presume it’s algae.

  • Remember when people could post a difference of opinion without being condescending? Pepridge Farm remembers.

    Thanks for all the FREE advice Mark, you are credit to the hobby.

  • CN says:

    I have just received by shipment a bucket of Tropic Marin Pro that has become a 5 gal brick, apparently having been exposed to moisture some how. Has anyone dealt with this problem? And just to add to the discussion, even if it wasn’t solid, I doubt that rolling a new, tightly packed bucket of salt around and turning it upside down would produce mixing in any meaningful way. Also, I wonder what the manufacturers would say about dumping it out of the plastic bag to those of us who take quite a while to use it up? Or do they not intend for us to store it in the bag?

  • Billy says:

    CN, if your salt is solid, it has been either humidity contaminated or its from a bad batch. Call Lou at tropic Marin USA and he will get you a new bucket.

  • Bryan S says:

    Wow. This Friday AM Quick Tip sparked some excitement. I have to agree with David about mixing salt by the half bucket. That will not get the job done. It is just as east to roll a full bucket as it is for a half bucket. Just roll the full bucket around for a few minutes and you are ready to go.

  • Matt says:

    What an epic idea… A plastic and sealed cement mixing drum for mixing up salt… I guess if you can get the last 1/4 of your previous bucket in as well for good measure it’s an awesome idea. I might have to half inch this one πŸ˜€

    David I apologise… In the buckets of salt I get we have a leaflet in each with the suggestion to mix your salt well… It is NOT written on the bucket and I didn’t make that clear… Maybe because the salts here stand longer in less than ideal storage conditions?

    I also use TM Bio-Actif… and as Mark does it gets mixed then dumped into the tub. I in fact use a food safe container that’s nearly double the size of a standard salt bucket. Probably the next best thing to a cement mixer… πŸ˜€

    I learnt my lesson a while back from not mixing my salt well enough… Lost a lot of Acro’s and nearly my favourite Nem to that one πŸ™

  • Bruce says:

    I just bought a plastic 55 gal. clean plastic drum specifically for mixing salt batches. 50 gal. bags of salt work out pretty well and no need to mix. The advantages are…
    1. No mixing
    2. Always have good saltwater ready to go in case of emergency
    3. More likely to do scheduled water changes when it’s there ready to go.

  • Bryan says:


    How quickly do you use 50 gallons of saltwater? Do you keep the saltwater circulating in the 55 gallon drum? I buy the 200 gallon bucket of salt so that would not be sensible to pre-mix all of that. But you make a good point if you can mix the entire bucket, then no mixing is needed.

  • KP says:

    It’s funny for me to see people question Mark on things like this. He’s been doing this stuff for years. He fields the same questions from people as they enter the hobby (many times they flat out tell him he’s out to lunch) and I applaud his patience fielding the questions. We all need to remember that he IS Mr. Saltwater Tank after all so…yeah.

  • David says:

    KP, why do you assume that people who question Mark know less than him or are less experienced? Mark is very knowledgeable yes and posts many excellent tips and ideas, many of which I have used myself to good effect, and appreciate greatly. We all never stop learning and can all benefit from good knowledgeable marine fish/reef keepers who share their experiences with others. You may be referring to me with your comments. I have been keeping tropical marine fish and inverts since before Mark was born (and believe me, it was much harder 40 years ago) and can draw on much experience myself and therefore am confident to question ideas that anyone may put forward – so yeah.

  • Antony Marshall says:

    Ive tried a few salt brands over the years so have a selection of buckets and as some brands come in slightly different sizes I just tip a bucket into one a bit bigger and roll it around a bit its worked for me for 25 yrs

  • Carl says:

    Buy the 200 gallon box of salt, comes with 4 – 50 gallon mix bags. Easier to mix and the remaining bags remained sealed until you use them. ALSO buy buying the 200 gallon mix box, the salt is cheaper per gallon.. WIN WIN

  • KP says:

    I didn’t mean to offend you with my comment David.

  • Chris says:

    Wow! Sounds as though some people need a more relaxing hobby!

  • Tad says:

    I can assure you that you SHOULD “remix” your bags, boxes, or buckets of salt. In the dry powder mixing industry, this is always concern; you get a homogeneous blend in the mixer but shipping can separate this mix. Think of a shipping container full of basketballs and add in 50 gals of marbles. Stand the container on end then bounce it around on ships, trains, trucks. Where do you think the marbles will be? So regardless of what the manufacturer says or doesn’t say….remix your salt. Only way you would not have to remix is if all particles are the same size. For reference, I work for a mixer manufacturer.

  • Matt says:

    Tad that’s cracking information and a wonderful way of drawing it out in big yellow crayon… worked wonders with my fragile brain πŸ˜€

    I think that’s settled (cough) it then… πŸ™‚

  • jay says:

    Guys, listen up. The entire mixing idea is nonsense. Stop wasting your time. And if it’s a brick, then crush it. The mixture that you receive is not seperated enough to worry about, regardless of which manufacturer you purchased. Its physically impossible. There is, however, that possibility if you’re mixing something as small as a single cup. But you shouldnt be doing that anyways. A simple way to mix is by using a 150 gallon tank. A 5 gallon bucket, or even 3 1/4 bags (out of 4) , seem to mix perfectly. Allow the tank to circulate all week long, while pulling from it. Keep it heated at 77 degrees. Do a multitude of small water changes more frequently, instead of the once a week 10 percentile. The whole process, as you will discover, eliminates the need to dose additives. One cost offsets another, but the time saved on maintenance is irreplaceable. I own a 425 gallon, 655 over-all. I flush 50 gallons every 4 days. It seems to work, and work well. Good luck and enjoy your tanks.

  • jay says:

    Let me reiterate on the point of mixing a 5 gallon “tiny” bucket of salt. Make no mistake about it, Mark is correct with his line of thought. The problem is , that the trace element discrepancy lies in the pile of salt at the manufacturing “site”, from which your shipment was pulled. If there is a problem, however minute, the only way to correct it would not be from purchasing another bucket, but rather, purchasing from a different batch. But here’s the problem, the next batch will present a totally different ionic inbalance.. Your corals , whether they notice it or not, are not threatened by such a small “imperfection”. Therefore, it’s best to mix the entire bucket, or box, at once.

  • Jak says:

    Look people. This was advise from mark that makes sence in a scientific stance, if u dont like it the best thing for u to do is either say your piece and move on or dont say anything at all. This isnt some ego boosting blog or forum where anyone really cares how long anyone has been doing aquaria when they have a higher than thou attitude. This was ment as advise, take it with a grain of salt and chill out. If u cant find common resoect then you should find a different board to troll. Just becuase u think someone wrong doesnt mean u have to open your mouth and blast people. For everyone have a salty day

  • lilouisianagal says:

    Would not mixing the salt mix cause a huge tank die off (all 3 fish in a 36 gallon, but a major water change) when using salt from the bottom 1/8th of the bucket?

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