Terrible Advice Tuesdays: The Cheapest Salt Mix For Your Saltwater Tank

Terrible Advice Tuesdays: Need to make saltwater for your tank? Just use enough table salt and you’re good to go.

The rest of the story: While table salt would get your specific gravity to 1.025, that’s all it would do, leaving out a BUNCH of important items like pH, alkalinity, magnesium, calcium, etc. Even if you had a FOWLR tank, the water would still need to have its pH adjusted at the bare minimum.

Also, some table salts are iodized which means they have high amounts of iodine in them. These high amounts of iodine can kill livestock in your tank.

Table salt alone won’t get the job done for making saltwater for your tank. Stick to a salt mix designed for saltwater aquariums.

Note: There was, and maybe still is, a salt mix that contains no salt, but all the other additives an aquarium salt mix needs. The idea was that you could buy any NaCl locally, saving yourself money by not having to ship the main component of salt mixes – the salt (NaCl) itself.

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Comments for this article (14)

  • nick says:

    Hey mark,

    what do you think about this:

    when starting up a new tank, during cylcling use a cheap salt which has no additives lets say like the Red sea coral pro for example. instead jsut buy the cheapest you can find ( lower quality ) .

    The reason being that, the additives in the high end salts will not be consumed by corals since you wont have any… and will be consumed by algea… which you don’t want to do!

  • Lisa says:

    Wow!!! Where do you find these statements!!! Its truly hard to believe that anyone in this advanced hobby would consider such a thing.

  • Alessandro says:

    Hi Mark, there still is a Salt Mix without NaCl, it is used in the Balling methodology, to enrich oligoelements in the tank without adding Na+ and Cl- that have been already added when using Mg and Ca integrators.

  • Nikolaus says:

    While iodized salt can bring iodine to lethal levels, I do see some issues with this post. 1 table salt by volume costs about 10% more than instant ocean
    2 trace elements and Ph are most often dosed in the tank
    3 table.salt can be used in FOWLR setups quite successfully if not iodized, you can use water softner salt as well. I had a tank in the 80s that used table salt and water softner salt only for 5 years, till I took it down.

  • Paul says:

    Hey Nick, Since when is Red Sea Coral Pro a cheap salt?? It’s full of good things especially “corals” been using it for a year with no additives and 10% weekly changes and my corals are doing great! What Salt do you use??

  • James says:

    I live in Florida on the coast close to Marineland. There is a Oceanography lab across the street from Marineland that pumps salt water in from off shore from 150 feet deep. I get water once a month from there that I use for all my water changes. No cost for the water by the way. My water in my tank is crystal clear. Do you see a need to add anything to the water I am getting. I have been doing this for awhile and have zero issues with my tank.

  • nick says:

    @Paul, yeah reading my post does seem like i meant Red sea as being poor salt. not what i was trying to explain 😉 sorry for the misunderstanding.

    ill answer your question though =)

    I use the tropic marine reef salt. I only keep LPS and have no problems. I do a 10% per week also.

  • Jason says:

    James – The only possible problem I could see with that is you never know if some sort of toxin/pollutant was pulled in. But if the water is consistently good than you are good to go.

  • Antonio says:

    Sorri for enter, after reading these post I wood like to say that My opinion about is that some years of using prepared water I particulary apreciate two, one was Instant Ocean and the better Red Sea Coral Pro mix. Talking about price Red Sea os mostra expensive but I can make 2×10% water changes a month. I have two aquariuns one of 120 gallons with a sump of 30 gallons, and a Red Sea Max 130.
    Stay well

  • Paul S says:

    hi Mark what do you think of Miracle Mud

  • Matt says:

    Bang goes that money saving idea… and I’d just stocked up on Saxa as well… 😉

  • Tina says:

    I had my spouse blame my tank before for being out of table salt (had to show him the big buckets on the floor!), and another time him asking me if he could use my reef salt for cooking, LOL.

  • me says:

    I disagree with Mark. Kosher salt is good to use as long as it doesn’t have other ingredients inside (iodine, anticoagulants,etc) .

    1) To solve the ph problem, just add baking soda to the mix.

    2) About the fact that this salt has no minerals(Ca,Mg,etc) in it,you shouldn’t rely on your salt mix to put these minerals in for you. Thay are commercially available already.

    Let’s say that you are starting a new tank and you add a “good” salt mix
    to the water. by the time the tank has finished cycling your protein skimmer has removed all the minerals from the water. So its the same as adding regular (pure) salt by the time you add any coral. And once you add coral into the tank you dose thees minerals in anyway.

    And this argument is not even needed if you have a fish only system

    So yes, you can save money by buying some kosher salt mixing it with baking soda and putting it into your tank. (make absolutely sure that the ONLY ingredient inside is salt/sodium chloride nothing else!!!

    By the way baking soda is completely safe for aquarium use.

    Even if you don’t accept my opinion (which i don’t see why you wouldn’t)
    there’s is one thing that i ask, please PLEASE PLEASE LEARN TO THINK FOR YOURSELVES! don’t just accept anything that is told to you, even by
    an expert,especially in this hobby. Use logic and common sense.

    Sorry for any spelling/grammer mistakes.

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