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To Salt or Not To Salt?

While we agree that there are certain reasons for using salt in your water garden, oftentimes it is used improperly. Consequently, plants and fish in the system often suffer and can even die. Listed below is important information that should assist you in deciding whether to use salt in your pond and, if so, how to apply it correctly.

Why should I salt my pond? - Salting your pond can help remedy certain fish health problems. It can also protect fish from high levels of nitrite and ammonia that are occasionally found in your water garden. Salt can also help control the long stringy algae that we often refer to as blanket weed (filamentous algae). However, in each of these situations, we would most likely recommend another product to solve these problems before we would ever suggest using salt.

What kind of salt would I use in my pond? - Salt comes in many different forms. Pure non-iodized salt is the weapon of choice for water gardeners. Avoid using salts with additives such as iodine and other minerals, as well as those with anti-caking agents which can out-rightly suffocate your fish.

How much salt do I add to my pond and how do I add it? - If it is determined that salt is necessary, it is very critical that the correct amount be used. The first and most important step is to determine what your pond volume is. Use the following formula to calculate the number of gallons: length x width x average depth x 7.5. To begin killing algae in your pond, it is necessary to raise the salt level of the water to 0.25% and to 0.30% to protect your fish from nitrites and various illnesses and parasites. Be aware however, that most aquatic plants can't tolerate high levels of salt and some will even die at low rates such as 0.10%. Refer to the chart at the end of this article to get an idea of which plants can tolerate what levels of salt. To obtain a 0.10% salt level, add one teaspoon of salt per gallon of water or one pound per one hundred gallons of water. Do NOT add the salt all at once though. Add the appropriate dosage over the course of several days to slowly approach the proper salt level. Buy a salt level test kit and test often to verify that your calculations are accurate and to avoid both overdosing as well as underdosing. The salt should first be dissolved in a bucket of pond water and then poured around the perimeter of the pond or it can be placed in a stream to dissolve it. Do not add the salt directly to the pond as fish can be 'burned' by it if they lie directly on a pile of undissolved salt. Plants can also burn if salt is placed directly on them.

Is there any other way to 'salt my fish' besides adding it directly into my pond? - There are a couple of different ways to treat your fish with salt. One way is to set up a separate quarantine tank with an airstone or pump and to place your fish in such a system. Salt the water in the quarantine tank as described above to achieve a 0.30% solution after three days. Allow your fish to stay in this tank until they are no longer ill. If they do not get better, reconsider your initial health diagnosis and plan for a different form of treatment. You can also prepare a short-term salt bath, sometimes referred to a salt dip. To do this, you would set up a container with a 2.0% salt solution which would be achieved by adding 20 teaspoons of salt per one gallon of water. Place the fish one by one into the aerated salt bath/dip solution until it seems to be tiring, but remove it before it has rolled onto it's side. After a maximum of ten minutes, remove the fish to a quarantine tank. Repeat this treatment after 12 hours for a total of three separate baths.

What are the drawbacks associated with salting my pond? - Salt may affect your plants and cause them to die. When salt is used constantly in a system, even at low levels, various parasites can become resistant and pose an even bigger threat to the overall health of your fish. It would be better to use salt as a preventative for disease in the springtime and to do monthly water changes to dilute the salt back to normal levels over time. Massive die-offs of algae due to the addition of salt can also cause a substantial drop in oxygen levels in your pond, causing stress and/or death to your fish.

Before deciding to use salt in your water garden, we strongly recommend that you do your homework and make sure that you are approaching the topic well-informed of the risks as well as the benefits. Investigate all options before making a final decision and monitor the situation closely.

Salt Level Mortality for Common Aquatic Plants
      0.10% - Anacharis (oxygenators), water hyacinths, water lettuce, lotus
      0.20% - Waterlilies, aquatic mint, lavender musk, water snowflake
      0.30% - The majority of other marginal plants such as cattails, forget-me-not,
                    zebra rush, floating heart, and duckweed


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