Discover simple tips to properly select, prepare, and best utilize synthetic sea salts to ensure saltwater aquarium success.
Different salt mix choices are available to address the specific needs of different marine hobbyists. But this greater availability of new and different synthetic sea salt mixes can make initial selection overwhelming for the beginning hobbyist.
The easiest way for beginners to narrow their choice is to determine the type of marine aquarium they have or intend to set up. Though there are many variations, in general marine aquariums can be grouped as Fish-Only, FOWLR (Fish-Only with Live Rock), or reef aquariums. Once you've determined your marine aquarium type, simply select the salt that suits your setup.
Quality synthetic salt mixes made for Fish-Only and FOWLR aquariums will contain all the major and minor elements in concentrations that simulate natural sea water. Salt mixes for reef aquariums have higher amounts of calcium, magnesium and other minerals required for actively growing corals. Keep in mind that a quality "Fish-Only" salt is perfectly acceptable for use in reef aquariums, especially if you plan to use reef additives or supplements.
Preparing saltwater is straight forward and most conveniently done in a large container dedicated for mixing and holding prepared saltwater for aquarium use. However, the type of water you use can make a dramatic difference. Depending on your source water, a variety of unwanted chemicals can contaminate your product water. Common tap water pollutants include chlorine, chloramines, phosphate, nitrate and heavy metals.
While most synthetic salt mixes contain agents that neutralize chlorine and heavy metals, it is highly recommended by many hobbyists to prepare saltwater using water produced by a Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit. In fact, some synthetic salt mixes (including the Red Sea Coral Pro Salt) are specifically formulated for use with reverse osmosis water to ensure highest quality. Using RO water, no matter what brand synthetic salt mix you choose, ensures a "clean" product that can minimize such potential water quality issues as excess nutrients that can encourage aggressive algae growth.
Once you've prepared your saltwater, always measure specific gravity with a hydrometer or refractometer to ensure it is within acceptable parameters. Suggested specific gravity levels in Fish-Only and FOWLR aquariums range between 1.020-1.025. In reef aquariums, levels range between 1.023-1.025.
No matter what level you prefer, be sure that the freshly prepared saltwater matches the specific gravity of your system. Also be sure the temperature of your freshly prepared saltwater matches the water temperature of your aquarium before use. This is easily done by employing a heater and a thermometer placed inside your saltwater mixing and holding container.