Fish Keeping 101

Aquarium Talk: Using Sea Salt to Raise Aquarium pH Levels

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There are many ways to raise and lower aquarium pH but which is the most effective? Can you use sea salt to raise aquarium pH?

Even the simplest and smallest of freshwater aquariums seem to require a great deal of maintenance. In addition to feeding your fish, you also need to monitor temperature and pH levels to be sure that they are right for your tank inhabitants and you need to perform routine water changes to maintain stability. When it comes to pH, many aquarists get confused about what it is, how to measure it, and when it becomes necessary to make changes. A frequent question that new aquarists ask is can you use sea salt to raise aquarium ph?

What is pH?

PH is a scale of measure used to determine how acidic or basic aquarium water is. This measurement is taken based on the amount of charged ions in the water. When substances dissolve they leave behind ions, charged molecules, and whether these ions are positively or negatively charged determines the pH. A neutral (neither acidic nor basic) pH is a level 7 and any pH value below 7 is considered to be acidic while any value above 7 is considered to be basic. Acidic water has a higher concentration of positively charged hydrogen (H+) ions while basic water will exhibit a higher concentration of negatively charged hydroxyl (H-) ions.

How to Use Sea Salt to Raise pH

Most freshwater fish are capable of tolerating a range in pH but it does benefit fish to maintain a constant pH level. To determine whether you need to take steps to adjust the pH in your aquarium, perform weekly water tests using a pH kit or litmus paper. Over time you will learn what the normal pH level is of the water you use in your aquarium, and you can use it as a reference if, in the future, pH changes become necessary.

The question can you use sea salt to raise aquarium pH has been debated, because it is not always the most effective way to raise pH and because it can potentially cause harm to your freshwater fish and plants if the salinity in the tank increases too much.

To raise aquarium pH using sea salt simply add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per ten gallons of water to your aquarium once a week. Monitor the pH level closely and track the changes while also testing the water for its salinity.

Before using this method you will need to learn what the salinity tolerance is of the fish in your tank so that, when the salinity in the tank nears that level, you will be able to stop adding sea salt before your fish are harmed. Continue to add sea salt to the tank on a weekly basis, until either the pH reaches the desired level, or until the salinity in the tank nears the maximum salinity level your fish can tolerate.

How it Works

Sea salt is composed of a variety of ions like sodium, chloride, magnesium, sulfate, calcium, and several others. The sea salt itself has a neutral pH and the ions of which it is composed do not often have a significant effect on pH. What does have an effect on pH are the bicarbonate ions present in sea salt, but the effect is typically too small to measure. While adding sea salt to your aquarium may increase the pH, there is no guarantee that it will do so.

Performing routine water tests and changes are some of the most important things you can do to keep your fish, and your freshwater aquarium healthy. Fluctuations and sudden drops or increases in temperature, salinity, and pH can have a fatal effect on fish, so it is important to monitor these elements carefully.

It is best to keep your aquarium at a stable temperature and pH, if possible, but sometimes it is necessary to take steps to raise the pH in your aquarium. If you need to raise the pH in your aquarium you may ask: can you use sea salt to raise aquarium pH? Actually this method is not the most effective in maintaining a healthy tank pH. To find out how to safely and effectively raise the pH in your aquarium, visit your local pet shop and speak to one of the professionals there.
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