1-5 teaspoons as needed. Build up the amount of salt over a period of time rather than all at once – going from fresh water to let’s say… 5 teaspoons per gallon in a 10 gallon can send the fish into shock and kill them.
Please make a mental note right away: PRE DISSOLVE THE SALT BEFORE ADDING FOR ANY REASON. There can be a lot of damage done to the fish if the salt is not dissolved beforehand. I know firsthand, back when I knew very little about our finned friends I found out the hard way… Why should you?
Now, I know that many of you have heard of using aquarium salt as a preventative measure towards illnesses, or the general maintenance of your tanks… I have never once had to use salt for anything other than an actual illness or disease. I would never risk the fish’s health for some advice directed for regular fish.
Salt? Or NO Salt?
One thing you must understand about Betta fish is that they do differ from other fish. I subject them to the category of fish and amphibians that are unable to handle long term use with aquarium salt. Due to the labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air from the surface it is not recommended to use aquarium salt for long term. Many times I have come across people who have been using salt in their tanks every water change… Some will even claim there is “no problems from using the salt” however others can testify problems they found after a long term use of AQ salt: Lethargy, tail biting, rough scales, laboured breathing, lack of appetite, dropsy, and eventually death.
What does the salt do?
Positive aspect shows that it boosts the immune system and wards off the infections, diseases and parasites.
However on the negative aspect it shows that the labyrinth organ deteriorates (much like our lungs when we smoke daily, or our liver when we drink constantly) as do other organs. When the organs fail, dropsy can set in – as the body is failing and unable to do anything other than wait to whither away. So, if you are using salt as a weekly additive – don’t do it! Wean your fishy off of the salt. I have never had to use salt long term for my Bettas… And I have yet to get an infection, parasite or disease during the last two years.
When Should Aquarium Salt be Used?
In some cases salt can be used. I have yet to come across a chronic problem that called for long term AQ salt use. However for short term use (7-14 days maximum as recommended) it can help a lot.
ICH is an annoying parasite that attacks hosts whose immune systems have crashed. Instead of using medications to heavily dose my fish, I use aquarium salt teamed up with the good old high temperature… I bring the temperature slowly to 84-86, which increases the cycle of the parasite – since the salt is only effective during free-swimming, it won’t do anything until they free-swim. Adding the salt dehydrates them. IF you see the parasites are “gone” I recommend another 3 days to make sure they are really gone… No one needs a relapse, especially your fish! Daily water changes also helps remove the pesky parasites, plus clean up the dead ones. ICH is unseen… What you see on the fish’s body is actually the body’s response to the foreign object (slime coat).
Another case could be bad fin rot. I’ve had a case where the poor fella was neglected for 6 months, and his fins were literally falling off in chunks. I had to act fast before it hit the body (body rot which may need proper medications). Usually with fin rot proper husbandry such as clean, warm water and a proper diet works the best. Safer for the fish! However there will always be cases where the salt will help a lot. It boosts the immune system and helps heal the external part of their body. I won’t exceed 14 days at the most (usually recommended is 10 days). A daily water change helps a lot as well, as long as you remember to re-add the salt you took out (example: 10 gallon = 1 tsps per gallon. 10 tsps – 50% water = add another 5 tsps back in).
Whatever the reason, use salt only if needed for medical purposes.