Q: Pick me! Pick me! This is my third or fourth try. Does adding aquarium salt to keep fish healthy, or along with medicine as a cure, damage or destroy the bacterial filter? Thank You!

Question submitted by Suzanne, Greentown - In

A:  First let me start by staying that something weird happened when I uploaded the last column (as many of you may have noticed - a chunk of it at the end was 'missing'). The cyberspace gremlins got it! Honestly, I am pretty darn puzzled. But there you have it: a piece of chocolate betta advice/info is now floating about in the great nothing. If one of you happen to bump into it while zooming at warp 4 across our galactic cyberspace, tow it back to me please. Thank you. ;)

Now, back to you Suzanne!!

As you see, persistence paid off LOL. You got picked (and it wasn't because of all the groveling ;)  ). I guess the Gods were just smiling upon you this (early) morning. So let's talk about salt.

As I said a few days ago, breeders recommend putting a bit of ROCK (or aquarium) salt in your betta water. Table salt is not safe for fish and should never be used. Salt should be added in SMALL quantities (see my water page for exact recipe :) ) when you prepare your water initially. 

Careful: If the water in your tank evaporates and you add more, do not add salt to the added water. Why? Cause water evaporates, but not salt. So your betta's water will become more and more salty if you do not do a real water change (as in replacing water instead of just adding some).

Now to answer your question. Salt, if added in the proper quantity, should not affect your bacterial filter. So it is safe. Further more there is a big misconception about the ability salt has to "kill bacteria" (as in: cure bacterial diseases) out there. Although salt can in deed, kill some bacteria and is a good disinfectant, it would have to be used in very high concentration to do so. Concentrations that would kill your bettas (long before it killed the bacteria). How do I know? I asked a bacteriologist, that's how (you'd be surprised how much you learn when you ask a LOT of questions LOL). Salt is more efficient at fighting parasites and possibly fungus. So I personally do not add more salt when a betta of mine has a bacterial disease. Old timers used salt (hence many of the older betta books might still recommend it to cure diseases) because they did not at the time have the most excellent collection of antibiotics we now have access to. So for the lack of a better choice, they had to resort to salt. But now a day we have so many (in fact TOO many) options and fish medications that we would be foolish to just turn our bettas into pretzels and  think we are curing them.

So my final advice? Do add salt to your water when you prepare it, as a conditioner (helps the slime coat), and as a parasite preventative, but do not overdo it and do not rely on salt to cure bettas. Wise Faithyoda, spoken has.