Q: On your "water requirements" page, you mentioned adding aquarium salt to a betta's water.  A few lines later, you added that any changes in water quality should be done gradually.  Does this include using salt for the first time after several months without salt?  And, if so, on what schedule?

above question submitted by Ali, Hope Mills - NC

Woaw! I can't believe I was so baaaaad and did not do the column last week! OK, I must promptly add " I HAVE A GOOD EXCUSE". Actually make that two good excuseS (with an S). One of the two computers I use for bettatalk went down. Oh, he was a very sick puppy. It took all of Mr.181's computer saaaaavy and an entire week to bring it back from it's coma. (tsui, tsui, tsui) Meanwhile I was left with very limited access to the internet which caused a considerable back up in my daily work load, hence when I got the culprit back I 1)- had a mano i mano talk with it 2)- had to pedal twice as much and twice as fast to catch up. Oh, how I can relate to the little hamsters on their wheel! How I feel their pain... (tsui, tsui, tsui) Pedal, pedal, pedal away (and still in the same spot? GRRR). LOL.

Now I am slwooooly emerging from under the avalanche of work that computer crash triggered. Taking a gulp of air... (tsui, tsui, tsui) Aaaahhhh... Well here I am 5 AM on a Saturday morning (the one day I should be actually sleeping late) hacking away at the column. 

Wait. (tsui, tsui, tsui) What's this strange noise? Right in my left ear? It keeps going and going and going... Tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui.... Oh, yeah, that's my new kid, Mr.Fuzzy as I call him (although Mr.181 prefers Mr. El Torito). Yes kids, looks like I accidentally became the new proud mommy of a baby pigeon (fell out the nest in front of El Torito and found by Mr.181 a few days later, hungry, lost and helpless). Tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui.... That thing wants to eat the WORLD. And I thought bettas were piglets? Well, OK, so yes they are but nothing like (Tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui....) Mr. Fluffy. He ate no less than 50 mealworms in 20 hours and half an egg, quarter of an apple and a full finger (of mine) LOL. He is cute as a button... I am kinda excited about this you guys... My new fledged mommy heart melts... But I know this puppy love will not last as he (or she?) will soon (well another 386642467784563450000 Tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui, tsui from today) fly away and only leave but a sweet tsui tsui memory behind. (sigh) Or not? I have heard of pet pigeons following their owners to work every day... Would be kindof a long flight for 
Mr. Fluffy, but at least one of us would not have to deal with bumper to bumper traffic! I am sure he'd get there before I do LOL.

What? Back to bettas and the work at hand you say? Drill sergeant! Well, alright, alright....

Hello Ali :). Yours is a good question because for once I am going to be able to give everyone my grain of salt hehehehe... (get it?). Before I give a direct (which I am incapable of) answer to you, I want to start by talking about salt, my experience with it (I once was a pretzel, in a previous life), and what I have learned from it so far...


It is a wide spread belief that salt can cure most fish diseases. Many old fish books advise people to dip their sick fish in heavily salted water etc, and many newbies think that, as soon as their betta is looking sluggish, it should be turned into a pretzel (tsui, tsui, tsui). My opinion greatly differs. Now, I may be completely wrong about this, but this is what I think about salt and why.

  • salt as cure for any sick betta. Some betta ailment might be sensitive to salt. Many are not. I once had a long talk with a bacteriologist about bacteria and salt. And he said (I quote): "The amount of salt necessary to kill most bacteria strains would be such that the fish would be killed long before the bacteria." In other words, you'd have to add so much salt to the water to attempt to kill a bacteria that the fish would be killed by all the excess salt long before the bacteria started being truly bothered by it. So adding salt anytime a betta is sick and hoping this will cure it, is unrealistic.

  • salt as a cure to some betta ailments. However a few betta ailments, mainly external parasites and some fungus, can be helped by adding some salt.

  • salt as a disinfectant. Many people scrub their tanks down with salt to disinfect them.

  • salt as a water conditioner. Here you use salt as part of your water treatment regimen, adding some to your tap water everytime you prepare betta water. Anything between 1 large teapossn per 10 gal up to 1 tablespoon per 5 gallon works. Meaning I have tested it for long period of time and found the bettas did well at either concentrations. Play with it and see what works best for you and your fish. 

Now, a little news flash for many of you: SALT AFFECTS WATER PROPERTIES!  Including water density, salinity and hardness (as well as PH). Don't know what those are??? (Get a rope! You should be hung - but ok, just read here to escape the hangman hehe). When salt dissolves in the water it will bring the water density and hardness up and also affect the PH (which usually go hand in hand). Most of you know (well at least, the smart most of yous) that abrupt changes of water hardness (or PH for that matter) is very very bad for fish. One day I promise I'll explain precisely why, but for today, take my word for it!!! You can easily kill a fish that way. Hence, if salt changes the  hardness and PH and if abrupt changes of hardness and PH are real real bad for fish then = adding salt without slowly transitioning is real real bad for fish. Which to me kinda kills the old theory about salt dips for sick fish (but what do I know?).

(tsui, tsui, tsui)

Hence, if your fish is in water with no salt, and you decide it might be good to start adding salt to his water, then this is what to keep in mind:

  • do it gradually. It will be necessary to acclimate the fish to the new water. The best way to do this is (once again), take the old water and the fish in it, remove 50% of the old water then start adding the new water at the rate of about 10% of new water each 2 hours. (tsui, tsui, tsui) When you are all done (the jar or tank is now full), you can empty the jar/tank halfway again and do the "add the new water process" again. This way you end up with water that has been very very gradually "faded" from one type to the other, sorta like a gradient of color, or a music mix when two songs are mixed so perfectly you cannot tell when one ended and the next started. That's the aim, guys.
  • only add the proper amount and not more. (tsui, tsui, tsui) Make sure to put enough salt, but not too much. I have found that anytwhere between1 teaspoon per 10 gal to 1 table spoon per 5 gal is a safe range for betta water parameter. For my own personal needs in my fishroom, a big teaspoon per 10 gal now a day works just fine. I NEVER get ich or parasites or velvet. But also remember I always use Aquarisol, so that may also be why :)...
  • be consistent: Once you have picked a dosage of salt for your water, stick to it and make sure to keep salt in reserve so to not run out. Remember (tsui, tsui, tsui) salt affects PH so if you were to run out and decided "Oh what the heck I'll do my water change anyway and skip the salt this week" then you (now) know that the PH will not be identical and the fish may go into shock (tsui, tsui, tsui).

Well, (tsui, tsui, tsui), I hope this answers your question (AND MORE hehe). Yes, I know, life with bettas can get a bit complicated (tsui, tsui, tsui), but add a (tsui, tsui, tsui) starving baby pigeon to MY equation and you'll count YOUR blessings LOL... (tsui, tsui, tsui)

Now back to feeding Mr. Fluffy.

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