Treating Ich With Salt (Dosing, Duration & Tips)

Ich is a widespread disease that infects most aquarium fish at some point or another.

But did you know that you can treat Ich with normal aquarium salt? In fact, it’s a preferred option by most experienced aquarists.

In this article, you’ll learn exactly how aquarium salt can help treat ich, how much salt you’ll need to use, and how long you’ll need to treat your fish.

Along with a few more tips.

Let’s begin.


Top Rated Aquarium Salt

Does Salt Kill Ich & Other Parasites?

When treating ich, the little white cysts will fall off your fish and sit on the surface of your substrate. Because of this, you’ll need to do a small vacuum of your tank each day.

This will help clear up the ich faster and remove any parasites from swimming in the tank.

Also, it’s best to turn the heat up in your tank to at least 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the lifespan of ich is about 3-5 days.

If your temperature is lower than 78, ich can live for weeks.

How Does Salt Treat Ich

In simple terms, salt sucks the water out of the ich, causing it to dry up and fall off your fish.

Salt causes dehydration in living creatures. When added to your aquarium, it will cause the parasites and bacteria in your aquarium to dehydrate (dry up) as the water is sucked right out to them.

Tips For Using Salt To Kill Ich

Using salt in your aquarium can be intimidating; there is a risk to your fish, and there are many different ways to use salt.

Here are a few tips to use when adding salt to your aquarium that might help calm your nerves a bit.

  • Follow a process
  • Always use aquarium salt (to be safe)
  • Gradually add more salt.
  • Keep records of how much you’ve added and removed through water changes.
  • Understand which fish are sensitive to salt
  • Salt can also kill some plants, so use a quarantine tank for the treatment.

We’ll go into more detail about each of these tips below.

What Types Of Salt Should I Use

There are many different types of salts, and each type has a different granular size, concentrations, and purity levels.

When treating your fish for Ich, we recommend you stick to normal Aquarium salt. It’s made specifically for your aquarium, and most dosing recommendations you find online will be made using aquarium salt.

Salt is a gentler medication than most Ich medications commonly sold in pet stores, so I encourage you to try salt first.

You can read our guide on Aquarium Salt For more information.

With that in mind, we do not recommend you use any of the following in your aquarium:

  • Marine Salt
  • Epsom
  • Table Salt (Non-Iodized)

How Much Salt – Dosage Chart

Determining the amount of salt you should use depends on a lot of factors such as;

  • The species of fish and how sensitive they are to salt
  • The parasite or infection
  • The size of your aquarium

While other factors impact how much salt you should use, those are the three we consider.

With that in mind, we have created the table below to help you determine the amount of salt you might need to add to your aquarium to treat ich or other similar parasites.

You’ll notice in the table that we have three rounds of dosing, which we’ll explain that first.

Caution: Salt Doesn’t Evaporate!

When dosing salt according to the chart’s levels above, you need to be aware as you progress through each round of treatment that the previous amount of salt you added is left behind; it doesn’t evaporate with the water.

For example:

Suppose you have 10 gallons of water in Round 2. You added 5tbsp of salt (1tbsp per every 2 gallons).

Then if you do a water change and remove 2 gallons of water (20%), you’ll need to add 1tbsp back into the aquarium to keep your dosing levels the same.

This is very important to remember as you progress up each round as the salt you added in the previous round is still in the aquarium (unless you completely removed it through water changes).

Okay, with that in mind, let’s look at each round.

Dosing Round 1:

  • Dosing: 1tbsb per 3 gallons
  • Duration: (5 Days)

In this round, the dosing is minimal and should be safe for almost all fish (See below for fish sensitive to salt).

The salt mixture should also be enough to fight off a small range of infections and early stages of Ich. However, most cases of Ich will require a dosing level consistent with round 2.

Leave your fish in the salt for about 5 days. If you don’t see any improvement, move on to round 2.

Dosing Round 2:

  • Dosing: 1tbsb per 2 gallons
  • Duration: (10 Days)

In this round of dosing, we increase the level of salt per gallon, increasing the salt’s effectiveness. But also increase the level of salt, which can start to impact your fish slightly.

Watch your fish for the first 5 days; if the Ich doesn’t seem to be improving, consider moving on to Round three and increasing the dosing.

Dosing Round 3:

  • Dosing: 1tbsb per 1 gallon
  • Duration: (5-10 Days)

Okay, if you’ve made it to this point, you’ve got a pretty stubborn case of Ich, and it’s time to really turn up the heat.

Note: At this level, the salt can hurt the fish in your aquarium, especially those that are very sensitive to salt (See below). Do your research before you progress to this level to ensure your fish can withstand this level of salt dosing.

Aquarium Salt Dosing Chart

Recommended Salt Dosing

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

Tank Size Dose Duration Dose Duration Dose  Duration
5 Gallon 1.5tbsp 5 Days 2tbsp 10 Days 5tbsp 5-10 Days
10 Gallon 3tbsp 5 Days 5tbsp 10 Days 10tbsp 5-10 Days
15 Gallon 5tbsp 5 Days 7.5tbsp 10 Days 15tbsp 5-10 Days
20 Gallon 6tbsp 5 Days 10tbsp 10 Days 20tbsp 5-10 Days

*Note: tbsp = Tablespoon

How Long Do You Wait

How long you actually need to wait depends on how your fish and the parasite respond to the salt.

However, Salt can be left in the aquarium until the ich disappears, and your fish starts to look healthy again.

If you think the Ich has been killed off, you’ll need to start to remove the salt from the water column.

To do this, you can follow these steps:

  • Do a 25-30% water change, refill your aquarium with fresh water, and not add any more salt. Then wait at least a week.
  • After about a week, reassess your fish. If they look healthy and the ich has not returned. Complete another 25-30% water change.
  • After about three water changes, you have likely removed most of the salt from your aquarium.
  • If at any point the ich returns. Then start the process over again with the dosing recommendations in the chart above.

How Will You Know The Ich Is Gone

Most fish will look like they are getting better after about a week.

However, you may notice the second wave of spots after the first wave disappears, don’t worry, this is normal. And each wave of spots will look a little worse.

As longs as you stick to the duration and dosing levels above you, you should eliminate the ich in about 7-10 days.

Reasons The Salt Treatment Didn’t Work.

Depending on the parasite and infection level, the dosing amount may not have been enough to kill off the parasites. If that happens, try adding a little more salt to your dose.

Sometimes you didn’t wait long enough, and the ich wasn’t exposed to the salt long enough. Try waiting longer before you begin to remove the salt from your aquarium.

Do You Need A Heater

Yes, treating ich with heat is recommended whenever treating ich or any other similar parasites.

Set your heater to at least 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit during treatment. The heat helps shorten the lifespan and, in some cases, can also help boost your fish’s immune systems.

Try one of these heaters if you need one.

Difference Between A Salt Dip & Salt Bath

What Is A Salt Dip

A salt dip is used to treat external parasites. Create a high concentrated solution of salt and water in a bucket. Typically the mixture is 4 teaspoons per one gallon of water. Then add the infected fish for 30 minutes at a time.

What Is A Salt Bath

A salt bath is when the entire aquarium or quarantine tank is dosed with salt to treat more than one infected fish or to treat the aquarium itself. Typically, a smaller dosage of 1tbsp(3tsp) per 3 gallons is used while gradually increasing the aquarium’s salinity.

Further Reading: Quarantine Tank – Set Up And When You Need Them

A Few Fish That Are Sensitive To Salt

Some scaleless fish might be sensitive to salt and might include some of the following fish;

  • Corydoras
  • Catfish species
  • Knife fish
  • Eels
  • Rope fish
  • Loaches
  • Puffers

Keep in mind that not all scaleless fish are sensitive to salt as some live in brackish water conditions.

Should You Remove Your Activated Carbon When Doing A Salt Treatment

Activated carbon is not effective at removing salt. In fact, to remove salt, you need to do a water change and refill your tank with fresh water.

However, activated carbon is good at removing chemicals from your water. If you are treating with salt and any other medication, the activated carbon should be removed from your filter.

Keep in mind that salt does not affect the biological media in your filter, so you don’t need to remove your biological or mechanical media.

Should I Use Salt All the Time?

No, using salt all the time is not recommended. While salt has some health benefits, it should be used only when treating sick fish or other underlying fish health or tank issues.

Video: How to Cure Ich or Ick with Salt

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