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Aquarium Setup Salt and Brackish Water

Saltwater (including fish-only and reef)

With any new saltwater system you will always want to make sure that the salt is dissolved completely before adding any sand or crushed shells.  Salt that is covered by the sand or that sinks between the particles will not dissolve into the main water column and you will wind up with a false low salinity.  You want to have a solution with a specific gravity of about 1.023 grams per milliliter, but anywhere from 1.020 to 1.025 usually works just fine for most organisms.  Be sure to learn about the animals you want to keep before putting them in your tank.

All salt mixes on the market are really best used when mixed up in their entirety, so try to choose a container of salt that is appropriate for your tank volume.  It is possible for the different grains and minerals to separate slightly during shipping so that a scoop of salt from the top of a container may not be identical to a scoop from the bottom of the bag.  Some lower grade salts are not even well mixed when they leave the factory.

If you do insist on purchasing an oversized container of salt and portion it out over time, then you will need about a cup of salt per two gallons or roughly three pounds for ten gallons.  Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions.

A vast majority of the salt mixes on the market are a single phase mixture, meaning that they only have a crystalline portion.  The quality of salt mixes can vary greatly between manufacturers.  Some use only a few low grade materials as the major components and rely on the contaminant minerals and elements for micronutrients. 

The highest quality of salt mix on the market is the Marine Environment we carry in the shop.  It is a dual phase mixture meaning that there is a liquid supplement included in a bottle with the salt.  The Marine Environment has a crystalline portion that is a fully blended mixture research grade minerals and elements that are carefully measured and individually added.  The liquid portion contains other minerals and elements that need to stay in a hydrated state until they are added to your tank.  If they dry out, their chemical and physical properties will change and those properties are not restored if these minerals and elements are rehydrated (think of housepaint).

As far as adding any live stock goes you can simply follow the acclimation directions given in the freshwater portion of this section.

Brackish water

Simply treat the set up of a brackish tank the same way you would treat a salt tank except you would use less salt.  You usually want the specific gravity in a brackish water tank to be anywhere from about 1.005 to 1.015 grams per milliliter.


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