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Aquarium Salts
by Marc Elieson

There are a lot of misconceptions about the various salts available for aquarium use. Non-iodized salt may or may not be the same as aquarum salt - it depends on the brand. Non-iodized salt is not the same as marine salt. Table Salt is nothing more than Sodium Chloride (NaCl) which comes in iodized and non-iodized forms. Aquarium Salt is very similar to table salt inasmuch as it is made of Sodium Chloride (NaCl); however, it lacks anti-caking ingredients and iodine. Epsom Salt is Magnesium Sulfate (MgSO4). Marine Salt, on the other hand, is no simple recipe. Below is a listing of its constituents:

Chloride, Cl2 19,500
Sodium, Na 10,770
Magnesium, Mg 1,290
Sulfur, S 905
Calcium, Ca 412
Potassium, K 380
Bromide, Br 67
Carbon, C 28
Nitrogen, N 11.5
Strontium, Sr 8
Oxygen, O 6
Boron, B 4.4
Silicon, Si 2
Fluoride, F 1.3
Argon, Ar 0.43
Lithium, Li 0.18
Rubidium, Rb 0.12
Phosphorus, P 0.06
Iodine, I 0.06
Barium, Ba 0.02
Molybdenium, Mo 0.01
Arsenic, As 0.0037
Uranium, U 0.0032
Vanadium, V 0.0025
Titanium, Ti 0.001
Zinc, Zn 0.0005
Nickel, Ni 0.00048
Aluminium, Al 0.0004
Cesium, Cs 0.0004
Chromium, Cr 0.0003
Antimony, Sb 0.00024
Krypton, Kr 0.0002
Selenium, Se 0.0002
Neon, Ne 0.00012
Manganese, Mn 0.0001
Cadmium, Cd 0.0001
Copper, Cu 0.0001
Tungsten, W 0.0001
Iron, Fe 0.000055
Xenon, Xe 0.00005
Zirconium, Zr 0.00003
Bismuth, Bi 0.00002
Niobium, Nb 0.00001
Thallium, Tl 0.00001
Thorium, Th 0.00001
Hafnium, Hf 7 x 10-6
Helium, He 6.8 x 10-6
Beryllium, Be 5.6 x 10-6
Germanium, Ge 5 x 10-6
Gold, Au 4 x 10-6
Rhenium, Re 4 x 10-6
Cobalt, Co 3 x 10-6
Lanthanum, La 3 x 10-6
Neodymium, Nd 3 x 10-6
Lead, Pb 2 x 10-6
Silver, Ag 2 x 10-6
Tantalum, Ta 2 x 10-6
Gallium, Ga 2 x 10-6
Yttrium, Y 1.3 x 10-6
Mercury, Hg 1 x 10-6
Cerium, Ce 1 x 10-6
Dysprosium, Dy 9 x 10-7
Erbium, Er 8 x 10-7
Ytterbium, Yb 8 x 10-7
Gadolinium, Gd 7 x 10-7
Praseodymium, Pr 6 x 10-7
Scandium, Sc 6 x 10-7
Tin, Sn 6 x 10-7
Holmium, Ho 2 x 10-7
Lutetium, Lu 2 x 10-7
Thulium, Tm 2 x 10-7
Indium, In 1 x 10-7
Trebium, Tb 1 x 10-7
Palladium, Pd 5 x 10-8
Samarium, Sm 5 x 10-8
Tellurium, Te 1 x 10-8
Europium, Eu 1 x 10-8
Radium, Ra 7 x 10-11
Protactinium, Pa 5 x 10-11
Radon, Rn 6 x 10-16

By examining the chart below, which documents the major chemical constituents of the East African lakes, you'll find that the critical elements can be supplied in the appropriate proportions by using Baking Soda, Epsom Salt, and salt. Many hobbyists make an effort to simulate Rift Lake water chemistry in their aquariums by using a homemade Rift Lake Buffer. This is nothing more than Epsom salt, Baking Soda, and then your choice of NaCl, KCl, or marine salt.

I hope this has clarified for you what constitutes the various salts available to you and other aquatic hobbyists.

 

  Chemical Compound Lake Victoria Lake Malawi Lake Tanganyika
  Sum of cations (meq/L) 1.04-1.21 2.45 7.30-7.46
  Sum of anions (meq/L) 1.08-1.77 1.08-1.77 7.25-7.71
  Na (sodium) (mg/L) 10.4-13.5 21.0 57-63.6
  K (potassium) (mg/L) 3.7-4.2 6.4 18.0-35.5
  Ca (calcium) (mg/L) 5-15 16.4-19.8 9.2-17.6
  Mg (magnesium) (mg/L) 1.59-8 4.7-8.8 39.2-43.3
  HCO3 + CO3 (bicarbonate,carbonate) (meq/L) 0.25-1.53 2.36-2.58 6.02-6.81
  Cl (chloride) (mg/L) 3.9-7.0 3.57-4.3 20.9-36.6
  SO4 (sulfate) (mg/L) 2.3 5.5 7.2-15.3
  SiO2 (dissolved silica) (mg/L) 3-20 1.1-4
0.3-6.6
  NO3 · N (nitrate-nitrogen) (µg/L) 11-29
  PO4 · P (phosphate) (µg/L) 3-13 <7-30
7
  Total P (phosphorus) (µg/L) 47-67
  pH 8.0-8.8 7.5-8.6 8.66-9.06
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