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figuare9 11-16-2009 12:53 AM

Question about SALT, ICH, PLANTS, ETC.
I have a freshwater tank, and I've been putting salt inside of it since I got it. I have some plants in it, and of course many fish. Its a 55 gallon tank, And I normally put in about 4 tablespoons of salt in at water changes. for about 20 gallons. My question is this. My plants are dying, (obviously because of the salt) but they're growing back at an extremely fast rate. like an inch in a week. My fish had ICH disease but I've been curing that for months. I followed the recommended treatment for the amount of time needed, raised the temp, etc and have been putting it in weekly to keep it from coming back. I'm not very worried about the ICH coming back but I am worried about the salt. If my plants are growing back should I worry? What about the fish? Are they liking the salt? They seem perfectly happy, although my cichlids occasionally scrape on rocks, or the bottom of my tank, but I think this is because the nitrate is high, and disrupting the slimy layer on their skin. Absolutely no sign of ICH in my tank. Also, in some areas of my tank, the substrate has turned black, like the sand particles have turned into a black color, it doesn't come up when I clean it, it's almost like the grains have turned black. Is this from dead ICH? It was really bad when I treated it, I'm a beginner and almost caught it too late. My fish looked like snowmen :) (They're fine now) I'll put this into an FAQ so it's easier to answer, but I'd like a few opinions on what to do for the salt, and black grains of sand, etc.

Should I stop putting in salt? Is it bad for the fish to continue using it?

My plants are dying, but growing back, are they growing back because of the salt? or are they just trying to survive?

Grains of sand have turned black, this didn't happen until I started treating for ICH, what could cause this?

My cichlids are scraping against the substrate and rocks, there is absolutely no sign of ICH in my tank, and hasn't been for almost a month. Is this from Nitrate? I do a water change WEEKLY, and change my filters twice a month.

I have a 55 gallon, with 25 fish, so I assumed with the increased amount of fish I need to increase the frequency of changes. Am I right to assume this?

8 tiger barbs
3 pictus catfish
5 cichlids
3 bottom feeder things (no clue what they are, they're tiny tho. Walmart special... Probably how I got the ICH in the first place)
2 sucker fish
3 dwarfs
1 Bala Shark

Thanks for any help!

1077 11-16-2009 03:01 AM

I would stop with the salt. Sucker fish as you call them, along with the pictus cats, don't appreciate it. I would increase water changes to twice a week and vaccum the sand once a week. After vaccuming the sand, I would sift through it with a plastic fork ,or your fingers if your sand is more than two inches deep.
It is unclear what types of fish you have with regards to dwarfs,and or the fish you bought at walmart but you should not in my view,,add any more fish to your tank. The sucker fish and bala shark will grow quite large depending on the type of suckers (pleco?) you have and will need much larger tank assuming you wish to keep them to adult size. Bala sharks need very large tanks.
The tank is quite crowded in my opinion and you have fish such as pictus cats that may be grabbing most of the food before other bottom feeders can find it. Adding more food will only help water conditions deteriorate more quickly. The tiny fish you bought from walmart may be eaten or killed by cichlids and or pictus cats if the fish mentioned are very small.
You will need to monitor the water quality due to the numbers of fish you have ,at least once a week depending on how often, and how much food is being offered.
Your ammonia and nitrite levels must read zero each day,every day. Nitrates can be lowered through water changes and vaccuming the bottom as mentioned.
Were it me,(and it ain't) I would find new homes for the Bala Shark, and the Plecos or sucker fish, especially if the sucker fish are the common Pleco variety. I would not purchase fish that I knew nothing about. Many fish have specific water conditions that must be taken into consideration BEFORE placing then in your QUARANTINE tank and ultimately.. your display tank. Good Luck.P.S. your plants may or may not survive with the particular fish you have but,, They will do much better without the salt in my opinion.

figuare9 11-16-2009 03:18 AM

well, I don't seem to have any problems with the cichlids and my bottom feeders, actually they seem to share the same territory. Right now a cichlid and a bottom feeder are almost touching sides under a plant. All my fish get along very well actually, but I can't say that for sure later on. I'm getting rid of all 3 dwarfs, and all 3 catfish tomorrow because i don't like them at all really, but aside from that I appreciate the reply on the salt. I'm going to stop using it for a while, and check the tank. All my fish are actually very small, I'm not sure how big the cichlids get, but I haven't seen any bigger than the one I have. I posted a video on these forums the other day about their behavior, but you can see the size of all the fish in my tank in it. You can also watch and see the dwarfs on the top of the tank. During the territory war my cichlids had, you can also see the bottom feeders i'm talking about.

YouTube - Cichlid Behavior

jmlampert23 11-16-2009 05:18 AM

i think you have a problem of overstocked tank. a lot of those fish you have in there get quite large and produce a lot of waste (pictus cat and bala shark) also like stated above i would not buy anything from walmart and deffinitly not buy anything that you dont know about. i would maybe find new homes for the walmart fish and the sucker fish along with either the bala or pictus cat

Byron 11-16-2009 01:23 PM

1077 gave you good advice and I won't repeat any of that. But I do want to comment further on the salt issue, something I feel strongly about as others here know.

There is differing opinion on salt in freshwater aquaria; clearly it is detrimental to plants, and just as clearly there are some fish than may "tolerate" it short-term but develop internal health problems long-term. Many acidic water fish (South American characins, catfish and SE Asian fish) are very intolerant of salt, and indeed chemicals and medications in general. We know that stress weakens a fish's immune system making them more suceptible to parasites like ich and a number of other problems. I believe salt adds stress to these fish; it is certainly something they would never encounter in the wild, and they have evolved over the years according to their environment. It should only be used as a medication when it is the best treatment, and depending upon the fish species. For some, other medications are preferable.

Here is a link to an excellent article on salt: Frequently asked questions on using salt | Practical Fishkeeping magazine

If you read through this article, you will note that every single authority cited therein clearly says that salt should never be added to a freshwater aquarium except for medicinal purposes, i.e., to treat a specific problem.

As you have African cichlids, if the tank is devoted to these beautiful fish, you can buy rift lake "salt" to make the water parameters more to their liking. That is a very different thing. But ensure other fish are not subjected to it.

Enough said about salt.


figuare9 11-16-2009 02:17 PM

Well im 6 fish less stocked. Got rid of the dwarfs and cats.tank looks empty now :) thanks for the advice, but what about the black sand? like I said, it's completely turned the grains a different color, I can't suck it up. Its like it got spray painted. I read that plants lower nitrate, what kind of plants are good to have in a freshwater, and where can i get some?

Byron 11-16-2009 02:35 PM


Originally Posted by figuare9 (Post 275207)
Well im 6 fish less stocked. Got rid of the dwarfs and cats.tank looks empty now :) thanks for the advice, but what about the black sand? like I said, it's completely turned the grains a different color, I can't suck it up. Its like it got spray painted. I read that plants lower nitrate, what kind of plants are good to have in a freshwater, and where can i get some?

Is all the sand coloured black, or just the top layer? And just to confirm, if you separate the sand each gain is black? Not a sheet coating the sand substrate?

On the plants, yes, plants keep nitrates low because they use ammonium which they obtain from ammonia, and they do it better (faster) than the bacteria, so there is little ammonia changing to nitrite and little nitrite changing to nitrate. And provided the tank is biologically balanced, it will have low nitrates when planted, usually 5-10 and always below 20ppm unless something occurs to upset the biological balance.

You mentioned high nitrates earlier, and I was going to ask what the number was/is because you didn't give it. Do you know the nitrate reading? And what test kit did you use?

Do you know the pH and hardness of your tap water and tank water? This may have a bearing on plant suggestions.


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