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Ich (also called ick or white spot disease) is one of, if not the most common, disease affecting tropical fish both in freshwater and marine aquariums.
An affected fish will have white spots attached to its body, mostly around the gills. The fish will also look lethargic, breath-heavily, and may try to scratch its body on aquarium decor, rocks and driftwood.
That said, one of the most recommended solutions for this, and other aquarium fish diseases is salt. By raising the salinity in your fish tank, water gets sucked out of bacteria, fungus, and parasites during the normal osmoregulation process, as the fish look to balance salt concentration in their body.
Normally, parasites lose water (dehydrate) faster than the fish and die..
So, can aquarium salt then be used to treat ich? Can salt kill the parasites that cause the disease?
YES, you can treat ich with aquarium salt (coupled with medication) in varying concentrations depending on the severity of the disease.
Read on for more insight on how to use aquarium salt to treat ich in your fish. Plus what other types of salt, if any, can you use instead of aquarium salt; let’s dive in!.
How to Treat Ich with Aquarium Salt
How you use aquarium salt to treat ich in fish depends on severity. On average a tablespoon of salt for every two (2) gallons of aquarium water for seven (7) to 14 days is enough for not so serious cases.
You can add salt into your aquarium directly, albeit most aquarists preferring to dissolve the salt in a cup before adding the solution into the aquarium.
Try and use salt that is specifically made for aquarium use and not iodine-free table salt. Also, please note that you may want to increase the salt concentration in your fish tank if the first remedy does not work.
However, do not use too much because the salt may harm your fish and plant; some more than others.
If you decide to use more salt, I recommend a tablespoon of salt per gallon of aquarium water.
That said if the ailment in your fish persist, you may want to take a more offensive approach including medicating or/and even moving your fish from the tank for a while.
Also, there is a need to understand the life cycle of ich if you are going to have any success at eliminating it, see this article for more insight.
If you really don’t want to medicate your fishes, here is another natural remedy for ich you can use for your tropical aquarium, but please note that the method (changing the tank environment) is at best conservative and the only sure way to treat ich might be using fish medicine.
Raise The Temperature in Your Aquarium to Higher Than 86°F
High temperature speeds up the life cycle of ich and can also prevent tomites from replicating. Tomites are newly formed parasites that swim around your tank searching for a fish to attach on.
The tomites develop from bursting trophonts, which is the stage where ich leaves the fish skin. It’s during this stage (tomite) that the ich is most vulnerable and can be killed.
Therefore, if your fish can handle temperatures warmer than 86°F, heat your aquarium to these settings for 3 to 4 days and then decrease it back for another 10 days.
At the same time, you can treat your aquarium with salt or medication when the ich is at the tomites stage or even move your fish to another tank for 4 days because tomites can only survive for 48 hours if they don’t find a fish to attach to.
How Does Salt Kill (Cure) Ich?
Aquarium salt can kill ich parasites at the swimming stage, coupled with a raised temperature setting in the tank. Also, aquarium salt helps fish recover their natural slime coat and increase resistance to infections.
As a preventative measure, salt can be used to help fish easily maintain constant osmotic pressure in the fluids in its body by the control of water and salt concentrations, which improves the overall health of the fish.
Because ich prey on fish with a weak immune system, apart from keeping your fish healthy (as mentioned), salt also helps fish fight other infections that may compromise the immunity giving ich a path into the fish’s body.
What Kind of Salt Do You Use for Ich?
Aquarium salt is the best type of salt to use in a freshwater aquarium both to treat ich and for the overall well-being of your fish tank. Salt promotes the formation of slime coating, improve gill function, and reduces the uptake of nitrates.
Ordinary table salt (sodium chloride) is a useful and cheaper remedy too for the prevention and treatment of fish diseases like ich. However, table salt might not be safe for some fish.
So, if you must use common table salt in your freshwater tank, it should be non-iodized and contain no additives.
Rock and kosher salts are a better alternative to aquarium salt compared to table salt as they are pure sodium chloride with nothing else added.
How Long Does it Take to Cure Ich in Fish?
Ich is a parasite that attaches it’s self to a fish and after a week or so it falls off of the fish into the water to reproduce. At this stage is when you are supposed to kill the ich.
Depending on the method you use, it will take from a week to two (2) for your fish to recover fully.
Therefore, it is safe to say, the overall duration it would take from infection to full recovery for a fish affected by ich is from two (2) to three (3) weeks.
Even so, it is worth noting that the ich parasite is always lurking somewhere in your aquarium, so recurrent infections are very much possible especially in poorly maintained aquariums and without proper aeration and cleaning.
Fish with compromised immune systems are also more vulnerable to attacks, and it possible for white spot diseases affect a single fish in a community.