With the number of people adding African cichlids to their aquariums increasing constantly due to the beautiful colors and patterns of the various types of cichlid out there, we constantly see more and more people asking questions about their tank.
We have seen a number of questions from the fish keeping community about the various tank mates that can be kept with African Cichlids recently due to their reputation for being aggressive fish and we have already published a number of articles about suitable tank mates.
For today’s article, we want to answer a slightly different type of question about keeping African cichlids in your tank and that is if African cichlids need salt in their tank or not.
Now, before we go any further, we just want to quickly clarify something for this article…
We are specifically talking about adding small amounts of aquarium salt to an African cichlid tank to offer some potential benefits to the fish, not enough to increase the salinity of the tank to dangerous levels.
African cichlids are a freshwater fish but they can do well in an aquarium that has some salt in it due to this being able to optimize the pH and hardness of the water for the tank.
What Is Salt Used For With Cichlids?
Salt is often used as a temporary measure to help cichlids that are displaying signs of stress or illness and it can also provide some benefits in preventing these issues from occurring in the first place.
When you add salt to the water, it will start to dissolve and the resulting solution will have a slightly higher density than the surrounding water.
The higher density of the salty water means that it will start to sink and this can help to create a layer of salt water at the bottom of the tank which can be beneficial for cichlids.
Adding salt to the water can also help to increase the hardness of the water which is something that African cichlids need in order to stay healthy.
The hardness of the water is created by the dissolved minerals in the water and these minerals are needed by the fish in order to maintain a strong skeleton and fins.
Adding salt to the water can also help to increase the pH of the water which is something that cichlids need in order to stay healthy but there are other ways to tweak the pH of your African cichlid tank.
Do African Cichlids Need Salt?
African cichlids do not need aquarium salt to be added to their tank.
Although there are a number of social media posts going over the various benefits of adding salt to an African cichlid tank making people think that salt is essential to the tank, it is not.
You are able to setup a perfectly good African cichlid tank without ever adding salt to the tank and many people who keep African cichlids run their tank in this way.
What Are The Benefits Of Aquarium Salt For African Cichlids?
Here is our short list of the main benefits of adding aquarium salt to an African cichlid tank:-
- Treating Ich.
- Prevents Infection.
- Helps With Stress.
- Increase Swimming Activity.
- Can Help With Digestion.
- May Help Lower Aggression.
Please note that most of these potential benefits only require a very small amount of salt to be added to the tank and even then, there is no guarantee of the benefit being displayed in your fish either.
One of the most common reasons why people add aquarium salt to their tank is in an attempt to treat Ich.
Ich is a parasite that can infect your fish and it causes white spots to appear on the body and fins of the fish.
The parasite will attach itself to the skin of the fish and feed off of their blood which can weaken the fish and cause them to become seriously ill.
Adding aquarium salt to the tank can help to treat Ich by raising the salinity of the water which is lethal to the parasite.
In our opinion, there are much better ich treatments out there for African cichlids though with the temperature trick and the various commercial ich treatments available from local pet stores being better options.
There is plenty of evidence out there that adding a small amount of aquarium salt to your tank can reduce the chances of your fish having problems with various types of infection.
Although aquarium salt does little to nothing to deal with viral infections, it can help to reduce the chances of your African cichlids having problems with bacterial infections, fungal infections, and parasitic infections.
If your tank is prone to having issues with this then you may be able to start micro dosing it with aquarium salt to help protect your African cichlids.
Helps With Stress!
Adding a small amount of aquarium salt to your tank may help to reduce stress in your African cichlids.
Cichlids are very sensitive to changes in their environment and this includes the addition of salt to the water.
If you add too much salt to the water then it will cause your fish a great deal of stress which can lead to a number of health problems.
Adding a small amount of aquarium salt to the water can help to reduce stress in your fish by providing them with a more stable environment too.
Please note, we would always recommend that you look for the source of the stess in your African cichlids and remove it from their environement if possible rather than try to use aquarium alt to deal with it instead.
Increase Swimming Activity!
Adding aquarium salt to your African cichlid tank can also help to increase the activity levels of your fish.
This is because the extra salt in the water will make the water more dense which makes it easier for your fish to swim around in.
The increased swimming activity can also help to improve the health of your fish by giving them a better workout and helping them to use up more energy.
In turn, this can also help to reduce the aggression displayed by some types of African cichlid due to them burning off excess energy.
Can Help With Digestion!
Adding aquarium salt to your African cichlid tank can also help to improve the digestion of your fish in some cases.
This is because the extra salt in the water will help to break down the food that your fish eat and make it easier for them to digest it.
The improved digestion can also help to reduce the chances of your fish getting sick from eating spoiled food or from digestive problems.
May Help Lower Aggression!
Adding aquarium salt to your African cichlid tank may also help to lower the aggression of your fish.
As we touched on earlier in the article, this can be due to the increased activity levels in your cichlids due to them swimming around more in the water.
The sensation of the aquarium salt in the water is also thought to help African cichlids relax though with this being able to help lower aggression.
In our opinion adding dither fish for African cichlids is a much better option to calm aggression though.