Best Reef Salt For Marine Aquarium
Discussing about the best reef salt for marine aquarium is always a passionate discussion among reefers and saltwater aquarists.
Some people swear by one brand of salt mix while others will go out of their way to talk about why this salt mix brand is way better than others.
The purpose of this post today is to just lay out the facts and finding what salt mix will work for you and your budget.
I want to get around all the marketing fluff and just tell you what works for your tank and needs. So let’s get started.
THE BEST SALT MIX IS THE ONE CLOSEST TO YOUR IDEAL PARAMETERS
This is the very first statement I’m going to lay out for you. This relates most to reef tank owners.
Every tank needs are different depending on the type of corals you have. For example, SPS corals like Acropora are going to need different parameters and trace elements vs. say a softie tank.
Softie and LPS tanks can tolerate more swings so going with a mix with a high alkalinity isn’t going to hurt you. However, for a Acropora heavy tank, many reefers like to keep their alkalinity lower in order to keep it more stable and closer to natural sea water.
There there is of course fish only and fish only with live rock (FOWLR) setups. Fish only aquariums are not going to need an expensive or advanced salt mix so a budget mix will do the job. Same can be said with a FOWLR tank.
The list of the best reef salt for marine aquarium is reviewed below:
TOP 10 BEST REEF SALT FOR MARINE AQUARIUM (REVIEWS & GUIDE 2020)
1. BRIGHTWELL AQUATICS NEOMARINE SALT
The founder of Brightwell is the former owner of Kent Marine and their products are extensively researched and tested over a multi-year period.
The Brightwell NeoMarine Salt is so well regarded, that it is the salt of choice for World Wide Corals, one of the major coral sellers in the United States.
NeoMarine Salt not only has all the essential elements of a saltmix, but also does not have anti-caking agents. Anti-caking agents tend to turn your saltwater holding buckets and vats brown over time.
What I feel separates NeoMarine from other salt mixes aside from their research and efforts are the parameters of the salt.
NeoMarine has a lower Alkalinity, which is great for SPS tanks. SPS tanks need to have extremely stable levels in the aquarium and having a mix with evaluated ALK can be catastrophic as the Alkalinity levels can spike after a water change.
This mix is perfect as you can dose to 7.5 – 8.0 and not worry about a water change completely throwing off your key parameters.
Best For: SPS Tanks
2. FRITZ REEF PRO MIX
The main advantage with Fritz Reef Pro Mix is that it mixes very fast. I would say the mix time is around that of Brightwell’s product. For a mixed reef and smaller reef tanks I would say this is a great salt mix for you.
However, if you are serious about Acropora corals, I would steer away from this mix.
This is because it is well documented that Fritz has had quality control issues in the past. When they first went to market, there were some batches with different Alkalinity numbers.
I have also seen a few mixes that have failed ICP tests with several parameters being too low. Given those reasons, I would not recommend this mix for Acroporas.
It is readily available at the local fish stores and online though, meaning you won’t have to worry about getting your normal salt mix in a pinch if you need to get it locally.
Best For: LPS and Mixed Reef Tanks
3. INSTANT OCEAN SEA SALT
Instant Ocean Sea Salt is the most used sea salt in the world. Used by hobbyists, public aquariums, and research facilities. Instant Ocean has been a mainstay in the industry for over 50 years.
They have created the benchmark for the industry and quality control standards. No other salt on the market has the history and field results of proven usage then the Instant Ocean brand.
That being said, this particular mix is made for fish only tanks. It does not have the evaluated levels and trace elements that Reef Crystals have.
However, it is a great salt mix for those with fish only, fish only with live rock, and soft coral dominated tanks. The mix also has anti-caking agents which will turn your buckets and holding vats brown over time with crud making non-ideal to use for those who like to store saltwater.
Best For: Fish Only Tanks
4. Instant Ocean Sea Salt for Marine Aquariums, Nitrate & Phosphate-Free
Instant Ocean Sea Salt is the most carefully formulated and universally preferred sea salt in the world. The #1 choice of hobbyists, public aquariums, and scientific research facilities, Instant Ocean Sea Salt has set the industry standard for quality, consistency, and value for more than 50 years.
Mix Instant Ocean with ordinary dechlorinated tap or purified water. NOTE: To prepare small quantities, use 1/2 cup of Instant Ocean per each U.S. gallon of water. Mix as directed. Stir vigorously to ensure a good mix.
Although the Instant Ocean solution may be used immediately, we suggest aerating the water until it achieves oxygen/carbon dioxide equilibrium. Measure specific gravity with an Instant Ocean Hydrometer. Adjust salt level accordingly.
If specific gravity is too low, add more Instant Ocean. lf too high, add more dechlorinated water. Change 20% of aquarium water every two weeks to maintain optimum water quality. NEVER mix salt in an aquarium containing animals.
5. INSTANT OCEAN REEF CRYSTALS
Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt is the budget friendly reef salt for many of us with reef tanks. It is also the most readily available reef salt on the market so if you are in a rush or bind it’s very easy to get locally even from a chain pet store.
It’s the same quality and field tested Instant Ocean salt we are familiar with the industry, but with a better formula designed for mixed reef tanks.
There are many incredible looking reef tanks that use this salt and you will save some money using it over the other brands. There are a few cons here though.
The first thing is the anti-caking agents in the salt mix. If you keep water changing stations or store saltwater there is a high likelihood that the agents will eventually encrust your containers with brown crud.
This is really annoying to clean and can lead you to having to replace containers. The other issue is the evaluated alkalinity of the mix. As high as 13, which can be disastrous to an SPS tank after a water change.
This salt will work great for softy and LPS tanks that can take the swings better, but you run the risk of problems after water changes with this mix with sensitive SPS corals like Acros.
Best For: Mixed Reef Tanks
6. Fluval Hagen Sea Marine Salt for Aquarium
Fluval Sea Marine Salt is ultra pure and ultra consistent marine salt that creates an optimal ocean-like aquarium environment for corals, other invertebrates and fish to thrive in.
A professional grade formula, the salt is formulated and blended proportionally with only the best grades of micro and macro elements to achieve natural seawater concentrations with enriched levels of calcium and buffering capacity.
Fluval Sea Marine Salt contains only the best quality ingredients that are carefully sourced to ensure a top quality formulation with no unwanted impurities.
All raw materials are systematically tested to ensure that every bag and bucket contains the same high quality natural ocean water formula that is phosphate and nitrate free.
7. RED SEA PRO CORAL SALT
Red Sea Coral Pro Salt is about as close as you can get from natural sea water from how they formulate their mix. The salt is collected from the Red Sea.
This produces an all natural eco-friendly mix that is one of the best mixes in the industry. You can learn more about their process in the video below:
Red sea coral pro salt is one of the more trusted mixes used by frag sellers and SPS stick heads. There are actually two mixes Red Sea sells. The pro mix has higher alkalinity while the regular Red Sea mix has lower alkalinity.
Both work great, but I would lean on the regular mix if you have a heavy SPS tank for better Alkalinity stability.
The main issue with the Red Sea salt mix is it’s availability. Chain stores do not carry it and you will mostly see higher end local fish stores that specialize in marine livestock carry them.
Best For: SPS Tanks
8. TROPIC MARIN PRO REEF SALT
Tropic Marin Pro Reef Salt is the best salt mix you can purchase for your reef tank available on the market today – period. It is formulated with pharmaceutical level ingredients and one of the fully synthetic salt mixes on this list (Brightwell being the other).
Tropic Marin is a brand you may not see regularly at the local fish store or chain stores, but they have been a major name brand all across the world, particularly in Europe.
The pro reef salt has the most ideal big three parameters for SPS tanks. The parameters out of the boxes are perfect and makes it very safe to make water changes so you don’t have to worry about swings when you make a water change.
The stability and quality control of this mix makes this pretty much a must for those with the most demanding corals like Acroporas.
It’s the most expensive salt in the mix, but if you have prized designer SPS corals, this is the mix you will want in your reef tank.
Best For: SPS Tanks
9. API Aquarium Salt Promotes Healthy Gill Function
Did you know that salt is very healing to fish, freshwater as well? Many parasites that live in freshwater can not survive in salt water.
Salt and heat can cure ICH!
10. Coralife Marine Saltwater Aquarium Salt Mix
Coralife (Energy Savers) scientific grade marine salt is formulated with ingredients of the highest quality with optimal levels of calcium and magnesium.
It salt is unsurpassed in purity, quality and performance. It contains all essential major and trace elements to hell
FAQS ABOUT THE BEST REEF SALT FOR MARINE AQUARIUM
Below is a list of common questions I get asked. Hopefully these answer your questions.
WHAT IS THE BEST REEF SALT FOR MARINE AQUARIUM TO USE?
It actually depends on your reef tank setup and the corals you keep. A soft coral dominated tank will not have as much needs as a Heavy SPS tank.
If you are just getting started out, you cannot go wrong with the Instant Ocean Reef Crystals salt as this will work for most reef tanks including mixed reefs. But let’s go further into the question.
HOW TO CHOSE A REEF SALT MIX
This is where we start getting into details. What type of tank do you have and making sure you dose to what your salt mix is. There are even tanks where people do not dose, so a mix with evaluated parameters will make the most sense for those people.
Nano reef tanks are good candidates for a salt mix with higher parameters since they sometimes are not dosed as they rely on water changes to get parameters back up.
WHERE SHOULD I PURCHASE MY BEST REEF SALT FOR MARINE AQUARIUM MIX?
It’s a known face in our hobby that most retailers lose money selling salt, especially online retailers as the shipping cost is very high in comparison to other dry goods.
This means there are two ideal places to purchase your salt mix. At your local fish store, where your fish store gets salt in pallets so they don’t lose money or on an online merchant like Amazon where you know you are not making the retailer lose money shipping the box or bucket of salt to you.
This is the main reason I stopped selling salt mixes online. It’s just not worth taking the losses to ship them.
HOW DO I MIX SALTWATER FOR MY AQUARIUM?
It’s actually easier than you think. The main thing since I’m going to assume that you are planning to do a reef tank or fish only with live rock setup is that you use RODI water made from an RODI System.
You will want to use at least a Refractometer along with 35 PPM calibration fluid to ensure you have the right salinity. Keep in mind that the temperature of your water matters when measuring your salinity so try to make sure your temperature is close to the ideal temperature using an Aquarium Heater to bring the water inside your home if you need to cool it down.
Once you have the RODI water at the correct temperature you will want to put in circulation from an Aquarium Wavemaker or Aquarium Return Pump. Then put in your salt according to the manufacturer’s instructions until you get to 35 PPM (or 1.026).
You will want to wait at least 20-30 minutes every time you have to add salt in when testing your salinity. After you have the salt at the correct salinity, let it mix in the container. I usually let it mix overnight and test the salinity again because I do my water changes.
REEF AQUARIUM SALT MIX PARAMETERS AND MAJOR ELEMENTS
Let’s talk about the main parameters that make up a reef salt mix.
Calcium – This is the major foundation of the reefs. Through a process called biominealization, corals skeletons are created. Without calcium, hard corals cannot continue to build and maintain their skeletons.
Alkalinity – Alkalinity is related to pH but also gives us awareness of available bicarbonate in our tanks. Without a stable alkalinity level, our corals will not have the fuel to build their skeletons. Stable alkalinity will also prevent pH fluctuations.
Calcium and Alkalinity closely relate to each other as dosing calcium will reduce alkalinity so keeping a balance is essential if you are having to dose elements. This is why two-part solutions are so common in reef tanks.
Magnesium – Magnesium is the catalyst of the reef. They ensure alkalinity, calcium, and various other element can interact with each other. It doesn’t need to be dosed as often, but if it is out of wack, the your corals tend to start suffering.
WHAT IS THE BEST REEF SALT FOR MARINE AQUARIUM MIX (OUR RECOMMENDATION)?
It really depends on what corals you are planning to keep. There is a quick list for you depending on your needs below:
- Best Beginner Reef Salt – Instant Ocean Reef Crystals
- Best Mixed Reef Salt – Brightwell NeoMarine
- Best SPS Heavy Reef Salt – Tropic Marin Pro Salt
I hope this article helps with figuring out what salt mix works best for you. I always recommend to my clients that they need to dose their tank to their salt mix.
So follow the parameters listed on the mixes and dose to those levels. You do not have to follow that guideline if you purchase a mix with an evaluated level of Alkalinity, but you will likely want to still regularly check your levels and make sure you do not drop below 8 DKH.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. Thanks for reading.