Since many betta diseases occur due to improper tank conditions, most of these afflictions can be treated the same way. A salt bath may be the last thing you think could benefit your freshwater betta fish, but is actually a very effective, age-old cure that is one of the first steps you need to take to nurse your betta back to health. Of course, the best case is to have a proper betta tank set-up to begin with, but more on that later.
How can salt help a freshwater fish, you ask? The bacteria and protozoa that attack your fish when its immune system is deficient are very low single cell forms of life. Common betta diseases are then transmitted to your fish by these simple life forms.
They have almost no form of defense system, so even a gradual change in the level of salt in your aquarium will cause instant death to these primitive beings. They simply can not adapt quickly enough to the resultant change in their environment.
Why doesn’t it harm my betta, you ask? Fish are more complex beings, and have internal organs such as kidneys to help them deal with external environmental changes. They are much hardier than microscopic bacteria. Therefore a very minute change in the salt levels of their tanks causes them almost no discernible level of discomfort.
To learn what ratio of salt to fresh water to use, consult a comprehensive guide (the same one I use every day is available at the end of this column, with some freebies I finagled for you) for your particular fish. Usually, a ratio of one tablespoon per five gallons of aquarium water is fine for ongoing conditions, but this level needs to be significantly increased when treating betta diseases in a recovery tank or bucket.
Using salt to treat your sick betta is just one step to take to bring your fish back to full health. Once healthy, ongoing tank maintenance needs to be followed, and other tips and tricks can be used to ensure your betta lives as long and healthy a life as possible. Most bettas live about six months on average, but when proper preparation and care are employed, you can have a vibrant, lively betta for three to five years.
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