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FAQs on Epsom/Magnesium Sulfate Salt, Use in Freshwater

Related Articles: Salts (Marine, Table/NaCl, Epsom): Use in Freshwater Aquariums & Ponds by Neale Monks, Choose Your Weapon: Freshwater Fish Disease Treatment Options by Neale Monks, FW Disease Troubleshooting, Freshwater DiseasesNutritional Disease, Ich/White Spot Disease

Related FAQs: Using Salts in Freshwater 1, FW Salt Use 2,
FAQs on: Salt Use for Treating Ich, Salt for Treating PopEye, Salt for Treating Bloat, by type of salt: Table/NaCl, Seawater, Rift Valley Salt Mix, &
Freshwater Medications, Aquarium Maintenance, Ich/White Spot DiseaseAfrican Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease


Do you have any recommended brands of Epsom salt?     3/27/16
<Nope. So long as it's magnesium sulfate, you're fine.>
I've never used it before. Is it different from "aquarium salt" that is sold at fish/pet shops?
<As different as chalk and cheese. Actually, more different. Both chalk and cheese have calcium atoms in common. Aquarium/table salt is sodium chloride, so doesn't even have any atoms in common with Epsom salt!!!>
I would probably want to get a brand sold on Amazon.com in the $5-20 price range.
<Makes sense. But it's also sold on eBay and elsewhere. Many good drugstores should have it too. It's used to make home-made bath salts. Cheers, Neale.>
Is this Epsom Salt okay?     3/27/16
 I'm trying to get a bunch of add-on items, like this one, on Amazon so I can get free shipping.
<I'm sure it's fine. Cheers, Neale.>

Magnesium Sulphate. FW use        12/12/14
Hi Crew,
Over the last few months, I've been slowly building up my cherry barb numbers. I've noticed that each time I bring home the next batch of barbs (about a month in between each purchase), one usually dies within a few days.
<Yes, have experienced this too; more often than not, the females, so my groups of Cherry Barbs are skewed towards the males.>I know this could be simply the stress of being caught / moved to a new home, etc, but in this case I believe it to be dropsy.
<The two things are difficult to separate. "Stress" simply means the fish was exposed to some change that its physiology has/had trouble adapting to.
One manifestation of this can be Dropsy, as opposed to the usual "just died for no apparent reason" scenario.>
So far, I've lost two cherry barbs out of around 25 - 30 that have been purchased over the last couple of months, and now with a third one looking the same way, I have started to administer some Epsom salts (thanks to the information on this site). I went for a 'middle of the road' approach in terms of dosage, as I've not had experience with this before. I used around
fifteen or so level teaspoons for my 210 litre (UK) tank, along with turning up the temperature to 28C. Unfortunately, I do not have a hospital tank, so I cannot remove the affected individual. I haven't lost any other species of fish, 'just' these two cherries. Today I thought I would check the GH, since I wondered if and how much the magnesium would have bumped up
the hardness, and oh boy, had it! My GH was around 7 at the last check, but today it read 19! Will continuing to add the Epsom salts hurt the other occupants, and if I purchase a medication for this ailment, would the SeaChem Purigen I have in my filter act like carbon and reduce the effectiveness of it?
<Epsom Salt, by definition, raises General Hardness (degrees dH). It's normally used as a short-term treatment, and used as such, won't affect fish otherwise. Longer term though, you want a sort of middling hardness for Asian barbs like yours. 2-15 degrees dH is fine, pH 6-8. Cherry Barbs are not fussy, though as ever with Southeast Asian fish, the ideal would be
slightly soft and acidic; say, 2-10 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.0.>
Actually, this makes me wonder about something. I've read on this site that a 0.2 change in pH (with a 24 hour period) is generally fine for most fish, where as 0.3 / 0.4 will cause issues with organs (0.5 can result in death).
<Since the pH scale is logarithmic, a 0.2 change between 7 and 8 doesn't mean the same thing as a 0.2 change between 8 and 9. Indeed, for most practical purposes, anywhere between pH 6 and 8 suits the majority of tropical fish because it isn't all that far from the ideal. But once you get below 6 or above 8, things become more extreme; blackwater fish at the low pH end, and things like Malawi cichlids at the high pH end. In any case, most fish can tolerate quite big pH changes without harm. They have to. In ponds for example, pH swings can be very dramatic, from 6.5 to over 8.5 where rapid photosynthesis occurs (raising pH) by day, then by night where photosynthesis doesn't happen while CO2 production by animals and plants continues, increasing CO2 concentration dramatically (lowering pH).
Rivers and especially lakes are often less extreme, but nonetheless, most fish have some tolerance for change, all else being favourable.>
So, I assume that's why retail stores use R.O. water to provide a neutral & stable as possible pH, to minimize loss / practical reasons?
<In the UK, this actually isn't very common. What often happens is that either one or two, even three systems are running: local tap water for the bulk livestock (goldfish, tropical community fish); then (less often) a hard water cichlid system (Malawians and Tanganyikans, sometimes Central Americans too); and finally (and very rarely) a soft water system (for
sensitive community fish, Discus, rare L-numbers, etc.). But as I say, most UK traders will adapt their fish to local tap water. Only the better stores maintain soft water systems in hard water areas; Maidenhead Aquatics for example usually do this, but a lot of the smaller independent stores don't.>
I mean, a store can't realistically have each tank with totally different conditions for each species, can it? At least, I've not seen it in my country (UK).
<Indeed not. Unlike marine fish, which pretty much all come from one set of environmental conditions, freshwater fish come from a very wide range. It simply isn't practical. But most of the standard community fish are species that are adaptable by their very nature, so provided they're given good water quality and sufficient food, they usually adapt to local tap water
provided extremes are avoided. This is especially true for farmed fish, Angels for example being far more tolerant than their wild ancestors.>
Thanks in advance. :)
Sincere and kind Regards, Stephen.
<And to you. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Persistent problem with a bloated freshwater angel fish; Epsom conc., w/ plt.s      10/6/13
<I see Neale is busy; I will resp. here and place your msg. in his in-folder as well>
Hi there, a while back you guys helped save one of our angelfish from dropsy by recommending dosing with Epsom salt. At the time we used 2 tsp per 4 gallon, so at the high end of the range. Since then we've gradually reduced the salt dose, and finally moved our fish (5 angels, 3 well-behaved
yoyo loaches, one pictus catfish) to a planted tank that hasn't ever been dosed with Epsom salt. All fish in this tank look happy and all levels look
OK (note: have not tested GH and KH). Unfortunately it looks like we need continued dosing Epsom salt, because the same angel has started swelling again.
<Mmm, perhaps soaking this one fish, adding antibiotics of use to its food... even injection w/ soluble... Likely bacterial involvement here>
 He/she still looks lively and eats well, but we're approaching the original shape that got us worried in the first place. My question, how much Epsom salt can freshwater plants handle?
<Depends on the species of plants; but most only about as much as you've been using>
Would the original
recommended dose of 1-3 tsp/5gal kill any plants?
<On the high end it may; you could try and just be observant; change water out if you see the plants suffering>
Thanks for maintaining the site, and the always insightful answers! -Joe
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Persistent problem with a bloated freshwater angel fish  10-6-2013

<<Yes, I do agree with Bob that the Epsom salt should be safe for most plants save those that need truly soft water (which is very, very few). All it really does is raise the general (not carbonate) hardness without affecting the pH, and to some degree acts as a muscle relaxant which in turn makes it easier for fish to undo some types of problem (constipation,
bloating, and sometimes dropsy). I will observe that in my experience Dropsy often comes back, so it's as well to identify what might be stressing the fish. Some varieties/species are particularly prone, too, and there may be little you can do to prevent reoccurrence even if you treat the fish successfully. Cheers, Neale.>>
Re: Persistent problem with a bloated freshwater angel fish  10-6-2013

Thanks, glad to hear that it at least won't instantly kill all plants!
I'll start on the low end and keep an eye on the plants.
<Real good. BobF>
Re: Persistent problem with a bloated freshwater angel fish  10-6-2013

Thanks for the second opinion. I’m happy to ‘dose for life’ if that keeps him/her healthy and doesn’t bother the other fish, so here goes.
<<Shouldn't come to that. But if Dropsy keeps reoccurring, you might want to take a more holistic approach. Perhaps an antibiotic / Metronidazole combination, as this seems to fix a variety of systemic problems with Cichlidae generally. Cheers, Neale.>>

Poly filter to remove fragrance - 11/18/2012
Hello, will poly filters remove fragrance from an aquarium? 
<I suppose it depends upon the fragrance....  and what caused it.>
The source was from fragrant Epsom salt that was accidentally used to treat pop eye in a quarantine tank.
<Ah!  Yikes.  Thank goodness this was in a quarantine system.  Let all who read this take a lesson from your good sense.>
The powder brown seems to be doing alright, I just want to make sure I remove all the fragrance via poly filter and water changes, and re-treat with the proper pure Epsom salt.
<Poly filter won't hurt, that's for sure, but don't rely on it exclusively.
 If your main tank can spare enough water to aid in a VERY large water change for the quarantine tank, this would be the best course of action - along with using the Poly filter, which may aid in removing other undesirable stuff (though I don't know if the fragrance would be removed by it).  I would do as large a water change as possible (100% if you can) and
then filter with new activated carbon (which may well remove fragrance) in addition to the Poly filter (which is a very good product and certainly won't hurt).  Bear in mind that the carbon won't last long, and may be worth changing out a few times, every few to several hours.  With luck, the fragrance isn't toxic and this drastic move is unnecessary - but I'd play it safe, were I you.  Best wishes,  -Sabrina>

Swordtail, Epsom Salts and Pop-eye    6/23/12
Hi folks, first of all what a fantastic site.  I've found bits of answers to my question, but not an overall solution, so I'm hoping for some clarification.
The problem:  A female swordtail who has developed pop-eye in both eyes.
<Mmm, but no other fish/es I take it>

Feeding and swimming as normal.  Usually an aggressive little lady, definitely the alpha in her group.
The tank:  240 litres.  Bogwood, heavily planted around the edges and on the wood, clear space for swimming in the centre.  Ph of 7.  Temp 26.5 deg Celsius.
Nitrites, Nitrates, Ammonia at 0.  10% water changes weekly; gravel vacuum each week (partial - not the whole tank at once).  Fluval 204 canister filtration with carbon, noodles, and balls as media.  No noticeably sharp objects to cause injury, and I'm aware that water quality is a common cause of this issue - the only thing I can think of in that regard is that I have insufficient filtration.
Tank running for over 2 years.
Occupants:  8 neon tetras; 4 female swordtails; 1 male swordtail; 6 rummy nose tetras; 5 female platies; 2 male platies; 2 peppered cats (Corydoras) - I know this is less than recommended; had a couple of deaths a while back and have not yet added any more.
Food:  Cooked, shelled, crushed peas in the morning.  Frozen brine shrimp or daphnia in the evenings, alternated with frozen bloodworms about once per week.
A couple of algae wafers after lights out for the cats (who also like the peas).
The dilemma:  How to treat the swordtail.  My quarantine tank (40 litres) is currently doing time as my fry-tank, as the platy I had recently been given was in quarantine - and helpfully had babies.
Q1: I have read that Epsom salts can be used to treat this problem - as long as the cause of the problem is identified and remedied - is this broadly true?
 If so, how?  e.g. recommended dose, duration of treatment, water change regime during treatment, addition of further salt at water change...
<Epsom can/could be used; but I wouldn't here... The small tetras don't like extra salt/s>

Q2:  Ideally I'd isolate her, but I suspect that my psychologist husband will start looking at me as a prospective client if I set up yet another tank.
  Can I treat her in the main tank?  Obviously concerned here about the effect on the other tank residents.  And would I need to remove the carbon from the filter for the duration?
<Again... I suspect the cause of the pop eye here is mechanical injury... from the one fish bumping into objects... Will resolve on its own in time just as well as by treating>
Q3: Actually, I don't think I have another question.  I just have an overwhelming need for some concise, informed, definitive advice :)
Apologies for the length of this - I've tried to give as much pertinent information as possible but it's turned into a bit of a book.  My grateful thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
Kind regards
<Mmm, yes; most cases of bilateral exophthalima are due to bacterial et al. environmental issues... but your other fishes are non-affected... I'd just wait here, be patient. Bob Fenner>

Epsom salt    6/10/12
Hello, purchased new container of Epsom salt, it says on the back magnesium sulfate, (just like other container) only this one says heptahydrate, in parenthesis,  100% the other container said magnesium sulfate, and Epsom salt in parenthesis?? Are they the same or something different, I use on occasion for my goldfish tanks
<"Heptahydrate" only means the mineral salt crystals contain water, as opposed to 100% water-free "anhydrous" mineral salt. So each of these magnesium sulphate molecules carries along 7 (hepta, in Greek) water molecules. This is absolutely normal, and nothing at all to worry about.
Cheers, Neale.>

Epsom salts   1/21/11
Hi - what is the proper use of Epsom salts in a freshwater aquarium, if any. I need a way to raise my pH. TY Mark
<Hello Mark. Epsom salt, magnesium sulphate, doesn't raise pH. It raises general hardness. To raise pH you need to raise carbonate hardness, which is done either by using sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) or by adding a small quantity of crushed coral to your filter (this latter approach a bit fiddly and not recommended for beginners). For most community tanks that include both hard and soft water fish, a general hardness of 10 degrees dH together with a pH around 7.5 should be fine. In practical terms, one-quarter to one-half the normal Rift Valley Salt Mix dosage should do the trick nicely.
Cheers, Neale.> 

Magnesium sulfate duration   12/23/10
Hello Crew,
I am really sorry to bother you again but may I know for how long do I have to keep my Gourami in Epsom salt solution.
Thanks in advance.
<If treating constipation, a couple weeks should do the trick. If pop-eye, until the swelling goes down. In either case, Epsom salt will only help if the causes of constipation or pop-eye were fixed. Cheers, Neale.>

Prob1... A dingo ate my... Actually a Red Devil ate a polyethylene plant    10/15/10
Hello there!
Attached is a picture that shows my friend's fish's problem pretty clearly.
:-) Can you give us any suggestions? This is a mature, male red devil of approximately 13" in length that has eaten part of a plastic plant decoration. Will this just pass? I assume she should remove all such
decorations so this won't happen again?
Thank you!
P.S. You can stop laughing now! ;-)
<Wow, I'd laugh, but it looks REAL painful. Anyway, yes, it should pass out the anus in time. The use of Epsom salt at 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons will help a good deal by loosening the muscles and acting like a laxative. So that's a cheap and easy way to help. Other than that, don't pull, because you'd likely tear something delicate inside the fish. If it doesn't pass out within a day, then there's a very real risk of faeces compacting within the rectum, and that will soon be fatal. So if things are still looking bad tomorrow morning, call a vet. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Prob1   10/15/10
Thanks Neale! You guys are always great! I did try searching the site first, but didn't find anything specific to this problem.
Take care!
<Glad to help. Would be very interested to know how things go. Good luck, Neale.>
Re: FW: Prob1   10/15/10
I'll be happy to let you know. She's a really nice lady who started out as a customer of mine, and has become a friend, but she sure gets into some weird situations with her fish! LOL
<Doesn't get much weirder. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: FW: Prob1   10/16/10
The comments below are for Neale. Thanks again! You're a hero!
"That is very nice!!! I have awesome news!!! I put the Epsom salt in and within 10 min the blockage was gone!!!! Whew!!!!!! Please thank him for me as well! What a relief!!"
<Oh, what a great result! I'm very pleased. Often it's all doom-and-gloom by the time people write to us, so happy endings are always welcome. In the meantime, do recommend floating Indian Fern as greenery for cichlid tanks.
Because it floats, it can't be uprooted; and because it's edible and rich in fibre and vitamins, it's a great supplement to their diet. Cheers,

Re: FW: Prob1  10/18/10
I know how you feel, good news is rare, especially these days! I work Customer Service for a large aquatics manufacturer, and most of my customers have fish in dire straits when they need my help. Luckily, she called immediately, LOL.
Take care!
<I plan on doing so! Thanks for your message. Cheers, Neale.>

Epsom Salt Dosage - safe level for African cichlid fry
Rusty Cichlid Injured/Diseased   12/22/09

Hello Crew, I have a Iodotropheus sprengerae (Rusty) cichlid that appears to have damaged it's eye - I noticed it a week ago - it was scarily swollen but he was acting normal and the swelling seemed to go down so I thought I
dodged a bullet. Over the weekend, he was appearing to not feel well - not eating, just hanging amongst the rocks and the eye, although not nearly as swollen looks cloudy. Today while feeding the rest, he got chased out of the rocks and ended up at the top corner of the aquarium - amazingly enough I was able to pop a hatch and get him netted. It's a 240g with 70 cichlids and full rockwork - netting him was incredibly lucky.
So I carted him over to my 10 gallon that has one inhabitant, a Astatotilapia latifasciata (Obliquiden Zebra) fry that is about 3/8" long.
His name is Lucky as I found him the day after Thanksgiving floating at the top of the tank (Oh Noes - dead baby) but when I netted him, he started doing back flips! I have lots of Pseudotropheus sp. demasoni (Pombo Rocks) fry that are surviving in the main tank but the Zebra fry just don't seem to be smart enough to make it. Anyway, I was thinking on using Epsom Salt on the Rusty but am concerned that a concentration enough to aid him might cause harm to the fry. (Could not find in the FAQ on Epsom salt and fry).
In observing the Rusty, he is seems to be gasping. He has a couple of areas on his side that appear to injuries to his scales (very very small but noticeable) His dorsal fin looks like it's been nipped in a couple of spots and he's currently got his head stuck in the stream of bubbles from the airstone! His fins are not clamped but he's not swimming very much and the tail fin seems to be curving up. He's not well. He is about 3" long.
What would you recommend for dosing level and for how long? Should I consider treating with Ethyromicin also? And if I did use an antibiotic, the same question comes up as to enough medicine to treat him could possibly be harmful to the fry. My well water from the tap is pH 8.2, KG/GH 12 so frequent water changes are not a hassle.
Main Tank: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 20 nitrate (time for the weekly wc). QT: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10 nitrate
Thank You in advance. I LOVE this website and all the good that you do.
Dawn Gulick
< Thank you for your kind words. Forget the salt as a treatment. At this stage you need some serious antibiotics. I would recommend Nitrofuranace or another Furazone type antibiotic. The eye problem s probably a symptom of an internal infection as well. When you treat the tank, the antibiotics will probably not affect the fry directly. It will or may affect the biological filtration so there may be deadly ammonia spikes. Any nitrogenous wastes have an affect on the growth rate of young fish. Try and keep the water quality as good as possible after the treatment until the biological filtration get back up and going. It may be almost like starting from scratch.-Chuck> 

How to use Epsom salt 11/21/08
Good Morning, Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Sorry for bothering you guys again. Our goldfish is in 2.65 gallon tank with a filter, aerator, and airstones ( we got the new big tank it is cycling right now).
She is hanging near the surface nearly vertically, has completely clamped her fins to her body, not eating much like her usual self and has something not sure what on her body like a clear and in some places cloudy film, and one wispy strand on her head that has since disappeared after putting in PimaFix. After reading through your website came to the conclusion she has some kind of parasitic infection and not the fungal infection. In some places it is mentioned to use 1 table spoons of Epsom salt for 5 gallons, and in some use the 2-3 table spoons of aquarium salts. Want to know what should be used for treating her and how much. The water is in perfect condition with Ammonia = 0 ppm, Nitrites = 0 ppm, Nitrates = 5 ppm and pH = 7.5. She has always been kept with aquarium salt in her water about 1 table spoon in 5 gallons, as it was suggested by the Pet Smart where we got her. How do we go about removing that completely and putting in Epsom salt.
Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
<Greetings. When using Epsom salt, a good dose is 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons of water. You can use it alongside aquarium salt without problems, even though aquarium salt isn't necessary when keeping Goldfish. HOWEVER, your aquarium is ridiculously small; 2.65 gallons is NOT NEARLY enough space for a Goldfish. I would move the Goldfish to your new, big tank IMMEDIATELY.
Even if it isn't 100% cycled yet, conditions will be much better for your Goldfish. (Especially if you do regular water changes, e.g., 25% every 2 days until the tank is cycled; and then 25-50% water changes weekly.) Why do you think this fish has a parasitic infection? Epsom salt fixes very specific things; it is a muscle relaxant and helps with constipation. It also helps to reduce certain types of swelling. But it doesn't kill parasites and it doesn't fix bacterial or fungal infections. If you think your fish has a disease caused by parasites, bacteria or fungi, then Epsom salt IS NOT what you need. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: How to use Epsom salt 11/23/08
Hi Neale, <Hello again!> Thank you for your comprehensive and informative answer. I am sorry for bothering you again. Have moved the fish to the bigger tank as you suggested. Tried the Epsom salt, she has after several days opened up all of her fins and swimming in the bottom of the tank and if you turn off the filters then she even explores the new environment (thank you very much). Have also removed the gravel and all the ornaments from the tank. <Glad she's looking better.> Our LFS people after listening to Goldie's condition said she has parasite infection and suggested the medication. She had developed tail rot in half of her tail about four weeks ago (my mistake 25% water change was made every day in her small tank and didn't do it for three consecutive days) when Melafix didn't help it was treated with Maracyn, <Melafix tends to be useless. Best avoided, despite being cheap. Maracyn much more effective: a clinically tested version of the antibiotic Erythromycin, as opposed to so-called cures like Melafix based on tea-tree oil that haven't been tested.> I didn't want to put in any more medications hence my question about the Epsom salt but when you said it doesn't heal any parasite infections, I had put the medication in the tank yesterday morning and removed the carbon from the filters. But now she has one long white stringy thing attached to her tail and something white and fluffy is on edges of the tail and I can see few red streaks in the tail that were not there yesterday and it looks like the edges are loosing colour becoming transparent and starting to fray. <Almost certainly Finrot, quite likely with a bit of Fungus thrown in (the two often occur together).> Also found one stringy wispy stuff similar to what is attached to the tail floating in the water and removed it with the net but couldn't figure out what it was. The area that was affected by the tail rot seems to be most affected now with black being covered by something white. She still seems to be covered by the film with two flecks of white on her head. All of this has developed over the night nothing was there yesterday other than the film. The water still checks out perfect with pH=7.5, Nitrates=5ppm, Nitrites=0ppm and Ammonia=0ppm. <The water is fine; keep treating for Finrot. Do not put carbon back in the filter until you have finished all treatments. In fact, I'd recommend against carbon altogether: in the Goldfish aquarium, use all the space in the filter for biological and mechanical filtration.> Can you please make a diagnoses as to what it is? Can those two flecks be Ick? Please need help, she had just recovered from the tail rot and was swimming again happy and healthy. When you put your finger in the water she would just come up and scratch her head against it, every one in our family loves it. She has become the baby of our house, and every one is really worried. Your help is very appreciated. Thank you. Best Regards, Midhat. <Cheers, Neale.>

Epsom salt vs. aquarium salt  10/2/07 I have read many articles on salt addition to the tank. I would like to know what is the best to use and why, Epson or aquarium salt Thank You Karen <Hi Karen. There are several reasons why salt is added to aquaria, but let me make this 100% clear at the outset: routinely adding aquarium "tonic" salt to your fish tank is completely unnecessary. Salt used to be added to tanks in the days before proper filtration and regular water changes because sodium chloride reduces the toxicity of nitrite and nitrate. Consequently the fish stayed healthier than otherwise. In the modern age of efficient filters and 50% weekly water changes, adding salt is redundant. People who recommend it are "stuck in the Dark Ages" in terms of aquarium care. At best, it's a waste of money. Having made this point, it is also fair to say that salt and Epsom salt do have certain therapeutic uses. Regular salt can be used (coupled with high temperature) to cure Whitespot/Ick on fishes that react negatively to the standard copper- and formalin-based medications. Salt can also be used to keep external wounds clean and to remove things like Fish Lice. Saltwater baths can be used to treat certain diseases including Slime Disease and Flukes. Marine salt mix (a mixture of regular salt with various other mineral salts) is used to make brackish water for things like Scats and Mollies, and obviously for making up the saltwater used in marine aquaria. Epsom salt is specifically a muscle relaxant, and gets used primarily to help with constipation, where, coupled with high-fibre foods, it will provide relief for constipated fishes. But beyond these specific treatments, there's no reason to add salt to your freshwater aquarium. Cheers, Neale.>

Betta Popeye Not Responding to Epsom Salt  9/20/07 A week ago I noticed my male Betta, Chip had Popeye in his left eye. We have had him for 18 months. He lives in a 3 gallon Marineland Explorer tank with a filter and BioWheel. (We had gone away for a week and he got overfed - the nitrates were high, over 50.) I checked WWM and put in Epsom salt as required and I have been doing a 50% water change everyday, replacing the Epsom salt. He has been resting a lot, but comes to see me when I am near. He seems tired and the whole thing looks painful and it has not improved. When I have tried to feed him brine shrimp or bloodworms, he can't see them and they sink to the bottom. I have been giving him flake food instead and tuning off the filter so he can grab it more easily. The only things in the tank are a small decorative treasure chest, the filter tube and a silk plant for him to rest on. Any other suggestions? I am concerned about adding antibiotic to such a small tank, but I am also reluctant to let this drag on without him getting better. Asa in DC <Greetings. Pop-eye tends to be caused by two distinct things: mechanical damage (e.g., rough handling) or poor water quality. There are other things that can cause it, but not all that often. So, you need to zero out those two most likely issues. Is there anything in the aquarium that it could scratch itself on? Some people stick things like fake corals and plastic plants in tanks, and these can be fine, but in very small tanks it is so easy for a Betta to throw itself against one of these objects when alarmed. That's why I tend to prefer small tanks be decorated only with silk or real plants, and only very smooth rocks, such as water-worn pebbles. Second thing, check the water. A Betta needs water with moderate hardness, a pH around neutral, zero ammonia, and zero nitrite (with an "I"). The nitrate (with an "a") isn't such a big deal and I wouldn't worry about it. Temperature is a factor, but it isn't something I'd expect to cause pop-eye; pop-eye is really a reaction of the sensitive tissues of the eye to irritating water. Think of it as a bit like conjunctivitis on a human. Adding an appropriate antibacterial or antibiotic to the water may help to soothe the infection, and is certainly worth using. I hope this helps, Neale>

Epsom salt vs. rock salt - not the same thing!  11/16/06 I see. About the Epsom Salt treatment: can we use rock salt instead?  We can't find a Epsom Salt in our area.  By the way, if rock salt would do, is the ratio  just the same 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons of water? And how long will my FH be on salt treatment? Sorry for all my queries, I'm just worried about my little fellah. Kathy <Hi Kathy - you've got Jorie this time. Rock salt is not at all the same thing as Epsom salt - the latter is actually magnesium chloride.  Check out your local pharmacies for the Epsom salt - I'd be shocked if they don't have it.  It is used as a digestive aid in humans, as well as a soaking remedy for sprains, strains, bruises, etc.  With regard to how long to continue the Epsom salt treatment for, I can't give you an exact timeframe, start off with a goal of 3-4 days, then change the water.  See if there's improvement.  Can always repeat the treatment, but do remember that the Epsom salt won't evaporate, so you don't want to overdose.  Best of luck to you and your little fishy friend, Jorie>
Re: Epsom salt vs. rock salt - not the same thing!
 -- 11/19/06 Hi Jorie, Thanks for explaining the difference.  I found Epsom Salt and would do the treatment right away.  However, I have observed that his stomach is bulging and his waste is yellowish and he is not eating anything.  What medication should I apply for this? Please help me on what more I can do to save my fish. Kathy <Kathy, I believe Bob originally answered this query below...the Epsom salt was his initial suggestion, combined with good husbandry and time.  To quote, "only time will tell...".  Medication cannot solve absolutely everything, and sometimes can do more damage than good.  I'd listen to Bob - he's truly the "expert"! Jorie>
Re: Epsom salt vs. rock salt - not the same thing!   1/20/07
Dear WWM, Sorry for the delay. Me and my fish would like to express our sincerest thank you to all those who responded on my email as well as on the chatroom.  My Flowerhorn fish is ok now and seems not to show any sign of his previous ailment.  He's back to his old self...the Epsom salt treatment really helped him recover. Thank you and God bless you all! To Bob and Jorie my special thanks to you both. Kathy <Ah, congratulations on your success here. Bob Fenner>

Re: Goldfish salt exposure  - 06/02/2006 Hello, Tom. <<Hi, Alfredo.>> Sorry to bother you; just a quick question about goldfish and salinity. I added a tablespoon of Epsom to my tank about 4 days ago and I was wondering if this is too long a period to expose the fish to the salt. <<Alfredo, Epsom salt isn't a "salt" in the conventional sense that we think of. We think of "salt", in aquaria use, as either calcium chloride (CaCl) or sodium chloride (NaCl). Actually, Epsom salt is Magnesium Sulfate (MgSO4). It's the Chloride (in this context) that's beneficial to our fish, to a limited extent. Epsom salts don't have this element. Personally, I wouldn't expose a fish to any "introduced" chemical for longer than four or five days but, not to worry.>> Thank you for your time, Alfredo Echeverria <<Alfredo, we're on a "first-name only" basis. :) Tom>>

Dropsy? Epsom salt and mystery snails?   4/9/06 Hi, <Ki> I have been reading your website on a fairly regular basis for about three months now (from the time we discussed purchasing an aquarium & since then--especially before purchasing any new species). Currently we have a 10 gallon tank with 4 platies, 4 Cory catfish, 3 snails (gold mystery, black mystery, and blue mystery), and 2 glass shrimp. The platies have been with us about 6 weeks. The Cory cats about 2 weeks. The golden snail-6 weeks, the black one-4 weeks, the blue one-about 2 weeks. The ph is 7, the ammonia is 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 20. <Take care to keep those nitrates no higher> We do not plan to increase the community, though I am aware that the platies might make that decision for us, in which case we will get another tank. First, while this did not seem overcrowded to me based upon what I have read, I am starting to have doubts. Namely, do we have too many snails? <Not yet... and these are not "bisexual" species listed... so, easier to monitor...> Also, until tonight we had 5 platies, but I found one of them dead this evening. She ate fine in the morning, but then died at some point in the afternoon/early evening. Her abdomen looked somewhat swollen, but not at all "pinecone-like." Her scales were still flat against the body and only the underside of the abdomen was swollen. Still, because of the swelling, I am wondering if it is some form of dropsy. If so, are the other fish in danger? <Not likely> I have read that many dropsy conditions are not contagious, but I am still worried. Now I am paranoid that the other platies look swollen, though my husband says I am imagining it. Also, would it be safe to do a treatment with Epsom salt to be sure? And would the Epsom salt kill the snails & shrimp? <Too likely so> I have seen a reference to the safety of Epsom salt with invertebrates, but the ones listed in that person's question were all saltwater creatures, not freshwater ones. I just want to be sure before I do anything. I apologize if these questions are all answered in obvious places on the website that I missed. Thanks, Ki <No worries. I would be conservative here re adding anything... Likely the system, fish being "very new" and this being a "first batch" of young, some have died more easily. Bob Fenner>

Epsom Salt Use ... on Plecos, Goldfish - 02/16/2006 I have an 3 year old Redcap Oranda who has been having difficulty staying right side up.  For the last week, he has begun to spend all time floating upside down at the top of the tank, except for eating time.   He will right himself to swim around to eat, but then will resume floating.  I have changed the water and the airstone.  I tried not feeding for two days.  Then, I fed frozen, defrosted peas.  He is in a 40 gallon tank with another Gold Oranda and a Plecos.  They have been together for two years without any problems.  Now this!  I want to try the Epsom salt, but I don't know if this is okay for the Plecos in the tank.  Will Epsom salt hurt him?  Thank you for any help. <Is okay with this group of fishes (South American, though some are Central, Sucker-mouth catfishes) up to an extent (still useful). You can search this under Loricariid Systems on WWM... About a level teaspoon per ten gallons should suit all here. Replace with water changes correspondingly. Bob Fenner>

Question Regarding Epsom Salt  1/16/06 Hi WWM,    <Robert>   I recently added about a 1/4 tsp of Epsom salt to my Betta's (Fernando) 1 gallon tank to relieve what appeared to be constipation.  Within a day or two, the Epsom salt worked its wonders, and now the swelling in Fernando's belly has almost completely disappeared.  My question is: Should I change the water now [My last water change was about 2 days before the swelling occurred (in total about 4 days ago)], or is it ok to keep him in there with the Epsom salt for a few weeks, until it's time to change his water according to my regular water changing schedule?      <Is okay to leave in... though not continuously... that is, a week or so is all-right, but not adding every time>   I hope this question has not already been addressed on the site.  I looked around for a while and although I found a great deal regarding Epsom salts, and Epsom salt baths, I was under the impression that this small amount of salt did not constitute a bath; so I decided I better be safe, and ask.  Thank you for your time and help with this matter.  Take care.      Sincerely,   Robbie Ellis <Am sure others will benefit from your asking re. Bob Fenner>

Will the Epsom salt treatment mean we have to remove our Pleco?    - 1/6/06 <No.> We have a severely swollen Oscar and assume it is a blockage of sorts.  We thought the swelling was eggs, but are following your suggestions for others who have Oscars with what appears to be the same problem.   Thanks!!  Sharon <The Plec can remain in the tank during treatment with Epsom salt.  All the best to you,  -Sabrina>

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