7 Best Reef Salt Mixes For Spectacular Reef Aquarium

Best Reef Salt Mixes by Aquarium Tales

Coral reefs are spectacular, and it requires extra effort to build and maintain at your home aquarium. In other words, in your saltwater tank, you have to ensure water parameters close to natural seawater to promote coral growth.

Obviously, you need a salt mix to create saltwater. But what’s the best reef salt to buy? That’s the most common question asked and answered in various fishkeeping forums and Facebook groups.

With everyone claiming the best and people also swear by some brand salts they have been using, I understand it’s hard to select the reef salt mix ideal for you.

To help you out, I’ve come up with an honest review of the best reef salts available in the market. I’ve discussed their pros, cons, applicability, etc., and also attached a buyer’s guide to choosing the perfect one for you.

How To Pick The Best Reef Salt Mix For Your Aquarium

Salt Mix Parameters And Major Elements To Look At

Three major components of any brand salt mix are higher levels of calcium, magnesium, and alkalinity. Adding salt mix with the water is expected to produce saltwater similar to the ocean.

Seawater we know is salty, and that doesn’t contain only sodium chloride. Instead, it has other types of salt crystals, and the two mains are calcium and magnesium.

Saltwater also carries lots of bicarbonate dissolved in it, which works as a buffer to prevent any sudden chemical change that can endanger the species present in the water.

So, the goal should be to produce saltwater containing all minerals, which is vital for coral growth, invertebrates, and fishes. In order to achieve that, you need to ensure the salt you are mixing is capable of producing the desired results.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium is extremely important because corals and other invertebrates need calcium to form their stony skeleton. The recommended level of calcium in reef aquariums is 400 PPM. So, it’s apparent that you should look carefully at the calcium level of the salt mix. 

Any brand salt mix having calcium 400 PPM or higher is suitable to use. Calcium levels lower than that would cost you more money and time to maintain the required calcium level in your tank. 

Alkalinity (Alk)

Alkalinity is the measure of buffering ability. In other words, the amount of carbonate and bicarbonate present in the water. 

Bicarbonate is a crucial ingredient for coral growth. 

The seawater pH is slightly higher than 7, meaning it’s basic in nature. Without stable alkalinity, pH can fluctuate. If it’s moved into the acidic range (below 7), the coral’s skeleton may dissolve and harm aquatic critters. 

Magnesium and calcium can also affect alkalinity. Bicarbonate ions amount can vary a lot depending on the other items mixed in the water. Measuring the alkalinity level gives you a clear indication of the chemical conditions in the tank. 

The recommended alkalinity level is 8-11 dKH. You should avoid salt too low or too high in alkalinity.

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is one of the most abundant trace minerals found in saltwater. Magnesium works together with calcium to help balance the alkalinity of the aquarium water. 

The recommended concentration is 1250-1400 ppm. Magnesium is readily available in reef salts of any brand; however, double-check to confirm it’s in that optimum range. 

Comparison Chart Of Reef Salt

Here’s the comparison table of calcium, Magnesium, and Alkalinity of the reef salts listed here.

Comparison Chart Of Reef Salt For Aquarium

Cost Per Pound

Cost is always a consideration; obviously, you want to buy a product that is best for money and quality.

For this instance, the cost per gallon chart can help you.

The below table shows the cost per gallon of the reef salts listed here.

Since all the brands listed here contain all the vital elements; therefore, the next thing is to compare the prices.

The standard box of salt varies anywhere from 150 to 200 gallons; consequently, it could be tricky to find the best value reef salt for you. Also, some brands have price variations based on the salt container (box or bucket).

If you calculate the cost per gallon, it’ll help you understand how much you are spending.

What’s Living In Your Reef Aquarium?

What’s living inside your reef aquarium is another essential criterion because all brand salts may carry the necessary ingredients. Still, they vary slightly in concentration from brand to brand.

The calcium amount, alkalinity, magnesium concentrations aren’t similar. That makes differences between them. Some are suitable for fish-only tanks, some are for soft corals, and some are ideal for hard corals.

If you have a fish-only tank, why will you buy salts suitable for hard corals at a higher price? That doesn’t make sense, isn’t it?

I have also presented in a table format what salts you should use based on the habitats in the tank.

Best salt for growing SPS corals

Fish only tank, soft corals and LPS

Suitable for both soft and hard corals

 Suitable for both soft and hard corals

Fish only tank, soft corals and LPS

Best budget salt for SPS tank

Suitable for all tanks

Storage

Some reef salts aren’t suitable for storing for an extended period. Also, if you own a small aquarium and don’t need much water change, there’s no point in buying larger quantities. A smaller amount can serve the purpose.

In addition, some reef salts also change the color of the water. Although it’s not harmful to fish, it impacts the aesthetics and makes it hard to see other pollutants in the tank water.

The 7 Best Reef Salt Reviews (Updated 2021)

Red sea coral pro salt provides balanced elevated levels of building block elements for accelerated growth and vitality of all coral. It is highly recommended for those who want to grow SPS corals in their reef tanks.

The salt is directly harvested from the red sea; therefore, you get all the minerals as close as the natural sea.

Suppose you use RO water or soft tap water in your tank that lacks in necessary minerals. In that case, coral pro salt is specially formulated to provide an instant supply of required elements.

The salt is free of nitrates and phosphates hence doesn’t interfere with nuisance algae growth. If you have a heavily stocked reef tank, this is the best reef salt for you.

Specs:

  • Calcium: 430 ppm
  • Magnesium: 1280 – 1340 ppm 
  • Alkalinity: 11. 8- 12. 2 dKH 
  • Quantity: 200 gallon

Pros

  • Collected from nature
  • Suitable for demanding corals
  • Good quality control
  • Dissolves fast

Cons

  • Not readily available in markets
  • Excess nutrients are unnecessary for low-demanding corals
  • Pricy

Instant ocean sea salt is another superb salt mix for reef tanks. This salt is nitrate and phosphate-free; contains all the necessary minerals for a healthy aquarium.

It is probably the most used sea salt globally, preferred by hobbyists, experts, and public aquariums.

Like other instant ocean salts on the list, this salt is also suitable for fish-only tanks or undemanding corals. It’s not suggested for sensitive corals like SPS.

The salt mix contains an anti-caking agent that may turn brown in your water bucket or container. So, it’s not an ideal salt for those who want to store saltwater.

Specs:

  • Calcium: 425 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 14 dKH
  • Magnesium: 1440 ppm
  • Size: 200 gallons

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Great in quality control
  • Contains required minerals for supporting coral growth
  • Readily available 

Cons

  • Ideal for a fish-only tank or having soft coral or LPS

Fritz reef pro mix is vastly popular and has a good customer rating. It contains all the minerals of natural seawater; major, minor, and trace elements.

Essential minerals and trace elements are blended precisely for the wellbeing and longevity of marine livestock.

Fritz Salt is very fine and does not clump up. Mixing is straightforward because there are no clumping issues. Salt dissolves quickly with little to no residue.

You may observe a milky appearance with other salts before it is thoroughly mixed, but that won’t be the case for fritz reef salt.

Users mentioned they had experienced coral growth with much better polyp extension using this salt.

If you perform a regular water change, you can keep the tank parameters balanced with little to no salt dosing. Moreover, the salt is instantly available in local fish stores and online.

The downside is that this brand salt’s batches sometimes vary in concentration, different alkalinity numbers, and others too low in several parameters.

Specs:

  • Calcium: 400-450 ppm
  • Magnesium: 1350-1450 ppm 
  • Alkalinity: 8.0 – 9.0 dKH 
  • Strontium: 9 ppm 
  • Potassium: 400 ppm
  • Quantity: 200 gallons

Pros

  • Salt is fine, and no clump up.
  • Dissolves quickly
  • Promotes coral growth
  • Readily available in the market

Cons

  • The concentration varies in different batches

You can use the Precisely made Brightwell aquatic marine salt in all marine and reef aquariums. It replicates natural seawater ratios of all minerals, including principal, minor, and trace elements.

It is made in the USA under strict guidelines and through extensive research. Neomarine salt is prevalent among reef aquarists experiencing good results.

If you are fighting to keep consistent tank parameters and have low nutrient issues, you should consider this product. It is suitable for both hard and soft corals.

If you add neo marine too fast or in cold water, it may cloud. Proper mixing rate and water temperature need to be maintained to prevent cloudiness. Although cloudiness isn’t harmful, just the appearance, it will go away in several days.

NeoMarine produces slight heat when mixed into water. Therefore, you shouldn’t handle dry NeoMarine with a wet hand.

Specs:

  • Calcium: 400 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 11 dKH
  • Magnesium: 1380 ppm
  • Size: 150 gallons

Pros

  • Provides balanced nutrients to the system
  • Extensive research-based product
  • Resembles natural seawater ratios
  • Ideal for combating pH issues or Magnesium level
  • Low Alkalinity makes it perfect for SPS tanks.
  • A perfect solution to a low nutrient level tank

Cons

  • Relatively Expensive
  • Have some sulfurous odor when opened first

Instant ocean reef crystal salt is the best reef salt on budget. Moreover, it’s a readily available salt you can easily get in your local pet store or online.

It contains a bit of extra calcium and magnesium to develop stony coral and promotes coralline algae growth

Instant ocean reef salt has chelator agents that neutralize heavy metals, but it’s free of nitrate and phosphate. Extra trace elements ensure proper nutrients and vitamins for the survival of corals, anemones, and invertebrates. 

Many reef tank owners have been using the product in their reef tanks successfully, although there are some cons. 

The alkalinity of this product is as high as 13, which can be harmful to sensitive SPS corals. So, it’s best suited to fish only tanks or containing soft and LPS corals.

Specs:

  • Calcium: 400 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 13 dKH
  • Magnesium: 1320 ppm
  • Size: 200 gallons
  • Specific Gravity Range: 1.020-1.026 at 77°F
  • Quantity: 1.4 lbs of Reef Crystals creates 5 gallons of saltwater at the recommended range

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Contains essential elements
  • Removes heavy metals
  • Ideal for fish-only or containing soft corals
  • Proven results

Cons

  • High alkalinity
  • Not suitable for demanding corals

Kent Marine salt is one of the best salt in the market, especially if you want to grow hard corals in your tank. It uses Cora-Vite technology and provides necessary minerals present in the ocean, even the minute trace element.

This salt dissolves fast in the water without making any cloudiness. The selling point is it does not alter the pH and alkalinity, which is vital to keep tank parameters stable.

Kent Marine is easy on the wallet and readily available at local pet stores. Also, It’s no longer lagging behind the expensive salts in terms of effectiveness.

It contains all essential ingredients for coral growth, and people observed crazy coral growth after switching to Kent Marine salt.

Specs:

  • Calcium: 550 ppm
  • Alkalinity: 10 dKH
  • Magnesium: 1450 ppm
  • Quantity: 200 gallons

Pros

  •  Budget-friendly 
  • Promotes healthy coral growth
  • Suitable for both fish only tank and hard corals
  • Fast dissolving
  • It doesn’t alter the pH and alkalinity

Cons

  • Some mentioned damaged bags during transportation

The main perk of Anhydrous ATM hot salt is its moisture content. It has no or significantly less moisture compared to other brands and contains no impurities at all.

The amount required for preparing each gallon of saltwater is less than other brands. Having the fastest clearing and ready time makes this brand a likable one to reef hobbyists.

You can get the consistent tank parameters using this salt because it contains all the vital elements to make a thriving reef aquarium.

This salt warms the water slightly, so be careful to use the salt bare-handed.

The downside is alkalinity is at a bit lower side. However, suppose you’re a reef keeper who likes dosing and keeping on top of the parameters declining the weekly swing of using a high alkalinity salt mix. In that case, it’s ideal for you.

Specs:

  • Calcium: 430ppm
  • Alkalinity: 8
  • Magnesium: 1325ppm
  • Quantity: 200 gallon

Pros

  • Moisture free
  • No impurities
  • Requires less amount
  • It contains all elements for coral growth
  • Dissolve very quickly

Cons

  • Alkalinity is on the lower side

What Is The Best Reef Salt Mix (My Top Pick)?

Every setup is different, and the best reef salt is in terms of suitability to the specific tank. However, none of these salts are going to cause any harm to your aquarium.

Whatever salt you buy, expensive or cheap, I recommend following the manufacturer’s guidelines for best use. Afterward, a regular water change (20-25%) is mandatory to get good results.

My pick is Instance Ocean band salts for fish-only tanks and containing soft corals.

If you have sensitive corals or hard corals, I recommend using Red Sea Coral Pro Salt.

Final Words

The reef salts mentioned here are all from reputed brands, and you can choose one according to your task demands. Follow the buyer’s guide section to find the ideal salt mix for your setup.

What’s the best reef salt, in your opinion, and why? Please leave a comment below.

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