Aquarium Salt Mix: 2018’s Best Reef & Marine Brands

It’s easy enough to understand that if you have a reef tank or you have corals in your aquarium, you’re going to need saltwater. It then follows that you can get saltwater by simply adding salt to water.

But it’s not really as simple as adding table salt since you need to have the proper levels of alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium. So that means you need commercial reef salt.

My personal pick is the Instant Ocean, keep on reading to know why.​

That leads us to the crucial question: Exactly how do we determine the best one? There are several factors you may want to consider.

How Much Does It Cost?

Other Factors

Speaking of brands, here are a few of the most well-known and highly regarded.

1. Instant Ocean - Reef Crystal & Sea Salt

The affectionately named “IO” is a favorite among many, and in fact, it’s probably the first brand many people use in the beginning. The primary reason for its popularity is that it is quite affordable.

The reef salt they’re known for the most is the Instant Ocean Sea Salt. In all likelihood, this is the long-standing bestseller among the brands. It’s even used by public aquariums and research facilities, although that may be because these institutions have a limited budget.

But it’s a good choice:

  • ​It's very affordable, so you can get a 200-gallon box and you won't have to buy too frequently.
  • ​It doesn't contain phosphates and nitrates.
  • ​It has the major and minor trace elements you need to keep your aquarium healthy. Alkalinity dKH at 11, calcium at 400 ppm, and magnesium at 1350.
  • It dissolves quickly.

The premium version is the Instant Ocean Reef Crystals Reef Salt, although it’ll cost you approximately more for the 200-gallon. This mix offers extra calcium, which is great for SPS (small polyp stony) corals and coralline algae. It also offers extra trace elements and it even has a metal detoxifier which offsets the heavy metal traces you often get in local water supplies.

2. Red Sea – Salt mix & Coral Pro

The Red Sea brand is touted as the “premium” brand of salt mix, so it’s like a German luxury car compared to a Japanese econobox.

On Amazon, you may find this salt mix with a price that’s little or so lower than IO—until you realize that you’re comparing the price of a 55-gallon Red Sea to a 200-gallon Instant Ocean.

The basic salt mix is the Red Sea Salt, which boasts of “biologically balanced and elevated” levels of the 3 crucial elements.

Carbonates are at 12.2 dKH, calcium at 450 ppm, and magnesium at 1340 ppm. It has at least 70 chemical elements overall.

The premium version is the Red Sea Fish Pharm ARE11220 Coral Pro Marine Salt, which comes with an even more intricately better quality of trace elements.

Quite a few people say that switching from IO to Red Sea can definitely improve coral growth, and you can get even more vivid and brighter colors. However, not everyone is convinced that the level of improvement is worth the significant bump in the price.

3. Brightwell Aquatics Neomarine Marine Salt

If you want to sidestep the IO/Red Sea debate, this brand may be an alternative.

It’s more expensive than IO but it’s not quite Red Sea-expensive. It comes in at 11 alkalinity dKH, 420 calcium ppm, and 1380 magnesium ppm.

It mixes well too, although newbies may not want to take a very long whiff of the funky smell.

4. Aquaforest Reef Salt

This one is also only a little bit more expensive than IO.

If your SPS and LPS corals seem more demanding in their saltwater needs, this mix may be the answer.

It comes in at about 6.5 to 8 dKH, calcium at 410 to 440 ppm, and magnesium at 1230 to 1320 ppm.

My Pick

The truth of the matter is that every tank may react differently to different brands. So have mercy on your wallet and start with Instant Ocean.

You can then try switching to another brand if you’re not content with the results. See if you can get any improvements, and see if the level of improvement is worth the bump in the expense.

So what’s your take on the matter? If you have questions or comments, chime in!

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