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As the major environmental parameter of any aquarium, it's obvious that if the water is not right, the life in the aquarium suffers. Since most hobbyists do not have access to a fresh supply of clean sea water, the success of a saltwater aquarium is highly dependent upon a synthetic salt water mix. Many aquatic neophytes are surprised to learn that the stuff in the bag that turns tap water into water worthy of the ocean is a lot more than just table salt (NaCI). In fact, very close analysis reveals that sea water contains nearly every element existing on earth. Try putting that in a salt shaker.

To get a better understanding of the complexity of the chemical compound known as marine water, consider that one gallon of the ocean potion, when evaporated, will leave behind more than four ounces of salts. Such a high salt content has a drastic impact on the chemical and physical nature of the water. The freezing point is lower, the boiling point is higher, the conductivity is greater and the water is easier to float in because it's heavier. In fact, the increased weight (or more specifically density) is what is actually being measured when testing specific gravity to see if enough of the stuff in the bag has been added. So what is the stuff in the bag? Fortunately, most of the elements in marine water are only present in trace amounts and are therefore considered trace elements. However, thirteen of the elements present are in high enough concentrations to be worthy of macro element status. The most dominant macro elements in the ocean are Chlorine and Sodium (almost table salt), Magnesium, Sulfur, Calcium, Potassium, Strontium, and Bromine. High quality synthetic sea salts will contain all of these macro elements as well as being supplemented with the major trace elements until the number of elements consciously added elements is greater than twenty. At this point, this "salt” would not complement steak and potatoes. But with all the elements available in ratios comparable to true marine water, the synthetic sea salt is considered a welcome complement to water by 4 out of 5 marine invertebrates surveyed. A good synthetic salt can be initially recognized by solubility. When mixed according to the manufacturers instructions, there should be no undissolved sediment. Additionally, the salt must mix to result in water which has the same major chemical and physical characteristics as marine water (tastes funny, the floating thing...) with a pH of 8.1 to 8.4 and a specific gravity of 1.022 to 1.025 when measured at 77°F. With the appropriate mix of water, synthetic sea salt, aeration and light, the water will live. Perhaps more importantly, the marine life dependent upon the resultant mixture will thrive, showing exuberant growth and even reproducing. Ultimately, the truest measure of a synthetic sea salt mix is the results achieved in the marine aquarium.


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