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FAQs on Copper Use, Rationale/Uses

Related Articles: Copper Use in Marine Systems, Medications, Use of Biological Cleaners, Aquatic Surgery, The Three Sets of Factors That Determine Livestock Health/Disease

Related FAQs: Copper FAQs 1, Copper FAQs 2, Copper FAQs 3, Copper FAQs 4, & FAQs on Copper: ScienceFree Copper/Cupric Ion Compounds (e.g. SeaCure), Chelated Coppers (e.g. Copper Power, ), Making Your Own/DIY Copper Solutions, Measure/Testing, Utilization/Duration, Prophylactic Use, Toxic Situations/Troubleshooting, Copper Product FAQs, Copper Test FAQs, Copper Removal FAQs, Copper Removal 2, & Live Rock, Marine Parasitic Disease, Parasitic Marine Tanks, Parasitic Reef Tanks, Cryptocaryoniasis, Marine Ich, Marine Velvet Disease, Medications/Treatments 1, Medications/Treatments 2, Medications/Treatments 3Antibiotics/Antimicrobials, Anthelminthics/Vermifuges/Dewormers, Copper FAQs 1, Organophosphates, Epsom/Other Salts, Formalin/Formaldehyde, Furan Compounds, Garlic, Homeopathic Remedies (teas, pepper sauce, other shams...), Malachite Green, Mercury Compounds/Topicals, Methylene Blue, Metronidazole, Quinine Compounds, Sulfas, Treating Disease, Treatment Tanks, Medications/Treatments II, Treating Parasitic Disease, Using Hyposalinity to Treat Parasitic Disease, Garlic UseAntibiotic Use Marine Disease 1, Puffer Disease

Copper was the best, most-assured product at present for treating Cryptocaryon (and a few other external parasitic diseases of marine fishes). It must be administered in a treatment setting (NOT the main/display tank) and even there, the alkaline nature of seawater will precipitate it out... And so it must be test for, and re-administered (often daily). There are NO reef safe medications that work.

What's better? See WWM re Chloroquine use.

Treat with copper before getting another fish?    6/10/12
Hello WWM Crew,
Please help me decide what (if anything) I need to do.  Several months ago (January/February) I had an Ich outbreak in my marine tank.  Since then my four fish (Coral Beauty Angelfish, Six Line Wrasse, Ocellaris Clown, and Royal Gramma) have recovered nicely.  Over the last several months there have been no white spots and very few (if any) symptoms.  I would like at some point to add another fish or two to my tank, but I don’t want a reoccurrence of the Ich.  I will Quarantine any new fish I put in (I learned my lesson), but do I need also to treat my current fish in some way?
<Unfortunately, no one can say... w/o your introduction of new possible hosts>
  I have considered taking them out of the main tank and treating them with copper that I have on hand (Cupramine), but I have read on your site how the Coral Beauty might be sensitive to copper.
<All angels are>
  Is there some other way I could treat them?
<Oh yes... quinine, other possibilities>
 Or would it be better to leave them be and just quarantine any new fish that I get?  
<This is what I would do... including mixing some system water into the quarantine on a daily basis... to in essence inoculate the new fish/es>
I really appreciate your providing this service. Your site is awesome.
<Thank you, Bob Fenner> 

copper, use in quarantine, on/w/ puffers... Reading      2/11/12
Hi there, I was treating my quarantine tank with copper. I was reading wwm and there are tons of different doses as far as ppm goes. I have my tank at 0.25ppm. Is that alright or should i bump it up to 1.0ppm?
<... 0.2 to 0.35 free copper (cupric ion, CU++), no matter what source/type of product employed...>
 I do have a spiny box puffer in it. Thanks, Jim
<... I would NOT treat puffers (and quite a few other groups of fishes) thus. See, as in read, search on WWM re. Bob Fenner>

Re: Copper use in main/display tanks...    1/5/10
Thanks Justin.
<Mmm, I'll place this msg. in JustinN's in-folder, but want to interject here myself>
Your comment toward the end was rather contradicting. First you said you wouldn't recommend treating with copper because of risking a large part of the bacteria colony. Then in another sentence you said, if your diligent
and don't plan on adding any corals or inverts then go ahead. So you do think it's ok to treat with copper then? Or don't you? And will the copper kill my live rock and all the bacteria on it?
<Copper use in "display tanks" is an abysmally foolish idea. Not only is it almost impossible to sustain a therapeutic dose of free cupric ion (due to precipitation with carbonates in the substrate, rock, and even the seawater), the hard materials are rendered dubious of further use. READ here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cryptcucures.htm
and the linked files above. Search before writing us. Bob Fenner>

Copper sensitive fish -- 06/12/09
Hi there, I've got a question regarding copper sensitive fish. I currently have
1 Acanthurus nigrofuscus, 1 Convict tang,
<A very social species... Acanthurus triostegus really is only happy, healthy in a shoal setting>
1 Raccoon BF, 1 Auriga BF, 1 Black-backed BF, 1 Heniochus BF, 1 Parachaetodon Ocellatus, 1 Coris Gaimard, 1 Cleaner Wrasse and 1 ocellaris clownfish.
I want to treat them in 2 separate Quarantine Tanks with copper and run the main tank fallow. Are any of the above fish completely sensitive to copper and at what concentration should I do the treatment? 0.3 ppm too high.
<I'd limit to no more than 0.20 ppm free cupric ion... Actually not use at all... What is it you're trying to treat?>
Should I treat all the fish with copper, even the once that don't show any signs of ich? Some of the fish are infected, but all seem pretty happy and eating well.
<All need to be treated if you/they are experiencing a protozoan issue...
and the infested tank either left fallow or sterilized...>
I have previously run my main tank fallow for 6 weeks and by re-introducing my fish back into the tank, the ich came back. Should I extend the time to 8 weeks.
<Too likely you have an entrenched situation... I'd shoot for a "balance" here...>
At what time period will the parasites be eradicated 100% (and does that ever happen anyway, or will there always still be some remaining in the system)?
This brings me to my next question - is it possible to have an ich-free system in the long run and should I quarantine all my fish anyway at the moment if they are not showing any signs of distress?
<Is possible to have such, but in actual practice such systems are exceedingly rare>
It is just irritating to know that the disease is in my tank.
When I introduce a new fish, he goes through quarantine and lands up in the main tank, picking up white spot there?!
<Very likely so>
Thank you for your advice, regards, Jana
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/parasittkfaq2.htm
and the linked files above... and either consider using a Quinine (Chloroquine Phosphate), Levamisole... or again, trying to optimize the system, nutrition... and living with a resident infestation. Bob Fenner>

Re: copper sensitive fish  6/13/09
Thank you for your quick response.
After reading a few hours on your website and reflecting on 5 years of battling Cryptocaryon on and off in my display tank, there still does not seem to be a solution to the problem.
<Mmm, actually, I'd say there are a few possible options.>
May I ask you which route you would go: Happy balance of crypt. in a fish with life rock and few corals or fish only tank, that could than be treated and possibly kept parasite free?
<Yes... i.e., either>
Would you in the latter case actually treat your display tank directly?
<Not likely>
If I were to put my life rock and corals in a quarantine tank, after how long could I re-introduce the rock back into the main tank if I were to treat it with copper?
<Till it reads as no, as in zip free copper present>
Does the copper concentration
need to be back to zero before I could put the rock back??
Regarding my question of copper concentration you advised: "<I'd limit to no more than 0.20 ppm free cupric ion... Actually not use at all... >"
I'm sorry but I'm not quite clear about what you meant. You would not treat the mentioned fish at all with copper??
<Yes, this is my intention. Sorry for the lack of clarity>
Thanks again for your advise and your wonderful website,
regards, Jana
<Thank you Jana... for sharing, caring... To reiterate, if it were me/mine, I'd likely acquiesce to having a "semi" infested system... and being very careful re adding any new fish life here. Bob Fenner> 

My fish are infested with ich, SW, reading  -- 10/10/08 Greetings , <Salutations> My fish are infested with ich. I currently have them in a 10 gallon tank, and am treating them with copper. I should have a larger tank as there is a Yellow Tang, Sailfin Tang , Hippo Tang, Flame Angel, and a Bicolor Angel all sharing mouse 10 gallon quarantine tank. <... dangerous... too much life period, physio- and psycho-logically squeezed in here> The copper treatment is about 5-7 days, <I would not use copper on Tangs or Centropyge... Do (quickly) read about Chloroquine use here> which hopefully will cure the fish. <Mmm... too likely not... hard to keep a physiological dose up in such a setting... and too toxic...> However, ich is still present in the display tank, <Yes> and is bound to re-infect the fish if I put them back into the tank, which means that I should leave the display tank empty without fish for a while. <Correct> My question is, how long? <At least four weeks... longer, better> I read about 31 days, but then again, I read that the ich can remain alive for months even without a host present. <Can> I am going to raise the temperature to 82-85 in the main tank, but am concerned about the livestock remaining in the tank which are two lettuce Nudibranch, one scooter blenny (which we have not been able to catch), one Coral Banded Shrimp, too cleaner shrimp, about 80 snails, several red leg crabs, a Sally Lightfoot, and a wonderful, slithery white ribbon-like eel. <... the eel is/will act as a reservoir host here... Do you realize this?> Which of these critters is susceptible to ich? I have read that eels are somewhat resistant, is this true? <Yes> I do not want to go through the procedure of leaving this tank fallow for however long is necessary, only to put the fish back in for them to get re-infested. <... Understood> I really appreciate your help and advice with this problem. Best regards, Jeff <Mmm, well... T'were it me, I would NOT treat the families of fishes mentioned with Copper for Cryptocaryon... and NOT in such a small volume... the Eel needs to be removed... and you need to read re the use of Quinine cpd.s... Stat! Bob Fenner>

Re: My fish are infested with ich, SW, reading Chloroquine  -- 10/10/08 Advice taken Bob, thank you very much for your prompt reply. Best regards, Just Castaldo <I am very excited to find this anti malarial being found to be of such great use... and look forward to the price dropping, its availability improving with increased interest. Cheers, BobF>

Re: Crypt conundrum... treatment or stasis... Copper use   1/16/08 Hi Bob, <Nancy> I just wanted to let you know that I started to treat the Sailfin Tang, Yellow Tang and Orchid Dottyback with Cupramine in the 10g isolation tank. <Way too small...> I know that you're not suppose to put these two small tangs together, but these two follow each other around and the Yellow Tang is lost without the Sailfin Tang. I was on the second day at half dose <Less than a physiological dose of treatments is worse than worthless> when I noticed the Yellow Tang started to have the DT's. After completing a water change, the Yellow Tang went frantic and darted across the tank and ended up floating upside down. <!?> I thought it had died. I took him out of the tank and noticed he was still breathing. So I put him back in the tank and he started swimming again, and even ate a few pieces of seaweed. Relieved that he was ok, I immediately decided to stop the copper treatment. I put some CupriSorb in the tank and went to work. When I came home from work I found the Yellow Tang dead. I was sad because I wanted to keep these two together because they got along so great. I just want you to know that I think treating fish with copper is extremely cruel and should not be considered as an option for treatment. <... is one of very few> I think there are other, safer methods of treating your fish such as water changes and UV sterilizers. While they are not 100% effective, with proper nutrition the fish should become immune eventually. <Please... do tell> I recently read a study posted on the Internet about the ich parasite (I tried to locate this study again but was unsuccessful). The study was about populating the ich parasite in an aquarium by introducing new parasite free fish as hosts. The idea was to keep these now infected fish alive by replacing them with other healthy fish. I think what the study concluded was that after about a year, the parasites all died off (that is how I interpreted it - some of the terminology was difficult to understand). Have you ever heard rumors of such nature? <Don't think so> I'm assuming that if this is true, and you don't introduce any new fish into your aquarium, then after about a year or so your tank will be ich free (assuming an effort is made to minimize the parasites with water changes, UV sterilizers, ozonizers, proper nutrition, etc). <This sort of stasis is described... and archived... over and over on WWM: Start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/parasittkfaq2.htm and the linked files above...> I also want to mention that I have saved my Atlantic Blue Tang twice now with a UV sterilizer and water changes. <Stasis... not cure> She is currently residing in a 20g sump tank waiting to go into the new 215g tank (I still do not have my stand and I'm trying to get a different tank from Oceanic). I am also feeding her Spectrum (as you suggested) and Azoo Beta-Glucan and not only does she love the stuff, but she is doing great! <Ah good> I also want to mention that this fish is awesome! It has the most personality of any fish I've ever seen. <Ah good. A positive data point for Acanthurus coeruleus husbandry> Thanks for your help. Nancy <And you for your further input. BobF>

Ich Question, Tank Switching, Copper Hello, <Hi> Thank you all for all your help and dedicated work! I know you have several pages on ich - I've read all (or most) of them and it seems that copper is the preferred recommendation. I don't think I've come across this idea though. <Copper is good in many, but not all cases.> I have a Blue Hippo Tang in quarantine. It seems that he has come down with ich (has the white sugar type coating on his skin in the morning, by evening, it is clear, same cycle the next day). I've never had any kind of luck in doing copper treatment - as a matter of fact, I've either killed every fish I've tried to treat with copper or they have developed secondary infections. <Can be a problem, especially with tangs which are quite sensitive to copper.> I'm wondering if I can pull him out of the Q-tank and do either a fresh water bath or a Formalin bath and then move him into another Q-tank? If the fresh water or Formalin bath will kill the actual ich on the fish and then he is moved to a clean q-tank, would it be possible or probable for a reoccurrence? <This is an excellent method, my personal favorite if people have the means. Except here you need to do this more than once, a fw bath will not remove most of the parasites, so the new system will be infected. The idea here is to clean and completely dry out the old QT, refill and move the fish back, then clean and dry the 2nd QT. Some people have seen success in as little as 3 day, however I would do this for at least a week, then restart the QT timer and see what happens.> Also, if this won't work, are there any alternatives to copper? I just really hate to go through that again. <There are alternative, formalin, hyposalinity, others listed on WWM.> Thanks, MP <Welcome> <Chris>

Butterflies Aren't Free (Cont'd.) Thanks for the info... <Our pleasure-that's why we're here!> So how does one know if they are paying $39 for "Pepper Sauce" as opposed for a viable treatment (re: REEF SAFE KICK ICK) ???? Is there a better treatment for 'the itch' or 'ick' whatever you call it? <If you are indeed certain that ich is the malady that you're dealing with, then I'd use (in a separate treatment tank) a proven, "mainstream" cure, such as copper sulphate, properly administered and monitored for concentration.> The only signs my butterflies have is that they rub themselves against the rocks... they may have slight imperfections like a few missing scales behind the gills... but this is also where they are rubbing themselves.  So, from what I can see... all signs point to some sort of skin irritation /itchiness??? <Well- itching is an ich symptom, but there are other symptoms to this illness as well. In the absence of signs, it could even be a different parasite of some sort. You really need to check the FAQ's on marine parasites on the wetwebmedia.com site for more info. than I can touch on here regarding the identification and treatment of parasitic conditions> My water has been tested on average twice a week and I have just bought my own water test kit.  My test last night showed a pH of 8.2-8.3, 0 nitrites, ammonia level was pretty close to 0 (I need to cut back my twice a week frozen shrimp feedings, as it is not all consumed), and my nitrates were between 0 and 4.From what I have read, this is a pretty good test... and as mentioned before, I can get the ammonia back to  zero with feeding more carefully. <I am concerned about the ammonia reading- it really should be completely undetectable on a hobbyist-grade test kit...You are correct in re-visiting your husbandry techniques...and do try a different test kit to confirm your results> So, should I stick to treating my one surviving butterfly with this KICK ICK?  He does rub on the rock, but has virtually no scales missing and no cuts... he is the last 'healthy' one??? <I really don't like this product...but that's just me, of course. I'd make a positive ID on the condition that you're dealing with, and treat accordingly> This guy is in my 20 gallon doctor tank alone. <Good procedure> Should I do anything with my main tank? Do you think my main tank might be carrying something??? Even though my two gobies, two clowns, and my boxfish are doing fine? <If you are dealing with a contagious disease, such as ich, you really need to get everyone out for observation/treatment (even if all inhabitants don't show signs), let the main system go "fallow" for about a month...If it is ich that's in your tank, you must take aggressive steps to treat it, IMO> What's a better ICK/ITCH medication?? <I like copper sulphate for ich, as mentioned above> I am fully expecting my remaining butterfly to do ok... should I grab another butterfly and pair them up after he has been quarantined??? <That can work, but there can be some aggressive behaviour between the two fish on introduction> The only other thing I can think of is my Coral Banded Shrimp getting nasty with my butterflies as they do bother him in hopes that the CBS will clean them.  On the other hand, the CBS doesn't bother my mandarin goby that will sleep right in front of him... and the CBS hasn't bothered my Cleaner Shrimp either. <Hey- you never know...> I guess the butterfly is a fairly cheap fish that I don't mind experimenting with, but I don't want to risk the rest of my tank. Opinion??? Thanks guys! Dave <Well, Dave- I encourage you to keep trying, but do study their needs and prepare for them. Good luck!  Scott F.>

Re: Treatment Questions Sooo much information out there... and so many opinions...   Big Al's comments on copper was that it was 'old school' and that this is a much safer treatment. <Well, I can't recall the last time I read that someone at the Waikiki Aquarium, Steinhart Aquarium, or Aquarium of The Pacific, or other institution was embarrassed to be using an "Old School" treatment like copper! Granted, we should try new and safer medications that can prove effective, but I don't think that this stuff offers the reliability and effectiveness that copper has. Yes- some fishes don't do well with copper, so there are considerations. It is not a "wonder drug", but it has been proven to work time and again.> At the same time, I'd hate to think that I paid $39 for 'salad dressing'.   I'd like to trust that this treatment will get the job done if this is the so called 'ICK'.  After all, a company just can't market something that has no chance of working, right??? <You'd be surprised! And- don't get me wrong...I'm not saying that this stuff is "junk"...I am not a scientist, so I cannot give you a thorough analysis of the product or it's workings. I can tell you that I have experimented with this stuff, and have spoken to dozens of hobbyists who have used it, and it has not given successful long-term results to myself, or anyone that I know. Does that mean that it's junk? Of course not! It would be wrong for me to make a blanket statement like that. If it works for you- great...I just don't feel comfortable recommending something to a fellow hobbyist that has not worked for me. IMO, ich needs to be attacked on two "fronts"- on the fish, and then in the main tank. You attack "on the fish" with reliable treatment in a hospital tank. You attack the main tank by breaking the life cycle of the ich parasites by depriving them of their hosts, the fishes, during the free swimming phase of their life cycle> I will thoroughly review your section on bacterial infections, etc... but how can one relatively accurately assess these problems... whether they be ick or other bacterial infections? <Ich has very distinct symptoms which are well-covered in the disease FAQs> You mentioned that all my fish should be observed... if all my fish seem to be fine, do I take them out for a couple of days one at a time???  I do closely observe my livestock every day while feeding and spend in total an average of 30 min.s a day watching them.   Obviously, I will isolate single fish if I notice anything irregular... but until that happens should I just let them be and keep a close eye on them? <If I was 100% certain that ich was what caused the other fish to become ill, I'd remove all of the fish to another tank for observation and possible treatment> Am planning on re-introducing my butterfly after the 15 day treatment period if he looks ok... the butterfly in my hospital tank looks fine right now in fact, but I wanted to put him through a cycle of this KICK ICK because he was also rubbing himself against the rocks.  He really doesn't have any visible signs of anything else that I can see. Thoughts??   Have a grrrrreat weekend! Dave <Do follow the instructions for this treatment. I still implore you to verify if you are dealing with ich, however.> P.S.  Was curious to know... are you guys answering all these questions from me and others out of the goodness of your hearts??? <Well- we all share a common passion and a desire to help fellow hobbyists, and to provide unbiased information whenever possible!> Your website is just a information database of marine life, isn't it???  Was just curious. <No, Dave, it's actually soo much more...It's an interactive community where we can all share ideas, techniques, and opinions, and a place where-despite our differences, we all are united by our common love of aquatic life! Enjoy! Scott F.>

Re: Treatment Questions My comments about the information database... yes that's what I meant...in that I have received sooo much information from reading your FAQ sections and hearing other people's stories. <Yep! Tons of information in the database!> One last question before I leave you alone.  Is it true that invertebrates don't get bacterial infections??  Do I separate my shrimp and crabs from the main tank as well??? <Good question. I believe that invertebrates can get infections, however, I have left these animals in "fallow" tank situations and still had good results...This area still needs more investigation, IMO!> Hmmm, my mandarin goby needs the live rock to survive right?  Is it a good idea separating him too? <I would. However, you can target feed him Mysis or other foods in the isolation tank, usually with no problems.. Best of luck to you on your efforts. I think everything is gonna be fine for your fishes; just be patient and "stay the course", okay? Regards, Scott F.>

Copper sensitivity 2/8/03 Oh, ye Guru's of Tropical fish.   I've been searching your FAQ's but find nothing that will tell me what fishes are especially sensitive to copper.   <do read though FAQ's... frequent mention of scaleless fishes, small scaled fishes, Firefish, dragonets, high hats, drumfish, croakers, seahorses and pipefish, angels (dwarf especially) and butterflies, many more> I'm just getting started again, and I know that sooner or later, (much later I hope), I will have to treat one or more fish in the quarantine tank.   <do understand too that copper is only effective (although very much so) on just a few parasites at best. Many other mendicants or treatments are far more likely. Copper as a wonder drug is old-school and more importantly... inaccurate. Keep copper handy for Ich. Familiarize yourself with freshwater dip protocol... be prepared for daily water changes off a bare-bottomed tank for effecting cures and maintaining water quality, etc> I remember that some fish won't tolerate any copper, while most will.  Is there a "list" anywhere that will help with this? <Hmm... not familiar with one. I personally favor using Formalin for all that copper is good for and then some><<If infested animals are returned to the same setting after formalin dipping, they will become re-infested from the resting "off fish" phases there. RMF>> Thanks! Neil <best regards, Anthony>

Copper, Ich, and Fallow Tanks I still am not certain why I cannot treat with copper in my main tank. In theory, won't treating with copper kill all the ich in the tank?  Why must the ich on my fish be killed in quarantine, and the ich in my tank killed by waiting for it to go over a month w/o having anything to infest (and won't the fish, if still in my main tank, not become infected anymore anyways due to the copper)? Thanks again, guys. <Good questions! It's a bad idea to treat with copper (or any medication, as far as I'm concerned) in the display tank for a number of reasons: First, copper tends to become "bound" up in the rocks and substrate, which will make it difficult to maintain a proper therapeutic level of the medication in the display tank. (hence the reason that copper sulphate is best administered in a bare "hospital" tank) Also, copper is very toxic to invertebrate life, and may continue to leach into the system over time, making it a risky prospect to keep these animals in the future. Sure, you could use specialized filter media to remove the copper (like PolyFilter, etc.)-but, why put yourself in that situation to begin with? The reason that we recommend letting the tank go "fallow", without fishes for a month or more is because ich, being a parasitic disease, requires a host (i.e.; your fishes) to continue its life cycle. By removing the fishes, you have effectively deprived the parasites of their hosts, disrupting their life cycle, and reducing the parasite population dramatically. Sure, it's not 100% successful (no treatment is), but it is very, very effective at reducing the parasite population to a level that most otherwise healthy fishes should be able to withstand. Sure, if a constant level of copper is maintained in the display tank, you could prevent this disease effectively, but the detrimental effects of long-term copper exposure are to great to ignore. Bottom line- use copper- but only in a dedicated "hospital" tank! It works, if used correctly! I'm putting the finishing touches on an article about this very technique that should be up on the site soon; hopefully, it will answer more of your questions. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

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