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FAQs on Copper Use,  Science & Nonsense

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: Science, Rationale/UseFree 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

Not to be used in the presence of wanted invertebrate or algal life.

Filtration recommendations (quar.) and Dechlorinator reaction with Copper, commercial       3/22/15
Hi Bob and Crew,
How are you all?
<Am fine; thank you>
This is Kevin from Washington DC. Long time reader, first time asking. I run a pet store and I had some questions that I hope you could help with. I just set up a new 180G quarantining system in my shop with multiple holding spaces. It’s basically two 90G tanks plumbed into the same sump with multiple dividers to separate the fish. I plan on
quarantining 40 fish at a time of mostly medium sized fishes (First batch are tangs, surgeon fish, angels and triggers).
Since I’ll be using Cupramine and PraziPro in the system, I won’t be running UV or Ozone. Do you think a Fluval FX6 which is rated for 400G will be sufficient filtration for all these fish?
<I'd have two types of filtration running; redundancy, more capacity>

I worry about keeping Ammonia levels in check, I will start doing water changes if I see the Ammonia levels spike but this can get costly if done too frequently
<You are wise here>
. Do you have any other recommendations for filtration for this kind of setup?
<Mmm; many. Posted/archived on WWM>
I've read over your articles of quarantining but I couldn't find info on filtration for commercial operations. What kind of filtration do other retailers usually use on a larger quarantine system, say 400-500G?
<Typically some of a mix of all four: bio., phys. chem., mech... Many choices twixt these...>
I plan on running Cupramine levels at .25, but I saw that you recommended .35. I was just worried that it might be too strong for the angels.
<Trouble for all for too-long exposure; but important to keep a physiological dose present>
Also I’ve been reading over your Commercial Acclimation procedure. You encouraged the use of a PVP *Dechlorinator with the tap water mix (I plan on using Prime) to flush out the ammonia, and then the next step is to start dripping my quarantine water into the trays to raise the PH level back up. Since my quarantine water is already treated with Cupramine, I read that the interaction of the Cupramine and dechlorinator could turn the CU++ to CU+ and make it toxic.
<Could; yes>
Should I prepare the tap water mix 48 hrs beforehand then as Prime is only active for 24-48 hours? *
<Ah, good. This should work... though for a shop; facility of size; I'd just employ carbon in a commercially serviced contactor>
*Thanks ahead of time for your reply .*
<Happy to share; hopeful of increasing your success. Bob Fenner>

Specimen specific treatments and qt tank. Cu, Crypt f's      6/7/13
Hi again crew!
I have spoken with Bob on many occasion about my tanks and I feel I must return once more for advice, I recently moved all of my contents to the new 6' x 2' x 30" from my old 5'. The move to the new tank caused an Ich outbreak.
Tank occupants are as follows
Juv blueface angel
Flame angel
Sailfin tang
Achilles tang
2 percula in their Ritteri
Cleaner wrasse
9 azure damsels
Pink spot goby
And so here is the dilemma, the angels are somewhat copper (Cuprazin) intolerant, and so a lower dose/time is required,
<Mmm, yes; though no lower than 0.20 ppm of free cupric ion>
a lower dose may not work on the tangs, I can leave the display fallow and use the 5' as a QT and go hypo, however this is not a permanent fix and would only reintroduce the Ich, and my main source of advice and my main confidante (Bob) is not an advocate, the achilles is obviously worst affected however Percs are showing signs. all specimens are feeding well and are appreciating the extra room in their new home. and so the question is, treat or not to treat, do I upset the occupants in the new tank, subject to stress and move and treat?
<If they're feeding with gusto, I'd not move/treat (just yet). Try boosting immunity et al. w/ soaking foods in HUFA, Vitamin mix/es, freshly chopped/squeezed garlic...>
And if so with what method do you recommend? Or leave them to fight off the Ich on their own?
<Ahh, let's have you read here for a while: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasittkfaq2.htm
and the linked files above, as much as it takes for you to strengthen your resolve to set on one path here>
The infestation is worsening on the achilles. Most all are not showing any/few signs.
Your help is once again greatly appreciated
Jim Millar
<... Do you have the means to measure ORP/RedOx? I encourage you to read re this measure of system/life viability and do the simpler things that can to improve it. Bob Fenner>

Copper and aquatic life 5/26/2010
Hi Bob, There are so many hobbyists are so misinformed about the present of copper in fish food that I thought the link below 'might' clarify the misconception. Even among the advanced reef keepers still warn fellow reef keepers the danger of copper in fish food! I thought you might be interested in this info. As well. Little learning is indeed a dangerous thing.
<Heeeee! Indeed>
Oceans, tidal pools, lakes, rivers, and ponds --all bodies of water that sustain life-- have copper present as a vital, naturally occurring element. Its presence as a basic component of the process that spawns the abundant species that swim, scurry, wiggle and wallow in the waters of the world has been established by Nature and confirmed by scientists.
It is, simply stated, indispensable because it is necessary for normal growth in living beings.
"The role of copper in small quantities is essential to marine life," says Dr. Karl D. Shearer, Research Fisheries Biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington.
"It is a key component of enzymes, compounds that act as catalysts in the metabolism of organisms," says Dr. A. G. Lewis, an oceanographer and Professor in the Department of Oceanography and Zoology at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B. C., Canada. "Because it is an essential metal, an adequate supply is necessary for normal metabolism," he explains
"Copper's main role in the body is through metalloenzymes and enzymes catalyze many different chemical reactions," says Dr. Kathryn Michel, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Michel adds that "the body is full of enzymes and any chemical reaction in the body has possibly enzymes associated with it. Copper is a very important component and absolutely essential to the performance of the enzymes"
She explains that "enzymes are critical to the development of bone tissue and the production of red blood cells. A copper deficiency would contribute to anemia."
Put simply, "enzymes won't function without trace minerals such as copper, which means there's no metabolism," says Dr. Shearer, the National Marine Fisheries Services biologist, who has worked extensively in the analysis and development of food for fish. With no metabolism there would be no energy to fuel the vital processes that sustain life in creatures.
Aquatic plants, which play an important role in marine life, are no less reliant on copper. It plays an important role in photosynthesis and respiration. Like marine animal life, plants get copper from copper that is dissolved in the water, copper that is present in other particles or sediment found in the water and copper in their food.
Levels of copper in fresh water and salt water have been found to be generally low. In the United States studies of raw, untreated surface water have shown copper content ranging from 0.001 milligrams per liter to 0.28 milligrams per liter. The mean was 0.015 milligrams per liter. In open oceans, copper levels ranged from 0.1 milligrams per liter to 0.39 milligrams per liter, with an average of 0.8 milligrams per liter.
These figures show how copper is effective in small quantities. Dr. Shearer says that "the normal level of copper in whole fish tissue is one to two parts per million." To measure such tiny amounts requires a spectro photometer, an instrument that gauges matter by zeroing in all the way down to atoms in molecules. Scientists heat animal tissue to extremely high temperatures until atoms begin to emit light. Different atoms produce light at different wavelengths. So "we measure (light) wavelength to get to know what elements are present in the tissue of the fish and we measure the intensity of the light, which tells us the amount present," says Dr. Shearer.
The amount of copper and other trace minerals in the growth and development of fish, crustaceans (shellfish) and mollusks such as oysters and clams may be minute in quantity but enormous in economic terms. Many of these species are part of the renewable foundation of fishing, a vast worldwide activity that helps meet a growing demand for protein.
Commercial and recreational fishing is practiced just about every where in the world, including such land-locked countries as Bolivia, in South America, and Azerbaijan, in Asia. Bolivians have been fishing the waters of Lake Titicaca for centuries, and the valuable caviar industry of the world is centered in Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that in 1997 the world's food fish production reached 90 million tons, an almost threefold increase since 1960. Almost a third of that catch was raised on fish farms in a fast-growing commercial process known as aquaculture. Fish grow under controlled conditions within enclosures and are fed a carefully balanced diet that invariably includes copper.
At Bio-Oregon, in Warrenton, Oregon, a producer of formulated food for fish farms, Dr. Dennis Roley, says that "copper has always been a supplemental trace element." Because copper can be virtually recycled from healthy animal tissue, fish food industries find copper in organic forms such as copper sulfate in the offal of edible fish such as salmon that has already been processed.
By including copper in fish food, fish farmers are replicating what nature does so well in the wild: providing an environment that nurtures life and growth. In this respect marine life is similar to other species.
"The requirements for trace minerals such as copper are pretty steady among vertebrate animals," says Dr. Shearer. Interestingly, he adds, crustaceans, such as shrimp, lobster and crab, are in particularly need of copper because its serves as an oxygen carrier in their blood.
Dr. Lewis, the University of British Columbia oceanographer, notes that "copper concentrations in crustaceans may be elevated compared with other groups since many crustaceans use copper in a blood pigment"
That is why, if you look closely, blood on an uncooked shrimp looks bluish, a typical color of certain forms of oxidized copper. Copper in marine invertebrates plays the role that among humans is performed by iron, which is present in blood as hemoglobin.
It doesn't take much copper to perform its critical role in marine species. Data supplied by Dr. Shearer shows that Atlantic salmon and Channel catfish require 3 milligrams of copper per kilogram of feed. Rainbow trout and carp make do on 3 milligrams per kilogram of feed.
Although requirements have not been determined for every marine species, scientists do know that copper deficiencies in certain species can result in reduced growth and cataracts, among other symptoms. Conversely, scientists have observed that overly high presence of copper in natural waters, due to pollutants or produced experimentally, may badly damage gills, adversely affect the liver and kidneys of fish or cause some neurological damage."
Scientists are frequently frustrated in their efforts to study more closely the effects of too little or too much copper on aquatic species in the wild because it is unusual to find whole fish that have died slowly as a result of malnutrition. "In the wild animals with deficiencies get quickly eaten or decompose," says Dr. Shearer.
Dr. Lewis, who every year prepares a review of copper in the environment for the International Copper Association, says that copper plays an important role in other aquatic environments, too. It is a key component of marine plant life. It is commonly used to purify and distribute drinking water. It combats the growth of unwanted organisms that foul water intake lines, aquaculture facilities and the hulls of vessels.
In another link: http://www.copperinfo.com/health/aquatic.html
The requirements for copper is fairly steady among vertebrate animals. Crustaceans, such as shrimp, lobster and crab, are in particular need of copper because its serves as an oxygen carrier in their blood.
Some scientists believe that copper concentrations in crustaceans may be elevated compared with other groups since many crustaceans use copper in their blood pigment. That is why, if you look closely, an uncooked shrimp looks bluish, a typical color of certain forms of oxidized copper.
<Thank you for sending this along Pablo. As we discussed at last week's Interzoo, some Copper is indeed a good thing... An essential micro-nutrient, and useful as a preservative at times. Not harmful. I will gladly post this about on WWM for others edification. Be seeing you, BobF>

Mandarin with bubbles... Cu, ich, nitrification issues   12/11/09
I was referring
<Oh oh... where's the previous correspondence? Starting off em media res doesn't often work here. We have several crew members, many queries, else in life...>
to suggestions on medication that would not destroy the good bacteria along with the ich as I have heard conflicting
information on whether or not it does.
<Most all such medications for fresh and marine "ich" do have negative effects on nitrifiers. Hence the need to monitor nitrogenous metabolites, prepare in advance (via water changes, chemical filtrants...) for such potential troubles>
I did have trouble with ammonia in a cycled quarantine after using copper and thought that it may have been the contributor.
<It may well have been. Bob Fenner>

Cu concentration use and duration revisited -- 10/13/08 Hello there, things not making sense to me hopefully someone can help: Quote from WWW 'Copper Safe needs to be effective from 1.5ppm - 2 ppm (from instruction) and Cupramine is 0.5ppm. Now, I am confused on why such great discrepancy? Not to mention that your site here says 0.2-0.3 is ideal. <Let's try to clear this up (for sure) here... the last values are for Cu++, free cupric ion... the two sets ahead are for (broken by testing protocol) chelated copper compounds... Is this clear?>' From: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cuduration.htm Just confused about the above because: 1) Cupramine is Cu+2 reference: http://www.seachem.com/Library/SeaGrams/Cupramine.pdf <Mmm, yes... "An organic complex" (e.g. amine/s...)... is NOT chelation? http://www.oralchelation.com/LifeGlowBasic/description/p8.htm I taught only H.S. level chemistry... and perhaps definitions have changed, but this material IS chelated according to my understanding> 2) Cupramine is not chelated reference: http://www.seachem.com/Library/Instructions/0966-CopperWE-4.2.pdf listed in the instructions sections <I see this assertion... it IS liganded in some fashion... again, a def. diff.> 3) Cu+1 is much more toxic than Cu+2 reference: http://www.seachem.com/support/FAQs/Cupramine.html listed in the second question <Yes, but... what form/at does the copper in Cupramine, other products "end up" as?> So Bob stated 0.2-0.3ppm (the lowest concentration) for the most toxic form of Cu being Cu+2 (at least that's what I interpreted from Bob's quote). Now Seachem states Cu+1 is most toxic. Also is Cupramine chelated? Can you see my dilemma? Can some elaborate and clear this discrepancy on what concentrations to use and for how long (I assume duration is still approx 3 weeks). Thanks in advance! <I do see this... and I am sorry if my "operative" definitions are serving to only confuse you, others... I don't know what the doc. mentioned is referring to as Cu +1... the "normal" or most common oxidation state of Copper is +2... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper my understanding is that all coppers in actual physiological use are of this oxidation state... that Cupramine (chelated or not), copper sulfate pentahydrate (citrated or not), all other brands of copper solutions sold commercially... "DO" what they do as "free cupric ion, = Cu ++... I would ask you to write the fine folks at SeaChem for their further explanation. Bob Fenner>

Canthigaster valentini with Crypt -- 01/02/2008 Hi, <Hello.> I have a Valentini Puffer fish that has ich and has had it for about 2 weeks. He's doing fine, been eating well and looking healthy other than the white spots. I first tried soaking all his food in garlic and Zoë and then went about using some organic rid ich med (because it was more an organic deal and not a med). The tank he's in is a FOWLR tank and some of the live rock was more base rock then anything. I decided to use CopperSafe in the DT tank (don't kill me) <I won't, but just can tell you that quarantine tanks are much more efficient.> and have a chelated copper test kit for API to watch closely. After looking all over the web, it seems that I should keep this particular brand copper at about 1.4-2ppm. I have kept it about 1.5 or so as I'm worried about using copper with this puffer as it is. <Should be okay. This is a chelated product (those chelated molecules are heavier than ionic copper) that aside of copper consist of other chemicals. Therefore the necessary level is high compared to ionic copper recommendations. The good thing with chelated products is that they release the copper over time. However, substrate and rock will influence the copper efficiency, one reason why all copper products should only be used in quarantine tanks.> I think that CopperSafe is the least toxic copper treatment out there. This morning he puffed up for the first time when no other fish was around or messing with him. I've heard that this is normal but that it might also be stress. What should be my next steps? Thanks. <Monitor with your chelated copper test kit, keep the level, and also check your ammonia level daily. Read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ichartmar.htm and the linked FAQs to learn about the life cycle of the parasite. Keep the copper level for at least 7-10 days. After that time and if the spots disappear use activated carbon to remove the copper from the system. Change the carbon every 14 days. If the spots come back in a new cycle use a quarantine tank without rocks and substrate for treatment. Cheers und good luck, Marco.>

Canthigaster valentini with Crypt -- follow up -- 01/02/2008 So it's now day 5 of copper treatment and everybody is doing great. The spots on the puffer are gone and I test for copper both AM and PM and test daily for the ammonia levels and PH levels. I will probably go through day 10 before I start using the carbon and after a while I will add some more live rock to seed the, now, base rock. If my research is correct, I will have killed off the parasites and, unless brought in to the tank again by a fish, should never see ich again... correct? <Yes, hopefully!> Its my understanding that fish don't create ich out of nothing, but that they get it from somewhere and pass it along.... <Right, these are ciliate Protozoans, they have to come from somewhere. Only their free swimming stage (theronts) is affected effectively by chemical treatments. In a bare bottom tank you'd also have the possibility to remove many/all of the protomont and tomont stage (by siphoning the bottom every day), which are encysted and now my rest in the substrate. I do hope none of them survives the 10 days of treatment in your tank, chances are not too bad. However, if the spots (this is the trophont stage infesting the fish) return, because a few tomonts survived in the substrate, move the puffer to a bare bottom quarantine tank and treat, while the display stays fallow for at least 4 weeks. This seems to be the most effective procedure. Good luck, Marco.>

Canthigaster valentini with Crypt -- follow up II... Cu use... same as it ever was f' -- 01/02/2008 Well I have more than just the puffer in the tank, so I'm going to continue to treat in the display. <Okay, but be prepared that the substrate might absorb some of the copper and release it over time.> I read yesterday where the life cycle of the parasite is about 3 weeks so 4 weeks of copper should do. However they also say that you should treat the fish 3 weeks more after the last time you see white spots, so it might be longer. Fortunately the ich spots are gone and I'm now just waiting the 3 weeks and testing ammonia/PH/copper levels every evening. <Okay, but do not use the copper for more than the planned 4 entire weeks. Besides killing the parasite, it also affects the health of the fishes. Copper treatments should be as long as necessary, but also as short as possible. I'd consider 7-10 days as the minimum and 4 weeks as the maximum, depending on the copper level. Anything in between can work. Marco.>

Using Cu to control algae in a marine system Sir, With your expert advice and guidance, I was able to successfully thwart an outbreak of ich using copper in my saltwater fish-only display tank. In fact, I didn't lose one occupant!!! (I know, you said to get a quarantine tank and I am working on it!) <Good> During the 14 day treatment regime, I noticed that virtually all traces of algae stopped growing and eventually disappeared, making the tank look much nicer!!! Is there any harm in continuing to use copper to control the growth of algae? If so, what level should I maintain in the tank to prevent harming the fish? Thanks again!!!! Mike Basciano <Large/public aquariums do use copper compounds to both control nuisance algae and epizootics... But I caution against this in residential/hobbyist settings... it's too easy to "get into trouble"... and to some degree poison ones fish livestock while thwarting the algae... Better to look to other control mechanisms (limiting nutrients, providing predators, competitors...) as listed here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm Bob Fenner> Working With Copper Thanks for the response...  I've moved the fish to the treatment tank with SeaCure copper treatment after a five minute freshwater dip last night. <Excellent procedure...Treat the fish in a separate tank!> This morning the fish that aren't hiding are twitching a little...does a copper treatment effect fish behavior?   How can I discern copper treatment behavior from the stress of the catch and dip? <Well, if copper is negatively affecting your fishes, you'll often see some physical manifestations, such as damage to the skin, possible heavy breathing, and obvious distress. I would not be overly concerned about the "twitching" that you're observing, as long as the fishes are otherwise okay, and as long as you are monitoring the copper levels regularly to assure that they are at proper levels.> The wrasse did a header into the glass during his dip and he seemed to be listless this morning. <Well, remember- freshwater dips do induce  some stress/shock on fishes...some handle it better than others. However, if done correctly, the dip process is quite safe and generally harmless to most fishes> How little room for error is there on the level of copper in the water? <Really, IMO- not too much. Copper is a reliable, effective, and largely safe cure for Cryptocaryon and Amyloodinium, but you absolutely have to monitor the level of copper in your water to avoid killing your fish!> Does carbon, like in the Magnum 350 I  have on the treatment tank, effect copper levels? <It will remove some copper, so be sure to test and maintain a proper therapeutic level in the treatment tank> Please explain the difference in the types of copper treatments in relation the copper test kits available.  I used a Red Sea test kit...I've never had good experiences with their test kits and I'm going to get another one today. Thanks for all your help, Damon <Well, Damon- this explanation would fill the page! Fortunately for you, the WWM site has lots of information on the use of copper, and how to test for it in your aquarium. Do a search of the site and you'll find more information than you could imagine on this topic! It's good reading, and very important. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

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