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FAQs on Freshwater Copper Medications, Use

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Related FAQs: Freshwater Medications, Quarantine/Treatment Tanks, Treatments, Salt/Use, FW Antibiotic Use, Aquarium Maintenance, Ich/White Spot DiseaseAfrican Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease


Removal of copper from planted tank. How?  2/21/08 Hi Crew, I think I have a residual copper problem in my heavily planted 6x2x2 Discus display tank. Several months ago I had a snail infestation that was going from bad to worse. The snails were very small, not MTS or anything like that. These would be about the size of a match head. Manual removal of the snails was impossible short of a complete rebuild of the tank. I tired 'natural' control using Loaches but they just attacked my Discus and more or less ignored the snails. When the snails where reaching plague proportions I decided one sure option to kill them was Copper, so I treated the tank with one of the Snail-Rid products containing Copper Sulphate. Results were instant and could only be described as a holocaust for the snails... they were dying by the hundreds within moments of the treatment hitting the water, and apart from my tribe of Kuhli Loaches going berserk (the other Loaches had long since been removed) all fish and plants survived without issue . Our water is hard as a rock around here so the copper should have been quite stable in the tank water, and it appears it was as not a single fish lost its life. All seemed good but how is it several months later? I consider some things are not normal any more... I think perhaps the Copper Sulphate is still haunting my tank... There are still a few snails left over, only a tiny fraction of the old population, the very same species as the infestation several months ago, however I only ever see them alive when they are on my plants, and I see a lot of the remains of dead snail shells within the substrate. What concerns me (funnily enough) is that the remaining snails don't seem to be building up in numbers, it's as though they are somehow being held in check by some form of control (poison) which I fear could be residual copper. I've even watched some of them crawl from the stem of a plant, down along the substrate at the bottom of the tank, and not long after they appear to keel over and die (pulling into their shells and never coming out again). This is a concern because if there is still enough copper in the tank to kill snails, it might also be suppressing my biological filtration and causing other issues. I could care less if the snails are dying, but the extra load on the damaged bio-filtration system cannot be doing any good. Perhaps my canister filters are not doing any biological filtration whatsoever and all the bio-filtration is being handled by the plants themselves? I believe the copper has attached itself to my substrate, and if this is the case probably also my biological filter media as well (Eheim Substrat Pro). Tank pH is about 7.2 (from the tap its about 7.8 but kept down due to CO2 injection), water hardness is very high, Ammonia and Nitrite are zero, Nitrate is artificially kept between 10 and 20ppm by adding KNO3 every few days (as without it the plants will use up all the Nitrate - that must be funny to read by your SW tank hobbyists as they always seem to have a hard time controlling Nitrate - I actually have to add it!!!!). The tank is filtered by two canister filters: an Eheim 2250 Classic and an Eheim 2228 Professional. Substrate is a mix of fine & course gravel about 50mm deep. Water changes are 50% once per week. Water temp is steady at 28C. The tank has been running for nearly 14 months. My question is if indeed the substrate (and filter media) are all poisoned with copper (which I am sure they are) how do I get rid of the copper and return to a non-poisonous tank without starting all over again with completely new substrate and filter media? Regards, Greg <Greg, the short answer is that only calcareous media and materials bind with copper. Anything siliceous (gravel, silver sand, etc.) is as chemically inert as glass and cannot absorb much copper at all. Carbon might bind with certain copper salts I suppose, so you'd probably want to throw out old carbon too, not that you need carbon in a freshwater tank. Granite, slate, etc should also be chemically inert. Beyond that, a series of water changes (say, 4 or 5 50% water changes) should dilute the copper concentration adequately well, and if you wanted to check, you can always use a copper test kit. Marine aquarists use these all the time, and your local fish shop may well do a test for you gratis or for a nominal fee. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Removal of copper from planted tank. How?  2/22/08 No worries Neale, I'll step up the water changes for a while and get the water tested for Cu. Regards, Greg <Sounds like you've got it sorted. Cheers, Neale.>

If I use a chelated copper treatment will it kill off or reduce my biological filter.  2/10/08 Fred. <Not if used properly. Cheers, Neale.> <<Mmmm, actually... usually does in actual practice. I'd be ready, prepare for ameliorative action. RMF>>

Re: copper and Bio filter  2/10/08 <Ah, okay. My mistake. Apologies/thanks, Neale.> <<Mmm, not a mistake... "generally", if/while used in "proper dosage" both chelated and free copper (cupric ion) will not arrest nitrification in the least... This being a bit far from such an ideal universe, folks over-medicate, poison all... Just felt that the further note might be of use... Cheers, B>> "If I use a chelated copper treatment will it kill off or reduce my biological filter. Fred. <Not if used properly. Cheers, Neale.> <<Mmmm, actually... usually does in actual practice. I'd be ready, prepare for ameliorative action. RMF>>"

Re: copper and Bio filter   2/11/08 I'm guessing the answer is yes I will lose my Bio filter? <Is a possibility, yes> Do you have any suggestions; 1. how do I remove the chelated copper ----- Activated Carbon? <One method... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/curemovalfaqs.htm> 2. How can I jump start the Bio filter??? What product do you suggest that will work fast. Fred <... Please... learn to/use the indices, search tool... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm and the pertinent linked files above. BioSpira... Bob Fenner>

- Copper Poisoning - My 2 angelfish are suffering from copper sulfate poisoning, is there anything I can do? <Yes and no... in some sense, the damage is done, but you can still do a couple of things that may nurse the fish through this. I would run chemical filtration in the tank, activated carbon, PolyFilter, etc. Also, lower the salinity to 1.020 so that breathing, etc. are easier on the fish. Make sure the water is well aerated, and change the water frequently.> I already moved them to another tank, but one fish looks really bad. <Good work on the move to the new tank... we'll keep our fingers crossed for you fish.> Any advice would be appreciated.  Thanks, Indigo <Cheers, J -- >

- Copper Poisoning, Follow-up - Thank you very much for your speedy reply and advice. <My pleasure.> They are actually freshwater angels, so I added a little salt to help with respiration. <Oh... sorry for the bad assumption on my part. The addition of the salts is a good idea - same affect as what I recommended, just in reverse.> The female looks fine now. <Glad to hear.> The male is still hanging on by a thin thread; I added some Maracyn 2 to the hospital tank for secondary infections.  Filter has a carbon/poly cartridge, and I am using an airstone.  I tested the water from the original tank for free copper and got .15p.p.m; is this too much for angels? <Likely, yes - will probably take a little while to free the tank of copper - can be absorbed by substrate and decor.> Thanks again, Indigo <Cheers, J -- >

Copper FW vs. Marine  - 11/10/06 Thanks a lot Chuck.  But just out of curiosity, how come copper killed  a few really tough marine fish when I used it to treat them?  Yet, it  shouldn't kill my cichlids?  Is the difference clearly marine vs. fresh  fish?  Or is it the greater concentrations in marine copper sulfate  that's much more lethal to the fish? Thanks <I am not a saltwater guy so I cannot really comment on why your saltwater fish had the problems. In general, Lake Malawi cichlids are some of the hardiest fish in the hobby when properly set up.-Chuck> African Cichlids Scratching-Possible Copper Poisoning   11/6/06 Hey guys.  I have a small problem here.  I just treated with  Aquarisol in my African Cichlid tank for scratching and flashing against rocks  and walls.   My fish kind of twitched and constantly shook their heads which  made me believe they had some kind of gill parasite.  I treated with this  medication off and on (sometimes three days in a row, sometimes every two days  or every other) until I noticed that the scratching and twitching significantly  subsided.   After it stopped (for the most part), I failed to put the  carbon back in and never did any water changes.  Now after about 2 or more  weeks went by after treating, I notice all of my face <Fish?> and sitting at bottom with  clamped fins and twitching and scratching even worse than originally.  Did  I damage their gills with this copper med?  If I did, would it be the  same as saltwater and possibly have given them copper poisoning?   I just did a 30% water change and put the carbon back in today, can  I stop the poison (through water change and carbon) if this is what's  happening?  I'm paranoid about this because I used to have marine fish  and I killed a long nose butterfly and a few other fish by using  copper.  Is Aquarisol as potent as marine copper  sulfate?  I have NEVER put anything more in than what was  directed (12 drops per 10 gallons).   Please help me!! Thanks <Three things could be happening. The first is that you did not completely eliminate the parasite and it is now fairly resistant to copper and has now come back to attack your weaken fish. The second possible problem is the copper levels have risen to toxic levels and are now poisoning your fish. The third and most probable scenario is that the copper has killed or reduced the biological filtration and ammonia levels are now elevated. The fish are now weakened by the ammonia and the parasites are now back and attacking you weaken fish. I personally do not like copper because the levels needed to kill the parasites are very close to the toxic levels that will effect fish. I would recommend that you do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. Add a teaspoon of salt per 5 gallons of water and treat with Clout as per directed on the package. When the treatment is complete do a 50% water change, add carbon to the filter to remove the medication, then add Bio-Spira by Marineland to re-establish the biological filtration.-Chuck>  

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