Although copper is quite effective in treating certain parasitical infections of your fish, it is toxic for most marine organisms. Let’s have a look at some facts about aquarium copper that may help you decide when to use and when not to use copper.
When not to use copper in a saltwater tank
Copper is toxic to invertebrates and should be avoided in your main display tank. It will kill your anemones, crabs, shrimps, live corals, filter bacteria, and live rock. Rocks, substrate, and silicone easily absorb copper and it can release slowly into the tank negatively affecting the marine life over a period of time. A reef tank is a complete no-no in an aquarium treated with this element.
When is copper added to a saltwater aquarium
Marine Ich is a disease that is caused by the parasites Cryptocaryn or Oodinium. When these parasites settle down in the gills and skin of your fish, you will find them scratching or breathing with difficulty. White or black spots will also appear on their fins and bodies. These organisms can cause infection and even kill your precious fishes.
There are only two ways of curing this Ich and these are adding copper to your saltwater aquarium and hyposalinity. Since the treatment cannot be used when invertebrates are present in the tank, you will require a quarantine tank to provide any one of these treatments to your fishes.
In hyposalinity, the salinity of the aquarium’s water is adjusted to a specific gravity of 1.010 and it eases the osmotic stress on the fish. In case of copper treatment, you should use a quarantine tank that will not be used as the main display tank in the future.
Facts about copper treatment for saltwater aquariums
There are two main types of copper treatment used by aquarists with a saltwater aquarium. This are called chelated copper and ionic copper. Ensure that the level of this element does not rise above 0.15 ppm (parts per million) for ionic copper and above 1.5-2.0 for chelated copper. Use a test kit to measure the levels in your tank. Keep in mind that the test kit will vary depending on the type of treatment used.
Always use a bare bottom tank since copper has a tendency to bind with calcium carbonate. The quarantine or the treatment tanks should include proper heat, filtration, and suitable hiding places. Ensure that the tank is large enough for all the fishes to stay in it comfortably for around a month or longer.
It is necessary that even the fish that appear uninfected are placed in the copper tank. Although they may not show signs of infection, they may have the parasites embedded in their gills and fins. If you put cured fish back into the main tank in such a case, they are sure to get re-infected.
You should let the parasites causing the Ich to starve to death before introducing the fishes back into the main tank. Without any fish to feed on, these will usually die within 14-28 days.
Always remember that aquarium copper is toxic and can kill the different marine organisms present in your saltwater tank. Although traces of the element can be removed form the tank, it is often a difficult task. The best thing to do is to have a quarantine tank in case your fish do get sick. Once your fishes are cured and there are no signs of parasites in your main tank, you can safely put them back in the display tank.