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How To Remove Copper From A Freshwater Aquarium Quickly!

With the number of people getting involved in the fish keeping hobby constantly increasing, the number of questions that we have noticed people asking recently is also sky rocketing with more and more questions being asked every month.

As people progress with their fish keeping journey, many people try to keep more advanced fish species that can be more sensitive to their water parameters in their tank.

Even the betta fish that is currently the second most commonly kept species of fish within the hobby can be very sensitive to minerals in its tank water resulting in issues with the fish.

This is why we see so many questions specific to maintaining steady water parameters with one popular question being how you can remove copper from a freshwater aquarium.

We hope that this article will be able to help as many of our readers as possible better understand how they can go about removing copper from a freshwater aquarium to help improve the living conditions for the fish that they keep.

Is Copper Harmful To Fish?

The first thing that we need to cover is if copper is harmful to fish as this will obviously be the primary concern for anyone reading this article.

Copper is an essential mineral for all animals and plants on earth, however, it can become toxic at high levels.

In a freshwater aquarium, the level of copper that would be considered toxic is 0.1 ppm and above with levels as low as 0.05 ppm causing issues in some fish species.

The level of copper that is considered to be safe for most freshwater fish is between 0.01-0.05 ppm with many people trying to maintain levels at the lower end of this range or below if possible.

While the levels of copper that are considered to be toxic are relatively low, it is still very important to try and avoid these levels if possible as even at the lower end of the toxicity range, fish can still show signs of stress which over time can lead to other health issues.

How Does Copper Get Into A Freshwater Aquarium?

Now that we have covered if copper is harmful to fish, the next thing that we need to look at is how it can get into a freshwater aquarium in the first place.

Tap Water

There are a few different ways that copper can end up in an aquarium, however, the most common way is through the use of tap water.

While most municipal water supplies will contain low levels of copper, there are still a number of water supplies that have high levels of copper present.

This is why it is always recommended to test your tap water for copper levels before using it in an aquarium as even low levels can build up over time and reach toxic levels.


Another way that copper can get into an aquarium is through the use of copper based medications.

These medications are commonly used to treat a number of different issues in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums and while they can be very effective, they also add a large amount of copper to the water.

It is important to only use these medications as directed by the manufacturer and to do a large water change after treatment to remove as much of the copper from the water as possible.

The final way that copper can get into an aquarium is through the use of certain types of aquarium substrates.


There are a number of different substrates on the market that contain high levels of copper and while these substrates can be safe to use in an aquarium, they can also release copper into the water over time.

It is important to do your research before buying an aquarium substrate to make sure that it does not contain high levels of copper as this can be very difficult to remove from the water once it has been released.

How to Remove Copper from A Freshwater Aquarium Quickly!

If you have tested your water and found that the levels of copper are already at a toxic level, then it is important to remove it from the water as quickly as possible.

A Water Change!

The best way to do this is to do a large water change, preferably with RO/DI water or distilled water, to remove as much of the copper from the water as possible.

You should also remove any carbon from your filter as this will absorb the copper and make it harder to remove from the water.

Use a Copper Removal Product

Another way to remove copper from your aquarium is to use a product that is specifically designed for this purpose.

These products work by binding to the copper in the water and making it easier to remove through a water change.

Seachem Cuprisorb is probably the best option currently available as it is cheap, widely available, and rapidly binds the copper in an aquarium to render it safe.

Use Copper Safe Plants

If you have plants in your aquarium, then you can also use them to help remove copper from the water.

There are a number of different plants that are known to be effective at absorbing copper and many of these plants are very easy to care for.

Some of the best plants for removing copper from an aquarium include:

  • Java Fern
  • Anubias
  • Hornwort
  • Water sprite
  • Wisteria

These plants are very effective at absorbing copper from the water and can help to reduce the levels quickly.

Does Water Conditioner Remove Copper?

As we covered in our article on how long it takes for tap water to be safe for fish, the vast majority of people within the fish keeping hobby who use tap water for their water changes should be using a tap water conditioner.

Although different products work in different ways, some of them such as APIs Tap Water Conditioner will detoxify heavy metals like copper as well as lead and zinc that is commonly found in tap water.

You will have to double check that your water conditioner product is able to detoxify heavy metals though as many of the cheaper ones will simply deal with the chlorine in the water and not offer any protection against copper.