View Full Version : Copper used 2 years ago

12-13-2004, 02:04 PM
Re-posted this here...no answers on general forum!!!

Hi i am hoping to convert my fish only tank into a reef tank soon re-using the substrate (coral sand) and tufa rock from my present tank.

I know that copper can be taken out with a skimmer and using stuff like polyfilter, and seeing as it was years ago since i dosed with coper to cure a whitespot problem, i was wondering if this tank can be used to house an invert reef setup.

I have tested for copper and it is zero on the test kit readings.

The tufa i have is the very hard porous type and i was going to use it as a base for my live rock(the tank is 3ft deep!)

Is it worth trying a hermit crab in my fish only setup to see if it has any ill effects?....i dont want to do this and kill a poor hermit if this is not advisable, but seeing as the test kit has no readings of copper i was wondering if its all been skimmed out or it is bound up with the tufa or substrate in some way.

cheers for any help on this one guys...

ps the tank is 7ft long x 3ft high x 2ft wide......the tufa is lovely stuff and is in really big pieces it would be a shame not to use it.

12-13-2004, 03:30 PM
I honestly dont know the answer to this. I think (LOL I know) that copper would of bonded with the tuffa rock and at some point in the future due to biological or chemical reactions in the living saltwater reef be released back into the system. This is only my opinion, if it were my tank and I had it I would trade it to lfs or someone with a fish only system, and go with all live rock. I just would not want to take the chance of spending all the money, time, love, attention, and care that goes into a functioning reef and have lost over trying to save a couple hundred dollars on live rock. I am sure it is beatiful. It is 100% your decision, you asked for a opinion and this is mine. HTH. Steve

Ed Hahn
12-13-2004, 04:04 PM
Your animals like snails,pods, and starfish, besides crabs are going to tell you if you have excess copper leaching from your rock. NSW has copper in it. It just does not have excessive amounts. I would think you would be safe. But I am not sure if it will leach out of rock. I would assume if you want to add rock with pods, You could monitor the life of pods and see if they survive. That may be the cheapest route of checking. I think you are on the right track with polyfilter. But have you tested with out using a polyfilter for a week, then testing a week after with out a polyfilter and compare the two readings? I hope this helps..

12-13-2004, 04:11 PM
Cheers and thanks Steve....I appreciate your comments.
The point of my post....everyone is aware of the toxicty of copper with inverts in a reef,
just out of interest, what levels are considered toxic...even sea water contains trace elements of copper......is there anyway to find out if this tank or the tufa/substrate still has copper in it?
Or has anyone heard of a scientific way to determine if there is residual copper in the substrate/tufa.................
I know its the best bet to just start a new.......but if I did start slowly ...just a bit of living rock say for 6mths...then see how it goes.....at what point if any would copper be leached back into the tank.....or is it burried deep in the tufa ready to kill any invert that dares to step foot on it? or is it permenantly locked away chemically inert as a seperate and harmlas compound.
I know tufa contains calcium carbonate and magnesium.....could the copper now be bound to any of these elements in safe form....

After all when it is chelatted with citric acid..that reduces its toxicity somewhat.

Any scientists out there...nows your chance to shut me up and show me the truth behind all this........

The truth is no one out there seems to know tha answer to these questions....everyone just jumps on the bandwagon...oh copper....alarm bells ...ding ding......

I just wish there was some scientific explaination and scientific studies that some one could point me to....
cost too much to stock all my tank with living rock anyway...was hoping to convert the tufa to live rock ....http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/6279/RaiseCementRock.html

12-13-2004, 04:19 PM
I would assume and again this is only my opinion I could be wrong. If you were to drill a 1/2 hole, deep into the rock, over a piece of clean paper, and take the drilling fines and put them into ro water and let it sit in the sun for a week or two and then test for copper you would get a good idea of wether it would leach out or not. I am not a chemist and I just dont know the answer to your question. Steve

12-13-2004, 04:23 PM
cheers ''Ed Hahn''..........all copper tests done recently ...without polyfilter being used for over two years now.....

I was wondering about your reply and it seems the easiest one to go for ...pods are dirt cheap (scrounge some from my mate!) and they would soon die if there was any residual copper.....if they survive and start to colonise the substrate etc then this would be a good sign.

any suggestions on their requirements? i know in a reef system they just appear whitout any intervention from the owner but a fish olnly setup they would soon be eaten wouldnt they?...should i put in a sort of Refugum with a basic substrate/small rocks etc.. I could stick some pods in it and feed them the odd prawn head to keep them going.....

At what point would an inert fish only tank be able to sustain a sizeable pod community?
I have had fish only system in the past full of pods and other stuff....but they only seemed to be in a hang on filter i used ......will the fish eat the pods unless i use a fuge ?(i thing the answer to this is yes)

Any further help appreceiated...cheers............Colin.

12-13-2004, 04:29 PM
Sounds a good idea thanks again steve.........maybe i could take a small chunk of tufa out and dissolve it using say citric acid...then if there is any copper it would be liberated from the calcium carbonate and chelate with the citric acid.......this would still be detectable using test kits.

Wondering if anyone else has ever set up a reef tank using an old fish only setup which once had copper in but after many years of skimming was not detectable with test kits.
If they did was it a disaster?

Cheers again anyway fellas for your professional atitude and help

12-13-2004, 04:36 PM
hi just checked this link from this site on basic chemistry FAQ..


Treating parasites with copper and its speciation

It is a common practice to treat fish suffering from some external parasite with copper. There are various ways (speciation) to do so. First is the addition of ionic copper as copper sulfate. It is known that this does not work quite as well because the required copper is readily adsorbed on rock and sand surfaces, is transformed to insoluble carbonates or gets bound to some organic compounds making it non bio-available and thus reducing it’s toxicity. After all, toxicity is required to kill the parasites.

Adding some citrate to the copper allows the copper to remain longer in the water column as the citrate and since the copper citrate is directly or indirectly bio-available it retains it’s toxicity for a prolonged period. Also instead of citrate some amines are often used and function in the same way as the citrate does.

With the above example it is shown that the speciation of the heavy metal copper, added as an ion, changes and becomes far less toxic or perhaps even totally non-toxic in just a day or so.

if thats the case...why all the fuss on tanks that have had copper in?

Anyone care to EXPLAIN THIS.............where are all the experts...you are needed now to fully make the reasons why a tank which has previously been treated with copper is no good for a propssed reef tank?

12-13-2004, 04:47 PM
cool quote. I am wanting to know my self. Hope it works out great for you. Steve

12-13-2004, 04:47 PM
Welcome to Reef Frontiers!!! Apologies for not getting to your thread in General Forum.

I'm going to move the thread into the chemistry forum, and see what Collin thinks. I'm not really sure....

12-13-2004, 04:50 PM
Nice move.....Its my fault for posting all over the place except the correct place..cheers.

12-13-2004, 04:53 PM
Theres a reefer in New York on the ReefCentral board by the name of Paul B. He has been running his SW tank since 1972. He had copper in the tank for a few years when it was FOWLR then quit dosing for a few years and added inverts afterward. No special treatment for the rock. I believe it was 3 years between dosing copper and adding shrimp. His practices aren't for everyone but hes got something that works for him.
RC Thread (http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=434616)

12-13-2004, 05:06 PM
Ehmmmm.....excellent ''Nashon''....now that gives me enough confidence to try the slow approach.....this site is great...am from the uk and some posts you can wait hours or even a day or so to get a reply....you yanks sure are great guys...makes me feel proud to be a brit and associated with the good ol U S of A.

Do you know what always amazes me....if you were to tip a load of old rusty nails in an aquarium the inverts would probably go mental....yet in the wild they colonise old rusty shipwrecks with ease.....amazing!

Anyway....coper is deadly to inverts and reef inhabitants we all agre on that, but from what i have uncovered here is old fish only tanks that once had copper teatment may still be a viable option to house inverts at a later date.

12-13-2004, 05:07 PM
Your Best Bet As A Far As Testing For Copper Is To Grind Up Some Small Pieces Into Fines Or Rubble Take Co2 Disolve The Live Rock With An Extra Low Dose Of Co2 (ph 6.0) And Take Acopper Reading. You Should Be Safe Un Less You Have Added Lots Of Copper To Tank. Adding Acid Could Give A False Positive On Your Test.

12-13-2004, 06:56 PM

If it has been years since you added copper, I am about 95% sure that it is all gone, as long as you did water changes over the last couple years. What I believe will happen is below:

1.) Add copper treatment to help fish.
2.) Some copper goes into fish, some chelated by dissolved organics, some chelated and/or adsorbed into rocks/bacteria.
3.) Time and water changes go by.
4.) Each time you change water, equilibrium concentration of copper in water is reduced.
5.) Copper leaches out of rocks to re-establish equilibrium concentration in the water
6.) Go back to step 4 and repeat multiple times
7.) Each time water is changed, more copper comes out of rocks.
8.) After enough time all copper is gone via water changes.

If you have a skimmer or run carbon or siphon detrius, this also serves to export copper.

I would bet that you will have no problems if your rocks have been without copper for long enough and you have any reasonable export system such as water changes/skimmers/detrius siphoning etc.

That being said a slow approach is always reasonable. If you are set on using your base rock, I do suggest some pods or a cheap coral or two and watch for awhile before going all out.

However, I do mainly agree with Steve, though. I suggest going with all live rock. Not because I think you will have problems, just because live rock offers many advantages. Not quite sure what "tufa" is though. Maybe it will work.

Although all the drilling, testing and so forth are good ideas, I don't think I would worry about it. I would just go for it personally, put stuff in slow and watch. That or put a piece of rock into a smaller aquarium and add pods, snails etc. For all that trouble though, I would just go with all new rock and have no worries and save yourself the elbow grease.

Best of Luck....regards...Collin

12-13-2004, 07:15 PM
Thanks...Collin ..that explaination makes v.good sense... well that gives me the confidence to go ahead.

Tufa rock is available at many aquarium stores now. It is a whitish-beige lightweight porous calcium carbonate, magnesium and mineral rock formed on land from geothermal activity
read this site on using it and other types of rock to create living rock when used as a base and seeded with living rock.

.......the water is being completly replaced, in the meantime i am setting up a seperate tank to house my prized regal tang and yellow tang..along with some damsels..this holding tank will use some of the water out of the main tank aswell as the main bucket filter...so minimum stress to the fish.

When empty the propossed reef tank will be topped up with water from an RO unit and new salt added.

A new sump/refugium filtration system is to be plumbed in along with a calcium reactor etc.

Lighting will be via 3 x 250 watt Halides and two Tubes..one white and one Actinic.

Getting a new skimmer...prob an aqua medic 5000 shorty.

Will start slowly with 10-20 kgs of living rock.to see how it goes......first water change after 1week just to replace half of water in smaller fish holding tank...so as to acclimatise my tangs and other fish to the new main tank water before their transfer back into it .....

Thank you all on this excellent site and for all the great and interesting feedback and help......you guys are the best........

12-13-2004, 09:05 PM
Good Luck with you new reef! Also, welcome to RF!

Sounds like a nice setup. I"ll bet you like your reef better than your FO.


02-03-2005, 10:27 PM
Coolcol, Any updates, on the switch over?

02-04-2005, 05:17 AM
Hi wrightme43...jsut in the process of Obtaining some equipment.....Protein skimmer (bigger) and a few bits and bobs....moving a bit slow due to funds shortage! but half way there!...problems with water circulation at the moment I am thinking off stripping the tank completely down and setting up some major pipework for more efficient flow....Had a few major problems with my Car...had to buy another one...Had to use my credit card to purchase so I am now in the process of sorting my financial overheads out!

Serious setback for the funds department...oh well......will upload some pics of the skimmer and other bits and bobs soon.....Like I said am thinking of a complete strip down....would love to setup just with live rock but the cost would be so high for a 315 gal tank.........its looking like I might go for a soft coral setup....leaving the hard stuff till I get a calcium reactor......trouble is I have learnt its best to go either full soft or hard...but not good to mix.....I have a lot to think about...will post some pics of my fish only tank in next few days

Thanks for asking wrightme43 anyway.................

02-04-2005, 08:12 AM
Bummer about all the problems. It seems like you have a good attitude about them anyway. I bet when you get it done it will be nice. I was just wondering what had happened. Hope you have a great day. Steve