Cupramine - Copper Treatment For Marine Fish
Cupramine is a copper medication product from the ever popular Seachem line up of aquarium products. Cupramine is considered the safest copper medication on the market, more so than regular copper sulfate based medications.
This isn't just a review on Cupramine but on copper medication in general so if you're looking for information in this area, you've come to the right place. If you've ever had a marine aquarium, you've probably had marine parasites as well. While there are a vast many techniques used to address the issue such as hyposalinity and a slew of non-copper based products claiming to rid your fish of ich or velvet, no treatment is as effective as copper.
In this case, we are looking at chelated copper, because that is what Cupramine actually is. Regular copper medications use copper sulfate, copper chloride or copper citrate to do the job. When looking for a copper medication to purchase, you want to stick with the tried and true brands that are trusted by reefers. While lesser known brands may work, you really don't want to take a chance since it can result in the death of your fish.
So is cupramine safer? In my experience, yes it is. I've used other copper brands in the past and have lost some fish. Copper is after all, harsh. Its also very toxic. Not surprisingly, it is also used in ponds, but not for parasites. It is used to get rid of greenwater which is phytoplankton. The problem with doing that is it kills a wide range of life in those ponds, not just phytoplankton. At a high enough dose, everything is wiped out.
This is why getting the dosage correct is extremely important when using copper medication on fish of any kind. If the dose is too low, the parasites don't die. If its too high, the fish dies.
What does Cupramine Kill exactly? It will destroy (in time) any external parasites that your fish harbors. This includes flukes, marine ich, brook and marine velvet. Besides freshwater, it is probably the best treatment on the market for parasites. At the right dosage, these parasites will ALWAYS die.
The trick here is in ensuring our fish doesn't die along with the parasites. Is that hard to achieve? No. It just takes a careful hand and some patience. Patience and a proper quarantine tank setup are very important to your success. A quick note about freshwater. While freshwater dipping is effective, it is mainly used for quick relief and a method of getting rid of a large portion of the parasites. Unfortunately, marine fish can only withstand freshwater for a few minutes at a time. So we need something to actively work in their environment. Copper fits the bill.
How To Use Cupramine
So how do we use Cupramine? Well the first thing you need is a Quarantine Tank (Read This). Until you get yourself one, don't bother. Under no circumstances should you treat your display aquarium with copper.
Any corals and invertebrates will perish. Additionally, the rock and substrate will begin to absorb the copper. Over time, this will leach out. In the end, it gets really messy to deal with so always treat in a quarantine tank.
Additional Equipment Needed
Is there anything else you need before you begin dosing cupramine? Yes, but i won't be covering items for the quarantine setup like heaters, biological filters etc. The one thing you absolutely need when treating with copper is a Copper test kit.
I've listed only 3 brands to the right, Seachem, Red Sea and Salifert. While there are a large variety of test kits on the market, not all of them will work with Cupramine. This is because most of them are designed for copper sulfate (Chloride etc) in mind, not Chelated copper. As a result (And in my experience), a lot of copper test kits will give you inaccurate readings. Sometimes, the readings are all over the place. These three brands work well with Cupramine. If the test kit is giving you the wrong reading, its worthless.
Without a copper test kit, you are flying blind. A copper test kit a sure way to keep your fish alive so you really need this. Do not attempt to dose without one. The dosage we are aiming for is anywhere between 0.3 - 0.5 ppm (Parts per million). Anything lower than 0.3 is ineffective and anything higher is dangerous for the fish. In my experience, aim for the lowest, 0.3. Its good enough to kill parasites at that level.
Take it slow when you first start dosing. Aim for 0.1 ppm for two days and observe the fish. Are they stressed out, breathing heavily, acting funny or clearly distressed? If not then raise to 0.3 and maintain for at least 4 weeks. Yeah i know 4 weeks is long. But consider what would happen if you risk a lower duration. Treat all fish for 2 weeks --> Display tank fallow for 2 weeks --> Put all fish back into display tank --> Discover parasites are still there --> Catch all the fish again --> Treat for 4 weeks --> Fallow tank 4 weeks --> 1 1/2 months total because of a mistake. Yes, i'm talking from experience =)
Additional items needed are activated carbon or cuprisorb and a fresh batch of saltwater for the quarantine on standby. If the fish start doing badly during cupramine treatment, do a large 50% water change immediately and run either cuprisorb or carbon in the quarantine tank. Both products will remove carbon. Some fish react badly to copper (Covered later on). Sometimes its the species, other times its the individual fish. In my experience however, cupramine has been safe for me from start to finish. Other brands..........not so much.
For success during treatment, you need to remove all your fish from your tank. Assume they all have the parasite or all your efforts will be in vain. Since ich and velvet only prey on fish, depriving them of their food is a sure way to ridding the tank of them. But this takes time. How long? Depends on temperature really and availability of predators. The higher the temperatures, the quicker they cycle, which means the quicker they die without food. Go to Marine Ich for further reading on the life cycle of ich.
But if you have corals i wouldn't recommend raising temperatures. For those of you with colder temperatures, just go fallow longer than usual. Letting the tank fallow for 2 months is pretty much a guarantee that they've been wiped out.
As mentioned above, there are some species of fish that do not deal with copper very well. These fish should be avoided. Any scaleless fish or those that are affected by metals should be never undergo copper treatment. This includes dragonettes, seahorses, pipefish and sharks.
On to other species that hobbyists have reported on. Fairy Wrasses have been reported as particularly sensitive to copper as have dwarf angels. I've treated flame angels to fairy wrasses with cupramine without a single loss. But i've lost many dwarf angels to other brands that i won't mention because i don't want to get sued. In fact, the Alpha Male Flame Wrasse displayed to the right successfully underwent 4 weeks of cupramine treatment and has been doing fine ever since.
Last Thoughts On Copper Treatment And Marine Ich
Never resort to purchasing Cleaner wrasses or cleaner shrimp to address the problem, it won't work. The cleaner wrasse will die and the cleaner shrimps won't do enough to eradicate the parasites. Cleaner wrasses do not do well in the home aquaria. While there have been aquarists that have kept cleaner wrasses alive for a decent length of time, this is an exception, rather than the rule. Leave them in the sea, avoid them at all costs. Cleaner shrimp however, do very well in our aquariums as they will eat just about anything offered.
Invertebrates will almost always die at 0.3 ppm copper levels. Corals, worms, snails, squid, cuttlefish, octopi, shrimp, crabs, will not survive copper treatment. Always treat in a separate quarantine tank.
There are a lot of products on the market that claim the sun and the moon when it comes to eradication marine parasites. Most of them are junk. Any ich medication has to revolve around these ingredients :- Copper, Formaldehyde, Formalin, Malachite Green, Copper. Anything else like the various herbal remedies etc is a waste of time and money. Some non copper based medications that have worked for me are Seachems Paraguard and Kordon's RId Ich (Wasn't expecting anything from this product but it has worked consistently). If you're in the market for Copper meds, you cannot go wrong with Cupramine. Cupramine is the best copper medication on the market.
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