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New Garage, New Fishroom, New copper pipes?

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:32 am
by David R
I just realised that the pipes in the new garage where I will be (was planning to anyway) get water for water changes from are copper. Is this likely to cause problems for my fish? I know clown loaches are sensitive to copper, and I'd hate to lose my big pack of them! The house is ~40 years old and AFAIK also has copper plumbing, but am I right in thinking the older stuff isn't really a problem?

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:11 am
by palaeodave
What's the water like? I think hard water tends to form a lining on the inside of the pipes which minimizes and copper leaching.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:28 am
by BotiaMaximus
I do believe palaeodave is correct. My house is all copper pipes, some 50 years old and some less than 2 years old now from some work I've been doing.

I think within a few days of use they build up a layer that will make any amounts of copper in your water unmeasurable.

Almost all water that is supplied by a municipality is treated and buffered whether it was hard or soft to prevent pipe corrosion.

You should be safe.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:15 pm
by Diana
Acidic water is worse, but here are a few tips:
Run the water for a minute or two to remove water that has been standing in the pipes.
Use a copper removing insert in the filters, or, if you prepare the water ahead of time, in the barrels set up so the water flows though the inserts.
Use a chelating material, such as EDTA. This is in some dechlorinators that say 'removes heavy metals' and may be available as a separate item.
Here is one source:

On the products page 1, scroll to the bottom. It is an alphabetical list, and this is listed as E. D. T. A.

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 11:00 pm
by BotiaMaximus
If snails do well in your tank, would that be a safe way to assume you don't have an issue with copper?

I just brought home some "trumpet" type snails from one of the local stores out of one of their plant tanks. I can't say I treated them that nicely - I dumped them in a net and them swished them around in a bucket of water from my tank then poured them back in the net and put them in the tank.

My clowns worked over quite a few of them already.

The snails were working the bottom until I turned out the light, I came back in 20 minutes later and a bunch of them were half way up the glass!

Is that a normal thing - going up at night?

For snails they are pretty fast!

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:08 am
by Diana
Malaysian Trumpet Snails do climb the glass at night. I find mine do this more right after a water change. The morning following a water change there will be quite a few all over the glass, but especially where there is algae.

I think snails and shrimp are more sensitive to copper than most fish, so if snails are thriving I would not worry about copper.

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 11:53 am
by BotiaMaximus
I had just done a water change before I picked them up - might explain that.

I'm not even sure these are "MTS" just a black cone shaped snail that came out of some plant only tanks. Girl at the shop didn't know exactly what they were but said her Botia Types love them and told me I could help myself.

I figured they should be pretty safe since they are in plant only tanks that weren't on the central filter system. Very nice plants.

I'm completely new to snails - any good "all about snails" links out there??

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 1:49 pm
by wasserscheu
I could just throw some "fragments" (bulletpoints) at you, but unfourtunately no systematically working through the issue, sorry, please ignor if not of help.

° Copper pipes release more copper than plant fertilizer does (yes, I did add copper for plants). I never heard of any incidents though, but I am not hearing everything. There are copper water tests and charts calling out toxic levels, never tried myself though. In heavy planted tanks some copper may be absorbed, at least in traces.

° Copper bound in chelators are a multiple less dangerous than free copper.

° water conditioners may bind copper, but some may also release it again, possibly after a while (when bacteria munch away the chelator?)

° I've been avoiding snails so far, as they are intermittend hosts to some bad fish diseas. Shrimps are also sensitive to copper, would try those, perhaps bigger ones (Amano's) as there is a good chance that loaches treat them like snails... ouch.

I know, above does not help much at making decissions here. Common sense would also lead me to the understanding (as all above posts) that , pipes are not that risky, but I still would consider a test, in case it is affordable and or use good conditioners or at least the chelator Diana recommended.

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:31 pm
by wasserscheu
I'm returning to this thread after screening a German forum for copper, and as expected, there are no clear numbers. There are various levels of copper discussed but no clear message, except that very much will kill, but certain amounts are bufferd for example in filters (if not cleaned too much) and cycled water and as mentioned before plants absob some ... it remains an open issue to me, whether copper pipes are really dangerous.

As already mentioned, the remaining time in the pipe is key (keep as short as possible), cold water seems to be much better than warm water, if I understood right. Even people with good chemistry skills do not dare to claim the one or other. But as a summary, water conditioner will bind copper and with the water changes removes them (before set free again).

Posted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:18 pm
by BotiaMaximus
Thanks wasserscheu for the input, and the heads up on the potential dangers of snails.

I see you are posting from Munich and a lot of others are from the UK. Are copper pipes NOT the standard in Europe? They are here in the US for sure, I can't think of a house I've lived in that wasn't copper and it never has been brought up as a concern for freshwater aquariums.

I'm in Florida (hard water) and if you cut a used copper pipe you have a pale green layer next to the pipe (copper oxide and calcium?) followed by a pink layer closest to the flowing water (iron oxide and calcium?)

I don't have any troubles with water chemistry that I'm aware of. I do pre-filter and age through carbon and zeolite. I just spotted a glass shrimp that has eluded all predators for over two months now - he's good! He seems to be doing fine also.

I'm curious about the copper issue now, I need to test and see what the levels are and what is considered safe.

Diana, if you are still following this one, what are the "inserts" you are referring to for copper removal??

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 8:14 am
by wasserscheu
BotiaMaximus wrote: ...

Are copper pipes NOT the standard in Europe? ...
I guess in Germany, Swiss, Austria, zink coated is standard, copper occurs, since a couple of years, new buildings typically get equipped with stainless steel, that's my understanding, but heat exchangers and flow through heaters may have copper piping too. I built 10 years ago and was mad, that I was not informed, that stainless steel was available already than.

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 8:24 am
by BotiaMaximus

I would kill for an all stainless setup - never heard of such an install in the states. It is just plain copper 99% of installations. PVC on mobile homes maybe - but basically nothing but copper - no zinc coating either.

We are jealous - We'd like that 220 volt standard as well!

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 9:27 am
by lf11casey
PVC is pretty standard on mobile homes, I've lived in a few.
If your building a house you can get PVC pipes pretty easy. My house and a friends house were built using PVC. PVC comes rated for cold and hot water pipes now. I think that if you have a contractor build, you can still request PVC.
On a side note PVC is also a heck of a lot cheaper then copper. I now people who take scrap copper to recycling areas and come home with a nice chunk of cash.

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 9:41 am
by Diana
Another resin based filter insert that removes copper. Called Cuprisorb, I believe. Let me go find a link... ... iSorb.html

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 9:48 am
by mistergreen
Copper pipes are safe. You only have to worry if it's over 100 years old when it starts to degrade.

yikes, I'd hate to see the bill for stainless steel pipes.. Copper is used because it's relatively cheaper than the other metals.