Copper Sulfate And Shrimp, Don’t Do It. List Of Alternatives

Last Updated on February 4, 2022 by cmoarz

Did you know that copper sulfate can be toxic to many species of aquarium animals, including shrimp, fish, and snails? How about that It is also widely used as a preservative in many fish flakes and pellets. In this article, we explain why it’s used, what it can do to your animals, and how to avoid it. I’ve also done tireless research for you to find all the safe foods that don’t use copper sulfate as a preservative so you can know what your buying. The list is below the article.

What are the dangers of copper sulfate?

Copper sulfate is a popular preservative in fish flakes and pellets because it’s so cheap. However, copper can be toxic to many species of aquarium animals. In lower doses, it’s generally considered fine for larger fish, But certain species, such as snails and shrimp, are especially susceptible to copper poisoning. It’s also extremely painful for them to eat or even just to be around.

Unfortunately, the Mass-market doesn’t care about such things and tends to label these foods as safe for these sensitive species, sometimes even targeting them specifically, for example, “snail wafers” and “shrimp pellets”.

But the truth is, anything with copper sulfate listed in the ingredients is not safe for any aquarium animals, especially our sensitive gastropods and crustaceans, and should be avoided whenever possible.

But I know how much effort it is to stand in a pet store for hours trying to read labels, or sitting trying to zoom into a blurry product label image online. That’s why I did it all for you. It’s not as if I did not need the list either, which was the main purpose of it. So here it is, shared with all of you!

If you’re looking for copper-free food pellets or flake food, we’ve included a handy list below!

Edit 2/4/2022: Chart is broken, please use this link instead (google docs)

What can it do to my aquarium fish, snails or shrimp?

The most pronounced effect you will see almost immediately is with gastropods (snails).

Upon contact with trace amounts of copper sulfate, Their foot, tentacles, and faces will begin to swell up and become noticeably uncomfortable. They will begin to weaken, possibly having a hard time sticking the glass and other objects.

Their foot will curl up and they will have much difficulty walking around. We call this tiptoeing and it’s very noticeable. This also happens in older snails who are getting up there in age, so don’t be alarmed if your snail is doing this and she’s very old. But if you are feeding her food with copper sulfate, It could also be a reason.

Copper sulfate can also be toxic to many species of fish, including goldfish. It will cause the gills to become heavy and swollen with fluid which could lead to suffocation. Copper sulfate is known for causing a slow painful death by suffocation.

It sounds unpleasant, right? So why do that to your poor aquarium friends? With my list below, you really don’t need to worry about it ever again. When you see a product, Just cross-reference it with the list.

My list will be updated constantly and often with new products as they come out. If I missing some, just let me know and ill add them.

How did I not know about this until now?

Most people tend not to look up every ingredient in the things they eat or use or buy, and that’s totally understandable (I mean, I don’t). However, copper sulfate is a common ingredient in many common aquarium foods. You see it on the back of so many products and just assume it’s fine, why would they sell something that can harm my pets?

The truth is most aquarium pets WILL be ok. But like other metals, copper does accumulate over long periods of time, which could drastically shorten the lifespans of your precious fish. Some are hardier than others and some are more sensitive.

Most hobbies don’t have the knowledge to know which fish or snail or shrimp will have issues. And they don’t have the experience to know when they should look it up. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, the fact you are reading this article means you now know the issues with copper sulfate and you have the potential to save your pets, which is awesome. Be sure to spread the word by sharing this article or just telling your aquarium hobby buddies!


Owner of and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!