Do Copper Pennies Prevent Algae? Debunking the Myth and Exploring Alternative Solutions

Algae can be a real pain, especially for those who own fish tanks or swimming pools. There have been countless tips and tricks circulating over the years for preventing algae growth, from using copper pennies to more sophisticated solutions. In this article, we will debunk the myth surrounding copper pennies and algae prevention while also examining alternative methods to control algae.

Copper pennies, as it turns out, do not actually prevent algae growth. While they may have some minor effects, relying on this method is likely insufficient and can lead to disappointing results.

Now that we’ve addressed the myth, let’s dive deeper into the world of algae and explore some effective ways to prevent and control their growth. You’re about to become your own algae expert!

Copper’s Role in Algae Control

Copper is known to have some algaecidal properties, which is why people might jump to the conclusion that copper pennies could prevent algae. However, the amount of copper in modern pennies is minimal (since 1982, they are composed of 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper). Therefore, the copper in pennies won’t release enough ions to have any meaningful impact on algae growth.

Copper-based Algaecides

Although copper pennies don’t work to prevent algae, copper-based algaecides are often used to control algae growth in swimming pools and ponds. These products typically contain a higher concentration of copper, allowing them to effectively combat algae. However, overuse of copper-based algaecides can lead to a buildup of copper ions in the water, which can pose risks to aquatic life and humans.

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Algae Prevention Tips

Now that we’ve debunked the copper penny myth, let’s look at some practical tips to prevent and control algae growth in various settings.


  • Maintain the right balance of nutrients, which helps to keep algae growth under control. This means feeding your fish appropriately and not overfeeding them.
  • Conduct regular water changes to maintain water quality.
  • Limit the amount of light your aquarium receives. Although your fish and plants need light to thrive, too much light can promote algae growth.
  • Introduce algae eaters, such as snails and fish, to help keep algae under control naturally. Some examples include plecos, snails, and otocinclus catfish.
  • Clean your aquarium regularly, including glass surfaces and decorations, to physically remove algae.


  • Encourage a balanced ecosystem by introducing aquatic plants that will compete with algae for nutrients.
  • Use a pond skimmer or net to remove floating debris regularly.
  • Limit sunlight exposure to the pond, as this can help keep algae growth in check.
  • Utilize barley straw or other natural products that are known to help prevent algae development.

Swimming Pools

  • Regularly test and adjust your pool water’s chemistry levels to maintain the correct pH, alkalinity, and sanitizer levels.
  • Manually clean your pool, including scrubbing the walls, vacuuming, and skimming the water surface.
  • Regularly inspect, clean, and backwash your pool filter.
  • Cover your pool when not in use to limit sunlight exposure and debris accumulation.


  • What causes algae growth?
    • Algae growth is often triggered by an excess of nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, in the water. These nutrients can come from various sources, including plant and fish waste, uneaten fish food, and even tap water.
  • Can algae be harmful to fish?
    • While not all algae are harmful, some can release toxins harmful to fish or deplete oxygen levels in the water, causing stress and even death to your aquatic life.
  • How do I remove algae from my fish tank?
    • Physically remove algae by scrubbing the glass, decorations, and other surfaces, and invest in an algae scraper or magnet for easy cleaning. You can also introduce algae-eating animals to help control algae naturally.
  • Are there any risks in using copper-based algaecides?
    • Yes, the overuse of copper-based algaecides can cause a buildup of copper ions in your water. This can harm aquatic life, especially invertebrates like snails, and also create stains on pool surfaces.
  • Is it ok to use UV light to control algae?
    • UV light can be a useful tool in controlling algae, especially in aquariums. UV sterilizers can remove free-floating algae from the water, helping to maintain water clarity.
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In conclusion, although copper pennies may not effectively prevent algae growth, there are numerous alternative methods available for managing and preventing algae in various settings. By maintaining proper water chemistry, limiting sunlight exposure, and using algae-eating organisms, you can make algae growth a problem of the past. Don’t let these pesky plants dictate your aquatic enjoyment – take control with the knowledge you’ve gained today and create a healthy, algae-free environment.

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