Copper (Cu) is one of the most harmful contaminants in fresh-water systems. Fish larvae such as sacfry are particularly vulnerable to metals such as copper (Cu) due to a less-developed excretory organ system and permeable skin that can absorb metals directly from the water. However, the sublethal effects of metals on this life stage are not well understood. This study assessed the sublethal toxicity of Cu on purple-spotted gudgeon sacfry (PSG, Mogurnda adspersa). For this purpose, 96 h Cu toxicity bioassays were performed and toxic effects of Cu on PSG were measured at different levels of biological organization, from the individual (loss of equilibrium, wet weight), to tissue (chemical changes in retinal tissue composition) and molecular responses (whole body amino acid (AA) profiles). The EC10 and EC50 (ECx: effect concentration that affected X% of test organisms) were found to be 12 (9 – 15) µg Cu L−1 and 22 (19 – 24) µg Cu L−1, respectively. Copper stress caused a decrease in total amino acid content and changed the AA profile of PSG compared to the controls. Proton-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) mapping techniques showed accumulation of Cu in the retinal tissues disturbing the distribution of other elements such as zinc, sulfur, phosphorus and potassium. Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) microspectroscopy of control and Cu treated eye tissues revealed a change in protein secondary structure in retinal tissues in response to Cu accumulation, as well as decreased levels of the molecular retinal, consistent with the degradation of rhodopsin, a key protein in the visual sensory system. This is the first study to demonstrate the multi-level responses of PSG arising from exposure to environmentally realistic Cu concentrations and suggests that AA profiling can serve as a useful tool to assess the impacts of metals on fresh-water organisms.