Contamination of freshwaters is increasing globally, with microalgae considered one of the most sensitive taxa to metal pollution. Here, we used 72 h bioassays to explore the biochemical effects of copper (Cu) on the amino acid (AA) profile and proteome of Chlorella sp. and advance our understanding of the molecular changes that occur in algal cells during exposure to environmentally realistic Cu concentrations. The Cu concentrations required to inhibit algal growth rate by 10% (EC10) and 50% (EC50) were 1.0 (0.7–1.2) µg L−1 and 2.0 (1.9–2.4) µg L−1, respectively. The AA profile of Chlorella sp. showed increases in glycine and decreases in isoleucine, leucine, valine, and arginine, with increasing Cu. Proteomic analysis revealed the modulation of several proteins involved in energy production pathways, including: photosynthesis, carbon fixation, glycolysis, and oxidative phosphorylation, which likely assists in meeting increased energy demands under Cu-stressed conditions. Copper exposure also caused up-regulation of cellular processes and signalling proteins, and the down-regulation of proteins related to ribosomal structure and protein translation. These changes in biomolecular pathways have direct effects on the AA profile and total protein content and provide an explanation for the observed changes in amino acid profile, cell growth and morphology. This study shows the complex mode of action of Cu on Chlorella under environmentally realistic Cu concentrations and highlights several potential biomarkers for future investigations.