Co1-xCuxFe2O4 nanoparticles with x = 0 and 0.5 were synthesized through the combustion method. The as-made materials are face centered-cubic close-packed spinel structures. The characterization techniques such as powder XRD, FTIR, UV-DRS and SEM studies collectively verified that the formed products are cobalt ferrite and copper substituted cobalt ferrite nanoparticles. In addition, the mean crystalline size, lattice parameter and band gap energy of nanoparticles are calculated. The photocatalytic activity of the obtained Co1-xCuxFe2O4 spinel nanoparticles is evaluated by monitoring the degradation of congo red under visible light irradiation. © Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd.