High-intensity ultrashort laser pulses focused on metal targets readily generate hot dense plasmas which accelerate ions efficiently and can pave way to compact table-top accelerators. Laser-driven ion acceleration studies predominantly focus on protons, which experience the maximum acceleration owing to their highest charge-to-mass ratio. The possibility of tailoring such schemes for the preferential acceleration of a particular ion species is very much desired but has hardly been explored. Here, we present an experimental demonstration of how the nanostructuring of a copper target can be optimized for enhanced carbon ion acceleration over protons or Cu-ions. Specifically, a thin (≈ 0.25 μm) layer of 25-30 nm diameter Cu nanoparticles, sputter-deposited on a polished Cu-substrate, enhances the carbon ion energy by about 10-fold at a laser intensity of 1.2 × 10(18) W/cm(2). However, particles smaller than 20 nm have an adverse effect on the ion acceleration. Particle-in-cell simulations provide definite pointers regarding the size of nanoparticles necessary for maximizing the ion acceleration. The inherent contrast of the laser pulse is found to play an important role in the species selective ion acceleration.