A New Guide to Aquarium Clean-Up Crews
In this guide we will be covering all types of invertebrate species that you can use to help clean up your aquarium. These are commonly known as “clean-up crew” species. Many are added into aquariums before fish are in order to help remove detritus and trace elements from the sand bed and live rock. They are beneficial to almost all home aquariums, with the exception of tanks that have carnivorous, aggressive fish in them (i.e: Triggerfish, Puffers, some Wrasses, etc). Each type of invertebrate is categorized below, and the pros and cons will be listed by each to see if they are a perfect fit for your aquarium, or any algae problems you may come into contact with.
- Turbo Snails:
- There is a wide arrangement of Turbo Snails that you can get. These snails are very good at one specific job, which is eating algae. They will graze on it all day, predominately any that grows on live rock or aquarium glass. They are also very beneficial and grow wonderfully in aquariums that have coral in them. This is because the calcium levels are typically higher when dealing with coral, which also helps the snail’s shell grow. There needs to be a constant supply of algae or seaweed, otherwise these snails will die off.
- Trochus Snails:
- These snails are our personal second favorite ( to the mexican turbos) as they have a long life, live in warm waters, eat lots of algae, and reproduce like rabbits which feeds our corals nicely! They are a little hard to find, but you can certainly find bulk deals on them around at your local fish stores. They are also able to flip themselves over which is an added bonus.
- Nassarius Snails:
- This is a very small snail which you will not see a lot of. They are usually hiding in the sand bed and are mostly active at night. Despite how small they are, they can be very good at cleaning up anything that falls to the sand’s surface. This includes detritus, fish food, and even other species that may pass away. They are almost a must for many aquariums and are very easy to take care of.
- Cerith Snails:
- Very similar to the Nassarius Snail, this snail will also eat a lot of the algae that grows on the sand and rocks. They love to burrow, which helps tremendously with oxidizing your sand to prevent nitrogen pockets from building up. This in turn also helps clean the sand itself. They are very sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters, so it is necessary to keep an eye on everything, especially when introducing them into the aquarium.
- Fighting Conch:
- I cannot praise this type of snail enough. The Fighting Conch is very good at stirring your sand bed and will always keep it clean. They benefit immensely in reef aquariums, where the calcium levels will help their shells grow as well as eating algae and detritus that collects on the sand bed. These snails are mainly active at night and will try to burrow themselves into the sand during the day with their trunks sticking out of the sand. The only downside to the conch is that they are short lived, typically lasting between 2-5 years on average.
- Emerald Crabs:
- These crabs are good at eating algae, especially getting rid of bubble algae from aquariums. They are your average scavenger that will typically eat anything else it can get its claws on. This is something to watch out for because if they run out of algae or an ample food source, they will turn to corals and anemones. They have also been know to attack their own species and other crabs in aquariums, so this is something to watch out for as well.
- Hermit Crabs (Blue Dwarf Leg & Scarlet Reef):
- These are two of the more popular types of hermit crabs to get for an aquarium which remain fairly small in size. They are extremely easy to take care of and will eat anything they can find, being opportunistic scavengers. This can range from algae to leftover fish food, to even fish that may pass away in your aquarium. The only thing you will have to provide from them is extra shells whenever they get larger. If shells are not provided, they may go after some of your snails and commandeer theirs.
- Arrow Crabs:
- This crab species looks very alien-like. They have long slender legs that keep their bodies erected, very similar to a tripod in appearance. They are good at cleaning up some of the detritus or leftover food that sinks to to the bottom of your aquarium. However, they are aggressive in nature. Many have been known to attack corals, other invertebrates, and even fish that get too close to them. Caution is advised when deciding to get an Arrow Crab.
- Sally Lightfoot Crabs:
- These crabs are very good at cleaning up leftover food, detritus, and even algae along the bottom of the sand bed. They are also extremely agile, and can be incredibly hard to catch if you need to take them out of your aquarium for any reason. The only downside to this type of crab is that they have been known to prey on smaller invertebrates and fish that come close to them. Victims to their attacks range from smaller snails, shrimp, and even smaller fish such as Neon Gobies.
- Banded Coral Shrimp:
- This is a very elaborate shrimp with red and white coloration. These shrimp love to eat fish food as a staple to their diets. Essentially, they are just fun to have in your aquarium as a member to clean up any excess food. They prefer hiding in rocks, so make sure you have some alcoves set up with your rock arrangement for them. The only downside to these shrimp is that some have been reported to be a little aggressive towards other shrimp and crabs, so keep an eye out when adding them into your aquarium.
- Peppermint Shrimp:
- A very small type of shrimp that is also very beneficial to the aquarium. They get their name by looking like peppermint candy. They will eat anything that falls to the bottom of the aquarium such as fish food, detritus, waste, and fish that may pass away. They need a lot of places to hide, so make sure you are able to provide this via rocks and coral. One reason that this shrimp is more popular that most is because they can kill Aiptasia. This is a type of nuisance anemone that will sting pretty much anything it comes into contact with. So if you get a little team of Peppermint Shrimp, they will make short work of this nuisance.
- Cleaner (Skunk) Shrimp:
- One of my favorite shrimp to add into an aquarium. The Cleaner Shrimp serves a separate purpose compared to everything else mentioned previously. They will come up to fish in the aquarium and begin cleaning off all bacteria or parasites that may develop on their bodies. They are even happy to clean your fingers if you stick your hand in the water, which is a really fun experience to do. Aside from this, they will need to eat any fish food that you provide for your main aquarium members. So make sure you add enough for them as well! Every once in a while we find a suspicious looking empty snail shell near our cleaner shrimp. I’m not saying I have seen them eating one, but just sayin…