Introducing the Clean Up Crew

Clean Up Crew

Imagine this scenario: you’re well on your way to managing your own fish tank. Choosing an aquarium over other hobbies and interests was easy for you since you’ve always loved the water and its inhabitants. You are aware that there is so much to learn and that is a challenge but you are very excited about it. A lot of elements need to be considered, and one of them should be employing your clean-up crew.

What does this crew have to do with marine tanks, and yours in particular? They are actually going to help you with maintaining your tank and ensuring that water quality is at an ideal level. Your tank’s crew are like caretakers that help with all the housekeeping in your tank, reducing your time spent picking algae off the live rock or scraping the glass, among other things.

Their primary tasks are:

  • - Helping you clean up non-living organic matter.
  • - Managing algae everyday by eating it.
  • - Sifting through the sand.

What Species Should Make Up the Crew?

A number of different species should make up your cleanup crew. Your tank needs the right combination because some species might eat algae but not sift the sand, others may do the opposite.  You need to achieve good balance with your choices of who will join your crew.

The maintenance staff for your tank should ideally be made up of crabs, snails, shrimps, and starfish. The most popular are snails and the most common are Turbo snails, Asterea snails, Nassarius snails, Nerite snails, and Trochis snails. For crabs, the most common are the Red Legged Hermit Crab, the Blue Legged Hermit Crab, the Emerald Green Crab, and the Sally Lightfoot Crab. For shrimps, the most common are Fire Shrimps, Coral Banded Shrimps, Pistol Shrimps and Peppermint Shrimps. For Starfish, the most common are Sand Sifting Starfish and Brittle Stars.


Introduce your crew one member at a time. This is to ensure that there is enough food to go around and to minimise disruption, which is always crucial. Make sure that the first ones to go into the tank are crabs, shrimps and snails, as they are the toughest. Once algae starts building up, which may be after a couple of months, you can add in the starfish.

Once they’ve got used to their new environment, your clean-up crew should be extremely helpful and cut down on the effort required on your part to keep everything running smoothly.  They help your marine tank more closely resemble a fully functioning mini ecosystem which in turn helps your fish feel comfortable. If necessary, you can even add some of your clean-up crew in the sump if your fish tank has one, where they can help to clean the necessary (but perhaps less pretty) equipment like skimmers and filters.

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