Acquiring a saltwater aquarium clean-up crew is essential in naturally maintaining common saltwater tank problems such as algae growth, substrate compaction, and excess waste. The alternative, is chemicals and excessive cleaning that could damage the delicate eco-system we are trying to build. Plus, these little critters are very entertaining.
To start, we have added 3 Emerald Crabs to the tank. These little guys were eating algae even before they landed on the sandbed!
The Emerald Crab is from the family Majidae, genus Mithraculus, and species sculptus, and are naturally found on reefs in the Caribbean. They have flat green bodies and hairy legs and can grow up to 2 1/2 inches. They are primarily nocturnal, so we won’t see them very much during the day. They are also omnivores, which means they will eat plants and meats. Aside from the algae growing naturally in the tank, we will supplement their diet once in a while with some chopped meaty food, as we don’t want them eating the snails we also have in the clean-up crew. They have only been in the tank one day and have made a large dent in our algae growth.
Snails are great additions to the clean-up crew, although some aquarists won’t add them for fear that their crabs and other omnivores will eat them. Other aquarists add as many as 1 per gallon to their tank. There are several different kinds to pick from, so we chose three different kinds. The speediest snails I have ever seen are called Trochus snails. These snails are great for sucking up algae on the glass.
We also have Astraea snails, which do a great job cleaning algae from the live rock.
The third type of snail we have are Cerith snails. They like to burrow in the substrate, which helps to keep the substrate stirred up as well as remove the algae growing there.
My only reservation to having snails in the tank is that they may often need assistance in “righting” themselves if they get flipped on their back. Cerith snails have a better time of this, because of their shape, but the Astraea and Trochus snails we will have to keep an eye on. In total, we have approximately 30 snails in our 75 gallon tank. We think this is a sufficient number and will only add more if the tank’s housekeeping is in need of additional assistance.