How To Choose Your Clean Up Crew!

Thinking About A Clean Up Crew?

The benefits of having a crew or team of invertebrates that naturally get rid of the Algae, Detritus and Unwanted pests in your aquarium always outweigh the cons. You want your aquarium to look as natural as can be if you really want to invite that reef or aggressive look in your aquatic environment. What better way to achieve this then by having saltwater invertebrates that eat unwanted and invasive material out of your aquarium just as they would in the wild, helping you achieve that natural look while lowering your maintenance. There can be negative effects of a clean up crew if you do not choose them correctly. In this article we will break down steps on how to choose your clean up crew for success.

What You Should Ask Yourself Before Choosing Your CUC

  1.  The Amount Of Sand And Rock– When Online retailers suggest a quantity of species by the amount of species per gallon it is used as a reference point since it is more common to know the gallons of the aquarium than the pounds of rock and surface space of sand. If the recommended amount of crabs per gallon is 1 per gallon and you have a 200 gallon aquarium one might assume that 200 crabs is ok however, if the aquarium is taller than wider not leaving much space for rock or sand than 200 crabs can be an overkill. Putting too much invertebrates than you need will cause the algae to run out quick starving many crabs and adding ammonia to your water. Only you can accurately decide the amount of crabs by the pounds of live rock or surface space of sand. A more accurate guideline is one crab per pound of live rock if one crab per gallon is recommended by the retailer.
  2. ID The Algae That Is Growing– It is important to ID the algae that is growing so you can better determine the clean up crew you should use. At times some aquarists may purchase an invertebrate that does not naturally feed on that algae leaving the invertebrates with nothing to feed on.
  3. Rate At Which The Algae Grows– The rate at which the algae grows can determine the quantity in your clean up crew. You want to have a good balance of algae and algae eaters in order for them to have a replenishing cycle of algae to feed on and control. It is not uncommon for aquarists to use a CUC to solve a problem in the end leaving them with no food source.
  4. Are They Reef Safe– Every aquarium is different and not all species get along. Make sure to do your homework on the clean up crew for sale so you do not add a problem to your aquarium.


There are many variables in choosing the right quantity which makes formulas for quantities a little tricky. Keep in mind that each aquatic environment has a biological load that it can handle. Adding more invertebrates increases that load. Use the above guideline to better determine the amount of Crabs, Snails or Starfish that you both can benefit from.


Each species in a clean up crew will specialize in some form of cleaning. The invertebrates in your clean up crew might clean the sand, eat specific algae or filter the water column. Make sure to go through the above 4 steps to narrow down which invertebrates will be best for your situation. Here are some of the invertebrates in the clean up crews at Royal Reefs and there beneficial habits.

  • The Blue Leg Hermit crab for sale is a great addition to any aquarium. Very good at eating hair algae, detritus and other forms of cyanobacteria. Blue Leg hermit crabs require live rock to graze just like in their natural environment. It is a good idea to have extra empty shells around so they do not harass other crabs or snails for their shells even though they are reef safe.

  • emerald crab

    emerald crab for sale algae eaters for aquarium

    If Bubble algae or hair algae are a problem in your tank then this is the crab that you want. They are reef compatible but they do ten to rearrange frags at times. If there is not sufficient algae they may pick on smaller invertebrates or fish. These crabs are found mainly on rocks so make sure there is 3 pounds of live rock per emerald crab.

  • porcelain crab

    Porcelain crab for sale, great filter feeder for saltwater aquarium

    The Porcelain crab is said to be one of the main contributors in filtering the water column and keeping shores and reefs clean. Porcelain crabs are excellent at cycling water with their glove like fans that protrude in between their claws. You can easily find 3 to 5 porcelain crabs per pound of live rock in the ocean. This can also be achieved in an aquarium if the bio load permits.

  • nassarius snail

    nassarius snail for sale for saltwater reef aquariums

    Nassarius snails are a must have snail to keep in your aquarium. They are the first on the scene when leftover food or detritus is in the aquarium. naturally they burrow themselves in the sand which is great for your aquatic environment as they aerate the sand column. No aquarist regrets adding Nassarius snails.

  • cerith snail

    cerith snail for sale is a nocturnal snail great for saltwater tanks

    If you want a snail that works the late hours aggressively then the Cerith snail is your friend. Cerith snails love rock structure, Plants and detritus. They are definitely a great clean up crew member to have in any aquatic environment. Reef Safe!

There are many other Invertebrates that make up a great clean up crew. Always do your homework before adding a team of aquarium cleaners!

Are They Necessary?

With the increase in technology some will argue that they are not necessary, replacing a good cleanup crew with a UV Sterilizer. Others debate the point of having an aquarium if your going to take away the naturalness of an aquatic ecosystem. They are both right. While you can sustain an aquarium without a clean up crew you also take away a huge natural role in an ecosystem. The idea of having an aquarium in your home was to take a peace of the ocean home with you. In a reef all the corals fish and invertebrates are contributors in some way to the aquatic environment. If you take away invertebrates the ecosystem is not complete However, the decision remains yours.