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FAQs about Marine Scavenger Selection: "Clean Up Crews"

Related FAQs: Marine Scavengers 1, Marine Scavengers 2, Marine Scavengers 3, Sand Sifters, Sea CucumbersShrimp Gobies, Sifter Gobies Marine Algae EatersHermit Crabs, & FAQs on Scavenger: Rationale, CompatibilitySpecimen Selection, Worms As  Scavengers, Snail Scavengers, Shrimp Scavengers, Hermit Scavengers, Crab Scavengers, Cucumber Scavengers, Sea Urchin Scavengers, Serpent Star Scavengers, Seastar Scavengers, Fish/Groups as Scavengers, Losses/Troubleshooting,

Related Articles: Scavengers/Clean-up Crews for Marine Aquariums, by Bob Fenner, Some Fishes Are Good For More Than Just Looking At, by James Fatherree, Genus Valenciennea GobiesHermit Crabs,  

Most Hermit Crabs are eat'em uppers, not cleaner uppers

Calcium, calcium, where for art thou? (Follow up), and now, clean-up crews   6/12/08 Bob, <Greg> Thanks for your help with the calcium questions. Oddly enough I purchased a brand new Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (API) Calcium test kit and my water tested at 400. How I was getting a 315 reading with Instant Ocean test kit is kind of baffling. <Happens> So I guess I'm much closer to where I want to be than I thought. Will still be switching from Purple Up to C Balance. I'd like to extend a "thank you" to you from my corals for that advice! <Welcome to all> I have two questions regarding clean-up crews. I read through much of the FAQ's on them but didn't see what I was looking for. I have Astraea snails (40), Chestnut Turbo snails (24) and some red tip hermits (50). <Too many, much of all IMO> Is there any value to adding some Nassarius distortus snails as they eat meat and detritus? <This is one of my fave species... I would add a handful> Or do you have a favorite omnivore and detritus eater recommendation? (As mentioned below, I do have two large yellow headed gobies). <Mmm... my opinions re are posted... I favor other, mechanical means of doing what these organisms are supposed to do...> This may be the silliest question, but, oh well, here goes....If I have Nassarius distortus snails or other types of scavengers that bury themselves in the sand to feed, how do I avoid them being injured by the siphon during a water change? <You'll see them and/or they won't get sucked up "all the way" I assure you> I'm envisioning them being spun around in the siphon like kids on the whirly-bird ride at the carnival. This can't be a good thing. <Not that bad actually> Tank info: My 150 is 19 months established. Approx 230lbs of live rock. What you cannot see in the picture are the protein skimmer, UV sterilizer, Phosban reactor, Chiller, Wavemaster controller, activated carbon and refugium. <Looks very nice. I esp. like the seating arrangement> Two bubble corals and one each of a frogspawn, elegance, leather and mushroom. One 6 inch sail-fin tang, two maroon clowns, two Chromis, one lyre tail Anthias, one copper-banded butterfly, two large yellow-headed gobies and one lawnmower blenny. Thanks,
Greg Esposito

Clean up Crew   1/15/07 Hi there, <Hey Michael, JustinN with you today.>    I'm back with another couple of questions.  Recently you helped me out on some T5 lighting questions.  I'm in the midst of setting up a 75 gallon reef tank.   <Ok> I'm still debating whether to have it drilled or use a HOB overflow.   It's a used tank and it does have a decal saying that the bottom pane is tempered, so I'd have to get the back drilled if I go that route.  I've heard horror stories about HOB overflows...but I don't know anyone personally who's had problems with them.   <The problems with HOB overflows typically comes from people using only a single overflow box. Using a second, identical overflow box for added redundancy can alleviate this fear.> I'm also a lil' scared to have the  tank drilled considering if it breaks, I'm out a tank!!   <Absolutely understood> I've called around to several glass shops and some seem to have some experience in drilling tanks but they all say it's at my own risk...which I totally understand. <You will get this response, even with a brand new tank. Glass drilling is just a touchy issue.>   Prices are ranging anywhere from $25.00-$40.00 per hole...not bad.   <Indeed, about average here.> If I do get it drilled, I'd probably have 1 hole drilled at 1 3/4" for a 1" bulkhead and then run my return over the side, without drilling a second hole.  Any suggestions or advice? <If you drill, do go for a larger throughput bulkhead here. Most people who buy so-called "reef ready" aquariums often find the 1" bulkhead, even when there are 2 of them provided, simply does not provide enough flow.>   Next, once the tank is up and running, what type of clean up crew would you recommend?  I've had a problem in another tank with hermit crabs killing my snails.  I don't know which kind of hermits they were, but because of that, I'm a lil' hesitant to utilize hermit crabs.   <Many will agree with you here. Hermits, and all crabs, are all opportunistic feeders.> I would like your advice on a good mix clean up crew to purchase.  Species and quantity of each would be awesome!!  Currently, I'm having some issues with short hair algae in both of my other reef tanks.   <Hair algae typically has more to do with under skimming, under filtration, and an over-abundance of phosphates and nitrates, less to do with clean up crew. Likewise, hair algae is one of the least palatable algaes to most herbivorous species. I would recommend a handful of Cerith snails as a good, beneficial set of detritivores.> I have recently purchased an RO/DI unit that I'm hoping will help.   <Yes, will likely help some.> The new tank is also going to have a lot more flow!!   I'm looking at about 600 GPH through the sump/refugium, using a SQWD system. <With a single 1" throughput, this is a very optimistic/almost unrealistic vision. You will either need less flow from the sump/fuge, or larger/more outputs to feed the sump.>   Then I'll also add a RIO 1400 inside the tank, as well as a couple MJ1200s with Hydor Flos attached to each.  I'm hoping this will create enough random flow.  If needed, I also have some MJ900s I can locate in different parts of the tank. <Ok>    One other are I need help in and then I'll stop harassing you......for now.  The used 75 came with about 100 lbs of live rock that's been sitting in a Rubbermaid tote with a couple power heads.  It's been without light for awhile but it's still healthy.  The tank also has about 2" of almost dry very fine aragonite sand in it.  Will I have problems with the sand since it's dried out?  I do have a lot of sand between my 2 other reef tanks, a refugium and a 10 gal QT tank.  I can use sand to seed the dry sand.  I'm just wondering if I need to worry about any issues re-using the dry sand? <At most, add a cup or two of 'live' sand from your active reef tanks, as well as re-adding the live rock to the aquarium. While allowing the tank to restabilize and establish, both the  biota from your other aquariums as well as the live rock will serve to seed the dried sandbed. No worries here, mate.>   Alright, I'm done and will await your expertise!!  Thanks for any info you can provide!! Sincerely, Michael <I certainly hope I've helped shed some light on these questions for you, Michael! -JustinN> Critter Stocking 6/27/06 Hi Crew, <Hi> Before I start with my question, I would just like to thank you all for your time and effort, I really appreciate all the hard work you put into the WWM, and I have gained so much from reading all your FAQ's, thanks again. <Thanks for the kind words.> Now for my question, I have recently taken up the fish keeping hobby again, after a 15 year break and decided to go straight in at the deep end, and go for a Reef Tank! <Welcome back.> So, I've now got myself a nice 70 gallon bow fronted corner tank, all setup and cycled, with some 30kgs of live rock. <ok> I am now at the stage of wanting to add some "critters" and was wondering what qty / mix of critters would be good for a 70 gallon Reef tank, and whether it's fairly safe to add them all in one go, or do it gradually in stages. Further down the line I'm planning on adding a couple of Clown Fish, and Goby, but that's about it fish wise. Looking forward to your response. Kind Regards Andrew B. <By critters I am assuming you mean snails, crabs, etc.  I don't really like any of the "rules of thumb" out there such as 1 snail/10 gallons etc.  Each tank varies too much, what might work in one tank with lots of algae will equal lots of dead stuff in another with less food.  Start slowly, just a few critters at a time.  This will allow you to find the right balance more easily without wasting money and killing livestock.>   <Good luck with the new tank.> <Chris>

Clean Up Crew/Algae  - 05/19/2006 Hi there, <Ewan> Many thanks for all the great information that's helped me so far! <Welcome> I have a 50 gallon tank. It has 30kg of live rock and 1.5-2" of live sand and has an Aqua Medic TurboFlotor Multi SL protein skimmer that's designed to be good up to tank sizes of 250 gallons.  Water parameters re ammonia and nitrite are 0. I currently have the following: 2 Percula Clowns (medium size) 2 Banggai Cardinal fish (medium) 2 Firefish (the orange and white type, medium) My clean up crew is comprised of the following: 2 Skunk cleaner shrimp 1 Blood Shrimp 1 Banded Coral Shrimp 1 Arrow Crab <These last two are more of "eat-em-up" class than cleaner up...> 2 Bristle Stars 3 tiny Red Hermit crabs about 1/2 inch in size 3 Hermit Crabs with striped black and blue striping. 1 inch big I'm still getting some unsightly algae on the tank glass. It's brown in color and thin and appears in patches on the front and sides, but not really on the back of the tank.  I'm planning on using something to reduce phosphate levels as I've been told this contributes to algae growth but was also interested to know if there's anything I can add to my clean up crew to help the problem. <Mmm, all sorts> Have seen several types of Cowry, Murex, Scallops and snails listed on the web as being useful. <Mmm. some snails... but not the ones you list, nor the bivalve> My LFS stocks Turbo castaneus and a snail called Super Turbo Snail. What would you advise? Many thanks! Ewan <For you to read, starting here: http://wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm and the linked files at top where you lead yourself. Many approaches to consider here... enjoy the process. Bob Fenner>

Selecting Safe Detritivores  11/20/06 Hello to the WWM crew. I have found very helpful information from your site. Could you offer your advice/assistance on adding sand sifting or detritivore type species? Here is my set-up. I have a 200 gallon reef set-up: 72" x 32" x 24" (deep) Circulation is powerful utilizing a central Dolphin pump Lighting is 3  MH retrofits with 400W 20,000K Below I list the details. I hope this is sufficient information. I have converted this tank from a previous fish only. The corals are doing well, with good polyp extension daily on the leathers. I have a good skimmer, and that seems to be ok. I have removed a lot of the coarse crushed coral substrate when I have done water changes. Not quite to bare bottom, but getting there. I want to add a live sand substrate, but I would like to add the right mix of detritivores and sand sifters. I do not want to risk a big mistake due to the forward momentum I have. The more I read on your site, the more cautious I am, particularly with crabs. <You are wise here> Since it is a big tank, how much do I add, and what? Thanks again for your great site and advice. Take care, George Pachyclavularia violacea Sarcophyton elegans Sarcophyton sp. Sinularia dura Rhodactis indosinensis Actinodiscus sp. Plerogyra sinuosa Trachyphyllia geoffroy Platygyra sp. Alveopora T. crocea Small zoanthid rock Pseudochromis paccagnellae 2 Chrysiptera parasema 2 Zebrasoma flavescens 2 Amphiprion ocellaris 2 part B-ionic dosing Calcium @ 475 Alkalinity 4.5 pH 8.2-8.4 some iodine dosing in small increments to supplement above <Perhaps some species of Valenciennea et al. gobies... I myself would avoid snails, false/hermit crabs... and rely more on other mechanisms (other than biological "cleaners" here). Bob Fenner>

Re: Selecting Safe Detrivores... no such word: detritivores  11/21/06 Dear Bob, Hello again and thanks for the prompt reply. Quick follow up to my substrate / sifters questions. Regarding Valenciennea gobies; can I have several in a 200 gal. environment? <Yes> Could a clown goby or similar also be incorporated? <I would not... the genus Gobiodon are almost entirely corallivorous> Can you also elaborate on what you mean by "other mechanisms", or are you referring to mean more frequent water changes? <This and much more... posted on WWM... please see articles, FAQs files on Marine/Reef Maintenance/Operation, Algae Control...> Finally, I'm not at all surprised about staying away from the crabs as this is well documented, but what is the problem with snails in general. Are they simply inefficient, or harmful? <Often a bit of both... don't do much, are vectors for pathogens...> So many online retailers seem to push clean-up crews, mainly made up of snails and crabs. I don't see why. <Highly profitable> Thanks again. George <BobF>

What type of clean-up critters would you suggest for the following two areas of my FO+LR system. Display: 180 net gallon display tank with a Huma Trigger, Maculosus Angel, Green bird Wrasse, Marble Wrasse, Regal Tang and Raccoon Butterfly.  Approx.175 lbs LR.  Approx. half the rock has hair algae.  The substrate (coral gravel) does not have a problem.  The back wall has some hair algae, but not to bad. <No critters will magically clean up the hair algae. Believe me...I wish they could. Reach into the tank and pull/siphon this stuff out as much as possible and look for the root cause: high nutrients, wrong spectrum of light (old bulbs), silicate and/or phosphates, high nitrates etc > 22"x22"x10" refugium which is located in the center of my sump.  This area acts as a settling pond for detritus.  The live rock rubble has hair algae and the substrate (again a couple of inches of coral gravel) brown from the detritus. I have the upstream and downstream barriers protected from the incoming water and the return section of the sump with a combination of Plexiglas baffle with plastic eggcrate material to the water surface.  I eventually want to purchase macro algae for nutrient export in the refugium from Inland Aquatics, but will have to wait until the temperatures in Fairbanks are 20 degree F or higher.  I think FFExpress will ship clean-up critters. <If you really want a cleanup crew you can order the usual snails and crabs like the ones sold at FFExpress but realize the trigger will make short work of many of them, especially if he's large. David Dowless>

Re: janitorial work needed What's up WWM crew! I have some questions about the cleanup crew I am about to purchase. I was thinking of getting about 75 hermits:     25 Blue Leg Hermits (Clibanarius tricolor)     20 Red Tip Hermits (Clibanarius sp.)     25 Dwarf Zebra Hawaiian Hermit (Calcinus laevimanus)     5 Scarlet Reef Hermits (Paguristes cadenati) <Wow! That's a lot!>      I was looking at around 75 snails as well:     10 Margarita snails (Margarites pupillus)     15 Cerith snails (Cerithium sp.)     5 Turbo snails (Turbo fluctuosa)     15 Astraea Conehead snails (Astraea tecta)     15 Banded Trochus snails (Trochus sp.)     10 Nassarius snails (Nassarius sp)     5 Red Foot Moon snails (Norrisia sp.) <Jeez-o- Petes! You really want a lot of these little critters...eh?> Here are the inhabitants and the parameters of my tank: -125 gallon AG -30 gallon Sump -65 lbs. LR (various) -60-70 lbs. base rock (various) -2.5"-3" Aragonite and sand substrate -3 x 250W MH 5.5K -2 x 96W PC True Actinic >------------------------------------------ -Large Tube Anemone -3" Clam (?derasa?) -3" Pencil Urchin -unidentified corals and sponges growing on LR -2 Green Chr. (1.5") -2 Firefish Gob. (2") -1 Clarkii Clown (1.5") -1 Yellow Tang (3") -1 Coral Beauty (2") >------------------------------------------- Temp = 78 pH = 8.3 Ca+ = 400 PO4 = 0 Fe = 0 NH3 = 0.3 NO2 = 0 NO3 = >10 sp. gr. = 1.022 Does this cleanup crew sound pretty good for a start or do you recommend others or more? <Not more for goodness sake! After these guys have cleaned up your tank what will they eat? In reality many of them will be out competed for food and die> My tank is well-matured, I just haven't had a real cleanup crew in a while. The Hair Algae and Red Slime are suddenly taking over and I need something that is going to be able to keep this at bay. A couple of factors could account for this I think. <The 10 NO3 for a start> I turned off my Filstar XP3 last week because it had clogged and I thought I would see how things would go without it ( loss of some of the bio. filtration ). <You don't need it any way. Stuff with some good quality carbon and change the carbon once a week or so...That'll keep from becoming a biological filter> The food I had been feeding the fish for a couple of days was really smelling after I accidentally left it out, I quit feeding it to them because I thought it was no good ( Uneaten decaying food matter that was already no good ). <Good idea. Food isn't all that expensive> Or maybe it's the fact that all of my powerheads are not on. I ordered a Red Sea Wavemaster Pro for the tank and when I tried to hook it up and plug it in nothing happened. I sent it back and only plugged in half of the p. heads ( loss of heavy circulation ). Your opinions and comments on this problem are very much appreciated. I apologize for the format of this letter but I thought it would be easier for you to read. Thanks for your help. <The more circulation that you have the better. Siphon the hair and skim before it gets entrenched. Unless you are really want all of those little critters, I would divide the top and bottom list and get those critters. If you find that you need more, then get the rest. David Dowless>

Cleaner crew Thanks again for the advice.  I hate to keep "beating a dead horse", so to speak, but I've realized that my main concern here is finding an animal that will help scavenge and keep my detritus clean.  I had a cleaner shrimp for about two years who did a really good job of gobbling up fallen food and such at the bottom of the tank and I was thinking that getting another one would help.  Since his departure, I've noticed that none of my other tank inhabitants really hang out at the bottom of the tank and it seems that the top layer of sand is getting dirtier more quickly.  Also since the cleaner shrimp's death, I got 2 peppermint shrimp because I wanted them to eat some Aiptasia off of my live rock and I wrongly assumed that they would scavenge like the cleaner shrimp.  They are very tiny, under one inch long, so I don't really know if that means they would be less of a threat to a cleaner shrimp.  Also, my peppermint shrimp stay up inside the rocks and are barely ever seen, even at feeding time.  My old cleaner shrimp used to always perch himself on rocks right out in the open or would walk along the bottom of the tank searching for food.  Would this make a difference in whether or not their territories crossed?  If you still don't think the cleaner and the peppermints would get along, do you have another suggestion for a scavenger that would help keep the detritus clean?  To recap, these are the current inhabitants:  maroon clown (Premnas biaculeatus), green brittle star (Ophiarachna incrassata), purple pseudo (Pseudochromis porphyreus), x-mas wrasse (Halichoeres ornatissimus), striped damsel (Dascyllus aruanus), pink and green cucumber (Pentacta anceps), pincushion urchin (Tripneustes ventricosus???), red starfish (Fromia milleporella), two peppermint shrimp, a handful of turbo and Astrea snails and lots of live rock (maybe 75 lbs). Thanks again for putting up with all of the questions.  You guys are a tremendous help! <Shrimp species will eat each other unless you have a large enough area and specifically feed your shrimp. Even then there are times, like upon molting, where shrimp are vulnerable.  Your peppermint shrimp should get out and scavenge food and detritus, probably at night when you don't see them getting around.  The same is true of cleaners. Mine station themselves on a key rock during the day and travel all over at night. I would think your current crew would do fine on your sand, esp. with an urchin and brittle star. Perhaps hand feed the shrimp to embolden them to come out more.  It is helpful at times to go through the tank with a powerhead to stir up detritus and filter/vacuum it out.  Craig>

Hiring a Crew I have just set up a marine system with a 90g display tank, 20g refugium (with Caulerpa macroalgae) and a 10g sump.  It has 115lb live rock, 1/2" aragonite in the display tank and 4" in the refugium, a large Berlin skimmer, and a Magnum filter for carbon and occasional water polishing.  Temp is 78, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are zero, carbonate hardness is 10 and Ph is just shy of 8. The system has been curing about 5 weeks, and I introduced the first fish today, a percula clown. <Sounds nice. Recheck the pH, just to be safe. I'll bet that the pH will be higher if you check it when the lights are on.> Two Issues: (1)Brown algae has begun to form, and I know it's time for a clean-up crew.  What type of animals should make up this crew?  How many?  Should I put anything in the refugium as well? <Well- brown algae is an unfortunate, but totally normal occurrence in new aquariums with abundant nutrients. "Clean up crews" can help, but it's really nutrient export that's the issue. Keep up regular maintenance, such as water changes with high quality source water, twice weekly in small (5%) amounts, aggressive protein skimming, and keep up the activated carbon use. It will eventually go away if you're diligent. As far as "crew" members, I like some of the blue leg hermits, Trochus, and Strombus snails. other animals, such as brittle stars, are nice, too, but really not algae eaters> >Flying Fish Express sells a 100g clean up crew that features 20 scarlet reef hermit crabs, 40 turbo or Margarita snails (ratio varies), and 60 red leg or left handed hermit crabs.  Does this make sense?   <That seems to make sense, but I don't like that many crabs running around, myself...Granted, there will be some attrition among these animals, so it's probably no problem. You also might want to check Inland Aquatics and Indo Pacific Sea Farms- both offer nice "cleanup crew"/biodiversity kits as well> (2) Should my Ph level be higher?  How do I achieve this, a chemical buffer?  Adding calcium? <Possibly buffer, but many times, regular water changes with properly prepared saltwater, can usually do the trick. Persistent low pH is a sign that something is out of whack with your husbandry techniques...Relatively easy to correct-but do check your pH at different times during the day to verify that you do, indeed, have a problem> Thanks for your input, Jeff <Jeff- it sounds like you're on the right track-system sounds good, you just need to stay on top of things! Do read up on the wetwebmedia.com FAQs regarding pH. You'll be fine! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Re: cleanup crews Ok guys here goes...Hey Anthony and Bob And all. <Hiya. Paul here this evening playing both Bob and Anthony> I am sure you have answered this before to many of us, yet I am dizzy with too much info. <Been there before> What is recommended for a reef clean up crew? Which snails? Which hermits, if any at all,? Abalone or no. Mini-stars? Brittle Stars? <While there are a great many "reef cleanup crews" (pre-made deals et al) out there, there are only a few necessary additions to consider in my opinion. Mostly though it depends upon the function and need, as in tank size and type of application (algae, scavenger, or for biotopic aesthetics): One being mini brittle stars, a few snails (Nerites, turbo, Astrea, and Cerith, if heavy feeder ((heavy in additional bioload)) then I would recommend Nassarius) Hermits are too opportunistic for my tastes. Although I do employ them from time to time they can be a burden on other inhabitants. In any event see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algeatrcontfaqs.htm and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/arthropoda/crabs/hermitcrabs.htm. Hope this helps>

- Adding Clean-up Crew - more questions...90 gal..90lbs Kaelini rock...5 weeks old...nh3-0..nitrite-0...nitrate- 10..sg 1.023...ph-8.3..1 coral beauty..2 percula clowns...will not be adding more fish for a long while...when and how many crabs. snails etc do I add and do they have to be qt <Greetings, JasonC here... I'm not a huge fan of the typical snails or crabs as they just don't seem to do the job they're meant to do and spend more time killing each other. I would consider adding a Nassarius snail or two to keep the sand bed clean, and depending on what happens with problem algae... perhaps just wait. The Coral Beauty should be able to keep some of that in check. Cheers, J -- >

Clean up crew Thanks for the help with the FW dip.  Now I have another.  The tank I purchased was from an LFS.  It is a 25 gallon with an IFS.  I already read the article pertaining to small bubbles in the tank on a previous tip you advised another, but my question is should I downgrade my water pump, is it too strong, it's a RIO 1400? <It's rated for 375 gph right? I'm sorry but I don't have all the info that I need. Is this a pump used as a powerhead, submerged in the display tank? If yes then I suspect it may be too powerful. Is it a pump that is moving water from a sump, through the plumbing, returning to the tank? If yes then the pump may or may not be too strong. Does the tank look like a whirl pool or is there a brisk but reasonable current? Can the fish in a seemingly normal fashion? If yes the no worries>   Another question, I may be freaking out with my  Angler and all, but I really don't want to lose it (Gus). <Me neither> I have two other fish in the tank and they have no problems at all.  One is a 4 stripe damsel <This guy will be history soon. The scorpion will eat him...very soon> and the other is a scorpion.  Both have been in the tank for over three months with no troubling signs. <In the long term this tank is small for a scorpion and/or angler> My problem may be with the amount of cleaners in my tank.  I have about ten Scarlets, eight blue legs, two Mithrax, one sand sifter star, one fighting conch, and a serpent star plus a minimum of 12 assorted types of snails (Astrea and Trochus with at least two baby snails somewhere on the sand that I have seen).  Is that too much? <Seems like a lot but that alone won't cause a disease problem...if that's what you are asking. In fact, if the little critters can't find enough to eat they will die off soon any way> Could that be the case, too many critters, too little Oxygen? <Not IMO> Thanks, <You're welcome1 David Dowless> Jamie

Adding A Cleanup Crew... Thanks a bunch for your advice on stocking fishes. Now I have a question about tank cleaners. I have read you should only add a few at a time due to the bioload. I was wondering if this is necessary since www.liveaquaria.com sells packages with all of them at once. My 100 gal tank with live rock is stable and algae seems to be plentiful. Thanks in advance. Lynn <Good thinking, Lynn...I think that most of these "cleanup crew" packages are sized for specific sized tanks, so there shouldn't be too many creatures involved...However, I don't think that you are going to have a problem adding a "crew" to an established, healthy system, you should be okay...These creatures (like snails, hermits, etc.) do not give off tremendous amounts of waste, so the system should handle it okay...Have fun! Regards, Scott F>

Nutrition and clean-up >Greetings to you! >>To you as well, John! >I first want to thank you for the countless questions you have answered.  My three fish are doing well, in large part because of your advice.  I also want to apologize again for the length of this question. >>Apology accepted. >My first question relates to nutrition.  After reading about the potential pitfalls of food that uses gelatin, I decided to try to make my own.  My current tenants include a solar fairy wrasse, true percula, and a citron goby.  I made a concoction (much to my wife's chagrin) of raw shrimp, scallops and squid, with some sushi Nori and Kent Zoe supplement.  Is this a varied enough diet for long-term sustenance?  It was rather economical, and I was able to freeze it in 2oz portions using those small restaurant containers.  They also really enjoy it. >>I should say so, it sounds delicious.  I would also offer Nori on a clip for those who might like to graze, as well as Spirulina algae--it comes in flakes, frozen, and in pellet/wafer form.  You can also vary what they get by adding things such as clam, fish, silversides, and marine algae every once in a while.  Be sure not to make the batches too large, as nutrient content can be lost with prolonged freezing. >Next question.  I have decided to eschew crabs for clean-up.  I currently have three Turbos, one queen conch (which will be traded when it gets too large) and six Nassarius snails.  I've been adding them a couple at a time, based on perceived need.  How many Nassarius do you believe would be ideal for this size tank (30 gal)?  Are there any other non-crab denizens that would co-exist with the snails?  Brittle star, perhaps? >>Brittle stars are wonderful, I also like serpents.  I can't give you a hard and fast rule for the stocking of the snails, however.  In my opinion it would be better to be a bit understocked, and it's your own observations that help make that determination. >One more:  As stated above, one of my residents is a red-headed fairy wrasse.  I bought him because he didn't look like he would make it too much longer in the LFS (not a good reason, I know, but I can't help it - my wife and I feel like we have to rescue every animal).   >>Well, not much we can do to change either of you, is there?  ;) >I rearranged the rock to provide a lot of caves and underpasses for it.  I have observed the tank for hours, and I have yet to see a single aggressive movement among them.  In fact, the three often 'hang out' together in the same part of the tank.  I would hate to have to lose the wrasse - for practical as well as personal reasons.  What is the long-term prognosis for this arrangement? >>Long term, expect to find certain tasty small mollusks and arthropods to become wrasse-candy.  I'll suggest you don't replace what's eaten. >My tank readings have remained stable and ideal for two months (except a slightly low pH at 8.0-8.1,  and the 0.1 PO4 readings - slowly working on that).  Thanks again for all the advice!  JPM >>You're quite welcome, and hopefully you'll get a handle on those phosphate readings.  Good luck!  Marina

New Cleanup Crew Reporting For Duty! Sorry for so many queries, lately.  I know you are busy. <Not too busy to answer queries! That's why we're here! Scott F. at your service today!> I just had a quick question regarding adding a cleaning crew. I currently have all my fish in a Hospital tank (ick). 2 false perculas, 2 damsels. <I hope that everyone is on the road to recovery!> I am using this opportunity (with the fish out) to add about 60 lbs of live rock to this system.  Which was done in 30 lbs. increments.  30 a week and half ago and 30 last night.   <Cool...> My question is when should I add my cleaning crew?  I do not have that much algae in the display tank, 75 FOWLR about 6 weeks old. Should I add the fish back in a couple of weeks, then QT the cleaning crew or add the cleaning crew straight to the display tank?  Is there a danger of the CC starving, since I do not have the much algae? <Well, I am a big believer in quarantining all animal additions. However, given your current situation, I'd be inclined to just add them to the tank at this point. Do, however, wait a couple of weeks more before adding the fish back to the tank. As far as them "starving"; I think that would be unlikely, because these animals will probably find some abundant foraging in, on, and around the live rock. Also, with the abundance of nutrients that are entering the tank as a result of the new live rock, it is only a matter of time before algae begins to grow. My thinking is to get the scavengers in now, to help reduce the severity of any algae outbreak in the tank...BTW, do monitor water chemistry regularly during this period; it is possible that you will see detectable nitrite and/or ammonia readings...Stay on top of things..!> Thanks <And thank YOU, for stopping by! Regards, Scott F>

-125g Clean-up crew- I have another question for you all. I am looking to get a good cleaning crew and I was hoping to get some input. I have a 125 gallon FOWLR setup. I run a wet dry, two 250 hot magnums, and a corner undergravel plate. I currently have 2 sand sifting stars, a serpent star, a brittle star, a cowry snail, and about 12 blue leg hermit crabs. Here is what I am looking into getting: 4 brittle stars <Larger brittle stars can consume small-medium fish at night. Buyer beware!> 5 bumble bee snails 2 fighting conchs <It is unlikely that you could keep two conchs fat and happy since they get so large> 5 peppermint shrimp 4 queen conch <I'd suggest only one conch, the smaller the better, but you may not even be able to keep one alive in the long term> 2 serpent stars 2 emerald crabs. In the future I would like to get a few cleaner shrimp and some fire shrimp. Will that be a good cleanup crew or so you recommend anything else? <Sounds good, how 'bout some snails for algae control? Good luck! -Kevin> Thanks Bill

-Clean-up crew for 35g- Hi, I was wondering what cleanup crew I needed in my 35 gallon tank. The only animal I have in there is a dwarf lionfish. <I hope you're planning on a larger home for this critter, they max out at almost 7 inches!> I need something which will clean up any uneaten food and also clean up the fish waste which lies on the substrate. <First off, if you have any uneaten food lying on the substrate, you're either feeding too much or too quickly. I understand that these fish can be messy, so a few hermit crabs should take care of any extra scraps.> Also, would a tang e.g.. yellow tang, make a good companion? <Not in such a small tank, wait till you have a four footer> The tank has a skimmer and an external filter. Thanks. Ari Marks <Good luck! -Kevin><<There is a likely, perhaps too likely chance that the Lionfish will attempt to eat the Hermits here. RMF>>

Clean Up Crew And A Skimmer, Too? I was hoping you would be willing to suggest a good clean up crew. I have a 125 FOWLR tank. A wet dry filter, 2 H.O.T. magnums, and 2 small undergravel plates. Currently I have 2 sand sifting stars, 1 brittle starfish, 1 serpent starfish, about 12 blue leg hermit crabs, a red general starfish, and a cowry snail. I was thinking of getting a 100 small blue leg hermit crabs and about 50 to 100 snails. However I was reading through you FAQ's and seen some mentioning of brittle stars, queen conchs, and serpent stars. What would you recommend? <I like the mix of animals that you are considering, but I have become less of a fan of the hermits, myself. I question their ability (and desire!) to do what we think they should do! I really like brittle stars and Turbo, Trochus, and Strombus snails. They seem to do a good job for me.> Also, I am looking into getting a protein skimmer, would you also please give me some guidance as to which you think is a better, in sump or hang on, which method, any specific name brand??? I was hoping to stay between $200 - $250, can I get a good one for that price? Any online places you recommend? Thank you. Bill <Well, Bill, I'd lean towards one of the Aqua C. units...The Urchin Pro is an in-sump model that can handle 75 gallons plus, and it's right in your price range (although it would be operating at the limits of its performance envelope). If you can push it to the $300.00 range (and afford a pump), you'd be well-advised to check out the Aqua C EV120. Either way, you'd be hard-pressed to find better skimmers in this price range! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Cleaning crew aggression and not so mysterious deaths - 10/10/03 Hi guys, my question is regarding the compatibility of some of my invertebrates. <Hi. Paul in today. Sorry for the delay>  The animals in question are 3 peppermint shrimp, 1 coral banded shrimp, 2 Brittlestars, 1 sally lightfoot crab, 20 blue legs hermits, 20 scarlet hermits, 3 emerald crabs, 1 porcelain crab, 1 orange Linckia starfish, and 20 turbo snails. <That is waaaaaayyyyyyyy too many inverts in such a small tank. My goodness!>  I have a 29 gallon tank <unbelievable......> and feed small amounts of brine shrimp and flake food 3 times a day. <Do you have fish as well?? That is a lot of food>  The problem is that it seems one of these guys is killing off the others one by one almost daily. <I am not surprised one bit. Firstly, Do you check water quality? Secondly, these animals are mostly if not all omnivorous. They are opportunists for sure. They will eat most anything. They usually come to you lean and mean so that they may "go to town" in your tank and prove their worth to you. There is no way this tank will support 2 brittle stars (forget the Linckia) the shrimp are in trouble (brittle stars have been linked to their disappearance at times) Crabs are fairly aggressive eaters and turn to other "things" when they feel they are not getting enough of what they like. Hermits will eat each other when in cramped quarters even with enough food, and there could not be enough algal matter to support all of those snails let alone all of the others who will rely on it for sustenance. Lastly, I wouldn't be surprised if you are having water chemistry issues. Feeding three times a day, plus the very large bio load all in a 29 gallon tank. Did these all come in at one time? (I will assume they did)> 3 days ago it was one of the emerald crabs, then the sally lightfoot, then a Brittlestar.  The Brittlestar had the most noticeable damage thus far. <Again, I am not surprised>  I awoke to find it missing two legs and having lacerations across it's central disk from where one of the legs was attached.<Again, I will assume that these came in a package deal. Which may mean that you acclimated them and added them all at once within 24 hours or so. How long after their addition did you notice the issues being described above??>  Once I got back from lunch it was even more injured than before.  I haven't seen the porcelain crab for a while either. <Could be a goner>  This has just started in the past couple of days <How long after they were introduced?> - who do you think is the culprit <I am leaning towards you, mate> and what can I do to stop my animals from getting killed? <Well.......................do research you inhabitants and their environmental needs before purchasing. Seek advice before change, then make the best decision. A lot can be found on various websites, books, and clubs. I am sorry for my lack of tact here, but sometimes and aquarist needs to be saved from oneself as well as the animals in his charge. I can't stress enough to read about your animals before purchase. There is usually some detail as to how many per gallon or per tank size listed and in some cases even info for compatibility. If there isn't, find a reference for it, or ask someone. My only advice on this manner is to maintain water quality, hand feed when possible, and either give away, sell (maybe), or move (to another tank) some of your dudes. Under normal circumstances these animals sometimes have some mortality in shipment stress (nothing you can do about it) but a lot of mortality comes from acclimation. We have much on our site (not only on a per animal basis but also an actual general acclimation site as well. Quarantine is another good idea. You might even already do this, I don't know. Read through our site a bit. There is hope for you and your animals. The ever winding path of learning! Let me know if there is anything more I can do -Paul>  Thanks, James

Clean up crew choice for a Mandarin tank - 11/04/03 Hello all, Just a question. <Aren't they all> I have a Mandarin (Synchiropus splendidus) named "Chowder" who has been loving life in my tank for the last 6 months and is quite fat and eating well. <Very glad to hear!!!> I want to know if there is a good bottom cleaner (snail, shrimp, fish, crab) that will be a good clean up guy that will not invite himself to partake in Chowder's food supply. <Well, are we talking eating chunks or leftover marine meats, algal matter, or the actual amphipods and copepods?? (naturally occurring food stuffs)> I have a few blue-legged hermits and was wondering if there is something better. <depends.....I like a mixture of Nassarius snails, Cerith snails, maybe an Astrea, some blue-legged, zebra, scarlet hermits. Usually they will do the trick without doing too much damage the reef environment per se. Some like blennies as fish go. I think a brittle star or any starfish, cucumber, or even an urchin would not be a good choice here. Try and resist these particular "cleaning crew" choices as they can be somewhat destructive to the reef environment. Extracting materials in the natural food chain in the tank and eventually disrupting the ability for the amphipod larvae to find food stuff at the proper size. Also, it is possible the starfish might predate on a sleeping "Chowder" or could just out compete him for food stuffs. Be resourceful and informed my friend. Again, my recommendations are just some things I hear in the field but have not seen myself. My starfish don't seem to care there is even any amphipods in the tank others have told me they will hunt them. -Paul> Thanks again.

Poop-i-vores >Dear reefers, >>Dear Eric.. >I am establishing a 75 Imp gallon skimmerless reef tank and have achieved a balance between algae, a large Trochus, and Cerith and Nassarius snails.  However, the collection of snail poos on the bottom looks like mouse droppings, and is not attractive. I do not wish to siphon them out as I would rather extend the "natural" balance if possible. >>Understood. >Can you please tell me what eats, or breaks down, snail faeces. There are a fair number of copepods around, but these seem to ignore them. I have no fishes as yet, and would like to get this in balance before I add one.  Many thanks, Eric B >>What you need are detritivores.  See here for a "kit" listing, and look for same in U.K.  Marina http://www.inlandaquatics.com/prod/prod_detrit.html

Detritivores - 2/22/04 Hello again, Thank you guys for all the help,  however,  I always manage to need it again. <Hello again>  This time I'd like to know what kind of detritivores are good for cleaning the whole tank. <where to begin. Look through our site on maintenance and algae control. Also, look through some of the live marine sites for their recommendations. I like brittle stars, hermits crabs, snails, shrimps, cucumbers, and even some fishes.> As of right now I have a 70 tall that has lots of rocks and corals in it.  The detritus in the tank seems to be affecting the health of the system because the corals are not extending well and the tank seems to be coated with a thin film of poop. <Then maybe you could siphon it out?> I've tried water changes but it doesn't seem to be doing as much as I want it too. <More frequent changes with siphoning or you could do just as well with blowing it with a turkey baster and then do the water change> Is there any really good organism that eats the poop and turns it into a smaller more chemically filterable matter (something my sand bed and rocks and filter out?). <Some sea cucumbers in the genus Holothuria: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seacukes.htm But remember not to look to adding an animal as much as you should look at your maintenance habits and regimes> I have plenty of snails, crabs, and sand sifting stars (4) but they don't seem to be doing enough. <Sand sifting stars tend to filter out good bacteria that may aid in the breakdown of detritus. Not to mention one to a large tank is more than adequate. Not too useful in my opinion> Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. <I suggest to cut back on feedings, increase water changes (implementing blasting and siphoning), increase circulation to keep detritus in suspension to be siphoned out, no sand sifting stars, and maybe the addition of a new detritivore. Good luck ~Paul>  Chris

Detritus Eater Dear crew, I just had a quick question, in the near future I will be purchasing this tank, http://www.drsfostersmith.com/Product/Prod_Display.cfm?pcatid=10677&inm=1&N=2004+62760+113565 , what are some things I can purchase to control detritus that are reef safe? A list with a few things would be nice, thank you very much.    -Randy <<Hello Randy. You can put a few hermit crabs, and a snail or two...depends on the size of critters you are buying. A large, one inch or more snail can handle a twelve gallon tank all by himself. "Reef safe" leaves some broad horizons...what exactly are you planning to keep in this tiny tank? Corals? Fish? The water parameters might well fluctuate so much that the Reef Safe animals you do house may not survive. For now, you should start with the cheap, easily replaceable animals, like a few small blue legged hermits (say, 5 of the lil beasts) and one turbo snail, an inch across, OR two smaller Nerite snails, you get the picture. Avoid anything fancy for the time being. By the way, small bristleworms are excellent detritivores. Perhaps you can buy some live sand from your LFS. -Gwen>>

Marine system algae bloom I have a 75 gallon marine aquarium that recently had an algae bloom in which I lost some of my favorites.  I have done water changes faithfully and it appears I am winning the war.  However I still have some bubble and green hair algae.  So recently I added 2 green myth. crabs and I do have a few scarlet and blue Mexican hermits...my question is how many "cleaners" and what type can be maintained in a 75 gallon tank? <Not able to state given the provided information... more than you list if you have a good deal of live rock> What type and how many should I have to keep my tank healthy?   <Up to you... what you consider "healthy"... You should read through WetWebMedia.com re set-up, maintenance aspects in lieu of such "crews"> Many places sell the big "attack packs" which I purchased when I originally set the tank up about 2 years ago.  The quantity seems like overkill, and indeed I did see the "cleaners" thin out in number.  Your wise advice is, as always, gratefully accepted. Thanks, Jeff Wagner <We agree as to these "kits"... read my friend... there are many ways to get you where you want to go... nutrient limitation, export... rather than establishing predator-prey relations twixt producers (algae in this case) and consumers. See WWM re. Bob Fenner> I'm new to saltwater and have been reading a lot. 8/14/05 <<Good for you>> Your site is fantastic! <<Thanks>> We've begun to establish a tank.  Here's the specifics:  50 gallons.  50# live rock.  pH 7.8-8.0, 80 degrees F, ammonia/nitrite/nitrate 0.  Calcium 450.  4 inches of aragonite/live sand mix.  The quarantine tank has similar water parameters and consists of a 15 gallon tank with one live rock, no substrate. Next planned is the cleanup crew/inverts:  20 Blueleg Hermit Crabs, 2 Emerald Crabs, 2 peppermint shrimp, 10 turbo snails, 5 Nassarius snails, 1 brittle star, 1 coral banded shrimp. For which members of this planned shipment do you recommend quarantine?  What should I feed them during quarantine (before they get into the main tank and will have algae and extra detritus to scoop up? <<Sounds like you're off to a good start. Clean up crew seems reasonable. In general, you want to quarantine everything before placing it into your display tank. You may want to add a very small amount of food to the quarantine or display tank to feed the invertebrates if you are not already adding food to feed fish or corals. Please read the following FAQs. I think that you will find the answers to your questions here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/arthropoda/crabs/hermitfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quarinvertfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/swsnailfaqs2.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/snailfdgfaqs.htm>> Thanks so much. Daniel <<You're welcome and good luck - Ted>>

Nano Reef Clean-up Crew and Detritivore Recommendation 8/17/05 I like to say first off great web site I found a lot of good info here... <<Thanks>> I was actually wondering if I could get a good suggestion on a clean up crew for my nano reef, both algae and detritus... my tank is a 15 gallon eclipse system w/ a retro fitted lighting system consisting of one 15w Coralife fluorescent and two 13w pc's all 50/50.  I have no protein skimmer just the built in pump with carbon filtration and a BioWheel... sorry didn't mean to get side tracked.  I was just wondering if I could get an idea of a good set of inverts to help clean both algae and detritus from the tank... I would like a variety of creatures in the aquarium including snails, Nudibranch or cucumbers, and hermits, and I eventually want to have a yellow-banded coral shrimp so compatibility w/ this creature would be appreciated. <<I'm not trying to discourage you, I just want to make sure you are well informed. Please understand that nano reefs are harder to maintain than larger systems. I would encourage you to search WWM and read up on every aspect. Here are few links to start you out: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/smmarsysdisfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/smmarsysfaq6.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/smmarsysfltfaqs.htm>> Current Specifications of Water Quality Temp            76 degrees F Ph              8.1 Specific Gr     1.021-1.022 Ammonia         >0.25 ppm (but not quite 0) Nitrate         >2.5 ppm (but not quite 0) Nitrite         >0.05 ppm (but not 0) Calcium Level   450-500 ppm <<Raise the SG to 1.025. How long has the system been setup? Strive for Ammonia and nitrite of 0. With the high calcium level, I would guess your alkalinity is low. Unless you are planning on keeping stony corals, strive for a calcium level between 350-425 and alkalinity of 8-12dKH. You will find values in these ranges easier to maintain.>> Additives Daily: Iodine, Liquid Calcium Weekly: Strontium/Molybdenum, Kent PhytoPlex or ChromaPlex (each on every other week) Biweekly: Tropical Science NitroMax w/ Oxyboost (also added w/ water change approx 2.5 gallons every other week) <<Wow, you are a dosing machine. IMO, you can save a lot of money and still have a thriving system by using a good quality salt and changing 1-2 gallons of water every week. The water changes will supply all of the elements needed for you reef.>> Thank you for your time Donald Summers P.S. this was my Idea let me know if it sounds good or not, thanks 1 x Banded Coral Shrimp, Yellow (Stenopus scutellatus) 1 x Sea Cucumber, Tiger Tail (Holothuria sp.) 10 x Dwarf Blue Leg Hermit Crab (Clibanarius tricolor) 2 x Nassarius Snail (Nassarius sp.) 10 x Cerith Snail (Cerithium sp.) 1 x Lettuce Sea Slug "Nudibranch" (Tridachia crispata) <<Your list seems reasonable although I might reduce the number of hermit crabs. Clean up crews are a little bit personal opinion. Also, be aware that when the hermits are hungry, scavenging gets a new interpretation. I would wait a few months before adding a detritivore kit. Also, please read up sea cucumbers and clean up crews. (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seacukes1.htm and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marscavfaqs.htm).>> If this is a good selection what are some compatible fish to go along with these specimens?<<As for fish, again personal preference will prevail and there are many small, colorful and interesting fish to choose from including clowns, gobies, blennies, damsels, etc.>> Thanks again <<You're welcome and good luck - Ted>>

Re: Nano Reef Clean-up Crew and Detritivore Recommendation... actually mainly a stocking query 8/20/05 Hey Crew, Thank you for the quick response.<<You're welcome>>. Previously I asked about a good clean up crew for my 15 gallon eclipse system 1. I have a retrofitted lighting system consisting of on 15w Coralife fluorescent and 2 13w pc's all 50/50. Is this enough lighting or do I need more, and with this being a carbon filtered system how often should I replace the Carbon. <<For the animals listed below, the lighting is fine. You will need more light if you plan on adding stony corals.>> I perform weekly water changes and currently replace the carbon monthly. <<That sounds about right>> I know it is to early to much of anything right now but I would like a second opinion. Currently the system has been running for approx 2 months. ammonia  0 nitrate  0 nitrite  0 temp   76 F PH   8.1-8.2 calcium  450 & 500 alkalinity is  10 dKH Specific Gr     1.021-1.022 <<I would raise the SG to 1.025. Your calcium level is elevated. Are you dosing a calcium supplement? You don't need dose anything as long as you keep with the regular water changes and don't have any stony corals in the system.>> This is my revised idea for total stock in the end. Currently I only have the hermits and about 20 lbs of LR and 2-3 lbs of LS 1 x Banded Coral Shrimp, Yellow (Stenopus scutellatus) 4 x Dwarf Blue Leg Hermit Crab (Clibanarius tricolor) 2 x Nassarius Snail (Nassarius sp.) 8 x Cerith Snail (Cerithium sp.) 1 x Rainford's Gobi (Amblygobius rainfordi) 1 x Yellow Candy Hogfish (Bodianus bimaculatus) & assorted polyps and mushrooms corals <<A good list but your tank is probably too small for the hogfish.>> I am trying to get as many thoughts as I can what should I add next or better yet what order should anything be added. I have read and heard everything from start with fishes to allow your system to stabilize w / the corals first. I believe the best way to tackle the situation is to get a couple of thoughts on the matter as to stocking order. This is the order I have used in the past: Inverts , Corals and then Fish (I have also taken a FO tank and added LR then Corals and then inverts) both systems worked but what's the recommended way to go.<<I would add the clean up crew, followed by the shrimp. After that, it's up to you. There are many variations depending on factors such as the age of the system, fish species and coral species.>> Thanks again. <<Cheers - Ted>>

Clean-up crews Hi Bob, I'd like to get your thoughts on "Clean-up crews". I am a blank slate (don't laugh, finish the sentence) on this subject. It seems to make sense that they would help maintain a tank. The problem is that no matter who you ask, or who's website you visit, their "mix" is the best! Red Legs, Blue legs HELP! If you could prescribe a good mix for a 90 gal tank, I'd really appreciate it. Function is more important, but a brightly colored or interesting critter would obviously be better. A larger variety of species would also be ideal. Thank you once again, Tony Revinski >> Thank you for joining this forum... and am just as beguiled as you regarding claims and counter-claims on using various organisms as cleaner uppers for marine systems... Of a certainty there are desirable livestock choices in the way of general to specialized algae eaters, Aiptasia predators, sand sifters/diggers/turner overs... and more... Which are better/best is not just a matter of opinion... but also application. Some of these critters get eaten easily by some types of livestock (variable)... get too big, aren't big enough for a given size system... Getting more specific (in my allotted time/space for these responses...) most snails I couldn't be bothered with... some carry disease, many/most die too easily, polluting water... And Hermit( false) crabs, only a few are of more use than destructive... The most commonly offered red legged crab is a good filamentous helper... and the blue legged "variety" slightly less so... Am a big fan of Mithrax Crabs (when small), and sand sifting stars (not brittle/bristle stars though)... many, many fishes for the job... But, and this is where the message always seems to get truncated, am a much bigger proponent of appropriate design, filtration, circulation, aeration, and maintenance (by aquarists) as means of preventing, controlling system appearance and environmental quality. The/a mix of cleaner uppers for your system will depend on what sort of livestock you intend... and gear... and desires (growing... breeding...?) Bob Fenner

Cleaners??? Hi Bob, Was just wondering what your recommendation for a "Cleanup Crew" would be. I've got a 92 gal tank. My rock (being cured now) has some bubble algae and assorted macroalgae on it now. I like the Mithrax Crabs, Blue and Red leg hermits. Do these guys get along? <Yes> I've heard that snails can do more harm than good. Is this your experience? <Depends... the snails that are most often used are not much problem... dying, disease-spreading wise... Just do your best to get some that are initially healthy... FFExpress does a very good job with these> I don't want anything (if possible) that gets large (over and inch or so). I want the cleaners to do their work in the background, and leave the fish and corals as the main focus. I've seen tanks that are over loaded with cleaners. I don't like that look. <The Mithrax Crab will be bigger than this with time (a few inches)> Is there any "cleaner (s)" that would sift and clean the sand bed enough to eliminate the need for vacuuming the sand bed? And no toxic time bombs!!!! <Some fishes... keep reading> If you could be as specific (species, quantity) as possible with your recommendation, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks in advance, Tony Revinski PS Do you live in San Diego? <Yes, for most of the year, Bob Fenner>

How much is too much clean-up crew? I have a 100 gallon tank with about 110lbs of live rock. I saw a web site "saltwater.com" selling what they called "the clean-up crew" it consisted of 20 scarlet reef hermits, 20 blue leg hermits, 20 turbo snails, and 2 emerald crabs. Doesn't that sound like a lot for my tank? Please help me out if you can. Thank You Harold A. Heineck <For those folks who subscribe to such "clean up crews" (many do) this is actually not too many "helpers". Do keep up with your regular maintenance, filtration, aeration, circulation, testing... even if you have such "assistants" Bob Fenner>

Clean Up Crews Hello again Bob. Thanks to your quick response on my last question. I recently purchased a 75 gallon clean-up crew (90 different snails & hermits) for my 75 gallon tank from Flying Fish. I was amazed at how quickly and efficiently they cleaned up the tank. They just had a feast, which brings me to my concern. Now that they have had their turkey dinner, will there be enough food available for them to continue to survive? I understand algae will continue to grow in my tank, but is there enough for the many creatures. Is there something additional I should be feeding them? <Only experience can tell here... this is a large number of "cleaner uppers" for a 75 gallon system... if it starts to look a bit threadbare, I might try adding some strips of Nori algae first... removing some of the animals if they are obviously w/o much to scavenge. Bob Fenner>

Re: Clean Up Crews Thanks for the advice! Should the snails/hermits be removed if they die? <Yes... if you can tell they are dead...> Will they cause ammonia spikes? <Possibly... if there are too many, too soon, in too small a volume, inadequate filtration/circulation...> How do you tell if they are dead, since they don't move all the time and can hide in shell?  <Usually can't... unless outright "hanging out" from shells... > I also thought that was a lot of creatures, but trusted flying fish who I have been happy with. Package below BN-30202 "Classic" Cleanup"¢ Crew 75 Gallons 15 Scarlet Reef Hermits 30 Turbo / Margarita Snails (mix determined by availability) 45 Red Leg / Left-Handed Hermits (mix determined by availability) Package deal saves you $76 March Special - 10% off + Free Emerald Crab <Yes, I know about these package deals... still consider this a bunch myself... Bob Fenner>

Adding clean up crews I have a 58 gallon marine tank with live rock, 5 fish, crushed coral substrate, and 2 basic fluorescent bulbs (one actinic, one all spectrum). I am replacing the bulbs with power compacts. To keep nitrates down, I am considering switching out the crushed coral for sand and live sand (which will then be approx. 5 inches deep). I am told to remove the wet/dry trickle filter when I do this. Is this safe for the fish or will there be a deadly ammonia spike? <Likely no problem... but I would remove the trickle filter a few weeks after switching the lamps, changing out the substrate> I also have some green algae. If I add a clean up crew of snails, etc., will this drive the nitrates up, or is it safe to do this? Should I do this before I switch to sand? <Do this after making all the above changes... no problem> Do you have any recommendations for small fans to aid in the heat reduction in the canopy due to the power compacts? <Yes... there are a few muffin fan makes that are worthwhile... but these may not be necessary... do measure, monitor water temperature after installing the compact fluorescents, try making passive "chimneys" and vent holes for venting waste heat first. Bob Fenner> Thanks bunches - Stephanie

Re: Help! Hi Bob -- Thank you very much for the response to my questions. I just had one quick follow-up question! (I see you get this a lot) <Yes> Anyway.. I am going to be getting a clean-up crew and FFE has two, I would like to get the Reef Relief but am concerned about the water temp (80ish)and the lights (96w PC). The Reef Relief has the cucumbers and the stars in it, where as the Classic does not. Do you feel that my lighting will be adequate for this or should I stick with the Classic for now? <The lighting is fine for these animals... but you will want more for your system (a 75 gallon)... for looks and function with other life forms> Thanks again for your time, it is people like you that dedicate your time to this hobby that keeps those of us new and confused moving forward! <Thank you for this... would be lonely w/o my "fishy" friends for sure. Bob Fenner> D

Clean up crew Hi Bob, Hope your morning has been good so far. System recap: 90gal, 30gal sump, Turboflotor 1000 and Aqua-C EV90 (one of these will be going to my parents' tank soon), 90lbs LR, 80lbs cc, Dolphin 800 return pump, Rio800 for addle' circulation, 210watts pc. Well, my water parameters as of yesterday: 0 ammonia and nitrite, 10ppm nitrate, 0.4ppm phosphate, ph 8.3, temp 82F, salinity 1.022, alk 2.2, and calcium 300ppm (will increase dosage of 2 Lil' Fishies C-balance). With those readings, less skimmate, and appearance of green hair algae, I think my rock is cycled and I would like to add my clean up crew (to ASSIST in MY periodic stirring/maintenance)!!! :-)  <And indirectly to bring down that phosphate...> I was going to start with a small Kole tang, and a dozen snails and hermits.  <Good choices> I didn't want to add anything close to the amount they offer in the standard clean up crew packages. I know you don't care for hermits much as cleaners, but of the red, blue, left-handed, etc., which would be the safest in a reef environment (stays small, not sooooo opportunistic/predacious)?  <The "blue": Clibanarius tricolor... image, more on the WWM site under Hermit Crabs.> I kinda like the look of hermits crawling around. I also wanted to add a sand sifting star (not brittle stars). I think I've seen them offered as "White Sand Stars", and they were supposedly much safer than other stars. Do you know the "correct" name for these and if they truly are safer?  <Yes, Archaster typicus. Much safer: http://wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm> Do you acclimate the hermits/snails/stars the same as fish (dip/quarantine)? I know you have that on your site somewhere, but I couldn't find it (sooo much info available). <Should come up with the Google search tool... I don't dip these or recommend same. Do quarantine ones that look like they "may not make it"> Oh one more, I have a bunch of fuzzy, copper colored algae on my rocks. I couldn't remember if this was transient or if it was indicative of something I needed to change in my water/system? <Transient... with unfolding (aka evolution) of your system, it too will pass> If you don't feel like repeating yourself today, the appropriate links will do! :-) Thanks again for all the help. Hope my long email was more info than babble. Khoi <No worries. Bob Fenner>

Re: Clean up crew Hi Bob, <Should come up with the Google search tool...> Hmmm, that would be a good idea! :-) No, it should read: "You should USE the Google search tool..." Yeah, I gotta start making use of the available tools! It's just that I've read through the site so many times, I think I know where all the info I need is... not! You truly provide a ton of info. Thanks for the answers anyway! <Hmm, when do you want to give answering these queries a go? You're about due. Bob Fenner>

Re: Clean up crew (and WWM help) Hi Bob, That's very nice of you, but I don't consider myself in the same league as either you or Zo when it comes to knowledge of aquarium husbandry (Well, of course not! You've been in this industry for over 30+ years!?). The last thing I would want to do is to give someone bad advice and cause them or their fishy friends any suffering. That said, I'd love to give back to the hobby and assist you if I can. Let me know how I can help. Khoi <You do help my friend, and know perhaps much more than you're aware. It is not necessary to be knowledgeable about everything to be of service. As important as useful input is compassion (Latin: "to bear pain with"), apathy/empathy, a genuine desire to assist others. There are reference works, others that can/should be referred to. Consider this. Bob Fenner> Re: Clean up crew (and WWM help) Good morning Bob, Ahhhh, I see you're out diving and Zo is manning the boards! OK, if I can help out you and Zo with some of these questions, I'd be willing to give it a try. Khoi <Outstanding. Will email him this missal. Bob Fenner>

Clean-up crew? Hello again, Bob... <Hi there> We had a "discussion" a couple of weeks ago about some of my "just starting out" questions. Here's an update, and a couple of questions about the next step. First of all, I've ordered the Remora skimmer and am awaiting it's arrival. My live rock is currently curing (and really smelling horribly obnoxious on my back porch!).  <Keep testing for ammonia, nitrite, and changing the water if these approach/exceed 1.0 ppm... and keep the water aerated...> Hopefully it will get through the nasty stage by the weekend, when I would like to spend some time outside. :-) <Hmm> It's been out there for a week tomorrow, so hopefully it will be done in the next couple of weeks. Then, I plan to arrange it in my tank (70-gallons, with about 80 lbs. of live rock) and add water, set up equipment, etc. After my water levels test correctly (ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, etc.), then I want to put in a clean-up crew (right?). <Yes, this is about the "order of things"> I've seen conflicting messages about the clean-up crew regarding how many (one source said 1 crab or snail for every gallon) and what kind (some think that "good" bristle worms are part of the crew, other despise them...and then some say bad things about hermits or certain kinds of shrimp). So, what's your expert opinion on how many and what kind? <No sense despising worms of any sorts... they're going to be "there" in a healthy system... just not too many, too large... And yes to the possibility of "nicer" Hermit species (these are covered on our site: WetWebMedia.com... the snails you can mix a few species of... again, they're mentioned on the WWM site. One per gallon of the snails and the Hermits (if tiny), is enough. Lysmata Shrimp are nice to have... best to wait on them for a couple of months though.> Thanks again for your advice... Kind regards, Misty Johnson <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Cleanup Crew Question Greetings! I am a bit unfamiliar with the cleanup crews and what I would need for my tank. Every internet mail order store has a different package. They do not discuss whether these are safe with Corals.  Right now I have a 125 with 160lbs of LR, 4" Sand Bed, A skimmer and about 24 blue leg hermit crabs. What else would you recommend? I am thinking about a goby, some scarlet reef crabs, a pair of fire shrimp, a tiger tail or two, some burrowing snails, and some Astrea snails. I will be adding them slowly as I do not want them to starve after 4 months. Any suggestions or other species that I should consider? I plan on keeping LPS, SPS and mostly soft corals. I have a 3 bulb MH w/NO Actinics. Thanks! <Please read over the marine scavenger and linked files posted on WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> Adam

Cleanup Crew Question Greetings! <Cheers, Anthony Calfo in your service> I am a bit unfamiliar with the cleanup crews and what I would need for my tank. Every internet mail order store has a different package. They do not discuss whether these are safe with Corals.  <the problem with some of the hermits at least is that some "unsafe" reef species of hermit slip into the similar shells of safe species and are mistaken for rogue> Right now I have a 125 with 160lbs of LR, 4" Sand Bed, A skimmer and about 24 blue leg hermit crabs. <all good... although too many hermits get a little rough on the DSB fauna> What else would you recommend? I am thinking about a goby, <Yellow watchman's are durable and attractive (blue spots)... avoid all Valencia (Sleeper gobies) and signal gobies> some scarlet reef crabs, <moderate to good and safe if true Scarlets> a pair of fire shrimp, <useless but Oh so beautiful> a tiger tail or two,  <if sand is sugar fine> some burrowing snails,  <always a nice addition> and some Astrea snails. <not if you have fine sand...they cannot cross it if thy fall and die. They occur on hard substrates only in wild> I will be adding them slowly as I do not want them to starve after 4 months.  <yes... the tank is way too young for many of these creatures> Any suggestions or other species that I should consider? I plan on keeping LPS, SPS and mostly soft corals.  <that's basically a sampling of all coral!!! I would strongly advise against this. Pick one group and emphasize certain families, otherwise you will soon have all of the same problems that mixed garden reefers always complain about do to such inappropriate mixes (from the elevated allelopathy/coral aggression of unnatural tankmates).> I have a 3 bulb MH w/NO Actinics. Thanks! <please tell me that you have an Iwasaki 6500K lamp. Otherwise, you need to expect to change/supplement your expensive MH lamps (Coralife, Blueline, etc) more often. Trust the spectral data out there... don't count on the marketing bull> Adam <kindly, Anthony>

Cleanup Crews I have two mated pairs of seahorses. I want to purchase a clean up crew from Flying Fish Express, but I don't want any harm to come to my animals. Are all snails and hermit crabs compatible in my tank? I have a 75 gallon tank, with 75 pounds of live rock and crushed coral substrate. My tank is over a year old. I have a bristle star, mandarin, blenny, Firefish, and a few corals. <I am not sure which package you are looking at, but will give you some general recommendations. FFE has the "Classic" Cleanup"¢ Crew and Reef Relief"¢ Cleanup Crew, both for 75 gallon tanks. I am not a fan of these package deals. I much prefer to buy individual groups of animals. I generally steer clear of any hermit crabs and avoid the green Mithrax crabs to. All of these guys are opportunistic omnivores, which means they can and will eat anything they choose to. A few others I do not keep would be any cucumbers and sand sifting starfish. I do like to use a variety of snails; Turban, Astrea, Trochus, Nerites, Cerith, and Abalone. -Steven Pro>

Re: Clean up crew Why an abalone? They are very expensive. I purchased one and have been reading up on them, but I was just wondering why you suggested this animal. <they are AMAZING and incomparable herbivores once established><<Make sure you get/use a tropical species for warm-water systems... Almost all haliotids sold in the trade are temperate animals... won't live... RMF>>

BoDP? (PF looking for creepy crawlies) Me again, I was wondering if you could aim me at a good source for detritivore propagation techniques.  <sure... the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks for asking :)> Besides some places offering LS, I know of only 2 places offering detritivore kits ('pods, worms of various sorts, mini-brittles, etc.).  <yes.. they are both great suppliers but scary overpriced (or rather... lack competition to keep the prices lower)> I was thinking the market place may well be due for some more competition (once I buy that friggen' house and have room...).  <much agreement... I have made this pitch to many upstart coral farmers that I have talked to. All this far have elected to stay hungry and farm SPS frags rather than make money in the market...heehee> I was thinking of going to the current sources, acquiring some product, setting them up in their own dedicated culture tanks and letting nature take its course. <helpful yes... but seriously, some fresh rock and sand from the Gulf is seriously teeming with life and targeted species> as for the email title, I think you can figure that one out. ;) <heehee... yep. I'm almost as smart as I look [insert joke here]> aloha, ('cause I can't remember how to spell au revoir [?]) PF <Hasta potato, because I'm hungry. Anthony>

Mail order You mentioned you could mail order scavengers, who can you buy from this way. Caudill <You can buy livestock from many mail-order or e-tailer establishments. Check our sponsors and our links page. -Steven Pro>

Adding The "Clean-Up" Crew Ok, ok, so I know this is going to make me sound like a total newbie, even after doing this for years I do consider myself one anyway. Every time I set up a tank I feel like it is the very first time, but as you probably know there is a popular on-line vendor who sells clean up crews that include a LARGE number of animals. <Yes, I have seen several of these offers.> They claim that you can add ALL of the snails and star fish and crabs to your aquarium all at one time without a problem. I'm QUITE skeptical. <You should be. All be skeptical of what any person selling you something says.> What are your thoughts on this? <I much prefer to pick and choose what species and how many specimens my particular system needs. I work in the aquarium maintenance business and after setting up many identical systems, I can tell you that no two run exactly alike. There are always differences, even when I take care of all the maintenance, in how much people feed and that makes a big difference in how many cleaners they need. If you do not have enough algae to go around, the hermits crabs will begin to eat all your snails.> I'm more inclined to add a few at a time and let the filter |<And the algae amounts> adjust before adding more. Is it stupid to add upwards of 50 creatures all at once <If you had a 200 gallon tank, I could see adding 50 snails at once. Otherwise, no add a few and see how things change.> (I can't believe I'm even ASKING that :-)? Is it a bad idea to buy on-line in the first place? Wes <No, not a bad thing to buy on-line period. Just take everything with a grain of salt when purchasing anything, anywhere (e-tailer, mail-order, or LFS). An educated consumer is a hobbyist that will never get ripped off. If you choose to not educate yourself PRIOR to purchase, you will eventually get taken. -Steven Pro>

1st Tank - Clean up crew for my 40 gallon (UK) Hi, <How goes it? I've been advised by my LFS to buy his 'critter pack', what a surprise! It consists of: 6 blue legged hermits 6 turbo snails a choice of a brittle starfish or emerald crab. Would this be sufficient to for my tank or too much?? <Probably not enough, and not much variety in species, either.  Check out the clean up packs at www.garf.org or www.liveaquaria.com> I am going to stock 2 percula clowns at the same time. <Don't add any fish until your tank is completely cycled!> Cycling should finish in about 2 weeks time. <Wait until then> Thanks
<Anytime - M. Maddox>


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