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FAQs about Marine Scavenger Species, Specimen Stocking/Selection

Related FAQs: Clean Up "Crews"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, Marine Scavengers 1, Marine Scavengers 2, Marine Scavengers 3, Sand Sifters, Sea CucumbersShrimp Gobies, Sifter Gobies Marine Algae EatersHermit Crabs, & FAQs on Scavenger: Rationale, Compatibility, 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,  

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Re: Aiptasia in curing live rock for invertebrate-only tank, Limpet avail.     10/2/11
Bob - Thank you! I'll wait for cycling to complete and then put in peppermints, hermits, and Nudibranchs if I can get them. I'm glad you said to wait for curing to complete. That's what I wanted to hear!
<Ah good>
By the way, I've been researching limpets here, and I noticed several people asking where to get them. I purchased some from reefcleaners.org and was very happy with their quality and service.
<Thank you for this input>
My new limpets are leaving scorched earth in their path, but I guess that's the point. Just thought I'd pass along that source in case anyone else asks.
<Cheers, BobF>

Cleanup Crew As Sole Inhabitants Of New Tank? 2/16/11
<Hello Tim>
I cycled my live rock in a Rubbermaid tub, and when it hit zero for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate (about a week ago) put in in my display tank, plus a few token chunks in my QT. I plan to get a pair of false Percs for my QT very soon, but my display tank looks so empty and lonely! I have essentially zero algae in it. But I'd love to get some hermits and decorative shrimp, and maybe even a serpent star, for the display tank, and just feed them dried flakes and seaweed. I want something that moves in there! Is this crazy?
<No, not at all.>
Should I just be patient and wait out the 4-6 weeks my clowns will be in the QT? Or is it feasible to feed hermits and shrimp in a barren tank?
<I'd feed sparingly at first, there should be some source of food available on the rock itself. New Life Spectrum Pellets would be a good choice.
James (Salty Dog)>
Re Cleanup Crew As Sole Inhabitants Of New Tank? 2/16/11
Thank you!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

CUC, and stkg. sm. SW  3/8/2010
Hello WWM Crew,
My question was regarding a compatible clean up crew. I have a 29 Gallon Aquarium.
1 Falco Hawkfish
<Mmm, really needs more room than this>
1 Orange Spotted Diamond Goby
1 Sixline Wrasse
<Can be/come a bully>
1 Blues Chromis
<Will have the blues here... is a social species and you have no room for others>
1 Ocellaris Clown
I also have about 30 lbs of LR and a 2 inch sand bed.
As of right now I just have two Turbo Snails. In concern with the Hawkfish and the Wrasse, is there anything else I could add to my aquarium for cleanup purposes?
<Your arm periodically, with a siphon, algae cleaning gear... are best, along with adequate filtration, attention to water quality, foods, feeding...>

Detritivores in my sump 11/29/09
Hi there,
I am running a wet/dry filter that collects detritus on the bottom (to be expected I guess). I was just wondering if there was an invertebrate or fish that would eat the junk that collects at the bottom kind of like serpent stars in a saltwater aquarium. I appreciate your sage advice.
<Better for you to convert such a device to a refugium.
Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/wdmodconv.htm
and the linked files above. Only write after you've searched, read.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Skeletor Eel; comp. -- 11/08/09
Dear Marco,
<Hello Bill.>
Planning to add the Golden Moray next week sometime but in the meanwhile I have another question for you. Since this tank will only hold 2 Eels, should I add some kind of cleaning crew to the tank to keep the algae in check?
<You can. To oppose algae you'll also need a good water quality.>
If so, what would you suggest?
<Hermit crabs, snails, maybe an easy brittle star or if good water quality can be achieved an urchin.>
Won't the Skeletor eel eat most of the crab and shrimp?
<No. It might try to eat hermits first, but if you select well armored specimens, it will fail and leave them alone. Cleaner shrimps are more of a gamble. Some morays accept them as cleaners, some eat them right away. Snails with tough shells are mostly not eaten, the same is generally true for brittle stars and urchins.>
I was told that the Golden Moray is a fish eater.
<In nature they mostly eat invertebrates (crabs, shrimps), but also small and slow fish.>
Thanks again, Bill
<Welcome and good luck. Marco.>

Grocery Store Cleaner Clams? .10/26/2009
<Hi Zachary.>
I've recently read online that the small 'cherry stone' clams that you can purchase on ice at the grocery store are the exact same as the 'cleaner clams' available.
<Yes. Cherrystone, Littleneck, Quahog, and the like only refer to the size of the clam when purchased for food. They are all Mercenaria mercenaria>
I've come across much discussion and opinions on the internet but no conclusive answer. Some credible info would be much appreciated! Thank you!
<Unfortunately, there is little out there and nothing definitive, they aren't collected much for the aquarium trade because they aren't good looking, and usually burrow in the sand.
They are filter feeders, so they need fine particulate foods, something that historically, is difficult to achieve in an aquarium. Further, there is a significant risk of one dying in your tank and causing an ammonia spike that could take the rest of your tank with it.
If you are set on trying one, I would get the smallest ones you could find, slowly acclimate it to temperature, and make sure it 'spits' before putting it in your display tank. I would then monitor your water parameters very closely Anecdotally, they are supposed to come to the surface before they die, but I would not bet the inhabitants of my tank on it.>
I did find some threads about it on another BBS. Do have a read here:
http://www.saltwaterfish.com/vb/showthread.php?t=264945 >

Snails And Inverts/Janitors 10/16/09
Hello guys.
<Hello Mando>
I wanted to ask, what's the recommended amount of Astrea snails and hermit crabs for a 90 g reef tank?
<No recommended amount, depends largely on stocking level, feeding habits, etc. If it were mine, I'd likely start with about 10 Blue Legged Hermits and somewhere around 7 or 8 snails, but I prefer a mix of snail species such as Astreas, Ceriths, etc. The Nerite Snail is known to consume diatoms among other foods, may want to try a few for your diatom problem mentioned below along with reading here.
Currently I only have 3 red hermits and 3 large snails. I currently have a lot of brown diatom algae on my glass, sand and o. <?>
My equipment. Do u <you> recommend I get a Lawnmower Blenny?
<They are not going to anything about the diatom problem.>
.And are they sensitive? Cause I've lost 2 in the last 2yrs.
<They are a hardy fish that do best in tanks that have algae on which they can forage throughout the day. They will usually take frozen or dried vegetable foods like Formula 2, and sometimes will take meaty foods like bloodworms. It likely starved to death or was harassed by a tankmate(s) to the point of preventing it
from eating, but the later unlikely, as these fish are territorial by nature and will usually drive out other animals from their area including their own kind.
James (Salty Dog)>

Black Marine Sand--Need a Clean Up Crew -- 09/19/09
I have a dilemma. I currently have 2 saltwater nano tanks that have black marine sand beds. The black marine sand was purchased dry and cycled using the ammonia method. Both tanks have been cycled and in use for about 2 months.
The problem I am encountering is finding a clean up crew that can clean the black sand.
I have tried the Nassarius snail. It does not seem to burrow in the sand.
<<Maybe it 'hurts' to do so>>
The Nerite snail seems to be afraid of the sand.
<<Mmm, no'¦just prefers the air/water interface of your system (I did see this snail at a black-sand beach on the Big Island of Hawai'i'¦but was in the rocks'¦and mostly 'above' the water line)>>
The keyhole limpet is not cooperating either.
<<Possibly for the same reason as the Nassarius>>
I currently have 2 blue legged hermit crabs in one of the nano tanks. The other tank has 2 tiny zebra hermit crabs. Any suggestions on a saltwater invert that might be able to handle this job?? I was beginning to lean toward the sexy shrimp the opae-ula shrimp or the bumblebee snail.
<<Depending on the stocking of these tanks the former is likely to just become 'food,' and the latter is likely to spend more time on your rock than in the sand I think. I see two possible issues here. The simplest is that your systems are too 'new' and there just isn't enough detritus available in the substrate (unlikely). The other is the sand you have, unlike a true Aragonite product, is probably to 'sharp' for the Nassarius snails to comfortably move on or through it. This may change as the system matures more and bacteria encapsulates the sand grains'¦but is only speculation. For now, your best bets are likely the hermit crabs and/or maybe a small Brittle Star>>
Thank you in advance,
Lisa Lena
<<Quite welcome'¦ Eric Russell>>

Clean up Crew 80G Tank 05/20/09
I have a 300litre aquarium (around 80G US) which I am just cycling. In it I have 35 kg live rock, protein skimmer, and U.V..I am now looking to stock it with my clean up crew, reef janitors. After asking around my local fish stores I have a number of different recommendations from 30 turbo snails , 20 crabs and a brittle star fish to 6 turbo snails and 6 crabs and one even suggested a sea hare and mithrax crab.  I am now lost as what to use for cleaning my aquarium what do you guys recommend?
<Craig, if possible try to stock slowly and as needed when it comes to clean up "crews". These suggestions are not too crazy, but are still likely a large amount of small "critters" for a newly cycled tank. Turbo snails are great, but 30 is likely to many, and perhaps 6 is too few, it really depends on your particular tank and the need you have for them. As far as crabs go they are a personal preference, keep in mind that most any crab is an opportunistic feeder and may decide to eat something you did not intend to be it's food.  Please do some reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnupcrwsel.htm, and follow the links along to learn about each of the animals you are considering adding to your aquarium.>
Hope you can help
<Hope I did
Josh Solomon>

Clean up crew with dogface puffer
I have the following stock list for a 300 gallon FOWLR set up:
1 1-2" Niger trigger
2 5" Yellow Tangs
1 3-4" Blonde Naso Tang
1 2" Hippo Tang
1 3-4" Emperor Angel
1 2-3" Flame Angel
1 6" Maroon Clownfish
1 7-8" Spanish Hogfish
1 6-7" Dogface Puffer
6 Blue/Green Chromis
1 4-5" African Golden Midas Blenny
1 6" Two Barred Rabbitfish
My question is what kind of cleanup crew can I have? I had serpent sea stars which the puffer ate when he got bigger. I have a few Nassarius snails but that is it. If I can't have a cleanup crew, what type of
maintenance schedule should I provide to avoid problems in the future? I currently do a 50 gallon water change every other week. This tank has no skimmer but I will remedy that when I have the available funds. I just have 250-300 pounds of live rock and a sump with bio balls for filtration.
Currently my nitrates are at .20-.30.
Thanks in advance.
<Hello Robert. There's nothing you could add to a tank filled with invertebrate-eaters such as this one! Beyond what small crustaceans, worms and molluscs are multiplying in the rock and sand, nothing else would last long. Do remember what the point of a "clean-up crew" is -- to remove organic matter from crevices in tanks with corals and anemones where it is impractical for the aquarist to do so. In all other types of tank the clean-up crew is the fishkeeper! So get some tongs and clean things up yourself. In the meantime, put the cash you wanted to spend in the bank, and save up for that protein skimmer: a FAR more important (many would say essential) addition to community system with such large and heavy feeders
as your fish collection. Cheers, Neale.>

FOWLR Cleaning Crew 4/11/09
Hi again
Another couple of questions for you incredibly knowledgeable people.
< Jeez , two lines in and I'm already down in the count.>
My first saltwater tank (a 29 gallon) is in the cycling process, and I was wondering when I should add a cleaning crew?
< I like to wait until the cycle is over , but anytime after algae becomes present should be fine.>
I'm assuming after I get a few fish, so there's some waste to clean, but how long should I wait?
<If you are going through a full cycle you should start seeing algae soon. Should be good anytime after this point.>
Also, there seems to be a lot of different opinions out there as to which species make the best cleaners. I had in mind 2 or 3 blue leg hermits, either a peppermint shrimp or a cleaner shrimp, 1 or 2 brittle stars, and a handful of snails, probably turbo. Does this sound like a good selection?
<The hermit count sound good. Always be mindful when adding any kind of crab. They have been known to cross the line between scavenger and predator. The brittle star I would leave at the store. They have also been known to go after napping fish. Turbos are good additions but I think the best clean up crew is a mixed one.
Instead of all Turbos maybe add a few Nassarius or Cerith. I don't really consider the decorative shrimp to be part of the CUC , but either one will make interesting additions. If you are looking into the Peppermint shrimp for their aiptasia removing be sure to purchase a true Peppermint. The Camelback shrimp is often sold as a Peppermint shrimp.>
Fish species would be 1 or two clown fish, 1 royal gramma, 1 green goby, and possibly a trio of mollies from my brackish tank. And live rock of course. If my research is accurate, none of these fish will harm the cleaning crew, right?
<All sounds good except for the Mollies, of which I have no personal knowledge. I will forward your email along to one of the other crew members to get their opinions on them. >
<<Mollies can be kept in marine environments. You will want to acclimate the fish slowly to the salinity...a drip acclimation can work, but I would raise the salinity slowly over a period of days.
Scott V.>>
And I have one question that may be laughable to anyone who's not a newbie like myself. I understand the difference between a reef tank and a non-reef tank. But if I'm setting up a FOWLR tank, and then buy some invertebrates for cleaning purposes, not to mention the cute little feather dusters I've spotted on my new live rock, wouldn't my tank then cease to be a "fish only with live rock" tank, emphasis on the "fish only" part? Is there are term for a tank that has fish and non-coral and/or anemone invertebrates? Thanks.
<The FOWLR aquarium would also includes a clean up crew. If you add any sort of invert besides the CUC I would consider it "reef". Inverts of all shapes ,sizes, and colors inhabit the reef. So I see no reason why corals must be present to earn that distinction.
Adam Jenkins>

Clean-up crew, 12/10/08 Hello, <Hi> So I was wondering about he cleanup crew for my 29 gallon saltwater reef tank. Is 12 dwarf blue leg hermits, 12 dwarf red tip hermits, 10 Astraea snails, 1 emerald crab, and 2 peppermint shrimp too much for my tank? <Yes in my opinion.> I already have a little purple Firefish in there and I was planning on getting a ocellaris clownfish too. If that is too big of a cleanup crew what would you suggest? <A couple hermits, maybe 3 snails, drop the emerald, and the peppermints. Much more than that and they will likely starve.> Thanks, Scott <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: Clean-up crew, 12/10/08 Thanks for the quick response, <Welcome> Many websites say a lot more than that. <Yep, easier to sell that way.> Liveaquaria has a reef cleaner package that has way more inverts in it. <Yep, but way way too much for the sized tank they recommend.> Do you think I could get by with 10 hermits and 8 snails? <I think ultimately they will starve, or the hermits will pick off the snails as they run out of easier food.> That is what I have used in my other similar sized tanks. I do have sort of an algae problem. I trust your judgment but I think I need more than what you suggested. <I think you would be better off determining the source of the algae problems than try to combat it with the clean-up crew. If it helps in my 46G I have a 2 Astrea, 1 Cerith, 2 Nassarius, and 2 Red legged hermits. They are all about 7 or 8 years old now. > Thanks again, Scott <Welcome> <Chris>

When to add a cleaning crew? 11/13/08 Great site by the way. I am setting up a 90 gal reef tank. The tank has been up and I have live rock about 150lbs live sand about 100lbs and RODI water. The tank has been up for a few weeks with no lights and a lot of water movement from the closed loop plumbing from a mag 9.5 and 3 power heads. I do have a high end protein skimmer and large sump with more live rock. I was looking to add a cleaning crew of 50 snails and the water is reading as of yesterday 76 degrees PH 8.4 Nitrites 1.0 Phosphates 1.0 Ammonia .5 Would it be safe to put snails in the reef now or do I need to get the nitrites and phosphates down first. Also what would be a good starting cleaning crew? I was thinking of added 50 snails for the sand and 50 for the glass, a couple of serpent star fish, and maybe a sand sifting star fish, and a coral banded shrimp. I heard hermit crabs will knock over frags? Thanks for the advice. <I would wait until all the ammonia is out of your tank. Inverts are quite sensitive to ammonia. For a 90 gallon, I'd stick with just 50 snails over all at first. There isn't really need for more unless you have an algae problem. My favorite snails are Nassarius, Astrea, and margarita. I would forgo the sand sifting star, you most likely won't need it, and the information on hermits is correct. I'll never put another one in my tanks.> Brian Ludlow KY <Regards, Jessy>

Re: When to add a cleaning crew? ... much more... reading   11/14/08 Can you tell me what crabs and shrimp would be beneficial for a fee or is there a recommendation on must haves in a reef tank, and can you put a couple different stars in there? Also would you recommend anemones in a reef tank? I hear they can sting the coral. Is there a must have fish in a reef tank. I have heard tangs are good, blennies, and fish that school together. That should get me started until I start looking at frags and coral. Thanks for the expert help. Brian <I suggest more reading on your part. All those questions are subjective and in reading more you should be able to devise your own answers. DO NOT put any animal in that tank until you have researched much more and got your water quality under control.> <Regards, Jessy>

Cleaner Crew? -- 03/25/08 I, first off, want to say thank you and what a great site before I begin. <<Welcome'¦thank you for the kind words>> I currently have a 300-gallon aquarium with these inhabitants: Small French angel Two Percula Clowns Two Black Saddlebacks Medium Maculosus Angel Medium Six Bar Angel Medium Imperator Angel Large Purple Tang Small Red Scooter Blenny Medium Koran Angel Small Atlantic Blue Tang Small Blonde Naso Three Sand Sifting Stars Two Yellow Striped Maroon Clowns Small Power Blue Tang Small Sailfin Tang <<That's a lot of potentially large and aggressive fishes'¦even for this size tank>> I was wondering what types of cleanup crew would work best in this aquarium for cleaning up waste product and left over food, if any? <<Many choices'¦and should prove quite beneficial/necessary here>> Shrimp, crabs, snails, etc. . <<Yep'¦along with some Serpent/Brittle Starfish What species of each if any would you recommend? <<Cerith and Nassarius snails to start'¦Blue-Leg Hermits'¦Peppermint Shrimp'¦and the fore mentioned Starfish>> And finally what would you recommend for trying to setup a cleaning station for the inhabitants? Cleaner Shrimp, Cleaner Wrasse, etc. .. <<Avoid the Cleaner Wrasses'¦too delicate/hard to keep alive. A few Cleaner 'Gobies' (Gobiosoma sp.) and some Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata sp.) will do fine. And one thing to keep in mind'¦when adding any of these critters, don't just drop them in the tank like food'¦if ya know what I mean [grin]>> Thanks Again, Brad <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Planning a Pod-Safe Cleanup Crew -- 03/01/08 I'm looking for some suggestions/options for some cleanup critters, but it's important that they also leave pods alone. <<Okay>> I'm looking to add some critters to my 30g which is plumbed into my 90g that houses a mandarin, so being able to provide a source of more pods is important. <<Indeed'¦you should seriously consider making this smaller tank a refugium of some sort'¦preferably harboring a dense matrix of Macroalgae>> I'll have sand, LR, and some corals and a clam in this 30g - no fish. <<Mmm, I see'¦this will not be a refugium then'¦>> I'll have a variety of snails - they're usually the good, safe choice. <<Usually?>> But beyond that I have questions. I'm not sure if shrimp would be a good idea, and am fairly sure I should pass on getting any type of crab, but am I overlooking any good choices? <<I would give any shrimp or crab species a pass'¦quite predacious and opportunistic>> Any good smaller, cucumber choices? <<Nothing small that would be a good choice (suspension feeders) for 'this' tank. There are a couple sand-sifting species that can be beneficial in larger systems'¦but the 30g tank is not big enough to support these>> Other ideas? Thanks. <<Hmm'¦I think you are pretty much limited to Gastropods here'¦Nassarius and Cerith species for detritus scavenging and some sand stirring, maybe a couple Trochus and/or Astrea species for algae scavenging'¦or maybe better yet, instead of the last two choices, a small 'tropical' Abalone (Haliotis sp.). Regards, EricR>> Inverts & Quarantine, & cleaner crew sel.  2/29/08 Hi Guys! If I am to quarantine snails and crabs (such as the Scarlet Hermit reef crabs) for 4 weeks, what visual characteristics am I to look for during this time if they are in shells? <Mmm, if the system is not "too" large, I'd summarily place these groups of animals... I.e., not quarantine them> How will I know if they are ok to place in the display tank? Furthermore, if these inverts are carriers of disease or bacteria, isn't it possible that they could still be carriers long after the quarantine? <Yes> Lastly, I have seen recommendations for a clean up crew of 45 units (30 snails, 15 crabs) for a 30 gallon tank. This seems a bit much, wouldn't you agree? Or what would you recommend? Thank you for your time and patience and keep up the good work! -Bob <My opinions on the use of such cleaners is posted: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/index.htm the first tray. Am not a fan of their stated use... Bob Fenner>

Starting a New Marine Tank, Adding Clean-up Crew 9/6/07 Hi Gang! <Hello> Enjoy reading all your insightful responses to the various inquiries you receive. You guys are the best! <Thanks> I'm new to marine aquariums and I'm just swimming along in an ocean of overload information. I have searched your site and I know that you have responded to questions similar to those I am about to ask, but there are so many scenarios on your pages I'm a bit confused. I thought I would ask with regard to my own particular case. I have a FOWLR 30 gallon tank that is 3-1/2 weeks old. (ph: 8.4, Ammonia: .50, Nitrite: 0, Nitrate: 5) I have about 2-1/2 inches of the Aragonite reef sand (1-2mm dia.). <I would either add sand to get to 3+ inches, or take some out to get to less than 1 inch, you are sort of in no-man's-land here, where the sand can trap debris but not deep enough to get any nitrate reduction benefit from it.> I also have a 10 gallon refugium (2 inch sand base) and 32 pounds of live rock. I'm getting close to the point where I will be introducing animals. <Get a QT tank going, it will greatly help you be successful.> I would like to ultimately have at least one clown fish, but other than that, I will be looking at a peaceful community tank. I have no other preconceived plans for any particular kinds of fish except for nice coloration. There is no livestock as yet, which brings me to my questions: 1) I need a clean up crew. I am intrigued by Mr. Fenner's "no snail" concept. I really don't want a proliferation of snails. Given my empty stage at present, what could you recommend for a maintenance team? How many? <Generally marine snail do not reproduce in captivity like freshwater snails do, so a explosion of snails is not likely. A few snails of various types, Turbos, Nassarius, and Ceriths perhaps. You will only need a few at most of each for this sized tank, don't go for the cleanup packages, they almost always give you too much and inappropriate animals.> 2) Should I introduce the clean up crew before, or after my first fish? <Most people add them before, but not a big deal either way.> 3) Can I introduce the clean up crew all at once? <Yes> 4) As you might imagine, I am already getting to the point of some maintenance. Can I introduce the "cleaner uppers" after 4 weeks, or should I wait until at least 6 weeks? <Any time after the tank finishes cycling and there is some algae and other biological material for them to feed on.> 5) What would be a good first fish to introduce to my tank? <Depends on what you are going to add. Make a list of what you want and then add the most passive fish first.> A lot of questions, I know. But while I had your ear, I thought I would take advantage of it. Thank you so much for your time and keep up the amazing good work that you do! -Bob <Good luck with the new tank.> <Chris>

Re: The Missing Pieces?  Clean-up crew sel.  6/5/07 Is there an issue with serpent stars in this tank with eventually a trigger, pygmy angel, hawkfish? <Possibly with the first> I have one thus far and it's left alone. I figured with a few messy eaters, they'd be good critters to have to clean up? <Please... read on WWM re marine scavengers...> Since crustaceans would be eaten. David <Better for you and your gear to be said "clean-up crew". Bob Fenner>

Re: Clean-up crew sel. 6/6/07 Thanks for the quick response. I'm familiar with cleanup crews, but the problem is finding a cleanup crew that is suitable for a tank with 2 Bannerfish, Harlequin Tusker, Snowflake Moray, and eventually a Picasso Trigger. <Yes, I understood this to be your intended point, query> Thus far my serpent star has been left alone, but not to say the Picasso that I don't have yet would cause issues. What can you recommend for a tankful of invert eaters? <Again, the gear itself (circulation, filtration) and YOU, your maintenance> I have a tuxedo urchin in my reef tank that seems to be doing well and I noticed in the FAQs you guys liked the idea of a red slate pencil urchin in with a Picasso? <Can be used likely> Looks like the red slate would be harder to get at then a tuxedo... Meaning red slate is a bit more spinier? <Mmm, is not> Any other recommendations for cleanup crew with critters that could be a predator? David <There are fishes that are smart, fast-enough if there is room-enough... Perhaps a Goatfish species if you have room... But I would put my money into Hydor pumps and/or Tunze Streams... Bob Fenner>

Re: Clean-up crew sel. -- 06/07/07 Thanks again for your response. Yes, as I mentioned that 200g tank is almost maintenance free... I have a Panworld 250PS pump that circulates my volume about 16x/hr in addition to two Tunze Streams. <How nice!> I built a manifold for my pump with 6output nozzles that spray to each side and criss cross for complete coverage across the front of my tank. The Tunze's are in each front corner criss-crossing to the back corners. I do have pretty awesome water flow coverage. Additionally, I have a Tunze Skimmer which I am really impressed with... Works as well as my Aqua-C Remora Pro in my opinion. <A well-designed/engineered and manufactured unit in my estimation> I did notice my nitrates jump from zero to almost 40ppm (is that the right term? <Mmm, yes... and too high by about twice> It was 40 on a Salifert kit). I figure this is because I purposely began to overfeed while introducing the Tuskfish and 2 Bannerfish as my Yellow Tang was giving them a rough introduction. Figured if they all realize there's plenty of food... They'd calm down a bit. Seems to have worked, at least the fish all get along well now. So I am now back to a more appropriate feeding schedule along with 20% monthly waterchanges done over about 3changes a month. David Brynlund <Ah, good. BobF>  

Need Help Choosing A Suitable Detritivore For My Sump Sand Bed -- 05/31/07 Hi guys! <<Paul>> Love the website and have spent hours reading it, thanks. <<Welcome>> I'll start with a description of my tanks: I currently have a 70-gal tank, a 30-gal dedicated refugium and a refugium that acts as a sump. Now on to the question, I'm looking for a detritivore/garbage eater that would stir up the sand bed in the sump. <<Mmm, several come to mind...what are the 'conditions for employment' here?>> It doesn't have a lot of water flow going through it, and I would consider it low flow. <<Not a problem>> Being that it's the lowest flow in all of my setup, I've found that it collects all the organics that the prefilters on the overflow boxes do not. <<Indeed...is a 'settling chamber' for solids. You say you have an attached refugium already...this being the case, your system would be better served if there were no sand in this 'settling chamber' portion of your sump thus allowing you to periodically (weekly/bi-weekly) siphon the settled material from the system...in my opinion>> Being that the pump is only blocked by a plastic barrier that's approximately 10" high before water falls down to the pump, I'm looking for something that can't get over the gate. Here's a rough picture of my sump: <<Mmm, yes...is this an accurate representation? I see you have a plenum system...you do realize the live rock hinders its function...and that large bioturbators are not desirable as they can mix/destroy the different bacterial zones>> I was thinking a starfish of either the Brittle Star family or something in the Fromia family. <<Both will server as detritivores, and both can scale that partition you mentioned as well...in fact...pretty much anything you place in this 'sand' chamber will eventually find its way to the 'pump' chamber>> My main concern is that they will survive in a low flow environment. <<As long as there is sufficient oxygen/gas exchange...yes>> I have a Sand-Sifting Star, and a Chocolate Chip Star and both have been alive and well for over a year and a half. <<I see...so this chamber is only for de-nitrification then, as these two stars will voraciously consume the benthic and sessile biota within>> The Sand Star even lost one of his legs (I accidentally crushed him under a piece of live rock) but over the course of the last 6 months has completely regrown! <<Well fed indeed...and testament to the quality and care of your system>> That being said I'm sure my water quality will support another, I'm just trying to choose the right species for my purpose. <<More than good water quality is needed...you must be able to provide adequate nutrition/environment/et al>> I hope you can lead me in the right direction of a good species for this purpose. <<I would choose an Ophiuroid species...is the least likely to 'scale the wall' if kept well fed, in my opinion, and will consume detritus without disturbing/digging as deeply as the Astropecten>> My LFS suggested a Blue Linckia, <<Ack!...no!>> which I didn't buy because I've read about their diet needs. <<Ahh...Goodonya mate!>> So any help here would be much appreciated! <<Hope I have provided some. EricR>>

Re: Kalkwasser & Nano Reef; now nano clean up crew/s   2/24/07 Hi Bob, <Karl> Thanks very much for reply and advice on this, it is very much appreciated!  One last question, you do not recommend the use of snails. What would you recommend as a cleanup crew for a 15g system? <Mmm, you! As posted> I have family in San Diego (La Jolla), and when I am next over in the US, would really like to meet you - maybe have some Mexican and chat? <Sounds good>   Again, thanks for all your help! Best Regards, Karl McNally <Bob Fenner>

Cleaner Crew for Marine Sand   2/14/07 Hi gang, <Hello.> I have a 105 reef with a great deal of live rock. . . meaning lots of vertical surfaces, and not much open sand. I have no algae on the rocks. . . coralline and my tangs take care of that. However my sand tends to 'grow' some green algae that cements the grains together. A purple pseudo which I added years ago and can't get out makes small snails and hermits a no-go. . . he attacks anything small. A LARGE green brittle in the tank doesn't seem to do the job. <No these are more of scavengers.><<Actually... I think Adam meant/means that these Brittlestars are more predaceous. RMF>> Any recommendations for what I can use in here? <Larger Nassarius or fighting conchs (not queen) should be okay and do the "trick". Additional water flow in the area of the sand bed isn't a bad idea either...just stay away from sand-sifting starfish.> . . . Thanks in advance for any help on this. . . <Of course.> Chuck <Adam J.>

Clean Up Critter For Sump 2/9/07 Hello Crew, <Hi Chad> I have a quick question for you; I have a 20 gal sump that is hooked up to a 46 gal bow front reef tank and a 29 gal refugium.  My overflow sucks in food periodically when I feed my fish.  I would like to put a critter in the sump to eat the left over food. I have another reef tank, 120gal with a 30 gal sump that I put a few black mollies in to eat the leftovers and that seems to work out fine, although the lights are on 24/7 because of the macro algae growing within it.  In the 20 gal sump it is dark most of the time except some indirect light coming from the reef tank above it.  I'm thinking of an arrow crab for the sump instead of a molly because most of the left over food is meaty. Is this a good idea or do you have another critter that would work out better?   <I prefer invertebrates over fish for clean up work.  Fish add to the bio load of the system.  An Arrow Crab would be fine for your purpose.> Thanks, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> <<Invertebrates add to the bioloads of systems as well... RMF>> Chad

Re:  Clean Up Critter For Sump - II - 2/9/07 James thanks for the reply.  This raises another question though.  By saying that the fish (mollies) in my sump add to the total bio load (I do agree), you mean the use of oxygen and the production of ammonia. <Yes.> Do invertebrates (an arrow crab in this case) use less and produce less therefore add less to the total bio load? <Yes.> Thank in advance for the further enlightenment. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Chad

Hermit Holocaust   1/15/07 Hey crew I need some help... <Why we're here... though the occasional "happy story" really makes ones day> I got my first real clean up crew the other day (Thursday) for my new 55 Gallon reef tanks. The tank <Plural, now single> has been up and running for about 3 months now. <Allow me to preface the below by stating I am personally NOT a fan of such assemblages/crews... too often mis-mixes, predaceous, even not entirely compatible or totally aquatic!> Included as a total package were 25 Astrea Snails, 10 Nassarius Snails, 20 Blue-leg hermits, 20 Scarlet Hermit, 1 Coral Banded shrimp, <More of an eater upper, than cleaner upper...> 1 "monkey" shrimp (Saron marmoratus), <Neat animals... but again, not scavengers in the least> 2 lettuce Nudibranch, <Not hardy...> 1 Camel Shrimp, 5 Emerald crabs. <See WWM re Mithraculus...> I drip acclimated all the inverts before adding them into my tank. Everything is doing awesome except for the scarlet hermits. Everyday I find one or two dead out of their shells. I am up to 8 losses in the past few days. They are not eaten as far as I can tell. They are just dying left and right. My specs go something like this: NH4/NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3=0, PH=8.1, Alk=9 dKH (I had a drop in this recently and am thinking this is the culprit) <Might be> , Ca=420ppm, Cu=0, <Good to know> SG=1.023, Temp is steady all day and night at 80. <Might be your Magnesium is deficient, out of balance...> I do not have an iodine test but just started adding supplements of Iodine about two weeks ago via 1 tsp of Kent's Coral-Vite <... I'd skip this...> once a week. All the blue-legs are fine and dandy, just the reds. Fish in the tank are a very small yellow tang (about 1.5"), <Wow, this IS small> a Flame Angel, 2 Perc Clowns, 2 Blue Green Chromis, and 1 Royal Gramma. There is also a green BTA in the tank. Lighting on the tank is 4X65W PC lights (2 12K and 2Blue) and 2X36W PC Lights (2 10K). I am thinking either a) the Saron shrimp is getting to them but for some reason not eating them. <Mmm, would find just shell bits if so> Or b) the Alk is too low and getting to them. <Mmm...> The alk had dropped to 7 dKH due to my wonderful wife not remembering to stabilize the PH of the RO/DI water before adding it as makeup water for the past week while I was on vacation. I am bringing it up .75 - 1 dKH per day till I get back to about 11 or 12. <Mmm, by itself... this should be fine> Can you guys and gals shed some light on the situation and think of something that I have not? <The Mg... though there are a myriad of other possibilities> The only other thing that I can think of is the bristle worms that come out at night. I know Bob is a grad school expert <Man! A new title to add!> in these things so I thought I would toss them out in the mix. I think I have determined that they are of a variety that do not hurt anything. They are round (or appear to be in the dark) with what appears to be black and white stripes. They "Unroll" from the outside in if that makes any sense. The base comes out before the head, really kind of cool looking. I know there are so many types of worms but I have compared them to most anything I can find a picture of that is harmful and have not found anything like them. There are about 20 of them on one piece of live rock, and they only come out at night, and the largest one can unroll to a length of about 3". I just can not place my finger on what is killing my inverts! <Too many possibilities... I would just not replace the types that are going> Thanks again in advance for all the great work ya'll do. I hope many people see the donation button at the bottom of the page and give what they can for y'alls wonderful service. All the money you guys have saved me and my wife over the past year is worth the $25 donation we make every year. <Appreciate this> Brandon and Jennifer Gray <Bob Fenner... who wants to be more clear, complete... would rely mostly on proper set-up, maintenance (you) to keep house here... not a mix of invertebrates>

Gastropods/Snails/Limpets and an Over Abundance  12/5/05 I'll save space and your having to read by not listing our tank setup - if you need to know the setup to answer this question, let me know and I'll oblige. <Okay.> We setup 90 gal tank with 130 pounds Fiji and Marshal island live rock about 5 months ago. Within a week, we found a large cap snail hitchhiker...5 months later, there's so many in the tank (also a few in the refugium) we lose count to get an exact number. I've read if you know how many snails you have, you don't have enough, <This sounds like a retailers slogan'¦I to have heard such ludicrous rules of thumbs such as this one and the common 'One hermit and snail per gallon rule' which is to say the least ridiculous.> but is there such a thing as TOO MANY CAP SNAILS? <If you have an overabundance this means that there is sufficient algae to support them. The algae is fueled by nutrients. So if you want the herd to be naturally thinned out I would check your system for detritus build-ups and watch how much you feed. Water changes are your friend.> If so, is there a natural predator for them? <Yes likely any mollusk and crustacean predators such as wrasses and puffers. However they will not limit their predation to just your snails, your microfauna population would be adversely affected as well as any other small critters in your tank.> cheers <To you too.> Donna <Adam J.> 

BB detritus eater  12/16/05 Hello Ya'll, <Hello Jason>   I emailed you guys before about my 125 gallon stingray tank and its high nitrates. Well I think I have it under control. I built a DIY wet/dry refugium. The problem I'm having is with the macro growing the refugium, which is bare bottom I'm getting a ton of detritus and its very hard to suck out with the macro on top of it. What can I put in my refugium that's not going to eat the macro and just eat the detritus?? The refugium is about 20-25 gallons and am growing Chaeto macro like crazy!! Thanks for any info you may have.  <The Cerith and bumble bee snails will consume detritus along with serpent stars.  I suggest you put a nylon sock (filter bag) over your return pipe/hose to trap such.  It will need to be cleaned weekly.  James (Salty Dog)> Jason

What Snails Do You Like? - 01/10/06 Gotcha, Thanks so much Eric. <<You're welcome Dave>> How do you feel about Turbo snails, Trochus, or Nassarius? <<My problem with the first two is, aside from being prone to die-off, they are like little bulldozers knocking corals around as they prowl/graze...worse than any urchin for this in my experience.  I do like Nassarius snails...and Ceriths are an absolute fave of mine.  I also have what I believe is a very small conch (1/4"-3/8") that multiplies like mad and is a great little detritivore.>> Dave Harvey <<Regards, EricR>>

Re: What Snails Do You Like? - 01/11/06 Yeah, that's how I'm coming to feel about Turbos and Trochus also, not to mention I'm pretty sure that every time they fall off a rock and don't land right side up- the tusk is upon them in a moment. <<Hmm...wouldn't be surprised if the tusk wasn't 'helping' them 'fall off.'>> I have 2 larger Conchs, boy do they grow fast. <<Have heard this...>> I'll probably only keep one-not sure about that, and give one to my buddy. They certainly have cleaned up the sand of any detritus very quickly. <<Always a handy thing <grin>.>> Thanks again, Dave Harvey <<Cheers Dave,  EricR>> Micro stars/Detritus Control   3/16/06 Hey crew,  <Hey Eric> Hope you are having a wonderful day.  <Not bad.> I am having a little bit of a detritus build up problem in my tank. Some of the live rock I have has small pockets in the rock they look like small craters, but detritus seems to settle in these pockets and I have to eventually vacuum them.  Well after I vacuum most of these out all my coral and anemone seem to open up a lot more and last for a few weeks (I guess they could be eating this material but I really don't think so). <Correct.> I was wondering if adding micro bristle stars would help keeps these areas clean.  <Will help some.  The best control is what you mention...vacuuming and during every water change.> If you have any suggestions of other organisms that would work better please let me know. 180 gallon 300 lbs live rock 1600 gallons an hours of power head water flow. 4-5 inch sand bed. Thanks,  <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Eric 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>

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>

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>

Blue-Green (BGA) Slime algae (red too) What inverts eat Cyanobacteria? <very few... almost none. It is unpalatable to most and literally toxic to others> I have hermits blue legs turbo and Mexican snails and one or two emerald crabs. <some limited possibilities there... C. tricolor crabs, Turbo sp snails and some comb-toothed tangs. Not the emerald crabs though> None of them seem to interested in eating the stuff. Please help. Thanks, Peter <it is noxious if not toxic. And it would be better to treat the problem and not the symptom... do examine your nutrient export mechanisms... are you getting daily dark skimmate from your skimmer consistently? Do you thaw frozen food and decant the pack juice? Do you have very strong water flow to keep detritus in suspension, etc? A good skimmer alone can eradicate slime algae easily in 2 weeks or less. BGA is all about nutrient control and water flow. Please browse the ton of content on this subject in out wetwebmedia.com archives. Best regards, Anthony>

Dumping Detritus! I have a 55 gal reef tank with sugar sized sand as substrate. I would like to know what animal/s would be good in helping me keep the detritus off the sand, as it is hard to vacuum? <I like the idea of purposeful animals doing the job, rather than overly disturbing the sandbed through aggressive siphoning> I don't have a preference as to snail, starfish, or fish. I currently have 6 Nassarius snails and 1 serpent banded starfish( which I read on here are good for this), but they don't seem to be keeping it very clean. Are these good for cleaning detritus off sand and do I just need more of them? Any help would be appreciated. <I guess the definition of "clean" in a sand bed is arbitrary. It's usually impossible for it to be perfectly spotless, with no algae, detritus, etc. Keep in mind that a "sterile" sandbed is neither natural or beneficial-not to mention, pretty much unachievable! As long as you don't see excessive amounts of detritus, algae, etc. in the substrate, and water parameters are within acceptable limits, I think you're doing okay. Keep in mind that some organic materials are required by the animals living in the sandbed. Keeping the sand spotless through "natural" or artificial means can damage the very processes that are keeping the tank in balance, and perhaps even injure or kill the infauna that reside there. You could add one or two more serpent stars, but I think that I would keep it at that. Fishes like Pygmy Angelfishes (Centropyge) are detritivorous, as are some tangs. However, you need to consider the needs of the fishes and the other animals in your tank if employing these types of fishes to assist. Use the resources on wetwebmedia.com to learn more about sandbed management practices. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Adding clean-up critters and LR When should I add clean-up snails and crabs to LS and tank? Then, when do I add LR? <<Add LR first, let tank stabilize, test for zero ammonia/nitrite, presence of low nitrate, do water change and add clean-up as there is food available (algae, detritus, etc.) Low fish load at this time after quarantine. Do a search on stocking and clean-up crews at WWM, much more information there. Have fun, 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>

- Which Herbivore? - Thanks Jason, <You are welcome.> I have wanted to add an herbivore as you mentioned, but is there one that I could add considering my present livestock?.  I don't know of any that would be able to "survive". <Well... just how big is this grouper?> Maybe a tang? <Yes, although you will probably need to obtain one of size that would discourage the grouper from making a one-bite meal out of it. Groupers can be bad that way.> What about the little critters, is there something that I might have success with? <You might try an urchin... I've used Tuxedo urchins around more questionable fish, but there is still no predicting what that trigger will do. Might be worth a try, but a tang would probably be better.> Thanks again, Tim <Cheers, J -- >

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>

- 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 -- >

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>

Hermit crabs - algae Dear WWM: If you were to choose 5 species of hermit crab or crabs in general, for routine cleanup of green hair and filamentous algae in my reef tank, which would they be? I intend on having corals and want "reef safe" varieties. I live in Ft. Lauderdale and can collect hermits from the tide pools.  Can I use these?  If so, what species...blue legged, red legged, etc Thanks, Steve < I would do mainly red leg hermits.  Sally Lightfoots are good at eating hair algae also. Cody>

Stirring The Sandbed Good evening every one <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I have a couple of questions about maintenance of my new 4 inch sandbed.  I perused your FAQs and got confused. I could swear Bob said to use a wooden dowel and punch holes and gently stir once a month - all the way to the bottom of the sandbed. I'm pretty sure Anthony said to do this, but only to the top 1 inch.  Is there a consensus here?  I am not a scientist but want my sandbed to work.  I currently have my old crushed coral substrate on top of the sandbed in mesh bags to seed it, plus my live rock. <If you're working on developing a true "deep sand bed" (I think that Bob's reference was to a "fish only" setup with a more shallow substrate...), I'd keep my stirring limited to the top 1/2 inch to 1 inch, to avoid disrupting the denitrification processes that you're trying to foster. To be honest, I really don't stir my DSB at all. You may want to utilize the services of a brittle star or two to do it naturally for you, without excessively disturbing the sand bed> I read an article today saying that I should seed it with a kit (rotifers, etc.)  Is this correct? <There are a number of e-tailers that offer "starter kits" of appropriate sandbed animals. My favorite source is Indo Pacific Sea Farms in Kona, and other folks swear by Inland Aquatics, or other firms. Most of these kits contain beneficial worms, snails, bacteria, and other useful creatures to help "jump start" your sandbed. Do some searching on the net for some good sources.> Also, I had lavender/purple algae all over the sides of my tank and in the substrate.  I left it on the sides when I cleaned the tank, but it is vanishing fast.  Why is this?  And will it come back?  I have plenty of it on my rocks, don't want to lose all of it.  Can you explain? <Well, if the lavender/purple stuff is coralline algae, then you will need to maintain proper calcium/magnesium/alkalinity levels to keep it going. If it is a Cyanobacteria (a nuisance algae), then you don't want it back! Do a little reading on the WWM site, using the Google search feature to get more information on exactly what kinds of algae you are seeing> A note to Anthony:  I took your advice and went through all the crabs.  Just have six red-legs now, along with snails. I will watch them carefully, and if I lose any more shrooms they will get fired. <I'm sure Anthony will be stoked to hear that!> I also got a new Remora skimmer, and wow, what a difference. <It's an outstanding skimmer, and really will do a great job for you! Glad to hear that it's working so well for you!> Thank you all so much for your continuing support  I have been doing this for a little over a year now and have come a long way.  It is a very rewarding "hobby" (more like "addiction". And it would not have been possible without your continued support and advice. Connie <Connie, we are so happy to be able to be of assistance for you! Sharing experiences and growing together in the hobby is what this site is all about! Keep growing in the hobby, and feel free to call on us if you need any additional assistance! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Clean up crew help Hi Guys, <Hi Louis, Don here tonight> I have a 55 gallon salt tank that has currently cycle very nicely with about 30-40 lbs of LR from  Florida.  Things have started to proliferate on the rock including green algae.  Don't know if you would consider them Macros, but I don't think so.  No real developed leaf structures.  They are more grass like.  All chem. levels at this point are perfect at 0 with Nitrates at 10ppm, temp at 77 deg f..  These reading have been constant for well over two weeks now. <Good for you, but if you are going with corals, need to see the nitrate at 0.> I would like to move to the next step in my tank process, but as always, due to past failures I am afraid to make the wrong decisions.   <Nothing wrong with going slow, actually can be a benefit.> Can you suggest a combination (numbers and names) of snail/crabs etc that I would need to place in the tank for clean up?  I have no fish at the point, and in the future I plan on only some simple soft leathery corals.  Fish species still up in the air, definitely a Yellow Tang somewhere in the picture.  Still learning about fish species. <I don't like using any type of crab. I hade red leg hermits that decimated my snails and have moved to snails only. Astraea, Nassarius, Cerith, Trochus, a good mix is what you are looking for. Numbers will depend on the load of the tank. I would start with 6-8 of each except the Trochus, maybe 3-5 of those. See how they handle the clean up and then modify from there.> Lastly, I would like to continue as well by adding another 30+ lbs of LR and probably stop there.  Would it be detrimental to add the LR to the tank to cure at this time?  Will it hurt the current flourishing LR?  Can I add the clean up critters simultaneously  with the next batch of LR or do I need to wait out the next cure phase before moving forward on inhabitants? <If you are going to add more rock now, I would wait to see if there is an ammonia/nitrite/nitrate spike, maybe a week or two. Then start adding livestock.> Thanks so much as always. Louis Rizzo

Selecting a "Cleanup Crew" Hey Guys <Scott F. your guy tonight> I am somewhat confused about what "critters" to use for cleaning up detritus etc. I have had a few crabs, a few snails, and some shrimp. I need to purchase a restock of "critters" Could you give me a list of the BEST ones? <Well, it all depends on what you need them for...If you're looking for algae control, you may want to consider Strombus, Trochus, and Turbo snails. I like some of the herbivorous hermit crabs, too. For detritus control, you could look into some of the so-called "Margarita snails", or the interesting "Sandbed Clams" that you can obtain from my favorite source, Indo-Pacific Sea Farms in Kailua-Kona. IPSF has a great selection of "cleanup crews" and diversity animals...Inland Aquatics, LiveAquaria, and other e-tailers offer a variety of animals that can do the job nicely....Do check out the many possibilities...Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F> Thank You Rudy SCAVENGERS >Hello, >>Hello, Marina here. >I have a 75 gallon saltwater fish only tank with crushed coral for substrate.  Please tell me what type of scavengers would be best to help clean up uneaten food?  Something that is easy to maintain.  Also, how many would you recommend? >>Serpent stars.  You could add three or four easily.  I cannot recommend anything else without knowing what you have for residents (hermits, shrimps, and so on, may be eaten by wrasses, triggers, large angels).  Best of luck!  Marina

Re: SCAVENGERS >I have 2 clowns, 1 orchid Dottyback, 1 flame Hawkfish and 1 coral beauty dwarf angel.   >>Then you should also be able to have small hermit crabs, Lysmata spp. of shrimps (they'll take up uneaten food rather than specifically detritus).  Marina <<Mmm, the Hawkfish will eat the shrimps, and possibly/eventually the Hermits... RMF>> Re: SCAVENGERS >I am sorry, what is Lysmata spp. of shrimps? >>Look here, many, many species.   http://www.google.com/custom?q=lysmata&sa=Google+Search&cof=AH%3Acenter%3 BGL%3A0%3BAWFID%3Ac12f9ba1e9294d73%3B&domains=wetwebmedia.com&sitesearch=wetwebmedia.com

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.>

-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

How many hermits - 10/14/03      I'm a little confused. <Aren't we all?>  On the hermit crabs page, it says: "If you use them, place about one, two small Hermits per actual gallon of your system. <Emphasis on small> Use a mix of species and make sure and provide many "upgrade" homes (empty shells) for your Hermits to move to." <I can agree to this view with the exception that the hermits should be small>      However, on the first hermit crabs FAQ page, the first question reads: "Snail & Hermit Crab waste Hi Bob: My tank finally cycled with a lot of algae bloom. Two days ago I added 10 Scarlet Reef Hermits 10 Turbo/Margarita Snails and 30 Red Leg/Left-Handed Hermits from FFExpress. They have done an excellent job cleaning but I noticed a lot of waste since I added them in the tank. Is this bad for the tank? And should I pull out some of the hermit crabs out? <You neglect to mention how large your tank is. I would not use anymore than 1 hermit crab per 10 gallons. I use about 1 snail per 2-4 gallons depending on the tank, lights, etc.> Thank You, Aram <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>"      So which one is it? <Well, I can see this view as well, different strokes for different folks. Let me tell you what I have in my ten gallon tank. Two hermits. That's right....two. Ask me how many I started with? Ten hermits of varying species. Aggression and starvation has eliminated the competition. So my recommendation is one no more than two per ten gallons period. The same equation works in my twenty gallon for the most part. I now have three left out of twenty. So maybe no more than four in a twenty gallon should suffice>  There's a big difference between one or two hermits per gallon, and one hermit per ten gallons. <Agreed. The above recommendation is what works for me. You might have luck with a few more if you feed them regularly. Is it a little bit more clear? Hopefully so>      As you can see, I am confused. <Naw.......just a difference in point of view. You are gathering information for a better point of view. Good on ya' mate, -Paul>      Brian

Peppermint Shrimp, marine scavengers? If I am starting a saltwater tank - 55 Gallon - I have spoken to people who said that I need Peppermint Shrimp to help keep it clean - How many do I need to buy?  How often should I expect to replenish them? <Mmm, I believe you have mis-heard. This species of Lysmata shrimp is employed as a cleaner of sorts... for removing pest anemones. Please make use of the search tool on the homepage of www.WetWebMedia.com (at bottom, left)... insert the terms "marine scavengers"... and read. Bob Fenner>

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.

Amblygobius (actually other) species that eats algae Hi all, <Hello there> I contacted previously about Amblygobius rainfordi, and realize that this is not the fish for me. Thanks for the advice and info. I would still like a goby, and I like the look of the Amblygobius gobies. I for article at WWM it was indicated that some species eat algae. I have a well established 135G tank of 3 years, with a refugium . One of the reasons I am interested is I have heard that they will eat hair and other filamented algae's. I have normal algae growth, but my tangs just won't touch the stuff. Thanks Bryan <Mmm, a few pertinent points to (try to) make. One is that there are some algae species that most all fishes refuse to ingest... perhaps they're unpalatable for chemical, physical reasons... And approaches to these algae control lies elsewhere... Second, there are better blennies for cropping filamentous algae than gobies in general... Look to the genera Salarias, Atrosalarias if your system is large enough. Please use the Google search tool on WWM here for much more. Bob Fenner>

- Seastar Questions - Hi crew, Long time reader first time writer. I just want to make sure my last purchase is a smart one. <Ok.> First I'll start off with some tank facts. Saltwater 55 Gallon FO ammonia- 0 nitrite- 0 nitrate- 0 pH-8.3 Sal. - 1.023 don't test anything else carbon run 24x7.  protein skim with a Versa-jet skimmer (cheap I know, but actually has wonderful performance for me, about 4-8 oz of dark skimmate daily.) 3.5-4" crushed coral substrate cheap lighting (perfecto strip of I would guess two 15" fluorescents) Inhabitants - a few damsels clarkii clown Pseudochromis very small valentini puffer. I am looking into getting a star, particularly the chocolate chip star. I would like to get this star to help clean my substrate and glass. <Not a sure thing.> Also I have heard its very hardy. <Hardy in what sense? All seastars could be lumped into the category of 'not hardy' although some may tough it out longer than others.> Are my conditions good enough for this star to thrive? <Hard to be certain - are many variables, health of organism on arrival, appetite of that puffer, available food, etc.> There is plenty of algae that I have to clean biweekly to weekly off the substrate and glass. <Can't guarantee that this seastar will eat this.> Will this be enough for him along with the left overs from my fish feeding (frozen krill, frozen brine shrimp, dry blood worms, flake, frozen silversides, frozen clams)? <Well... I'm sure you know that these animals don't move very fast, so it may not get the opportunity to get to all this food or clean the glass as quickly as might be useful for you.> Would you suggest a different star (although I would like to stay with a hardy specimen) <Again, really no such thing as a hardy seastar in the pet-fish trade - are all delicate and responsive [in a negative way] to water quality issues. There are others, like the general star that are impractical to keep that would rate higher on the hardiness scale than a chocolate chip star.> I would love to add some live rock too but I know my lighting wont be sufficient for the invert. <Wouldn't be so concerned about this - live rock with or without lighting will provide benefit to your tank.> hitchhikers and coralline growth.  So I think I will wait for better lighting till I get the LR. <I wouldn't wait if I were you.> Thanks, APM <Cheers, J -- >

Clean-Up Crew (1/20/04) Hi WWM Crew. It has been sometime since I last email you folks. I finally got around to converting to DSB and Live Rock and protein skimming for filtering my 75 gallon FOWLR tank. It look great. I now have a 4.5 - 5 inch DSB comprised of 150lbs of Southdown (hard to find in Texas) <impossible in Utah> and 40lbs of Carb Sea live sand. <Sounds nice> I just set it up a few days ago and was wondering how long to wait before adding a detritivore and or clean up crew kit. I still have a 6 hermits in the tank. Everyone says that the LR will seed the bed, so do I need a detritivore kit to get the pods and worms for the sand? <Much can come from the LR, but a detritivore kit will give I a boost. Up to you. I am a big fan of these two sources: www.ipsf.com and www.inlandaquatics.com > If I order a clean up crew, should I order a 30 gallon clean up crew now and another 30 gallon crew a few months from now? <It's really up to you. I'm not a big fan of hermits myself. I like various snails like: Nassarius, Nerites, Turbos, Ceriths. Also a big fan of Brittlestars. There is no specific # of snails/hermits you need. Retailers will tell you that you need whatever # they want to sell you.> In addition to the DSB, I added a 20 gallon long sump/refugium. What should I put into the Refugium? It is about 15x12 inches. My primary goal is NNR. <Will you be lighting it? Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria algae would be great. You could also put some critters in there (refugium fauna kit, for example.> Thanks, Glenn <Hope this helps, Steve Allen>

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

Set Up and Stocking Questions Whomever is answering questions--thanks. <Welcome> These may seem repetitive. I have The Conscientious Marine Aquarist in my lap, and I've looked at your set up and stocking pages but am still confused.   Background: I started keeping freshwater about 3 years ago and last  November started a 12-gallon nano-reef, which was set up at the local fish store  for me. It had a tomato clown, a bubble-tip anemone, 1  firefish, umbrella and leather soft corals, <These get much bigger than this tank... can be disastrous chemically if "upset"> live rock and live sand, and  later three tiny gobies (they called them red-cheeked at the store, but  I've never seen them in a fish book) <Likely Elacatinus puncticulatus: http://wetwebmedia.com/neongobies.htm Do you see this fish here?> as well as many snails, a peppermint  shrimp, and some macroalgae. I had no problems. Changed 2 gallons of water a  week and changed out carbon once a month. I gave that set up and all my  freshwater set ups away when I moved in September.   Am now trying to set up a 46-gallon tank as a mini-reef tank.   <Ah, much better> Found a very helpful LFS but they insisted that I buy uncured live rock (which  is nice rock, but uncured) and base rock (total of 55 pounds) and put  it in the tank above not live sand. So I now have that set up and the  ammonia is off the charts. What should I do now? <Off the charts as in more than 1 ppm? I would change a good part of the water out with some pre-made... keep the skimmer clean, running at peak efficiency... maybe dose the system with a Kalk product...> Also, I need to keep a clown fish and an anemone. <Need?> With that information,  the LFS had me buy a 110 36 inch watt 9325K light. Is that enough light? <Not likely... unless it is a specimen, species that can/does derive a good deal of its nutrition from eating vs. photosynthesis... you will soon see... as it will move about...> (I need the clown fish and anemone because their relationship is the only thing my husband likes.) If it's not enough light, I'll buy what is. <I see> Here's what I'd like to keep in the tank, in addition to the clownfish. It seems too much, but some answers seemed to suggest it'd be o.k., others not. 1 Jawfish, 1 symbiotic goby and shrimp, 2 cardinalfishes (pajama or Banggai), 1  firefish, and 1 (or 2) Bannerfish, whichever is the smallest hardy breed. <Heniochus acuminatus> I am  planning on adding macroalgae to the system. <Do consider adding a refugium... locating at least some of the macroalgae there> Cleaner crews: should I buy a pre-established set? <Maybe... but like securities, stock picking, you could do as well putting your own assortment together as by purchasing a "mutual fund"> Some of them seem to  have things like sea cucumbers in them which don't make sense from what I've read, as well as scarlet hermit crabs. That's confusing, suggesting that the aquarium stores are wrong. Also, when should I add it? <After the system is completely cured, ahead of the fishes> I really appreciate your help, and think that the Conscientious Marine Aquarist is a wonderful book. All the Best, Margaret Cooter <Thank you for your kind words. Bob Fenner>

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> 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>>

Cleanup Crew/Algae Control...and what else? More Mandarin trouble.  10/4/05 Good afternoon, Bob! <Actually Adam J here with you tonight.> I have found your website to be invaluable for information.  Thank you very much! <Well it's not my doing but I agree this place is awesome.> I am the temporary keeper of a 29-gallon saltwater aquarium.  I know that it has more inhabitants than it should have for its size, but it's not my tank!  :-)   <Sounds like you should show your 'friend' the way of the force'¦.I mean responsible aquarium keeping.> However, I am wanting to control the algae & get some help with leftover pellet food cleanup!  <If there is a lot leftover you are over feeding.>  I recently purchased a horseshoe crab, which I now know from your website, was a mistake for this tank size.  <Yes.>  However, I also have a turbo snail & a mandarin goby in there.  <Whoa a Mandarin? Do you know the requirements of this species? It will surely starve in a 29-gallon tank within months.>  In considering hermit crabs and additional snails, can you offer suggestions?  <Trochus snails are a favorite of mine for algae grazing, though the best way to prevent algae is to remove the nutrients that are feeding them. Efficient skimming and frequent water changes should be employed.>  The most aggressive fish living in the tank are 3 damsels, so I don't think that will be an issue.  <An issue as far as what?>  But my concerns are these:  (1) the aggressiveness of hermit crabs as they outgrow their shells, and I wonder if there is a breed of crab that will work whose shell grows with him or who will accept a spare shell rather than attack others for a new one. <You should always have extra and larger shells for the hermits to choose from. This will help minimize the aggression. Hermits 'rent' shells they do not grow with the crab.>  (2) How many crabs/snails will I need to control algae in this size tank? <The one turbo and a Trochus or two is more than enough. I prefer not to use hermits.>  (3)  How big will a hermit crab grow... will he outgrow the tank? <Depends on the species some stay dime sized while other can become softball sized.> Your response is very much appreciated, and I look forward to hearing from you, Vicki Racette <No trouble but please address the Mandarin, as it is not suitable for this set-up. Adam J.> We Need Merry Maids!  11/12/2005 Hello WWM Crew, I hope all of you folks are doing GREAT and as always, thanks for the wonderful website! I am almost completely cycled and getting ready to start stocking my 240 gallon reef tank and I think I have most of my livestock list figured out except my "cleaning crew". This has been the most confusing aspect of figuring out my livestock list thus far and was wondering if I could get some advice.  My first question concerns the Nassarius obsoleta or Ilyanassa obsoleta. I was considering adding some of these to my cleaning crew for their glass cleaning, algae eating; sand stirring ability but I have read so many mixed reviews I am not sure what to do. <"When in doubt, leave them out"> One person swears by them and the next person condemns them. I was wondering if you would give me your opinion and/or experience with them, whether or not you recommend them and if you do recommend them, <Are useful creatures of utility for many types of marine aquariums, species mixes> how many you would recommend for my 240 gallon tank? <A handful, two handfuls> I have 500 pounds of rock (250 pounds base rock/250 pounds live rock) and an average sand depth of 2". Also, I am including what I have come up with for a cleaning crew and I was wondering if you could advise me whether you feel this is appropriate for my setup or not and if I should add the N. obsolete along with this crew, substitute if for one of the other snails or leave it out all together. I haven't purchased any of these items yet because I don't have a LFS or anyone locally to ask advice and to be totally honest, you folks are the only source I trust when it comes to my reef tank. I also would like your opinion as whether I should add this cleaning crew first or should I add some of my other livestock first  <They, the cleaner-uppers, should go in first> and wait a few weeks before adding my cleaning crew so they won't starve on such a new tank.  <Not likely with the LR> Anyway, the cleaning crew I have come up with is as follows and please direct me as to whether you feel this is appropriate or as to what changes I should make. The list is as follows: (50) - Mexican Red-Legged Hermits Clibanarius digueti, (200) - Small Blue-Legged Hermits Clibanarius tricolor, <Am not a big fan, okay even mid-sized fan of using Hermits, and not in large numbers... I would start with far fewer if you want to use these> (120) - Turbo Snails Astrea sp., (120) - Nassarius Snails Nassarius vibex, (30) - Nassarius Snails Nassarius polygonatus, (30) - Nerite Snails Nerite funiculate, (120) - Cerith Snails Cerithium strercusmuscarum and (6) - Peppermint Shrimp Lysmata wurdemanni.  <... this is way too many snails... by about an order of magnitude in my opinion/experience. Many will die off... polluting your water, others will "die mysteriously" consumed by the Hermits...> I am sorry for such a long email but I just want to make sure I am on the right track before adding such a critical component to my reef tank.  As always, thanks so much for your help! Take care all, Bryant <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marscavart.htm and the linked files above... Do agree with you re differing opinions in this hobby interest... And mine is to scrub more, circulate, aerate and skim more... be careful re introduction of the means of algal and detritus production, and severely limit the introduction/use of such "cleaners". Bob Fenner>

Clean up Crew I'm putting together my clean up crew for my 46 gal. tank w/ 65 lbs. of live rock with lots of Algae. Would you recommend a combo of Turbo and Trochus or Turbos and Astrea snails? How many of each for my size tank? Thanks, Rob O. >> Well... you've asked a pointed, defined question... So... I'll gladly respond in kind. I don't encourage the stated stocking density of Trochus genus Snails, and I do favor the use (if being utilized) of Turbo and Astrea genera gastropods over the use of Trochus... (though in Europe... there are some collected/collectable trochid family members that are desirable...). Bob Fenner Thanks Bob for answering the question of what kinds of snails. How many would you recommend for my size tank?  <Oops, sorry for missing this part previously... IF I was using snails, five or ten of  Astreas and Turbos... Some Blue Legged Hermits... again five or ten... depends on the types, amounts of live rock used, lighting... other algae eaters... am a bigger fan by far of using fishes... like Ctenochaetus Tangs, Blennies...> I also really want to get some starfish. I was thinking (1)Blue Linckia,(1)orange marble and (1)brittle starfish. Should I purchase these when I get my clean up crew or should I wait until my tank is more established? How many would you recommend for my size tank? Right know the tank is 6 wks. old with lots of Algae mostly brown). <I'd only consider the middle species... and you can place it now... or wait Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Rob O. Suitable Herbivores for Reef Tank I want to add an active herbivore to the tank that will prune the plants (grape and lettuce Caulerpa) without disturbing the other members of the tank community. A tang seems like a logical choice but have some contradictory information on whether or not they are compatible with coral and other invertebrates. I have a 125 gallon reef tank with 100 pounds of live rock and crushed coral substrate that covers about half the bottom of the tank. Wet/Dry filter, protein skimmer and UV sterilizer. The current population includes: Clean up crew, 4 cleaner shrimp, 4 clown fish, purple fire fish, coral beauty, fairy wrasse, a mix of hard and soft corals, 3 anemones, 2 starfish and a horseshoe crab. Can you recommend suitable tank mates? Also, would like to know if I can add an additional dwarf angel to the tank (Flame Angel)? Your articles are extremely informative, and I enjoy reading your responses. Thanks: Dave  >> Thank you for writing and being part of this forum. I would indeed trust a tang of either the Sailfin genus Zebrasoma (like the Yellow and Purple) or the Combtooth genus Ctenochaetus (like the Kole/Yellow-eye, or Chevron) for the job... the only real downside of these fishes is they might eat too much of your "spare" Caulerpa. And I would definitely get a nice Flame as a show piece for your system. For your size system it should learn to get along with the Coral Beauty within a few weeks maximum... Be chatting. 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>

Goby vs. Cucumber vs. Starfish? Hi Bob, Thanks for your time. I have been having green algae problems growing on the sand with my 60G fish tank with LR lately. I already have a phosphate sponge and keep phosphate to <0.03. I have been reading on the subject people are recommending me get the Golden Head Goby, a sea cucumber or sand sifting starfish. Do you have any suggestions and how many of them do I need? Also would I have to keep the Goby in pairs? Thanks. Brian >> <Hmm, well, all of these might do you some good... but for my moolah, time, I'd get a member of the Salarias, Atrosalarias blennies, just one, and watch that algae disappear. Bob Fenner>

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>

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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