We all know keeping your marine aquarium clean can sometimes be a chore, but it is a small price to pay for having a pristine display tank that wows everyone that walks in the room. But, there is an easier way; enlisting the help of a few particular species of invertebrates ,plants and fish to do the job for you! A lot of people contact me via www.SaltwaterAquariumAdvice.com asking about marine tank janitors, heres’ what I tell them:
Marine tank janitors are a selection of beneficial marine organisms basically feed on algae, detritus and any uneaten food left in the aquarium, additionally marine plants mop up nitrates and phosphate (biological waste products of excretion). This assortment of helpful invertebrates, fish and plant life are literally the janitors or clean up crew of a marine aquarium. If you own a reef tank having these guys around is a no brainer as long as they get along with your corals and invertebrates, if you have a fish only set up just do a bit of research first and make sure none of your fish species will feast on your clean up crew (always research fish, coral and invertebrate species compatibility before adding in new tank inhabitants).
So your clean up crew will generally be made up of a combination of crabs, snails, shrimp, sea cucumbers, Starfish, marine plants and sand sifting Gobies and Blennies. A number of these species are more sutiable for newbies such as Cleaner shrimp, crabs, Gobies and starfish.
If you have a sandy substrate, sand sifting species such as the Gobies (for example; 2 spot Goby, Sleeper Goby, Watchman Goby) and sea cucumbers such as the black or Tiger tail will do an excellent job of plowing through the sand looking for detritus. This is very beneficial to keep your tank looking clean and the nitrate/nitrite levels down and efficiently aerates the sand.
Species which will keep the rocks and glass free of algae and detritus are herbivorous Blennies and Tangs (including my personal favourite the blue regal Tang, as these species eat a vegetarian diet they are perfect for reef aquariums), hermit crabs such as dwarf and electric species and snails such as the hugely popular Astrea and Turbo snail. Snails and hermit crabs are quite small so will not rearrange the aquarium or require much care, however Tangs can grow quite large and need additional feeding so make sure you have enough space.
Hermit crabs such as the blue legged and red legged species are perfect for algae control because they are small so do not cause too much of a disturbance in the tank and can fit into tiny gaps for better algae predation. In terms of true crabs, the Emerald Green Crab is the best selection for a reef aquarium because they are so reef safe and so got at controlling algae.
It is my hope that you will now be armed with some background information to help you select a clean up crew for your own marine aquarium. These guys can really be a savvy marine aquarists’ best friends!
For more information on maintaining marine aquariums and keeping optimally happy, healthy marine life; check out my best selling publication “Ultimate Secrets To Saltwater Aquarium Fish and Invertebrates”