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FAQs about Marine Scavenger Stocking/Selection: Snails of all Sorts

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

Related Articles: Marine Scavengers Genus Valenciennea GobiesHermit Crabs,  

Many fishes eat snails.

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Marine Aquarium Algae Control

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Peaceful Community Marine fish + ?   Plus snail stkg. f'    4/13/15
I have quite the harmonious tank at present and was thinking of getting a small Yellow Tang to add (I understand they can get up to 8"). Listed below is my stocking. They are all small fish as you can see. However my tank is a bit unusual for a 90 gal. It's a DSA Pro 90 that is only 36.5" long. 36.5" x 24.5" x 25" (LxWxH). I understand YT needs swimming room. Will this suffice if not 4' across?

Here is my current stock.
1 Red Firefish
1 Purple Firefish
1- Royal Gramma
1 - Yasha Hasa Goby w/snapping shrimp
2 - Banggai Cardinalfish (paired up in my tank)
1 - Clown Fairy (solorensis) Wrasse
2 - Ocellaris Clowns (Got the male after the female. The male won't let the female in the RBTA. Weird?
<Not weird>
2 - Yellow Assessors
1 - Neon Blue Goby
1- Yellowheaded Pearly Jawfish
<Mmm; this fish may not be happy long-term w/ all the other bottom dwellers you're intending here>
1- Red Mandarin Dragonet
1 - RBTA
1- Red Linckia
<I'd skip>
1- Linckia multiflora
<This too; doesn't live often in captivity>

1 - Blood Red Fire Shrimp
1 - Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp
1- Hard Tube Coco Worm
2- Feather Dusters
25 various Corals including LPS, Zoas, mushroom
<Study re these... need to be VERY carefully acclimated, started small, the Zoas placed last (toxic)>
Snails (est)
<NO! These numbers are CRAZY. Won't live and their deaths will pollute, possibly poison the system. SEE WWM RE>
75 - Dwarf Cerith
40 - Florida Cerith
25 - Nassarius Vibex
25 - Nerites
3 - Florida Fighting Conch

5 - Blue Leg Hermit Crab
8 - Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab
2 - Ringed Cowries
All fish have been in for 6 months to 1 year except the Mandarin which was added 3 months ago. The tank is just 13 months old old. Below is the equipment I'm running.
Sump - Marineland 29 gal custom 3 chamber
Return Pump - Sicce SYNCRA SILENT 5.0
Skimmer - Reef Octopus SRO2000INT
Powerhead - recently switched from EcoTech VorTech to Maxspect Gyre (wow)
Heaters - ViaAqua 200w Titanium (2 - 1 in sump, 1 in overflow)
DT Light - Coralife Maxspect Razor 160w, 16,000k LED suspended in canopy
Auto Top Off - Reefanatic Top Off Controller. 5 gal custom acrylic top off container
Fuge Light - Wavelength 6" LED
AquaFX Barracuda RODI unit
Eshopps Filter Sock holder
Reactors - Two Little Fishes (2, 1 for Carbon, 1 for Phosban and/or have
tried Purigen, Chemi-Pure in reactor)
120 lbs CaribSea Primo Reef Rock started from dry and cycled with 1 raw
<Okay.... Bob Fenner> 

Re: Peaceful Community Marine fish + ?       4/14/15
Hey Bob,
Thanks for the quick replay and comments. Not sure you understood that this is my CURRENT stock. Livestock listed has been in and established as noted.
<Ah yes; sorry for the mis-tense remarks... not quite awake (still)>
For example, the Jawfish has been in for 7 months. He moved a lot initially but has been in his current home under a nice base rock for a good 5+ months. The LM star has been in for 5 months and doesn't move too much. Usually hangs by the overflow or top of tank. So since he doesn't move much and I was wiping my glass down enough I got the 3" Red Linckia. He
moves around from glass to rocks pretty quick and is a nice little showy star. I have read Blue Linckia especially are hard to keep as with all sea stars.
<Ah yes>
The snail comment was a 180 from what I was recommended early on so I'm a bit confused by this (and scared! - "pollute & poison", OUCH!). The snails have been in for a year since just after the tank cycled. Do you think I should take some out and put in my QT and give some away?
<Yes I would>
They are not visibly dying off. In fact, they have laid eggs. Of course most eggs don't survive but a handful actually did (Nerites).
Regards to the original question if I can keep the YT or not, I'm guessing "should" mean it's OK for "most YT? Of course now I'm more interested in your snail thoughts cux pollute and poison is not what I'm going for here!
<Yes to the Yellow Tang likely mixing in here, and adding some added color and motion. BobF>
Re: Peaceful Community Marine fish + ?       4/14/15

Thank you much Bob. As a newbie I was tutored by a guru in the industry
<Ah, very good>
so I was spoiled and now mostly only value opinions/advice more so from veterans such as yourself.
<Well; am enjoying being labeled a vet.... vs. olde!>
Attached is a side shot and front shot of the 90 fyi.
<Thanks for sharing. BobF>

Re: Peaceful Community Marine fish + ?       4/14/15
Oh and BTW, it wasn't the cagey veteran who advised me on the snail quantity (in case you wondered how great a marine guru can he be advising on such snail qty). He actually did ask about those quantities but deferred to another industry vet who was the expert in that field and has had success for many years doing so. So that's what really confused me. The industry expert deferring to another industry expert. And now yet another industry expert disagreeing with it. I've been in this just long enough to see all sides and as I've done over the past 18 months since researching initially and through today, I try to come to a sensible decision (maybe one area was the snails that is of great debate apparently). Man, why couldn't this hobby have more plug n play answers? haha thanks again Bob.
<Ah yes; and as you might well understand; being here (on the Net) and trying to make "universal" statements is fraught with danger... the long and short of it (gastropod stocking) is that some (a minority by far) of folks "do have success" with unnaturally high numbers of various species. Many more have troubles. B>

Snail IDs; SW; for reef clean up crew sel.     8/8/14
I was looking for some snails and saw these, listed below. I have mixed
coral, small gobies, and other inverts and don't want to add something that will eat them. Are these snails reef/ invert safe? One I think may eat vermetid snails (which would be awesome), but I don't want them to turn on my clean up crew.
1. Rhino Sea Snail (Drupa ricinus)
<Mmm; I don't trust Muricids... many are predatory>
2. Star Sea Snail (Astralium calcar)
<Attractive and functional Turbinids>
3. Gold Telescope Snail (Telescopium fuscum)
<Not familiar with this species... is this Cerithium telescopium?>

Thank you!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Ilyanassa <sic> Obsoleta snails, stkg., using      8/20/13
Several months ago I recently purchased a large number of Ilyanassa obsoleta snails for my display to keep the sand bed free of detritus and uneaten food. They have actually done a great job and I haven't had any problems with them. In fact my system is doing better now then it ever has. I only keep a one inch sand bed in the display as I have 2 additional separate
refugiums in my system.
<With deeper fine sand I hope/take it>
 I recently came across an article written by Mike Greenemeier describing how these snails can wreak havoc on a sand bed and more importantly, harbor parasites/flukes/Trematodes that can give an aquarist a rash referred to as swimmers itch.
<Mmm, a smallish possibility of both... I see your notes below; and would not be concerned re>

 The vender claims that all snails are tank raised and that he is a licensed aquaculture facility. He advises snails 4 snails per gallon
<Way too many.
You're free to read my posted comments/stance on such use of gastropod and hermit "cleaner uppers"; archived on WWM>
and I have a 300 gallon system so you can imagine that I have quite a few.
Many of them are in my sump. As of yet, I haven't had any issues but I don't want to wait for something bad to happen if there is a high probability that it will so I have the following questions.1) Since they are omnivores, will they harm coral and or other inverts?
<Not likely; unless very hungry; another reason to only harbor a few>

If so which ones?2) If they are farm raised as claimed, do I need to worry about the Fluke/Trematode that causes swimmers itch?
<Much less likely to be a problem/vector>
3) I could easily run a UV if I absolutely had to since it is already plumbed in for emergencies.
<... wouldn't kill... And I'd run this tool all the time regardless>
 I don't like running it and everything does better when I don't.
<Really? I wonder "why"... What do you think is changed therewith?>
 If I did run it, would I need to run it as long as the snails were alive or would running it for say a few weeks suffice?
<... again. See WWM re UVs>
4) Do you advise removing them as I could easily trap them. Any overall suggestions would be appreciated
<Welcome, Bob Fenner>

Nassarius Snails Versus Fish     12/18/11
Dear WWM crew,
My question is, do Nassarius snails present competition for fish that eat/sift food from the sand?
<Mmm, can/do a bit>
 I have several fish that sift the sand for food and eat from the surface of the sand, which are a pair of ocellated dragonets, a Rainford's goby, and a Hectors goby.  They are in a  75 gallon reef tank that has a 29g sump, a 1/2 full 55g refugium, and a 16g fishless tank hooked in the system. They do all eat frozen foods daily (Rods, homemade, Mysis, Nutramar shrimp roe).
 I lost nearly all of my CUC to an ATO issue a few months ago and have still not replaced my snails (I don't like crabs, so not replacing them)... what survived are 5 or 6 Tonga Nassarius, 1 or 2 small Nassarius (not the illysiana type), and a few Cerith snails, 2 skunk cleaner shrimps, 1 fire shrimp.  I have always loved Tonga Nassarius snails and want to get more, but I'm concerned that if I add more they might make it harder for the aforementioned fish to eat (they all eat various frozen stuff, but get it off he sand not out of the water column). My sand bed is about 1" deep (deep enough to keep the Tongans out of sight).
<Mmm, I'd add more over time>
 The rest of the current CUC are 2 skunk cleaner shrimps and a fire shrimp.
 The current fish list is the pair of dragonets, the Rainford's goby, the Hectors goby, an orange Firefish, a purple Firefish, a pair of small ocellaris, and a yellow tang (the bottom half of my tank is well stocked, while the upper half is practically fishless, so I need a pair of some type of  peaceful fish under 3" for the upper half.... I'm open to suggestions).
<Mmm, look at the various (hardy) species of Cardinals/Apogonids, Fairy Wrasses/Cirrhilabrus, and Anthiines/Fancy Basses about...>
 Thanks for the information, and happy holidays to you all!
<Thank you, and you are very likely fine here w/ these numbers and species of snails and your sand sifting/dependent fishes... Due to the size/volume of the system, tied in volumes and good supplementary feeding. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
F. Mills

Detritivores, 9/8/11
Detritus is building up in my 15g Nano reef with a 2.5g AquaFuge (acting as a refugium). It's the fine grey "stuff" that looks like dust, for lack of a better term. It might be why I've been seeing patches of green hair algae and cyanobacteria recently, which I've been able to slow down but not stop control.
<Could indicate a nutrient problem.>
Detritus have been building up on the rocks and sand, but I've been able to blow some of it back into the water column where it gets sucked into the refugium and collects there.
<Sounds like you need better water flow, what are you using for circulation? Also are you running a skimmer?>
I manually removed it from the refugium last night but I would like to see if invertebrates could help. What are good invertebrates that consume detritus?
<In your case a few snails may help somewhat. However they don't remove anything from the system, just tie it up for a while so they are not really an end solution. A good skimmer and water changes are what you are looking for here to actually remove the detritus from the system.>
I'm finding conflicting information or of questionable reliability on whether a particular animal actually consumes detritus in a significant way.
<Many snails do to some extent. There really is no perfect animal for this however.>
Some people recommend Nassarius snails, but upon further research they seem mainly interested in carrion and food scraps.
<Yes, and they need a fairly deep sand bed too.>
I'm unsure if Ceriths will eat it, and my tank is far too small for a sea cucumber.
<Ceriths would be good, although they are sand dwellers so if you do not have a deep enough sand bed for them to bury themselves in I would skip those. Otherwise a couple Turbos or Astrea could help.>
I am trying to maintain an Indo-Pacific theme, but if they're going into the refugium I don't care what ocean they're from. Thanks for the expertise!
<See here and related FAQs for more details on specific species.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gastropo.htm .>

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>

Stomatella varia, sel./source   04/02/09
I've spent a hours searching the web for a place to purchase Stomatella Varia. So far I've come up with very little and nothing reliable. I've spoken to people at my LFS's and they are keeping an eye out for me as
they do their water changes. However, in my searching I've found numerous others on many forums stating that they wish they could find a place to buy these.
So my question is 2 fold:
1) Are there places online where these snails can be purchased online w/o buying a whole 'refugium kit'?
<Yes, please see here:
2) Why are they so hard to find?
<Good question! They are definitely some of my faves.>
The only suggestion on how to get them that I've seen is "buy live rock..you'll likely get some". But with so many looking in vain I can't help but wonder why no one seems to sell them.
<Do please contact Morgan L. of Inland Aquatics. I have bought these snails from him many times and they always arrived healthy.
Sara M.>

Clean Up Crews...Would Like More Than One Member To Answer 1/27/09 Hi Crew, <Hello Sam> Caption does not relate to 'The Crew'. I would like various opinions from the Crew as to the benefit of snails etc to clean up the aquarium. I don't want to ruin anyone's business but I would like to know what the real scoop is. Let's face it, if you have an algae problem it is not going to be resolved by critters. You need to reduce the nutrients that feeds the problem. <Mmm, sounds like you have just answered your question.> And even for general cleanup does anyone have snails that clean the glass so that they do not need to clean it themselves. <I know of no snails that have evolved into squeegees. Most do a reasonably good job but none will ever get the glass squeaky clean. Snails have different feeding habits and need to be selected by the job you want them to perform. A good place to start reading is here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gastropo.htm> And they do add to the bio load themselves. <Will add little.> So is it useful to have them other than to have diverse life in the tank? <Yes.> Same question relates to the sandbed. <Bumble Bee snails are a good choice to help keep sand beds clean.> Thanks, <You're welcome, and no guarantees here whether other crew members will chime in as this is not a puzzling question. Googling should provide you with all the info you desire on this subject. James (Salty Dog)> Sam

Fighting conch, sel., algae control    -- 09/08/08 Hello WWM, About a month or so ago, I added a 3" long fighting conch to a 125g FOWLR already containing the following: Bluechin trigger, Foxface lo, neon Pseudochromis, purple tang, flame angel, Longnose hawk, cinnamon clown, 2 Mithrax crabs, 2 small pencil urchins, a coral banded shrimp and a pistol shrimp (LR hitcher). No acts of aggression from anyone, except the trigger stealing freeze dried plankton I hand feed the coral banded now and then. <It will eventually consume this animal. the Mithraculus, likely the urchins...> There's algae building up on the sand substrate, and I bought the conch in order to stir it up a little. <Mmmm... not likely> It now spends all of its time buried, so that didn't work. I'm thinking of adding 50 or so blue leg hermits. <... I wouldn't...> What's the chance they'd kill the fighting conch...low/med/strong? Chris S. <Let's have you read on WWM re Algae in marine systems, roads to their control... You're not headed in a useful direction here. Bob Fenner>

Re: fighting conch, algal contr., and wet-dry conv. to live sump   9/10/08 Thanks for your prompt response. I re-read some of the algae FAQs as per your suggestion and will continue to follow the recommendations outlined (monitor nutrient control, adequate circulation/aeration, regular RO water changes and filtration/skimmer cleaning, macroalgae cultivation, proper illumination/replacement of lamps, etc.). In your reply, you recommended against adding blue leg hermits, but didn't indicate why. <Am "just" not a fan of using such in general... Even the genera of "reef safe" (generally) ones can be "too picky"> Would you please elaborate further? <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/maintindex.htm the third tray down> In my reading of your BGA/Cyano article, you mentioned that in regards to biological controls of BGA, certain hermit crabs do consume BGA. <Yes... some Calcinus and Clibanarius species particularly can, not always...> Is it the other fish/inverts that present the problem? <Can, yes...> As far as a "clean up crew", what would you recommend, based on my existing livestock? <Read the above citation> I noticed you recommended Zebrasoma tangs and Mithrax crabs (which I currently have), among others, in some of the FAQs. <Yes... appropriate application... in some settings> On a related theme, I've read a number of the emails in the WWM sump FAQ. I'm intrigued about the discussion as to converting a wet/dry filter into a sump/refugium for housing live rock and/or macroalgae, but at the same time I'm a bit leery about making modifications and not doing it right. Attached with this email is a photo of my commercially bought wet/dry filter. You can see that the water enters from above through 2 diffusers (not sure if this is the correct term), pours through a filter pad over a drip tray, past the bio-media balls, then across another sponge into the second chamber that houses an in-sump Berlin skimmer, and finally pumped back into the main tank. Is there a way to keep the mod.s simple? <Mmm, yes...> Is it as easy as removing the bio-media and putting live rock in its place? <Virtually, actually, yes... Better to have "more space" for other items... but a DSB can be fitted under/with the LR> You can see in the photo that the water level in the wet/dry is about 35-40% full...do I raise the water level so the rock would be completely submerged? <Yes, this is best> Should the diffusers and/or drip tray be removed and be replaced with something else? <These can remain; remove the pad> You'd indicated that lighting for a sump containing live rock and/or macroalgae is beneficial. If the filter tray is still there, is there any problem with lighting from the side (instead of from above) that clamps onto the side of the cabinet? <Mmm, no problem... though/but it would be better if there was another separate area to house the algae> I presume from reading some of the prior posts that the LR in the sump can be lit with a simple one-bulb fixture from a home store. Any bulb wattage minimum? <Mmm, tens of watts will do most all that can be here> I also worry that residue from the live rock could clog up the pump that sends water back to the main tank. <Should be screened in a fashion> You can see in the photo that even now, there's residue that's gotten past the pad and second sponge and has settled at the bottom of the sump and in/around the skimmer. <This will surely pass. I would ignore this mulm> On another note, the skimmer rarely froths over the edge into the cup/receptacle, but a good amount of "pasty gunk" - forgive my lack of scientific terminology - accumulates along the inside of the cylinder on which the cup sits. Any thoughts? <Your RedOx is likely low... put in other words, your water quality is mal-influencing this skimmers function... and it may need adjustment... to raise the water level w/in the contact chamber...> Is Red Sea Berlin brand skimmer any good, or if not, what would you suggest? <Is low to middling in functionality> Sorry for the numerous questions that are all over the place. I'm trying to get as much direction as possible in advance by reading prior articles and WWM posts, but much of the info isn't specific enough for me to be comfortable making these changes, and still I feel like I'm a little in over my head. <No worries> Maybe it might be easier to just plant a few Halimeda bushes in the main tank? <Mmm, worth trying, but a "whole different kettle o' fish" compared with the conversion of your wet-dry. I DO encourage you to go forward with this> I have 120W total (four 30W bulbs) of 50/50 lighting in a 125G, is this adequate? <... For?> Thanks again for your patience. <And you for your earnest involvement. BobF>

Snails, Red Slime 1029/07 I was wondering for my 140 reef how many turbo snails would I need to keep it relatively low on algae. <Between 6 and 12 IMO, they really are pretty inefficient at controlling algae. Water changes and nutrient control work much better.> Also do you know of anything other then red slime remover that takes away red slime. <Again water changes and nutrient control. I would not use a chemical treatment here, will not solve the long term problem.> <Chris>

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.> 

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>>

- Snails and Hermit Crabs Dying - Hi: <Hi, JasonC here...> I have had my system up and running for almost a year now with no major problems. However within the last 2 months my snails and hermit crabs have been dying. I have enough algae growing on the Live Rock to keep them busy. My Ammonia and Nitrates are zero and the PH is 8.4. Any ideas on what could be wrong? <Probably nothing - most likely a form of natural selection at work, and none of these live forever... I wouldn't be too concerned.> Thanks, Aram <Cheers, J -- >
- Re: Snails and Hermit Crabs Dying -
Hi Jason: <Hello again...> Thanks for getting back to me. I checked my Ca level last night and it's down to 200, Could this be causing the dye off. <I doubt it.> Also my ALK is really high about 800 mg/l. <Egads, that is high, and would explain the low calcium.> I add 2 teaspoons of KENT Super Buffer once a week to maintain my PH, could this be a problem also. <Potentially... could be your water is already pretty 'hard' and doesn't need supplementation - stop adding the Kent product and test your source water.> Thanks, Aram <Cheers, J -- >

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 had 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

Cleaning Crew Run-Down Ryan, thanks for taking the time to answer my question. <surely!>  I have read the FAQs re: sand sifters and decided against the sand sifting star. <You'll be glad, believe me.> This time around I would like to let the animals do most of the clean up work.  When I stated in the previous email "an assortment of snails", I was thinking about Nassarius, Cerith, Bumble Bee, Turbo, Trochus, and Astrea snails.  <Nice assortment, but you may starve this many snails without a heck of a lot of algae.  Turbo and Trochus seem to be the most productive in my tanks.  My bumblebees are a bunch of freeloaders!> I've read that these guys should help with the detritus and algae. <Yes, to an extent.>  Just how many do I need for a 125g tank?  <25-35 max.  Start with 15, add them as your tank matures.> Also, I've had a problem with Blue Leg Hermits eating my Astrea snails (not for their shells), and don't want this type of hermit again.  <Most hermits are opportunistic by nature.> My Scarlet reefers have never bothered any of my snails, and I like them a lot. Would about 50 of these guys be sufficient or should there be a mix of hermit species? <50 is way too many.  Try 20 to start, and see how this works.>  I was also thinking of a sleeper goby, but don't want to have him starve. <Skip it.  Not sure what kind of aquatic life you plan on keeping, but many fishes will take care of algae growth better than a sleeper goby.>  What would you suggest re: a clean up crew for a 125g?  <My "dream team," first off, would include a refugium.  Prevent the algae from growing by diminishing the available nutrients.  The snails and hermits sounds fine.  Look into opisthobranchs, commonly known as Sea Bunnies.  A great algae eater for bigger setups.  Also consider Cypraea annulus.  What I've found with grazers is that diversity is the key.  Each of these animals occupies a different niche in nature, and therefore in your tank.  The more diversity you add you cleanup crew, the less you'll have to intervene.  Talk to you soon! Ryan> Thanks again for your help and patience with my questions.

Re: Initial Clean Up Crew Thanks again.  How many snails and/or crabs do you think I would need initially? <None... please see WWM for input on such crews, selection> To refresh, it is a 440 gallon FOWLR with about 210 lbs of live rock, no fish in the tank yet.  The substrate is CaribSea Aragamax Sugar-Sized Reef Sand: 0.2 - 1.2mm diameter grain size. It is about 1-2 inches deep so I don't see much need for deep burrowers.  Since there is no fish, I guess the only food initially will be any debris off the rocks and coralline algae. <Yes. Bob Fenner>

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.

Astrea snails and coralline algae Greeting and Salutations Bob or Anthony, <I'll take the salutation, and raise you a "whassup?", Anthony> Quick question for the experts: I just added some nice cured LR to my system with some beautiful purple coralline algae growth. This morning I noticed one of my Astrea snails "sitting" on top of the coralline on the rock. Will these little guys eat the good (translate: pretty) algae or will they restrict themselves to the green stuff?  <they will only eat microalgae and they favor diatoms (brown algae)> Thanks so much for all the time and quality you guys put into WWM. I hope you're raking in crazy loot with the advertisers otherwise I'm sure there would be many willing to pay a small subscription fee! <actually the wine, roman parties and dancing girls nightly are payment enough> PS-Anthony--didn't realize you were from the 'burgh, me too! Any recs. as to places for good quality live stock/LR around here? take care my friend. <Adam...too cool. Yes, reasonably good stores... what part of the city are you from? Perhaps your best networking might be through our local marine society. We take frequent road trips (subsidized by the club) to the best regional stores within a 6 hr drive! We also have great speakers like Bob Fenner and Eric Borneman annually just to name a few. Do look us up at www.pmas.org or contact me if you'd like more info. I hope to meet you someday, bud. Kindly, Anthony>

Cleanup Crews Hello, What would you suggest as a cleanup crew for a 215 reef, mixed fish and invert? <It really depends on the tank; lighting, nutrient export, stocking, feeding, etc. all play a part.> Is there a general rule to follow? <The only rule I have is to use a variety of creatures and monitor what thrives/works. Astrea snails mixed with Turban snails, limpets, etc.> I currently have 180 Astrea snails, 100 scarlet hermits, 8 serpent stars, 5 sand sifting stars. Is this overkill? <Not enough variety for my tastes, way too many hermit crabs (probably soon to be a lot fewer snails), and I do not recommend the sand sifting starfish.> Do you even recommend sand sifting stars or are they not reef safe? <They are "reef-safe" in that they do not eat corals, but they must eat worms, pods, and other sand life to live. Most times they scour a sand bed until nothing is left and then they starve and die.> Thanks, Steve <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Janitor Crews & Buying Liverock Hello, Reading a lot about the importance of cleanup crews on the web. Everyone has a little different opinion on what to have. Can you give me an idea on what I should get as a clean up crew for a 90 gallon. <The reason everyone has a different opinion is every tank is different; lighting, feeding, stocking level, nutrient export, water change schedule, etc. All of these play a role in determining algae growth and detritus amounts. The easiest thing is to start low and add over several months until you get a group that fits your tank and your style. I like to use a variety of snails, but keep the crabs to a minimum. I only like the Scarlet Reef Hermits.> I will purchase 90 pounds of live sand, and approx. 180 pounds of live rock for filtration. <You may get some janitors in with your sand and rock, too.> Do you have a suggestion on where to get the sand and rock. I have been on Tampa Bay Saltwater recently. <I am partial to rock of Pacific origin. If you purchase rock through mail-order or e-tailers, please cure the rock in a separate vessel regardless of what they say about it already being cured.> Thank you, Dan <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Clean up crew issues Dear Bob, <Anthony Calfo in your service> A quick question for you. First the details. I have a 75 gallon tank compact fluorescents and 90lbs of Fiji live rock - just done curing.  <I thought I smelled something when I opened this e-mail> I just purchased a classic clean up crew rated for a 50 gallon tank, figured I'd start small. The clean up crew consists of: 10 Scarlet Reef Hermits 20 Turbo / Margarita Snails 30 Red Leg / Left-Handed Hermits Now after being in the tank for only two days they seem to have eaten almost all the visible algae on the rock.  <yes...they were added too early and now the ability of microfauna in your sand bed will be compromised> Should I start feeding them? If so what?  <most are omnivores. add a mixed frozen meaty food (like Formula 1 and 2)sparingly 1-2 times weekly for starts until they can get incidental matter from fish and coral when your livestock inventory builds> Also could you recommend a place for me to buy bigger hermit shells.  <some bags of coarse beach sand have tons of shells in them and it is cheaper than buying shells by the piece> I heard the hermits will eventually snag the snail shells. <true> Thank you in advance, <do consider tapping a refugium inline (above) the system and QT'ing the critters until your sand bed establishes a bit stronger. Otherwise, don't expect to see too many cool worms and critters in your sand> Simon. <regards, Anthony>

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

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

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>
Re: Snail & Hermit Crab waste
Hi Steve: I have a 54 gallon corner tank. I guess I should pull out some of the crabs and snails. What do you think? <Yes, I would remove all but two of each hermit crab. I would leave all the snails and if you need more algae eaters, get ten more Astrea, Cerith, or Nerites snails. I like to use a variety of snails as they all seem to prefer to eat different things. -Steven Pro>
Re: Snail & Hermit Crab waste
Thanks Steve, FFExpress should redo their Web Site about adding the correct amount of Invertebrates. ~Aram <Nothing in particular about FFExpress, but all of these places are in the business of selling. I never assume any salesperson, selling anything, knows everything about their product or wants to be my friend. Pet stores are all businesses, too. Just approach them as you should any business, as an educated consumer. -Steven Pro>

Help with basic snail id - predatory or not? Hello, I wasn't sure if this was the place to email for help with identification. I have a 20 gallon tank up and running and everyone is happy. I am just starting a 55-gallon tank. A friend of mine gave me all his live sand/rock from his salt water tank which he's converting to fresh water. I added it to my 55-gallon and notice this snail in it (see attached). Until the 55-gallon is established, I thought it would be better to put the snail in my 20-gallon tank - but I want to make sure it isn't predatory. My friend doesn't remember what types of snails he added, and I didn't see this type of shell online anywhere. I suspect it is just a harmless algae-eating snail, but want to make sure. He is purple inside. Thanks! Kari <Your snail looks like some kind of conch, but I can't be sure. Conchs have a long proboscis type mouth that kind of looks like an elephant trunk. They also have fairly large eyes on long stalks that extend upward around the edges of the shell. They also often bury partially in the sand. Compare the twist of the shell to another snail. Whelks are predatory and their shells spiral in a direction opposite that of other snails and have tiny eyes on a short stalk. Best Regards. AdamC>

Gammarus attacking snails 8/19/04 Dear reefers,  My quarantine tank has been "idle" for some time  -  i.e. no new acquisitions during the summer holiday period - and a large population of small amphipods has developed, presumably a Gammarus species. While observing the inhabitants ( I use surgeon's goggles and can see small creatures well) I noticed 2 Gammarus shrimps "worrying" a Cerith snail. They were picking at its flesh, and at one point extended a "string" of attached flesh.  <Hmmm... These critters are often carnivorous on dead things, but few are predatory.> The snail did not seem too concerned and carried on feeding, but I do not think that the attention was doing the snail any good. I have had a couple of snail deaths in this tank over the last 2 months, and in each case there were Gammarus in the shell when I removed it. Is it my imagination or do Gammarus nibble at snail flesh if hungry? <As above, it is no surprise that the 'pods would eat an already dead animal, but it is very unlikely that they killed it.  The shells also make an outstanding home! I suspect that if they were doing harm to the snail, it would retract into it's shell.  A simple solution that will prevent this problem (if it is a problem) is to add some food for the 'pods.  Some fish food or crumbles of meaty sea food will work very well.> Would it be a good idea to add a Rainford's Goby to the quarantine tank - no fish in there otherwise - to reduce the Gammarus population, or will the Rainford's eat my baby Cerith ( Dove ) snails which breed in the tank? The baby snails range from only 2 millimetres long. The adults are only 1/2 inch long.  <A Scooter blenny, Mandarin fish or six line wrasse are all much better choices to reduce the 'pod population  the scooter and mandarin are low risk to your snails, the wrasse is moderate risk.> Best wishes, and thank you for all your help in establishing a successful skimmerless tank - a year old now. Eric Brightwell FZS  <Best Regards!  Adam>

Mystery snail ID 8/15/04 Hi there, how's things?  I'm a long time reader, first time writer. My basic system  is quite small (Despite all your good advice, budget would  only allow a small tank). The main tank is 24 X 15 X 15inches, with an overflow weir falling into a sump complete with plenum (constructed as outlined in an article by Roy Eeke in "Marine World" July 2002), skimmer and being pumped back up at 2000L/h (minus whatever I lose in head pressure).  <Sounds fine.  There is nothing wrong with smaller tanks.  A bit more attention to salinity and temperature are all that are required.> Anyways, I've been cycling this tank for several weeks (initially with a dead shrimp), ammonia spike is over, but nitrites are huge, so waiting waiting waiting. The shrimp was only in a couple of weeks, then whilst walking along the beach here in sunny Townsville, I picked up 3 hermit crabs and 1 snail (I then thought they'd make an ok source for ammonia, so removed the dead shrimp). <Good thought!  I have never been a fan of the dead shrimp thing.  Adding newly acquired live rock will provide plenty of ammonia on it's own.> I haven't been able to id any of these critters, but the snail is my particular worry (like to get rid of any dangers before I plunk fish  in). He/she is a bit of a burrower, has an elongated spiral shell, mostly white with a black tip. Also possesses a proboscis. <It sounds like a Nassarius, but I am not sure of their distribution.  Observe the direction of the spiral of the shell compared to that of a known snail.  Whelks are dangerous predators, and can be ID'd by the fact that their shells spiral in the opposite direction of other snails.  Don't use pictures since they can be reversed when printed.> Is this fellow going to be beneficial or a hazard in my tank? I've attached a pic, though not a very good one. I LOVE the site by the way, so many opinions from different writers, it's an absolute candy store for the marine reader! Thanks heaps for your expert time! Kind regards Ben <Glad you enjoy the site!  It is most likely that your snail is perfectly safe, but do keep an eye on it just to be safe.  AdamC.>

Stocking "cleaning crews" (hermits, snails), lighting coral help on WWM Bob, Thanks for the reply. I've read the WWM sections about inverts and the quantity, and also noticed that you're not such a fan of these cleaners. <Yes> To be more specific, I have 20 blue leg hermits, 10 red leg hermits, 3 margarita snails, 8 Cerith snails, 5 Astrea snails, 1 peppermint shrimp, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 serpent star fish (only 4-5"). Can you give me your insight on why you don't agree with so many inverts? <In a small volume (your 24 gal. cube in this case) the hermits often "cross the line" between being scavengers to predating desirable organisms... including each other... The snails die, en masse sometimes... and their dissolving takes most everything with them...> I read somewhere that this many inverts was the perfect amount to keep an almost maintenance free tank for a 24 gallon tank. Were they just full of B.S. so that they can sell their product? <Mmm, well.... there is at least a "difference of opinions" here... there definitely are a bunch of "pro" cleaner uppers as well as "cons"... Each must decide for themselves... but if you take a look in the wild, you will see there are few parts of natural reefs so arrayed> Also, currently I don't have any corals, how many hours should the lights be on? And how many hours if I do get corals? Thanks. Perry <Please put the terms: "lighting corals" in the Google search tool here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/  Bob Fenner> 

Clean Up Crew For Overstocked Conditions - 02/10/06 I have a 46 gallon bowfront aquarium that I have had set up for 8 months now.  I am wanting to add some sort of clean-up crew to help me with keeping this system as healthy for my fish as possible.  I have done a lot of research as far as what's compatible with my other fish (a 4-inch Niger trigger, a 9-inch snowflake eel, and a 5-inch emperor angel). <<Ack!!  Too much  fish flesh for this tank my friend!>> I know this is too small of an aquarium for these fish and I'm planning on getting one twice this size around April. <<Mmm, may do for a year or so...really need one twice again that size for this mix.>> I am constantly getting these algae bloom, mostly red and green and some brown, <<Likely due to the "overstocked" condition of the tank.>> in my tank so I was wanting to get something to control it. <<Better to address the cause...>> I recently went to my LFS and I purchased 8 blue hermits and 3 Mexican turbo snails and introduced them to my tank without any problems.  Everybody's getting along without any disputes.  I was told by my LFS that I should get 7 or 8 more hermits and a 5 more snails... is that to much in a tank my size? <<You might get by with the addition of the hermits, though the Snowflake moray may take notice of them eventually and thin their numbers...but I wouldn't add any more of the Mexican Turbos to this size tank...if that's truly what they are.>> I want to get some sort of sand sifter as well so I wanted to know what you recommend. <<Do a Google search on sand-sifting gobies.>>   Can you think of any other invertebrates that would be beneficial to my tank and be able to survive the other fish in my tank? <<Hmm, nope...not under these circumstances.>> Thanks for your help! <<Regards, EricR>>

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