Due to how difficult it can be to keep on top of the cleanliness of a reef aquarium, many marine enthusiasts enlist the help of a clean-up crew or CUC for short.
This is a “team” of animals in your tank that survive in the wild as bottom feeders and cleaner fish. Because of how they survive in nature (such as by consuming the waste of other fish or by eating parasites off larger fish) they make great additions to an aquarium.
Examples of Clean-up Crew Members
Some of the most common clean-up crew animals are bottom dwelling crustaceans. Such examples include shrimp, crabs and snails.
Some of these can be found in pet shops in both a fresh and saltwater variety, so be sure you have the right kind.
Selecting which one you need most can be difficult; but more often than not it is better to go for a varied team of clean-up crew.
Different animals within the CUC perform different takes. For instance, there are many different types of algae; and some animals will only eat certain types of algae and not others.
Some crustaceans like small crabs and lobsters can stir sand and shift gravel while searching for food; so they will help dig down into hard-to-reach algae. But while these critters are great at cleaning the base of the tank, they will not do much for the walls.
Snails and starfish on the other hand will not do much in terms of shifting sand or gravel, but they can cling and crawl along the glass walls of the tank to reach algae that crabs won’t reach.
Snails and crabs tend to be the two most popular. The two by themselves can perform a good balance of duties, and they tend to be the hardiest specimens of those available to purchase. They are natural survivors and don’t need much to survive. Whereas with some other CUC creatures you may have a harder time trying to keep them alive.
How Soon Should I Add a Clean-up Crew?
In some cases, you may want to add CUC specimens before even adding the main fish to your aquarium. This is because algae can build up during the set-up period for your tank, and you want it to be clean before adding any expressive fish.
During this time, you will want to add CUC members who are the best at survival. This is because there is not a steady supply of food yet; just excess algae that has to be found and neutralized before the rest of the environment can be added.
Snails are great to use during this time because they are so minimalist when it comes to survival. A starfish, by comparison; tends to be a bit frailer and will need an ongoing ecosystem to survive.
Be sure not to add too many CUC members all at once. If they eat up all the algae right away they can starve to death. Add a few at first and keep an eye on algae levels; add more as needed.