Astraea Snails Make Short Work of Algae

This past year, I rediscovered how great an army of snails can be. At Tidal Gardens, we go pretty light on cleanup crews in general. For example, there really aren’t any hermit crabs to speak of in our systems. In 5,000 gallons of reef tanks, there may be only one or two hermit crabs. Most … [Read More]

4 Crabby Caveats to Keeping Clibanarius tricolor

Clibanarius tricolor, the blue-legged hermit crab, is very commonly introduced to marine aquaria, either in conspecific groups or as part of a multi-species “reef janitor” package or “cleanup crew” (aka “CUC” for those who just can’t get enough of those marine aquarium acronyms), for the purpose of aiding in detritus and algae control. But does … [Read More]

What Gives When Herbivores Won’t Graze Nuisance Algae?

The practice of adding herbivorous fish and/or invertebrate species to marine aquariums for the purpose of nuisance algae control is quite commonplace. Hence the popularity of those herbivore packages known in hobby parlance as “cleanup crews,” or CUCs. But almost as common is the experience of adding a herbivorous species or CUC to eradicate algae … [Read More]

Sand-sifting Starfish: A Job (too) Well Done!

If you’ve ever shopped for a marine aquarium cleanup crew, you’ve probably noticed that these packages often include so-called sand-sifting starfish—rather bland-colored, burrowing stars of the genus Astropecten that can reach about a foot in diameter. As their common name implies, these stars are sold to hobbyists for the purpose of consuming detritus and uneaten … [Read More]

5 Ways Hobbyists Misuse Grazing Marine Snails

Of all the fascinating invertebrates available to marine aquarists, grazing snails are perhaps the most misused. Too often we treat them like expendable little lawnmowers, plopping them in our tanks with the express purpose of preventing or eradicating algae and then replenishing them as their populations inevitably wane. But if treated properly, snails can be … [Read More]

Does the Emerald Crab Earn Its Algae-Eating, Reef-Safe Reputation?

Among the various and sundry marine life commonly sold to aquarium hobbyists for utilitarian purposes is the emerald crab (Mithraculus sculptus). Oft touted for its propensity to gobble up bubble algae and other irksome algal forms, M. sculptus has become a proud, card-carrying member of many a marine aquarium “cleanup crew.” But before adding this … [Read More]

5 Common Reasons Leather Corals Refuse to Expand

The soft coral species commonly known as leather corals (various and sundry Sarcophyton, Lobophytum, Sinularia, and Alcyonium species among others) are often among the first invertebrates budding reef hobbyists select for their systems—and with good reason. The leather corals, so named for their tough, leather-like texture, tend to be extremely hardy, adaptable, and easy to … [Read More]

Consider These 6 Points Before Buying a Marine Aquarium Cleanup Crew

Marine aquarium cleanup crews (CUC)—those combo packs of various snails, crabs, and echinoderms sold for the purpose of algae control and detritus elimination—can serve an excellent utilitarian function in a saltwater system. What’s more, in addition to the janitorial duties they perform, many of these invertebrates are fascinating to observe in their own right and … [Read More]