The Best Clean-up Crews For A Seahorse Tank | Full Guide

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Now that your seahorse aquarium is cycled and set up you should be ready to introduce your first set of livestock a.k.a the clean-up crew. This should include a group of compatible invertebrates selectively chosen and suitable for your seahorses.

Amongst the many options to choose from it’s important to strategically select your clean-up crew so you can have a varied assortment of tankmates performing different functions.

The 5 Best Clean-up Crews For A Seahorse Tank.

  1. Nassarius Snails
  2. Trochus Snails
  3. Astrea Snails
  4. Scarlet Reef Micro Hermit Crabs
  5. Micro Brittle Starfish

The 5 Best Clean-up Crews (Full Review)

Nassarius Snails.

Nassarius snails or better known as nas snails are cream/brown in color and are from the genus of minute to medium-sized sea snails.

These marine snails make for a great clean-up crew especially in a seahorse-specific tank due to their terrific detritivores ability.

These guys often bury themselves in the sand until they detect the scent of any edibles with their strong sense of smell.

They are great and highly active for snails and they will devour any meat or leftover food in no time.

Leftover mysis shrimp won’t be a concern in the presence of these guys, rest assured your tank will be detritus free.

Trochus Snails.

Trochus is a genus of medium-to-large-sized, top-shaped sea snails that are relatively low maintenance and perfect for aquarists of all experience levels.

Their peaceable nature, low cost, and high reliability make them an incredibly good candidate for any clean-up crews.

These snails are typically algae eaters which they prefer to attach to the glass scraping of algae such as film algae, hair algae, diatoms, and some species of cyanobacteria.

These types of snails are excellent in keeping the rock and glass clean unlike other sand dwellers these critters will perform their household duties in hard-to-reach areas where other invertebrates cannot reach.

These trochus snails are must-haves for a seahorse tank and they will help greatly in household maintenance.

Astrea Snails.

Astraea is a genus of medium to large sea snails that are non-aggressive, solitary, and docile by nature.

These snails make for peaceful tankmates and prefer a calm aquatic environment making them a great fit for a seahorse-specific tank.

These snails are awesome herbivores that have an amazingly voracious appetite for nuisance algae that can sometimes take over your home aquarium.

When introduced to an aquarium soon enough they will effectively limit the development of nuisance algae in your saltwater aquarium.

Caution! These snails are not recommended with hermit crabs since they can not right themselves and they can become prey for the hermit crabs.

Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab.

Paguristes cadenati ( scarlet hermit crab) are small bright red/yellow crabs that are normally safer and will make good tankmates for fragile fish like seahorses.

They are herbivores/omnivores eating all kinds of algae including nuisance algae such as red, green, and brown slimes, as well as green hair algae.

They also have a tendency to eat meat that is leftover lying around, this makes them omnivores to an extent.

This hermit crab is suitable for inclusion in an invertebrate-friendly aquarium where it consumes algae, including filamentous, hair, and slime algae, as well as cyanobacteria, and is useful in keeping the tank clean.

Scarlet reef crabs are probably the only crabs I would allow in a seahorse tank since they are regarded as the safer reef crabs.

Micro Brittle Starfish.

Like starfish, brittle stars are echinoderms but are in the class Ophiuroidea rather than Asteroidea.

These hitchhikers though micro (0,5 inch) in size bring many benefits to a saltwater aquarium and they help a lot when it comes to housekeeping.

They will eat dead organisms and uneaten foods before they start to decay and intoxicate the water.

They normally form a suction with their mouth that is positioned underneath their central disc.

This suction-like formation helps them sift through the sand and whichever surface they attached to devouring any type of waste and detritus build-up before it can pose a threat.

These minute invertebrates must be paired with the right crew for proper clean-ups, especially in a seahorse tank.

After all these critters are very beneficial and almost share a similar harmless nature like the seahorse making them compatible tankmates.

Do Seahorses Need A Clean-up Crew?

Keeping seahorses is very different from keeping other fish and aquatic life. These critters are very unique and fragile requiring adequate maintenance to thrive in.

Seahorses eat a lot and are messy eaters and will therefore need a lot of maintenance.

When they not releasing waste they are letting out access food through their gills.

This poses all sorts of problems and issues which can affect water quality. A good clean-up crew is a necessity when keeping seahorses.

A solid clean-up crew will ensure leftover food is taken care of, algae growth is minimized and detritus build-up is consumed before it can intoxicate the aquarium.

A reliable and compatible crew is required for the proper functioning of a seahorse-specific tank.

How To Choose The Right Clean-up Crew For You?

Now that we’ve mentioned the best invertebrates for a seahorse aquarium, we need to strategically choose and customize the clean-up crew for your individual aquarium needs.

You want a variety of different critters performing different functions. For instance, you will need algae-consuming invertebrates, meat-consuming invertebrates, glass cleaners, substrate sifters, and so on.

This assortment will ensure that all areas are covered without all of them competing for the same food.

Finding the right crew should depend on the following:

1. Compatible Tankmates.

Choose invertebrates that are similar in nature and safe for seahorses. The chosen crew should not outperform or stress the seahorse in any way.

Members shouldn’t be aggressive and should complement seahorses rather than cause them harm.

2. Substrate.

Choose a crew that’s targeted to the bottom you wish to go with. Most invertebrates will require a substrate bottom.

In this case, you can’t go with a bare bottom tank or chose textured gravel that won’t suit their needs. Substrate choices must be suitable for all tankmates.

3. Temperature Sensitivity.

Temperature plays a big role in choosing the right clean-up crew for a seahorse tank. Seahorses are often kept in colder temperatures (70-74F) compared to reef tanks.

The chosen members must be temperature tolerant to live in colder water.

4. Nuisance Algae

Nuisance algae can be a pain for many hobbyists. Once they start and are not contained they will spread rapidly and uncontrollably.

The right clean-up crew members will help in consuming these algae keeping growths to a minimum.

Good herbivores are great at dealing with this.

5. Meat Eaters.

Seahorses mostly eat mysis shrimp and will require several meals a day to cover for their lack of stomach.

This feeding frenzy can leave room for leftovers to sink to the bottom causing build-ups.

Good carnivore crew members can assist in consuming this uneaten food preventing toxic decay.

6. Glass And Rock Cleaners.

The features of a good clean-up crew are having a variation of critters performing different tasks for overall maintenance.

With the addition of algae eaters and meat eaters, you also want to add crew members that are glass and rock cleaners.

This livestock will assist in scraping algae films from the glass keeping the glass squeaky clean and sparkly.

These tankmates also attach to rocks to help keep waste and algae levels down.

7. Bioload.

At first, it’s hard to determine the bioload of a seahorse aquarium since this is dependent on the number of tankmates within a tank.

The more livestock you have in a tank the more the bioload.

So initially you want to half-stock your aquarium with clean-up crew members just to test whether it would be fine or not.

Once your aquarium is fully functional you can introduce crew members according to what your aquarium requires.

How Many Crew Members To Add?

When it comes to stocking density there seem to be a lot of different opinions and rules that aquarists come up with which may not seem legit.

However, I feel it’s best to start at a certain point and gradually increase the number of crew members depending on what’s required.

A safe rule that you can use in the beginning is 1 crew member for every 3 gallons of water in A new tank and 2 crew members per 3 gallons of water in an established tank.

This initial stocking density will give you enough room to play around and make changes as to how you see fit.

At first, the bio-load of a new tank will be minimal to non so having too many crew members will have them at each other’s throats looking for a food source.

However, as time go and as the tank becomes more dense with all sorts of livestock and algae etc you can introduce more critters to help ease the waste.

Here is a simple guide you can follow when stocking clean-up crews in your aquarium.

30 Gallon Tank10 Crew Members20 Crew Members
60 Gallon Tank20 Crew Members40 Crew Members
90 Gallon Tank30 Crew Members60 Crew Members
120 Gallon Tank40 Crew Members80 Crew Members

  • Nassarius Snails – About 1 snail per 5 gallons, or you will be smothered by a swarm of snails when it’s feeding time.
  • Torchus Snails – These snails, because of their larger size and appetites, should be stocked at 1 per 2-3 gallons.
  • Astrea Snails – 1 snail per 2-3 gallons should be sufficient.
  • Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab – 1 hermit per 10 gallons (may not be needed if you have a good variation of snails)
  • Micro Brittle Starfish – 1 per 5 gallons is a good ratio due to their minute size, you don’t want too many since competition may arise.

Right Time To Add The Clean-up Crew?

The right time to add your clean-up crew is once the aquarium has been cycled and is ready to support life.

At this point, ammonia and nitrite levels should be zero and you can run tests to make sure these harmful substances are undetectable.

At first, if you want to stock the herbivores, I’d go for the snails that can keep nuisance algae controlled. You want to choose a variety of algae-eating snails to deal with all types of algae.

If you can find a good variation of snails to cater to algae and leftover meat you don’t need to add any other invertebrate.

Snails are the safest I would say, but if you want to include other inverts you can absolutely do so.

Thereafter you can proceed with other critters until you have a well-rounded crew for proper clean-up.

Once you had the seahorses and other tankmates you want to monitor the aquarium and see what the tank needs.

This will help you make the right choice in what’s missing and what you should add to the mix.

Ultimately your aim should be to find balance taking into consideration all factors and restrictive measures.

Final Thoughts.

Clean-up crews are essential in a seahorse tank and they play a big role in maintaining water parameters.

The key to a good clean-up crew is to find a group of harmonious critters who would work well as a team in making sure the tank is well maintained.

Once you’ve found the right tankmates, you can play around with quantity and variation until all factors remain constant and nothing is left uncontrolled.

After all, the relationship among tankmates should be mutually beneficial and all tankmates should be satisfied.

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