Cleaning Crew to the rescue!

Clean up crew

When we set up a new tank, one of the main things we think about are animals. Aquascapers often look for colorful, beautiful fish which is of course understandable. It’s worth choosing not only such fish but also some that will help the aquarist to maintain his/her tank clean and healthy. Let’s present some species that can join your Cleanup Crew!

But actually why is the Cleaning Crew needed in the tank while we already have a modern filter equipped with high quality cartridges? The answer is simple: sometimes it turns out that it’s insufficient. This means that it needs support provided by animals. 


Firstly we have to divide the clean up crew into fish, snails and shrimps. Remember that choosing different species must meet their requirements regarding water parameters. 


What contamination do they clean?

-food remains


-dead parts of plants and animals

Let’s start with some fish species:

Dwarf suckers (otos)

This is a small fish growing up to 4 cm so it can be safely kept in a 30-liter aquarium together with other social inhabitants. It’s a herd fish so it’s good to keep e.g. a group of five individuals. For breakfast, dinner and dessert they prefer mainly eating algae but it’s worth supplementing their diet with plant food. Dwarf suckers prefer soft water and are quite sensitive to changes in water parameters. Due to their small size they can reach even the darkest corners of the tank.

Black Molly

Black molly is a fish certainly suitable for a general aquarium as it has a vigorous, sociable character. It grows up to 9cm. Same as dwarf suckers, black mollies are sensitive to changes in water parameters, especially drops in temperature. They should not be kept in water not lower than 25 Celsius degrees. This species requires a tank of about 100 liters, so if you have one, you can put a few of these individuals. These fish are effective in the fight against algae such as green algae, brown algae and diatoms. And now something you might not know, these fish also feed on cyanosis, which has been confirmed by many aquarists, it is worth noting that cyanobacteria will be eaten more willingly by young individuals than older ones.

Siamese algae eater

The first requirement that not all aquarists can meet is the volume of the tank. Due to its large size (they grow up to 14 cm in tank conditions) the recommended tank is even 240l. Moreover, for their good development, these algae eaters need many hiding places, roots and stones. Of course for cleaning, they can be put into smaller tanks in order to fight the threat but with time they become larger and territorial which can be dangerous for other inhabitants. Then they should be transported into a larger aquarium. If you have problems with algae such as Oedogonium, Chlorophyceae or Rhizoctonia, the Siamese algae eater will be helpful although it was observed that they are interested in these species in the early stage of growth but with time they prefer red algae. 

Endler’s guppy

This popular species is not only an ornamental fish but also a useful one in the aquarium. Why? One of its main meals is green algae. It's a perfect fish for small aquariums as males reach only 2,5 cm and females 4cm. In good conditions they can live 2 years but on average in amateur conditions about 6 months. Guppies are undemanding, thus considered as easy to breed. Be careful with stocking the aquarium in which guppies are kept because their shiny fins are often the aim of the inhabitants that like to nibble the fins of other individuals.

Sewellia Lineolata

This is a companion fish which grows up to 7cm, territorially oriented towards other members but a few individuals can be successfully kept. It’s quite demanding because the aquarium needs to be filtered at least 10 times an hour through a filter. Moreover, the tank should be well lightened and the water clear and well-oxygenated. Sewellia also requires lots of rocks and sand substrate. An undoubtful advantage of keeping them is that they clean decorations well such as stones and roots eating algae from them.

Tiger Botia and Yo-Yo loach

They are herd fish that stick in groups with hierarchies. Both species are nocturnal, feeding at the bottom. It’s recommended to keep at least 5 individuals in an aquarium. When kept in smaller numbers, they can become skittish or aggressive towards other bottom dwellers such as cuirasses. Reticulated loaches are up to 16 cm long, while the tiger botias can be up to 40 cm in aquarium conditions so should not be kept in an aquarium smaller than 120l. They are perfect when the snails overwhelm your tank because they are their favourite food. 


An alternative species to Botia that is a great snail fighter is the Clea Helena snail which belongs to rather large snails met in the home aquarium. This one is a perfect choice for smaller aquariums where loaches are too large. It simply hunts for smaller snails which is a nice dessert for them.

Going further with snails, other snails species useful in the aquarium are e.g. clinton corona, nertina and filopaludina. These ones are quite undemanding, they can live in both cold and warm water that’s why they are highly recommended for beginners, but only those ones who are equipped with a cover ;) Remember that snails are also a great indicator of your fish diet- the more snails in the aquarium, the biggest chance that you overfeed your fish. All of these species specialize in eating green and red algae, as well as diatoms. Due to their small size they can reach every corner of the tank. 

 Finally, let’s talk about probably the smallest algae eaters in this article:

Amano shrimp

To meet this cleaner shrimp ’s requirements we need to fill the tank with plenty of small-leaved plants, mosses, caves or other hiding places. As these cleaner shrimp are quite tender, the water should be well- oxygenated. It’s worth having a few of these individuals because they are very sociable. Moreover, such a clean up crew can clean an algae catastrophe in an aquarium during even one day. They eat algae but also uneaten food and dead fish very quickly. Amano shrimps are also helpful in early stages of aquarium life because they also consume diatoms or mucilage.

How to support clean up crews' work?

Although above mentioned fish, snails and cleaner shrimp do really great job in terms of cleaning the aquarium from algae, we, aquarists can't only count on them. Regular water changes will help to maintain proper water parameters and also with tank water replacement, we remove also other detritus and algae. To learn more about regular water changes, read our blog HERE.

Saltwater aquarium clean up crew

Of course, the clean up crew in the saltwater aquarium will be different from freshwater tank. For saltwater set ups, emerald crab is great. Emerald crabs specialize in eating bubble algae but if there is no bubble algae, emerald crabs focus on other algae and uneaten food. Another sufficient clean up crew members in saltwater tank are turbo snails. These snails specialize in eating algae from the sand, rocks and tank glass. If the tank water is maintained well, these snails can live in aquarium conditions up to several years. Another species is the sand sifting starfish which will keep your sand clean from algae. If they have fine aragonite sand and enough space, they can live in peace in the reef aquarium for several years, returning to the water surface from time to time. Moreover, sand sifting starfish is one of the easiest starfish to keep.

To sum up, when you decide to enrich your tank with animals, think not only about them as decoration. Having a strong “clean up crew” in the aquarium is a golden treasure for the owner and for other inhabitants as well. We’re sure your filter will be grateful as well :)   If you have your own species of fish, shrimp or snails considered as the perfect members of clean up crew, don't hesitate to let us know!