I've recently just established that my saltwater aquarium has cycled through ammonia and nitrites, and nitrates are ~10-20 ppm. I have been and am still ghost feeding the tank, since I purchased dry rock as I didn't want any unnecessary hitch hikers introduced to my tank right off the bat. I have talked to the LFS experts and they would like me to get my cleanup crew, but, alas, there doesn't seem to be any visible evidence of anything to clean up! I've cured the rock and cycled the tank with minuscule or no light. The tank has been cycling in a window-less basement room, so there is absolutely no shred of natural light either.

How would the clean up crew benefit me at this point, other than adding more ammonia than my ghost feeding?

I mean, I realize that eventually I will need to add crabs and snails, but I'm thinking I should do that after I have fish in there and actually start seeing some algae to clean up, right?

  • 2
    What do you mean by clean-up crew? Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 18:48
  • 1
    Snails, crabs, shrimp, algae-eating fish, etc.
    – Fus Ro Dah
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 20:01
  • 2
    Since there's no risk in not adding algue eating animals to the aquarium and you suspect it to be eventually unnecessary, just try it out. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 20:41
  • The LFS probably just wants to increase their sales... If there is nothing in the thank yet to clean up, you'll have to start feeding them too or they will just starve. And I'm always a bit skeptical about cleanup crews. If you have excessive algae there is something wrong with your tank. You shouldn't be combating the symptoms by 'cleanup', but try to fix the actual cause and prevent the algae in the first place. (Although it might be different for saltwater, I don't have experience with that).
    – Diether
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 14:15
  • Unless you hand feed your fish the exact amount they need and nothing more, there will always be some waste from feeding, plus fish waste. Bacteria in Live rock will break some down and protein skimmers will keep your tank clean. But there will more than likely always be some settling. I'm not an expert in this hobby yet by any means, but these critters do more than just eat algae and excess food. They stir up substrate and some shrimp, for instance, will clean the fish themselves and help with ich as well. I am just asking, at this point in my tank's early life, are they completely necessary?
    – Fus Ro Dah
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


In my situation, as I stated in a comment here, I did end up seeing algae growth about a week after I added my cleanup crew. Like I said, I cycled the tank after curing dry pukani rock from Bulk Reef Supply. I used a bacterial seed and I definitely established that my ammonia was being converted as part of the nitrogen cycle.

I think that many aquarists will have mixed success depending on a variety of intangibles in this hobby. For me, the cleanup crew added as a bio-load to the established tank just sort of helped balance some things out. The snails now hanging out at the water line and in the sand where there seems to be the most amount of stuff for them to eat. The crabs will eat the flaked food the floats to the bottom.

Since asking this question, I'm thinking about introducing my first fish. I felt comfortable that the snails and crabs were doing great so I think I'm ready to pull the trigger on the fish. $2 per crab/snail versus $25 or more for a clown or angelfish.

All in all that was the greatest benefit for me. The peace of mind that my 75 gallon could handle the bioload of these newest members. I think each situation will call for different needs and dried rock will probably take a lot longer than seeding with live rock, but my next tank build will go in a similar manner. I see no point in spending a lot of money on a favorite fish species to throw it into a tank too early and shock and stress that fish! Toss the crabs and snails in first, as they're less expensive and yet somewhat hardy, and see how it goes. Take your time. Nothing in the hobby happens quickly, my 10 years ago experience will tell you that!


Mine is a fresh water aquarium and I recently added the nerite snail as cleaning crew. I got to know that they eat algae but they add up their waste to fish waste. Better to add the clean up crew later once you see some food source available for them. I added otto very early during my new aquarium and otto ended up finding no food to feed on. I have to return them as they became weak due to no food source.

  • I had the same thought process with my saltwater crabs and snails. Add the cleanup crew first right? Like everyone says. Well they didn't have a food source, similar to yours, and so what I did was just add flake food which drove the crabs wild! The snails, with seemingly no food to eat that I could see, ended being very active and moving all over the place. I'm guessing they were searching for food. There was one exception a snail that stayed in one spot forever, but now he's moving because: about a week after I introduced this cleanup crew, now I have a tiny bit of visual agae growth lol!
    – Fus Ro Dah
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 14:23

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