March 23, 2023

Top 5 Invertebrates to Hire For Your Freshwater Cleanup Crew

Taking proper care of your aquarium is hard work – that’s why you need to bring in some extra muscle! Here are 5 invertebrates that you want on your freshwater cleanup crew.

When it comes to maintaining a thriving freshwater aquarium, there are many simple things you can do. One thing you should do is test your tank water weekly to make sure that your water chemistry remains stable. Installing a high-quality filtration system and performing routine water changes are important as well. In addition to these things, you might also think about adding some freshwater invertebrates to your tank to create a “cleanup crew.”

What is a Cleanup Crew?

A cleanup crew is simply an assembly of organisms that help to control the accumulation of detritus in your tank. Detritus is simply another word for the waste products that build up in the substrate of your tank. This includes uneaten fish food, fish feces, and decaying plant matter. A cleanup crew can be composed of various fish and invertebrates that are scavengers, naturally feeding on detritus. Snails are an excellent example of a scavenger that can be used in a cleanup crew – various species of shrimp and crabs also make good additions to the freshwater cleanup crew.

Related: Top 3 Substrates to Use in Planted Aquariums

Best Freshwater Invertebrates

There are many different options to choose from when it comes to freshwater invertebrates, but some of them are better than others. Here are our picks for the top five invertebrates to consider for your freshwater cleanup crew.

  1. Nerite Snails: While some aquarium snails can become a nuisance, nerite snails are highly beneficial. These snails feed on algae and detritus but they tend to leave aquarium plants alone. Another benefit of nerite snails is that they cannot breed in freshwater so you don’t have to worry about them taking over your tank like some snails do.
  2. Amano Shrimp: These freshwater shrimp grow up to 2 inches long and they are known for eating all kinds of algae. Amano shrimp are generally peaceful so they won’t bother your other tank inhabitants, and they may even feed on leftover fish food and other detritus. One thing to be wary of, however, is that large fish might eat these shrimp so keep them with smaller, peaceful species.

Related: Tips for Keeping Your Aquarium Water Quality High

  1. Crayfish: Similar in appearance to small lobsters, crayfish can be a colorful and useful addition to the freshwater cleanup crew. Crayfish are scavengers that are likely to eat various types of detritus in the aquarium but they can be territorial with their own species so it is best to keep just one.
  2. Fiddler Crab: The fiddler crab is a small, peaceful species of crab that generally grows no larger than two inches. These crabs will eat almost anything, though they do require some salt in the tank water in order to survive. These invertebrates are ideal for brackish tanks.
  3. Freshwater Clam: These invertebrates act as living filters – they help to keep tank water clean by consuming detritus directly from the water column. Freshwater clams only grow about two inches long and they are fairly easy to care for as long as you don’t keep them with fish species that tend to feed on invertebrates (this includes pufferfish).

Keeping your freshwater aquarium clean can be a challenge since you have to maintain a balance between keeping your water quality high while also making sure your beneficial bacteria have the nutrients they need to thrive. Establishing a cleanup crew made up of freshwater invertebrates is a great way to improve the cleanliness of your tank without adding to your work load.

kate-Bio_PicIf you think there’s something fishy about Kate Barrington, it’s because she’s been a lifelong lover of pets, particularly aquarium fish. Since receiving her first 10-gallon tank as a birthday present in 5th grade, she has become an avid aquarium enthusiast as well as a freelance writer specializing in the aquarium niche. Kate is a regular contributor to several aquarium fish websites and has a column in a bi-monthly pet magazine.