Reef Safe Algae Eaters

Reef Tank Safe Rock and Glass Cleaners

Some critters spend all of their time sifting through sand, looking for food. Rock and Glass Cleaners spend their time browsing for algae on the aquarium walls and rocks, preferring to avoid the substrate. Reef Safe Algae Eaters do it without destroying your corals and other tank inhabitants.

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    Hermit crab - Asia, Maldives, Baa Atoll, Kunfunadhoo (Soneva Fushi) - Afternoon
    Frank Krahmer/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

    These Hermit Crab species survive almost solely on a diet of algae and detritus. They spend all of their time crawling over the rocks and substrate in your tank. Being smaller in size, they won't rearrange your tank's "furniture."

    • Dwarf Blue Leg Hermit Crab (Clibanarius tricolor) grows to a size of about 1" as it eats all kinds of algae, including Red Slime Algae.
    • Dwarf Red Tip Hermit Crab (Clibanarius sp.) eats many kinds of algae, including red slime algae (cyanobacteria),...MORE and sifts the sand, as well.
    • Dwarf Yellow Tip Hermit Crab (Clibanarius sp.)
    • Dwarf Zebra Hermit Crab (Calcinus laevimanus) has an enlarged left claw (hence the name "Left Handed Hermit Crab) which it uses to repel its enemies by keeping it across the front of its shell like a shield. In the wild this hermit crab is usually found inside the reef, hiding under rocks by day and out foraging for food at night.
    • Electric Blue Hermit Crab (Calcinus elegans) has bright blue legs with black banding, the antennae are a bright orange color. Both claws are brownish green in color and nearly equal in size. It consumes all types of algae, including Red Slime Algae.
    • Electric Orange Hermit Crab (Calcinus sp.)
    • Halloween Hermit Crab (Ciliopagurus strigatus) has a  body and legs which are bright orange with red banding and grows to about 1 1/2" in size. It consumes many kinds of algae, including red slime algae (cyanobacteria)
    • Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenati) has red legs and a yellow face and grows to about 1 1/2" in size.
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    Keoki Stender

    Some species of snails can not turn themselves over if they fall on their backs. These species greatly prefer to spend their time on the rocks and glass in your tank, rather than the substrate. The species below are this type of snail and are herbivores to boot. They will do a great job of cleaning your live rock and tank glass.

    • Chestnut Cowrieis a herbivorous snail which requires plenty of diatom and microalgae to survive. If this animal runs out of algae, it will slowly die of starvation.
    • Margari...MOREta Snail Great care should be taken to not overstock the aquarium with these animals. When they run out of food (they do eat a lot), they will die from starvation.
    • Nerite Snailis very sensitive to copper and nitrates.
    • Banded Trochus Snail grows to about 3" in size and consumes cyanobacteria and diatoms from rocks, aquarium walls and the substrate, but will not eat macroalgae.
    • Turbo Snail grows to about 6" in size and requires plenty of diatom and microalgae to survive.
    • Zebra Turbo Snail grows to about 2" in size and requires plenty of diatom and microalgae to survive.
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    P. Welker

    These Blennies are herbivores and will spend all of their time eating the algae on your live rock and tank glass.

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    Tangs & Surgeonfish

    John Di Genua's Pacific Blue Tang
    Pacific Blue Tang. John Di Genua

    Surgeonfish make great reef tank glass and rock cleaners. Being herbivores, they eat only algae, leaving your corals alone. The size to which some tangs grow may cause a problem in smaller tanks in the future.