We are often asked what inverts we use as clean up crew for our coral farm. We have a very similar group of inverts that we make sure to have in each tank consisting of Snails, Crabs, and Urchins. Here are our thoughts on the inverts we choose to keep in the farm and other popular inverts that we leave out.
Astraea Snails are the main snail we keep in our farm to help deal with nuisance algae. These snails are easy to keep and do a good job of crawling up our frag racks and keeping all of the frag plugs in our coral farm clean.
Many people dislike these snails as they can get stuck upside down in a sand bed and be unable to flip themselves over. While this is certainly a problem, it can be mostly avoided by holding them to the glass or ensuring to set them right side up when introducing them to your tank.
The second most common snails in our coral farm are Cerith Snails. They don't get up onto the frag racks and clean the corals, but they do a good job of keeping the rest of the tank clean. We often find them under the frag racks, cleaning up anything that might fall through and laying eggs on the glass.
The third and smallest population of snails in the coral farm tanks are Bumble Bee Snails. These snails do a really good job of cleaning up any meaty foods that the corals and fish missed during feeding. It's important to understand that these snails are carnivorous and will not touch any algae in your tank.
Other Snails Worth Considering
Trochus snails could serve as a replacement for the Astraea Snails in our coral farm. They do a very similar job, breed easily in captivity, and can flip themselves over!
The only real downside to them is that they tend to be poor shippers. Unless you can find a quick flight, you'll almost always encounter a fairly large percentage of mortality with these snails due to the shipping. This is the reason why we don't stock these snails.
If you have a sand bed Nassarius Snails are a must. These snails do a great job of stirring up your sand and keeping it free of detritus. You'll often only see these snails leave the sand bed during feeding time.
Fighting Conchs are also a great addition to help keep your sand bed clean. They get much larger than Nassarius snails and tend to only move around at night.
We keep a mix of both red and green Emerald Crabs in each of our coral farm tanks. They often get a bad reputation for eating corals and fish, but in our experience this only happens when the coral or fish was dying or already dead. We've never seen them actually go after anything that's healthy.
They do a great job of keeping our frag racks clean and make sure we never find any bubble algae in the farm.
At New Dawn Aquaculture we are not big fans of hermit crabs. While they do a good job of cleaning the tank they also do a good job of slowly eating all your snails. We prefer to have a large snail population in the coral farm so we leave the hermit crabs out. This is also the reason why you won't find them available on our website.
When it comes to inverts in our coral farm, our tuxedo urchins do more to control algae than anything else. These captive bred urchins from ORA stay smaller than most other urchins and won't move your rocks around as much as their larger cousins.