Usually the first janitors that aquarists place in their aquariums are hermit crabs and snails, as these are because they are some of the best animals to have for controlling common algae problems.
About Hermit Crabs
Did you know that hermit crabs are scavengers? Yep, most species will eat just about anything they can find.
For this reason, they make ideal cleaners for a reef tank, as long as you choose a Reef Safe Hermit Crab.
Properly chosen hermit crabs should have no negative impact on a reef system. In fact, they are solely beneficial. Small species that do not grow more than a couple of inches in size are most desirable, as they usually do not disturb other tank life, and they are able to get into tiny cracks and crevices where algae grows that larger hermits cannot access. They can also access spaces under rocks and corals where detritus or debris accumulate to remove it.
Large species such as the Anemone Carrying Hermit (Dardanus pedunculatus), Yellow Hairy Hermit (Aniculus maximus) and Halloween Hermit (Trizopagurus strigatus) are undesirable as reef janitors, as they may cause unwanted damage to your reef system. These types of hermits can disrupt tank life by climbing on everything, and because of the large clumsy, bulky shells they live in, cause the toppling of rockscape arrangements and the moving of corals.
Besides, they may attack or eat other tank inhabitants. If you desire to keep large hermit crabs, do so only in a tank of suitable environment and size, and remember they will outgrow their shells. You need to provide them with new housing (larger shells) as they moult and grow, otherwise they may attack other shelled animals to get a new shell. One commonly imported species that has this trait is the Clibanarius vittatus, most often sold as the Striped Hermit Crab.
Popular Algae Eating Hermit Crabs
• Small hermit crabs of the Genus Calcinus found in Hawaii are extremely efficient little critters. Some remain very small, only 1-1.5 cm in size, while other species in this group reach a length of less than two inches. Because of their tiny size, these hermit crabs can really get into those small spaces in a reef tank that other hermits cannot. The Left-Handed or Dwarf Zebra Hermit Crab is one of the best examples of a great reef safe algae eater.
• The Blue Legged Hermit (Clibanarius tricolor), as well as other similar species are quite popular, but some such as the Anomura sp. will kill Astraea snails to obtain their shells.
• The Red Legged Hermit (Clibanarius digueti) is said by some to be a much better algae eater than the Blue Legged Hermit, less aggressive, and has been reported to eat red slime algae.
• Aside from eating algae, the golf ball sized Blue Eyed Hermit Crab (Paguristes erythrops) spends its time stirring up the top layer of substrate of the aquarium.
• The Scarlet Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenati) is one of the most popular hermits with reef keepers, because of its colorful appearance, and because it will eat all kinds of algae, such as red, green and brown slimes, as well as green hair algae.
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