The Benefits of Hermit Crabs in a Saltwater Aquarium

Hermit crabs, in a saltwater aquarium, can be very beneficial.

As your saltwater aquarium evolves, you will eventually need to employ some sort of “cleanup crew”. What is a cleanup crew? This term usually refers to the creatures that will inhabit the substrate and live rock in your aquarium and eat all kinds of stuff like:

  • Extra food that has fallen to the bottom of the tank
  • Fish waste
  • Algae
  • Cyanobacteria

… and other good stuff that you probably don’t want in your tank.

Why Hermit Crabs?

There are many options available when it comes to a cleanup crew in your aquarium. Snails, starfish and crabs are the most commonly thought of critters.

So… if you can choose between the snails, starfish and crabs, why choose hermit crabs?

There probably is no clear reason to choose hermit crabs over snails, but a these factors might sway you either way:

  • Availability. You can first of all only buy what is available to you. Maybe your local fish store or other source of critters for your tank only has a certain hermit crab or snail for sale. If you have access to hermit crabs but not snails, you might be tilted that way for that reason.
  • Fun to watch. I find it more entertaining to watch hermit crabs mill about in the tank over snails. Just my preference.
  • Hermit crabs eat. They can be voracious eaters. I find that a hermit crab will eat more algae and junk in my tank than snails… typically.

Smaller hermit crabs will also be able to climb into crevices and get into tight spots to eat junk. Snails can do the same too though, so that might be a wash.

Targeted Cleanup

Certain hermit crabs also eat certain types of algae and other stuff. Some examples:

Dwarf Yellow Tip Hermit Crab – This hermit crab will eat many types of algae including red slime algae, and it will sift through sand, which is always a good thing.

Halloween Hermit Crab – This hermit crab will eat detritus, uneaten food and lots of algae types including red slime algae. It also sifts sand.

Electric Blue Hermit Crab – This hermit will mow down green algaes and will also go after red slime algae. They can climb rock quite amazingly well and are fun to watch.

Scarlet Hermit Crab – This hermit crab will eat a lot of different types of algae, including green, red and brown types of algae.

This is only a small sample size, but each hermit crab will bring it’s own traits to the table, so to speak. You will want to make sure that whatever type of hermit crabs you decide to add to your aquarium are compatible with what is currently in your aquarium. Other than that, it probably just comes down to personal preference!

About Luke

the owner and caretaker of a 75 gallon aquarium in his home studio. Good times.

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