The Best Clean-Up Animals for your Aquarium

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. January 11, 2017
The Best Clean-Up Animals for your Aquarium

Aquariums and fish tanks tend to get dirty very easily. Too much food, direct sun or having too many plants or algae can make the water murky. It is a good idea to use a pump or filter, but there are fish and other animals that clean your aquarium naturally, feeding on carrion that resides in the sand at the bottom.

To help you keep your fish in the best conditions, AnimalWised will give you a list of the best clean-up animals for your aquarium as well as some basic information so that you can find out if they fit into your tank. Keep reading and choose the best cleaners for your aquarium!

You may also be interested in: Fish for a Community Aquarium

Clean-up snails for your aquarium

Below are some species of snails that are excellent cleaners for an aquarium. We must specify that these are suitable for saltwater aquariums, so they will only be a good option if you have saltwater fish:

Tectus niloticus

This type of snail is certainly big, reaching 15 cm (6 in). It is recommended for larger aquariums. It has high food requirements so it will serve as a powerful cleaner. You should not have more than one Tectus niloticus snail per 100 litres.

Turbo lamiferus

This species is somewhat smaller than the previous one, but it still measures a considerable 9 cm (3.5 in). It is perfect for living with fish with a big appetite or aggressive fish, because its shell is hard and thick to protect it. While not exactly a big eater, the Turbo lamiferus snail will help you to remove small debris from the bottom of the aquarium.

Nerites albicella

These snails are perfect clean-up animals for your aquarium, as they will help you excellently control algae and they are quite resistant. However, we do not recommend keeping Nerites albicella snails in an uncapped aquarium as they tend to escape and this can cause them to die. They are very compatible with aggressive fish due to their strength and their shell will grow to a bigger size.

Astrea tectum

This snail species is smaller, measuring around 4 cm (1.6 in). Astrea tectum snails are very active and voracious and you will surprised at how often they search of food. They are perfect for tanks with diatom algae.

The Best Clean-Up Animals for your Aquarium - Clean-up snails for your aquarium

Clean-up fish for your aquarium

Certain types of fish, especially catfish, are great clean-up animals for your aquarium, as they feed on the bottom of the tank. The most popular cleaning fish include:


Corydoras are a very popular kind of freshwater catfish. Among the best clean-up catfish you can find the peppered catfish, also called blue leopard corydoras or Corydoras paleatus. However, you must make sure you find a catfish species that suits the temperature of your aquarium.

Hypostomus plecostomus

Also known as common pleco or suckermouth catfish, this type of fish is a voracious algae eater, so they are suitable for aquariums with overpopulated flora. Common plecos are very popular and well-known cleaning fish, and they are present in many aquariums around the world.


This kind of algae-eater catfish is perfect to remove those green crystals remaining in your aquarium. Otocinclus catfish or dwarf suckers are also a resistant type.


The wrasse family or Labridae include hundreds of different fish, all of them known for cleaning aquariums. The bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus) in particular is an excellent cleaner for tropical reefs, so it is ideal if you have an aquarium with tropical fish as well as corals and anemones.


The goby family or Gobididae are also excellent cleaners. While they are fish, their function in an aquarium is quite similar to that of crustaceans. For instance, gobies usually remove ectoparasites from other fish, which is very beneficial.

The Best Clean-Up Animals for your Aquarium - Clean-up fish for your aquarium

Clean-up starfish for your aquarium

Starfish have a very important role in cleaning oceans, because they don't just they feed small particles. In fact, a group of 2,000 starfish is able to shred a seal in 6 hours. Starfish are a perfect choice to clean saltwater aquariums.

Archaster typicus

The sand or sand sifting star is a nocturnal species. Although this kind of cleaning starfish likes being covered in sand, it certainly also enjoys climbing the glass or the different elements in the aquarium. Sand starfish feed on anything, and also help by removing the sand.


The ophiuroid group, also known as brittle stars, is closely related to starfish, although they are not exactly starfish themselves. There are many different species of ophiuroids, but in general they are not recommended for beginners since their survival depends on a very specific environment. However, ophiuroids are excellent cleaners for the bottom of saltwater aquariums.

The Best Clean-Up Animals for your Aquarium - Clean-up starfish for your aquarium

Clean-up sea cucumbers for your aquarium

Sea cucumbers, just like starfish, are animals that clean the seabed. In general, sea cucumbers are more suitable for people with some experience in keeping aquariums. They should only be incorporated when the aquarium is well-grown. Some types of sea cucumbers to clean up your aquarium include:

Colochirus robustus

The robust or yellow sea cucumber mainly feeds on zooplakton and phytoplakton, but it also helps to get rid of bacteria. As their name indicates, yellow sea cucumbers are brightly colored and have an enchanting appearance.

Holothuria spinifera

Unlike the the yellow sea cucumber, the brown sandfish or Holothuria spinifera will feed on virtually any other living matter at the bottom of the aquarium. This species of sea cucumber is not at all conscientious and extremely effective as an aquarium cleaner.

The Best Clean-Up Animals for your Aquarium - Clean-up sea cucumbers for your aquarium

These are the best clean-up animals for your aquarium. Which one is your favorite? Do you have any aquarium-keeping tips? Tell us in the comments section!

If you want to read similar articles to The Best Clean-Up Animals for your Aquarium, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.

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