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Reef Safe Sand Sifters


Mechanical filtration and vacuuming the substrate can help remove detritus and uneaten food in a saltwater aquarium. Sand sifters keep the substrate in your aquarium clean by sifting through the sand, removing detritus, uneaten food and other tank debris. Many of the animals which sift sand also harm or destroy other life in your tank. Reef safe sand sifters do it without harming fish, corals and other invertebrates in your reef tank.

Reef Safe Sand Sifters process the substrate surface, consuming algae, detritus and uneaten food without adversely affecting other organisms in the aquarium.

1. Crabs

Porcelain Anemone Crab
L. Adelman
Most marine crabs are well known for having voracious appetites, consuming detritus, uneaten food and carrion in saltwater aquariums. Unfortunately, most crabs will eat just about anything else in your tank, including corals, fish and other invertebrates.

There are a number of reef safe crabs which do not consume the "good" stuff in your reef tank. Some of the Crabs which sift through and stir the surface of the tank substrate and are considered to be reef safe are:

Caution should be taken when placing crabs in your reef tank. Most crabs are not reef safe as they will consume just about anything they come across.

2. Hermit Crabs

Blue Legged Hermit Crab
Madelyn Catob
Hermit Crabs are great sand stirrers. Reef safe Hermit Crabs spend all of their time looking for and consuming algae and detritus. Smaller species Hermit Crabs are preferred over the larger species, as they will not disturb the tank environment.

3. Snails

Keoki Stender
Some snails spend all of their time either on the glass, or on the rocks in a saltwater aquarium, avoiding the sand substrate. Why? One reason may be that some snails can not extend their foot far enough from their shell to turn themselves over if they end up on their "back".

Here are some great reef safe sand sifting snails which not only consume the detritus and algae on your substrate, but can flip over when they need to, avoiding being eaten or starving.

4. Sea Cucumbers

Plump Cucumber
Keoki Stender
Sea Cucumbers are arguably the ugliest things you can put in your saltwater aquarium. On the other hand, a number of them do an excellent job of cleaning the substrate in a saltwater aquarium, stirring the sand surface as they they inch along at glacial speed.

Many Sea Cucumbers will not only consume detritus and uneaten food, but also snails and other substrate dwelling critters, making them unsuitable for reef aquariums.

These Sea Cucumbers will keep your substrate surface clean as they stir it.

5. Sand Sifting Gobies

Pink and Blue Spotted Watchman Goby
Frank Ungaro
Gobies are among the most beautiful and entertaining fish found in saltwater aquariums. Some (not all) Gobies process the sand substrate in an aquarium in search for food (algae and detritus). Sand sifting Gobies literally "eat" sand, removing the algae and detritus, then either spit the sand out of their mouths, or eject it through their gills.

Not all Gobies sift sand. Here are some which do.

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