» Posted by on Apr 21, 2016 in Blog, Kristen S | Comments Off on Freshwater Invertebrates for Aquariums

Freshwater Invertebrates for Aquariums

When setting up a freshwater aquarium many of our customers ask what other kinds of animals they can put in the tank other than fish.  There are many species of invertebrates that are easily kept in a community aquarium and some even help keep the tank cleaner.  Some of these groups include snails, shrimp, lobsters, clams, and crabs.

Striped Nerite Snail

Snails are a great addition to most tanks because they eat algae off the glass and decorations and they scavenge on uneaten flake food which helps keep the gravel clean. A snail’s diet can also be supplemented with algae wafers for them to graze on.  They work very well in peaceful community tanks with nothing aggressive that might eat them.  Harder water is also beneficial, though not required, to keep freshwater snails; the minerals help them build their shell.

One popular species is the Mystery snail because they come in several different colors including gold, white, and black.  These snails will help keep the tank clean by eating algae but be careful adding one to a planted tank as they will also eat plants.  Another popular snail is the Nerite snail; these snails have zebra striping on their shells.  Many aquarists also like them because their eggs will only hatch in brackish water so there’s no worrying about there being baby snails in the tank (only white eggs on the glass).

Malaysian Trumpet Snails

Pest snails, such as trumpet snails, can be introduced accidentally to a tank on live plant leaves. There are a few ways to get rid of them.  One way is to place a sheet of algae on the bottom of the tank overnight and the next day many of the snails will be on the algae eating it so you can remove the whole sheet with the snails.  Another way is to introduce something that will eat the pest snails such as a species of loach or an assassin snail.  Assassin snails are opportunistic carnivores so they will eat pest snails if they are available, but they will also eat detritus off the gravel and they do have a cool yellow and brown striping pattern.

Another great invertebrate addition for planted aquariums, are crustaceans like shrimp.  There are a lot of different kinds of shrimp that come in a variety of colors.  Similar to snails, shrimp are best added to peaceful tanks with nothing that will eat them, especially the smaller fancy shrimp.  They also like a lot of décor to climb on such as moss.  Shrimp pellets are needed to feed shrimp because it helps keep their exoskeleton strong and helps with molting.

Japonica Shrimp

Japonica shrimp, or Amano shrimp, are a popular addition because they are great algae grazers, especially in planted tanks; they will eat the algae off of the plant leaves and moss.  Flower shrimp are a cool addition because they have fan-like appendages that they use to fan leftover food towards them out of the water column.  It’s a very unique and interesting behavior to observe.  Ghost shrimp, as the name implies, are basically transparent shrimp.  Be careful adding them to a tank with other shrimp, as they are known to be cannibalistic.

Cherry Shrimp

The fancy shrimp come in a huge variety of colors.  These shrimp are much smaller than the Japonica or the Flower, so while they can be added to a community tank, they may do best in a shrimp-only tank.  The most popular of these is cherry shrimp, which is understandable given their bright red coloration.  Fancy shrimp also include Red Crystal shrimp, Blue Velvet shrimp, Yellow Rili shrimp, and Orange Sunkist shrimp.

Electric Blue Lobster

There are also a variety of lobsters that customers always want to add to their tanks.  These lobsters are actually freshwater crayfish.  We get them in several colors including red, white, and electric blue.  These invertebrates should be added to a tank with caution; if a fish is too slow or too small, the crayfish can grab it.  They should be kept with larger fast moving fish and one to a tank (unless the tank is at least 48” wide), as they can be aggressive with each other.

Clams are rarely thought of when choosing animals for a freshwater aquarium.  While they’re not as active as most animals, when kept properly, they are very interesting to watch.  Clams filter food from the water by pushing water through their siphon; it’s cool to see a clam partially open filter feeding.  Sometimes they bury themselves so it helps to have a fine substrate and they should be kept with peaceful fish that are not invertebrate eaters like puffers.

Fiddler Crab

Finally, there are a few species of freshwater crabs that can be kept in a home aquarium.  Fiddler crabs have really cool behaviors and are fun to watch.  These crabs are not completely aquatic, so they do need a bit of land or rock in the tank to climb out on to.  It’s difficult to have fish and fiddler crabs in the same tank, especially smaller ones because like the lobsters, they can grab small, slow fish.  An internal filter is best to use to clean the aquatic portion of the tank.  Fiddler crabs will eat a variety of foods including crab cuisine and freeze dried treats.  Another rarely thought of species is the Thai Micro Crab.  These crabs are very tiny, less than half an inch.  They do burrow a lot and are usually difficult to see, but when they are, it’s really cool to watch them.  These crabs are best kept in a shrimp-only tank, as most fish might try and eat them.

There are so many invertebrates that can be added to a freshwater aquarium of almost any size.  These animals have cool behaviors, are fun to watch, and most are easy to keep.  If you’re interested in adding some inverts to your aquarium, stop by the store and check out what we have in stock!

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