Clean up crew Fish

Having an assorted cleanup crew of invertebrates for your reef aquarium will help keep your rock work and substrate clean, however, there are also some fish that can be considered to play a part in keeping the tank tidy. Surgeonfish (tangs), dwarf angels (reef safe w/ caution), gobies, foxfaces and blennies can all contribute to keeping your aquarium clean, while adding personality and color to it.  Here are our staff picks for top reef-safe specimens:


Starry, Sailfin (AKA Lawnmower), Bicolor and other blennies can add character to any aquarium while also playing a part in algae control.  Throughout the day they will graze algae on rocks and glass panels of the aquarium, then find a favorite perch to digest.  They are also known for jumping, so we would suggest having a lid on the aquarium if kept.

Dwarf Angelfish

Centropyges like Cherubs, Flamebacks, Lemonpeels, Potter’s… there are many types of dwarf angels suited for different aquarium sizes, but all serve as means to control macroalgae.  They do require lots of hiding places and are also omnivorous, so should be provided a meaty complimentary diet.  Caution should be taken as some may be reef safe, not all dwarf angels have the same personality and can nip at coral.

Sandsifting Gobies

Gobies can help keep the substrate clean by the mouthful. Diamond head, Twin Spot, Tiger Watchmen gobies spend their day sifting through live sand, keeping it oxygenated, releasing detritus and other organics into the water column to be filtered out.

FoxFaces & Rabbitfish

Foxfaces and rabbitfish have an appetite for algae while providing a dash of color to large aquariums. Their small mouths pick and rip macroalgae from liverock, but should be provided seaweed sheets for supplemental feeding.  Caution should be taken when handling these fish, as their spines are slightly venomous and will be used if provoked.


Surgeonfish, Doctor fish, Tangs, whatever you want to call them, these fish come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and are known for grazing, nipping, and plucking algae off liverock or glass. They do accept meaty morsels of food, but should be provided with seaweed sheets and other herbivorous snacks to round out their diet.

Fish Tips - Before selecting fish for your clean up crew, their appropriate aquarium size should be considered as well as the bioload they will be contributing to.  Compatibility should also be considered when choosing fish. Tangs and rabbitfish require more swimming room than most fish, so need a larger aquarium. Blennies, gobies and dwarf angels will do well in smaller aquariums with a light bioload but can be placed in larger aquariums as well.