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Invertebrates are some of the most beautiful and captivating creatures that we can keep in our home aquariums. With so many incredible options, sometimes choosing the right one can be extremely difficult.
Choosing good starter inverts is a little trickier than choosing a starter fish because people get them to serve a variety of different purposes. Some people will buy them just because they want to add beauty to their tank, but others will buy them to fix very specific issues their tank is facing. The majority of beginners should focus on buying hardy and attractive inverts that will also serve as a good cleanup crew to help maintain a healthy and balanced reef tank.
Keep reading for five inverts that are perfect for beginners starting out in the saltwater aquarium hobby.
These are peaceful and reef-safe urchins that are guaranteed to vigorously graze on a wide assortment of algae. Tuxedo urchins seriously make quick work of dirty tanks, and if your tank ever becomes too clean and the urchin runs out of things to eat, you can always just toss it a piece of seaweed. Generally speaking, these are extremely low maintenance and as close to 100% reef safe as it gets. While these urchins don't get bigger than two or three inches, they'll definitely be noticed and make for a good conversation starter. Tuxedo urchins look especially interesting when they cover themselves with algae and other debris, which serves as camouflage against predators in the reef. These little creatures have hundreds of spines and tube feet constantly sensing their surroundings, which help them avoid bulldozing rock and coral. If you can't get a hold of any tuxedo urchins, there's a very similar type called pin cushion urchins which would make a great second choice.
This shrimp is without question one of the most vibrant and attractive species of inverts available. I personally prefer the fire shrimp over the cleaner shrimp, because it seems to spend more time scavenging for leftover food, rather than cleaning parasites and excess tissue off of fish. I've always thought that the fire shrimp was a little hardier than the cleaner or peppermint shrimp, but if you want something that's going to be out all the time, then you should definitely go with the very similar cleaner shrimp. The fire shrimp will be a little shy in big tanks and spend a lot of their time in the rock work. If you have the extra cash, I personally think fire shrimp are worth it, but either way, both shrimp are great scavengers, easy to care for, and would make really cool additions to any reef tank.
Most beginner hobbyists don't really pay attention to the first types of snails they get, but certain types like trochus snails can actually make a huge difference. Also called turban snails, these creatures are easy to care for and very good at feeding on algae, cyanobacteria and diatoms amongst live rock, substrate, and aquarium glass. These are more expensive than other snails, but they will breed often and can actually flip themselves back over after they fall down, which is a huge advantage. They really are the best in the business at cleaning your tank until it's spotless, which makes them worth the extra coin. If you can, try to get small ones so they can get in between frag plugs and hard-to-reach places. As a general rule of thumb, you can get one of these for every two or three gallons of your aquarium water. Trochus snails are very peaceful and other crabs can't really eat them or mess with them because of their shell’s unique shape. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced hobbyist, you can’t go wrong with trochus snails!
Copepods are one of the most underrated inverts you can provide for your saltwater tank. These tiny organisms are a natural part of the food chain, grazing on phytoplankton, bacteria, and in some cases, detritus, which all help clean your tank. They're also a natural food source for tons of different fish, especially Mandarin gobies. Whether you're setting up your first reef tank or you're trying to improve an already established setup, introducing copepods can be a very beneficial way to improve the health of your tank.
The best and most loved invert by hobbyists is the nassarius snail. Nassarius snails are without a doubt the most popular invert in the aquarium hobby, largely because of their reputation for keeping sand beds clean. They burrow in your sand bed with only their snorkel sticking out, and when they detect food, they'll quickly emerge and chase after it. Their constant movement over the substrate will keep your sand stirred and looking clean. This also helps aerate the sand, which helps prevent the growth of slime algae or cyanobacteria on the substrate surface. Nassarius snails have really fun personalities, are very peaceful, and don't get bigger than about an inch. Plus, they are extremely hardy and last for a really long time! They’ll make great additions to any reef tank with a sand bed.