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Crawfish Overview, Types, Care, Diet, Breeding & More

Are you looking for something unique for your tank? What do you think about crawfish? Okay, you probably believe that you can find the crawfish shack on the market and want to make delicious crawfish etouffee for you and your family.

But you also have an option to breed them by yourself as a pet or as food.

Species Overview

  • Minimum Tank Size: 5 Gallons
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Water Conditions: pH 6.5-8 and medium-hard to very hard
  • Temperature: 65-75 °F (18-23 °C)
  • Maximum Size: 3 inches (8 centimeters)

Crawfish vs Crayfish

For those who haven’t known, Crawfish names are plenty. They are also known as crayfish crawdads, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, rock lobsters, yabbies, mountain lobsters, etc. But they are just the same animal.

Crawfish are fun, interesting, and awkward crustaceans that will fit in your fish tank. It is easy to breed and care for them. But it is challenging to interact with them because they behave so Shellfish, I mean selfish.

If you’re planning to add this freshwater creature to your community tank, then you’re out of luck. It is recommended to prepare a tank that specifically hosts your crayfish. That will be your real crawfish haven where it will thrive.

In this article, I will show you the important principles when breeding crayfish. It is not a new thing that this blog focuses on fish, but this crustacean can fit in the fish tank. So, I’ll do my best to share the tips that I’ve confirmed with the experts.

So, maybe you have ever purchased a crawfish shack in your local market and wondered if you can breed them yourself at home for food. Or perhaps, you are mesmerized by its quirky behavior so you want to adopt them as pets.

No matter your decision, here are some tips you can use when you breed crawfish at home.

Types of Crawfish that You can Breed

As mentioned, you might want to check dozens of species first before deciding which ones you will choose for your tank. But for most of us, it will take a long time to find the best crawfish for sale.

Let me help you to save your time and effort for your research. I have compiled some of the best types of crawfish live out there that you can find.

Red Claw Crayfish

Red claw crayfish

Red claw crawfish is one of the most common types that you could take. As the name suggests, it has a unique red claw color.

The size is usually twice as big as blue crayfish. Therefore, they typically have 30% more edible meat than the other species.

It is the most common type that is usually sold in the market as food.

But believe it or not, many crawfish lovers tend to breed them merely for their lovely pet.

Electric Blue Crayfish

Electric blue crayfish

The electric blue crayfish is one of the most beautiful pets you will ever find. For decades, this is one of the most wanted specimens for pet lovers.

Coming from the Southeastern United States, it has been long domesticated by freshwater enthusiasts so that you can easily find the true source of this species.

Most of the creatures you can find on the market are tank-raised, which is great for your access.

It is also easy to maintain the environment for them to thrive. Like the other species, this type can attain maturity level quickly, and you can easily breed it in your aquarium.

As expected from the omnivorous buddy, you can give them plant-based or meat foods. But make sure you don’t add live ornamental plants since their daily activities are about scavenging. They will consider it as food rather than an ornament.

The adult blue crayfish can be very aggressive and intimidating when other animals come to their place. They also need a place to rest, scout, and enjoy their “me-time.” In your tank, you must provide at least two PVC pipes. You can also add other crucial accessories like rockwork, driftwood, and so on.

These attack smaller fish. But they can live with the other adults of the crawfish. Regular water changes are needed to keep them healthy.

They are also good climbers, so make sure you don’t have anything stuck to the corner to allow them to escape your tank.

White Specter Crayfish

White specter crayfish

This type of crawfish is a popular choice because of its fantastic ivory color. As you place your aquarium as a focal point in your house, the white specter crayfish will be the eyes turner.

Compared to the other crayfish species, the white specter is much more active. So, if you are interested in seeing your pet’s fun behaviors, you can add this one to your wishlist. They have rigid body structures and possess great adaptation skills. The scavenger will be active more often than their brotherly species.

Their favorite foods are plants, pellets, as well as meaty foods. It is important to know that most crawfish, including the white specter, need enough calcium to harden their shells. You could give them a cuttlebone for their calcium intake. It is nowadays easy to find dried or frozen cuttlebone products from the market.

The white specter is a territorial kind of crawfish. But they tend to move slower. So, it will be cool to add fast-moving fish into your tank. I’d suggest you add some cool fish like Danios, Guppies, Celestial Pearl, and so on.

I won’t suggest you add smaller shrimp since white specters can eat them when they are too slow. Also, do not add tank mates in the bottom as they stay.

Zebra Crayfish

Cherax zebra crayfish

I can say that it is an exotic one to choose from in the market. Also called Tiger Crayfish, the coloration looks like zebra to see the interesting, distinctive traits they naturally have.

The most popular variant of Zebra crayfish that you can get is Cherax. Cherax has such excellent quality colors.

Zebra crayfish are categorized as larger freshwater fish.

Although some species tend to spend their time under a rock, Zebra crayfish do not do that. It is not their nature. They are very active and, indeed, natural scavengers.

They will keep your tanks clean. If you are using a 30 gallons aquarium, you will see such a significant difference when adding zebra crawfish to your tank.

Due to the larger adult size, I’d suggest you prepare a tank with at least 30 gallons of capacity.

Their life expectancy is also longer: 3-4 or more years.

If you plan to add tank mates in the bottom-dwelling area, consider adding your tank with rocks, pipes, and other hiding places. Set your tank with live plants, rocks, caves, and driftwood. Be creative to improve not only the appeal of your tank but also your pet’s survivability.

Thunderbolt Crayfish

Thunderbolt crayfish

If the coloration is a primary thing for you, then you won’t regret adding thunderbolt crayfish to your tank. It is one of the most stunning crayfish in the world. The deep blue, orange, white, black, and green coloration is probably the unique spectrum you can see. Perhaps that’s also the reason why this does not come cheap in the market.

Thunderbolt crayfish is not authentic. It is a great breed that comes from mixing two different species of the Cherax genus. It is a new variant that is little known in the US. But it has been quite a popular choice in South East Asia, Australia, and New Guinea. Folks in Aussie usually call this variant yabbies.

The adult size of the Thunderbolt Crayfish can be larger than other species in your tank. It is, in fact, one of the largest freshwater crawdads in the world by adult size. However, when it is compared to the blue crayfish, it is less aggressive than the latter.

They are very active and interactive. You will see them more often than the other variants. Even in the daylight, you will have a good chance to see them exploring the bottom part of your aquarium.

Since they are large, consider preparing at least a 30-gallon large aquarium. Their life expectancy is 5 to 6 years, or even more with proper care and diets.

Just like other crayfish, consider landscaping your tank with many hiding places. Add more rocks and caves. They would love it for molting and hiding, although they spend most of their time outside.

Tank Setup

If you plan to have only one crayfish, you could just do good with a small aquarium. Around five to ten gallons aquarium is enough for a single crayfish. But you need to change the water more often.

If you plan to have more than one crayfish, you could consider adding more capacity to the tank. They’ll need at least a 30-gallon-sized aquarium.

Since the nature of the common crayfish is scavenging, there will be some places where they need to hide their stash. Therefore, here you will want to be meticulous in decorating your aquarium.

Adding more items like caves, pipes, flower pots, and others can help them hide their food.

They will also need these protected sections when their exoskeleton is too old so that they need to molt. During the first year of their lives, they will lose around six to ten times.

Compared to the other fish, they don’t have manners in eating. When they hide the foods and use them again, the water can quickly become dirty.

Keep in mind that crayfish can be cannibalistic if the condition supports them to do so.

Crayfish will often molt in their first year. And when they do, they will hide for a few days. If they are out of your sight, you don’t need to worry. Some crawfish even hide for a week to finish molting.

If you have more crayfish to be added to the aquarium, make sure to add more hiding places there to provide a crayfish haven for your pets.

Crayfish do not like to share their dwelling with other creatures, especially with fish. They tend to be territorial and aggressive so that whoever comes to their space can be threatened.

There are many ideas where the crayfish can band together with fish. But either the crayfish will eat the fish when both are in the bottom-dwelling part, or the crayfish gets eaten by the fish.

When trying to keep the fish and crawfish together, it won’t likely have a good end.

It is recommended to use a HOB filter or Hang on Back filter for crayfish aquariums. Do not use a sponge filter because it could give a passage for crayfish to escape from your tank.

Crayfish are aware of your presence. When you leave them alone for a while, you will see that they are scavenging and pretty active around the bottom part of your fish aquarium.

Food & Diet

Crawdads are fun creatures that can eat many kinds of foods. They are omnivores. There are a wide array of foods that you can choose for their diet, and they will be able to adapt to nearly any food of your choice.

When you are asking about what your pet wants to eat, crayfish will just take anything. Crawdads are not picky. They will eat whatever you pour into your aquarium.

They will even eat most of the things that you don’t want in your aquarium. That’s why you will notice that your tank is clean from time to time.

Algae? YES! They can even eat bacteria if they have the chance. The algae that stick to the surface of the décor, components, caves, or any other items in the aquarium can be delicious quick snacks for them.

They will filter the water naturally and intake the bacteria, which can be bad for your tank.

Crayfish are authentic scavengers. So it is sensible to see your groups too often search for something to eat in the bottom-dwelling.

Their scavenging behaviors come with a lot of benefits for your aquarium. You will notice that the filtration system and other components in your tank are in better condition when you have crayfish in it.

Besides the habits of eating the undesirables, your crawfish can also accept a wide array of planned diets. They are not picky, and there is no reason to spoil them with the most expensive foods in town.

The dried food-like pellets can work well since these will reside nicely in their dwellings. They can even eat some leftover foods in your tank. It is also a great advantage for you since it will ease you in maintaining and cleaning your tank.

You can also combine veggies and protein-based snacks.

How about the live foods? Well, those can do well too. Consider adding small minnow fish or fry to give your crustaceans something to hunt. After all, it is a great idea to keep reminding them about their nature. If you don’t have time to prepare fresh foods or live foods, you could consider giving them commercial foods, and they will do just fine.

As mentioned, they are not picky eaters. So, they won’t likely get bored when you give them the same foods all the time. But feeding with various diets can make a great decision since these will provide them with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need to thrive and grow well.

If you want to boost their coloration, consider picking foods that contain a lot of minerals and vitamins.

However, you will want to take special care if you do your crayfish with the other fish. Your crawfish tends to seize any opportunity to eat. Not only the dead fish in your aquarium but the sick fish that are moving slowly can also be their target.

Crawfish in a defensive pose

Another takeaway to consider is the plants.

Crawfish love to snack on plants. For most aquarists, the greeneries are great not only for decoration but also for the wellness of freshwater fish. That proposition is very true when we are talking about breeding the crayfish but differently. They won’t hesitate to get all the plants they can in your aquarium.

So, unless your objective is to feed your crayfish, do not add plants or even decorative plants to your aquarium. Hard plant species may survive from crayfish snacking. But it is not always the case. With few attempts, even the hardest plants can be shredded into pieces by your healthy pets.

How about the younger crayfish? They are just the same as adult ones. Younger ones are pretty sensitive to their environment. You can feed them the same way you’d do the adults. But you want to make sure that the environment in the tank is safe enough for them to thrive.

The crawfish can get stressed if they are put in a completely new environment. The younger ones would likely have worse anxiety than the adult ones. Many will have a hard time adapting to the new environment. It might be contradictory to what I said earlier about their appetite. But when they are feeling stressed, they withdraw from eating.

It is best to create such a convenient environment for your pets. First things first, you could work around with their dwelling. Consider combining a layer of sand so that they can burrow in. After all, it is one of their core natural behaviors.

Add plenty of plants that are ready to snack. Also, consider adding more rocks, twigs, and caves. They need a place to hide when they don’t feel safe. Hiding is also a crucial part of their routines.

As you prepare the tank-like ones mentioned above, they can adapt much easier so that they can hunt and eat with peace of mind.

Once you’ve prepared the right environmental conditions, you can start giving them a wide array of foods that they’ll love to eat.

As mentioned, they won’t get bored with the same foods all the time. But it is not ideal for sticking to one food for a longer time. You could mix the fares up to make them more fulfilled.

Consider picking the foods that can sit well in the bottom of the aquarium so that they can easily get them. Here is the foods list that you could give to your pets for variations:

  • Sinking pellets
  • Shrimp
  • Standard fish food
  • Algae wafers
  • Frozen foods
  • Small shrimp
  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworm
  • Carrots
  • Lettuces
  • Insects
  • Fry

You shouldn’t feed your crayfish tons of food in one go. They don’t know how to stop so they will eat whatever they find in the tank all day long. So, give them food in small batches.

For the big-sized foods, you could cut them into pieces. The sizes should not be too big or too small.

For the younger crayfish, you could cut them into smaller bites. But you don’t need to worry. They quickly grow. In no time, they will want to eat larger chunks of food.

Juveniles and younger creatures usually eat less frequently than adults.

If you feed them in the daylight, there’s a chance that they won’t touch the food. Don’t worry. It is because they are more active at night. You will realize that they have eaten the next morning.

Feed your crayfish with the appropriate portion daily. Do not scale up the foods again if they have reached their adult age.

Crawfish Breeding

Cambarus coosae babies

Checking the genitals of crayfish can be challenging, especially for first-timers. The genital openings are different between males and females.

The males have genital openings under the posterior pair of legs. Meanwhile, the females shave their genital openings under the third pair of legs, counted from the rearward position of common crayfish.

But here is the tricky part. Some of the crayfish creatures have one male and one female genital opening. But it does not mean that they are hermaphrodites. They are always either male or female.

In most cases, the individuals that have two signs of genital openings are usually male. But it is not always accurate. Consider bringing them to the crayfish experts for more accurate sexing.

Spawning can happen anytime all year. The male utters the sperm and sends it to the female stomach part, or the genitals open.

The female crawfish will spawn the eggs through the sperm packet to get the fry fertilized. During the process, the females usually lose their claws. Before releasing the eggs, they will place the eggs under their tail. After roughly four weeks, they will then be ready to release the eggs.

The carrying period can be different from one species to another. The other factors that can contribute to the carrying period are the temperature, species types, foods, environment, water conditions, etc. After birth, the mothers will take care of their fry for a short period.

The fry can be great feeders of plant parts and food leftovers. But the ideal diets for them revolve around veggie items. You could give them carrots, lettuce, or broccoli. However, if you think that the veggies are too hard for them, consider boiling them first and cutting them into tiny pieces.

Crawfish can be cannibalistic. So, it is recommended to transfer your fry to a separate aquarium. Consider having larger aquariums as well to improve their survival rates.

To breed them effectively, you will want to set up a great environment for them. The condition has to be right so that they can spawn effectively.

Some species require special care to get the motivation to breed. Many factors can trigger them to start producing, such as the intensity of light, temperature changing, circulation changing, diet changes, and so on.

Also, be careful with the baby crayfish. They are known to eat each other as well. So, the larger-sized baby crayfish could eat their smaller brothers or sisters. Their mom can also eat their babies.

After a few days, when you notice that their moms do not closely care for their babies, that could be a sign that their babies can strive by themselves.

That is the cue to separate the adults and their babies. Moms can eat their babies for nutrition or protein. At this point, you will need to take care of the fry by yourself.

Breeding crayfish is straightforward if you have known the right methods, tools, and knowledge. It can take some time and effort. But you will see that it is worth it when you visit the beautiful coloration of your crayfish.

Choosing Crawfish

It is imperative to know that crawfish come with many different species across the globe. Since they have pretty much different habitats, some crayfish might require cooler water. But some might require slightly higher temperatures to survive.

Before getting your first crayfish, you will want to look at the different kinds of crayfish sold in the market.

Some species might require special care or needs. And if you do it well, their life expectancy can reach up to 3 years or so.