How to Look After Freshwater Crayfish

Written by robert boumis
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How to Look After Freshwater Crayfish
Crayfish look similar to saltwater lobsters. ( Images)

Crayfish have many endearing qualities that make them a great aquarium pet. First, with a little research, crayfish can be quite easy to care for. Next, crayfish have a bizarre look to them. They resemble saltwater lobsters and are sometimes sold under the name "freshwater lobsters," thought they are not particularly related. Additionally, breeders have begun to develop new colour strains like blues, whites, reds and even black. All of these, plus many more enjoyable attributes, make owning a crayfish a fun and delightful experience.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Proper-sized aquarium
  • Aquarium substrate (aquarium sand, aquarium gravel, or playground sand)
  • Aquarium filters (powerbox or external canister recommended)
  • Terra cotta pots, PVC, or plastic/ceramic aquarium caves
  • Aquarium heater and thermometer
  • Shrimp or crab pellets
  • Pond de-icer (optional, see "Tips" section)

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  1. 1

    Select an adequate-sized aquarium. Different species and breeds of crayfish require different sizes of tanks. Research your individual species to find out its recommended tank size.

  2. 2

    Assemble a filtration system for your crayfish. In general, if a filter works for fish, it works with crayfish. Powerbox and canister filters works well. Avoid undergravel filters as burrowing crayfish disrupt them, and avoid sponge and corner filters as crayfish can use their airline tubes to climb out of the tank.

  3. 3

    Create hiding places for your crayfish; crayfish need hiding places to feel safe. Lengths of PVC pipe or broke terra cotta pots make great caves, though some people find them aesthetically displeasing. Consider covering them with rocks or upgrading to plastic/ceramic aquarium caves if you feel PVC pipe is too unattractive.

  4. 4

    Maintain the correct temperature for your crayfish. Most crayfish in pet shops are tropical and should have a temperature in the 63 to 81 degree range. Some temperate species prefer it colder.

  5. 5

    Feed your crayfish. Crayfish are generalists, scavengers. They will eat and relish in just about anything. However, scavengers need food too, so you must still feed them dedicated crayfish food. Petshops sell crab and shrimp pellets which work well.

  6. 6

    Remove any small, slow or bottom-dwelling fish from any fish tank or pond with your crayfish, unless you intend to use them as crayfish food. Baby fish (fry) are particularly vulnerable. There are reports of successful habitation between crayfish and goldfish in ponds.

Tips and warnings

  • Research your individual species of crayfish. Some have a few quirks that need to be accounted for.
  • If keeping crayfish outside, use a pond de-icer to make sure your pond has an air hole during the winter.
  • Since crayfish like to dig, avoid making caves by balancing rocks on each other; they could cave in and injure your pets.
  • Never release your crayfish into the wild; they are a highly invasive species with a history of disrupting native ecosystems.

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