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Crayfish care
By: Susan McClure


 

 

crayfish

Crayfish are fascinating and beautiful creatures to house in the home aquarium. There are over 150 different species of freshwater crayfish which range in color from brown to red to yellow to green to blue. Most crayfish will live 2-3 years, though some species may live longer.
There are a couple of different ways to acquire your crayfish. Many local aquarium stores will sell crayfish or could order them for you. If yours doesn't, the Internet is an excellent source of many varieties of crayfish, including some that may not be available to you locally. If you live near a coldwater stream, you may find crayfish living in the shallows where the water is slow moving.

crayfish


Before you bring your crayfish home, be sure you have a proper environment set up for him. A ten to fifteen gallon tank is a good size for a single crayfish. Do not keep more than one unless you have a much larger tank, because crayfish are very territorial and will kill other crayfish who invade their space. Use sand or small grain gravel as the substrate for your tank. Crayfish love to dig and burrow, so be sure the environment is suitable for this behavior. Don't be surprised to find the tank completely rearranged from one day to the next. Crayfish will build caves, mountains, and valleys out of their substrate, and they will also drag tank decorations such as plastic plants to new locations! Include several hiding places for your crayfish as well. Caves, hollow logs, PVC pipe, and clay flower pots are all excellent. Crayfish will often hide during the day, coming out at feeding time. Be sure the tank is completely covered, with no holes in the tank lid. Crayfish are escape artists; they will climb up the filter intake, airline tubing, plants, or anything else they can to get to the top of the tank. If they succeed in escaping, they can survive for several hours out of the water, but it certainly won't be good for them. If you add live plants to your tank, expect them to be eaten. The crayfish will enjoy them, but if you want plants for decoration, you should use plastic ones.

 

 

crayfish

The crayfish tank will need a good filter; be sure you cycle it just like you would for a fish tank. Most North American crayfish are coldwater, so you won't need to heat the tank; however, if yours comes from a tropical environment, be sure you keep the water in the correct temperature range. 25-50% water changes should be performed weekly. Use a good dechlorinator before adding the new water to the tank. It's also a good idea to add liquid calcium to the water. This will aid in the development of the crayfish's exoskeleton, and will make the molting process go much more smoothly. I usually add 2-3 drops every other day for a 10 gallon tank.

crayfish

It is not a good idea to keep fish with your crayfish, unless you don't mind the fish getting eaten. Crayfish are excellent fishermen. I have seen mine perched on top of a plant, motionless with his claws open wide, waiting for a fish to swim by. They can catch even fast swimmers like danios, but slow fish such as platies are in greater danger. If you don't mind the fish getting eaten, your crayfish will enjoy a meal of fresh fish every so often.
Crayfish are scavengers, and eat mostly vegetative matter, although they do need some protein in their diet as well. They will eat many commercial fish foods including sinking algae wafers, shrimp pellets, and many freeze dried or flake foods. It's a good idea to include a lot of fresh foods in their diet as well. Most fruits and vegetables will be accepted eagerly. Favorites of mine include green peas, raisins, spinach, zucchini, carrots, squash, sweet potato, and leaf lettuce (not ice burg). If you feed fresh foods, be sure to check the tank a couple of hours after feeding and remove any uneaten food so that it doesn't foul the water. Check inside caves and hiding places, as crayfish like to horde their food for later.

crayfish

The molting process is one of the most exciting aspects of owning crayfish. During molting, your crayfish will shed his old exoskeleton, grow a bit, and then the new exoskeleton will harden into a protective shell. This is also the time when he can regrow any appendages that have been lost. This process will take a couple of days, during which your crayfish will probably hide in his cave. If you see what looks like a dead crayfish in your tank, don't be alarmed-it is probably just the exoskeleton! Sometimes your crayfish will eat his old exoskeleton, but if it is still there after a couple of days, you can go ahead and remove it. Molting is the time when the crayfish is most vulnerable, so don't disturb him at all during this time. This is not the time to move tank decorations or do gravel vacs. Be patient, and in a few days you'll get to see the changes in your little friend. Sometimes his colors will change, and he will certainly be larger than when you last saw him. In order to help the molt go as smoothly as possible, give the crayfish lots of calcium in his diet and add liquid calcium to the water. High calcium foods include spinach, zucchini, dark green lettuce, and many other fruits and veggies.
I hope you enjoy keeping your crayfish as much as I have enjoyed mine. The life cycle is fascinating to watch, and your crayfish will do things that will make you laugh out loud sometimes. Give him the proper care, and he will reward you with years of enjoyment.

crayfish

 

 

 

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