A complete crayfish resource for pet owners

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Resembling small lobsters, freshwater crayfish are known as "crawfish" or "crawdads" in some regions of the United States. Withdrawn and shy, these easy-to-care-for crustaceans are becoming increasingly popular aquarium pets.


Size: Most common crayfish reach an adult size of 3 to 4 inches. Electric blue crayfish tend to be larger, measuring about 7 or 8 inches in adulthood.

Color: Crayfish have segmented bodies that show a considerable range in coloration. Dark brown is the most common, but crayfish are also sandy yellow, green, white and even pink. The electric blue crayfish is the most striking color variant, with an unmistakable metallic light-blue body.

Variants: Over 300 crayfish variants have been identified in North America, and more than 100 have been catalogued in Australasia. Of these, the red-claw crayfish, the yabby and the marron are probably the best known, though these animals rarely make their way into the aquarium trade.

Behavioral Characteristics

Crayfish kept in tanks tend to be reclusive, seeking refuge under rocks and in any crevices they can find. It is essential to provide them with hiding places no matter where you keep them, as it's in their nature to hide and they will become distressed if they can't find a place to tuck themselves away. Design the tank to mimic the natural crayfish habitat as closely as possible. Aquarium lighting designed to approximate daylight can encourage them to be more active, though keep in mind that some species are almost exclusively nocturnal.

Freshwater crayfish will eat almost anything in their path, including both plants and slow bottom-swimming fish, so keeping them in an aquarium with species like the guppy or goldfish is not a good idea if you want all your pets to survive. You should also keep live plants out of the tank, since they'll only get eaten and your crayfish may end up getting caught in them and injuring itself.

Health and Care

Feeding: Shrimp pellets are the best pet crayfish food, since the pellets sink to the bottom of the tank where crawdads tend to lurk.

Tank Care: Crawfish are very sensitive to water pollution, so be vigilant about changing 10 to 15 percent of the water in the tank each week. Aquarium heaters aren't necessary, but a good-quality filter does a lot to help keep the water in the tank clean. The pH level should be neutral (as close to 7.0 as possible) and the ideal water temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Health Concerns: In the wild, crawdads are subject to a unique condition known informally as "crayfish plague." Infection occurs when a fish is exposed to contaminated water sources, and while this won't happen in controlled conditions, you should be aware that any crayfish caught in the wild and brought to the tank may be carrying the disease. Coordination problems and an inability for the fish to get back on its feet when turned on its back are key indicators.

Life Expectancy: Freshwater crayfish have very short life expectancies. Most live for no more than two years.

Posted by April on May 11,2016 at 07:36 PM
My son is in 4th grade he got a crayfish towards the end of his 3rd year.the thing is still alive and had babies along time after qe got it.most of the babies died because the mother ate servied so I removed it from the mother and put it in another fish tank with 3 fish I had for a while now.and they are still alive .
Posted by Martina on October 17,2014 at 04:39 AM
Hi, i had a crayfish in the tank along with a whole load of other fast swimming fish. I had him for a month or so and the added some other fish to the tank. I found him with one of the fish in his mouth. A few days later he started thrashing in the tank so i changed the water and cleaned the filter. That evening i found him dead. Is it possible that the fish he ate was the cause? if i get another one is there anything i can do to stop this happening again? Thanks for your help
Posted by Seahorse on August 10,2014 at 03:58 PM
Just bought a blue crayfish, put him in the fish tank and now he/she is turning brown. Why?
Posted by MH on August 22,2014 at 09:12 PM
Ill bet your blue crayfish has changed back to blue by now. They can change color to brown when they're stressed, like in a move toa new environment, but should revert to normal color as they adjust to their surroundings. Good luck with your pet!
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Posted by Liz on October 17,2013 at 02:39 PM
Our pet crayfish (Dupage County Illinois) just died this afternoon and I was checking out this site. It looks like he just got old. We had him for just over one year and he was full grown when we caught him. I don't know what they mean to keep the water really clean; you should see the water we pulled him out of. He was fine with less than great water quality, I usually changed his water once every couple of weeks and had a filter going. He made an interesting pet and ate everything from kale to a little bit of bologna now and then. He shed about 5 times over the past year and finally just curled up and died today. He also shared space with several fish but never bothered them, just ate the few unfortunate feeder fish that died before we could scoop them out.
Posted by ignacious on March 02,2013 at 12:38 PM
Last fall I let my 9 yr. old keep a live wild crayfish he caught from a private pond along with 4 wild goby. We made no special accommodations with regard to temperature or water quality. We have a gravel bottom 10 gallon tank with a filter. We have a few fake plants and a replica of Spongebob's pineapple and Squidward's Easter Island house. The crayfish not only survived, he thrived. He's shed once so far. He has done quite a bit of landscaping. He dug to the bottom of the tank, knocked over one of the structures horizontally and now lives in it. We feed it standard fish food flakes and he eats them, in addition to everything else that dares venture near his pie hole. He has done very well but I cannot say the same for any other fish in the tank. Got five standard rocket goldfish last week. 2 have vanished just as every other fish in the tank has since we introduced the crayfish. Efficient to say the least. If it hits the bottom it disappears without a trace. But it's not a big deal. We don't get expensive fish. We usually fill the tank with the feeder variety until they die off. We are content with the crayfish being the star of the tank until we get some more wild samples like bluegill and largemouth fry, again with permission from private ponds.
Posted by Jason on January 09,2013 at 06:24 AM
The one I wild caught here in central Arkansas has thrived in my 2 gallon aquarium. He lives alone and has an outgoing personality; in fact, he exhibits very little shyness and can be entertaining when he gets into his threatening posture. I feed mine a variety of dry pet foods, and he eats it all.
Posted by Samuel Olson on May 17,2012 at 04:10 PM
I am nine years old. I love crayfish. I had two crayfish as pets for 1 month, but then one killed the other one and eventually the living one died also. Then, I had a crayfish that I found and put her in an aquarium I had that had a filter and lots of rocks and shallow water. I fed it vegetables and turtle food. It died after three days. Why do most crayfish in captivity die? What am I doing wrong? Thank you for answering my question.
Posted by Crawmama on May 21,2012 at 01:27 PM
Hello, I have a crayfish who seems to be doing well. I keep him alone in a tank with gravel on the bottom and a coffee mug to hide in. I fill up the water only a little bit above his body so he can reach the surface if he wants to. I feed him "Crab and Lobster Bits" food from the pet store and sometimes give him algae wafers as a treat. I clean his tank, replacing the water usually every week to two weeks. Hope this helps!!!
Posted by Anonymous on March 10,2012 at 09:34 AM
Tammy Senn, I have a blue crayfish. You can buy it at some pet stores. I live in Malaysia. I am wondering if your place have pink crayfish.
Posted by Tammy Senn on August 25,2009 at 01:37 PM
I live in winona minnesota and my nephew is looking for a blue crayfish. we have gone to most of the local pet stores and none of them have any. do u have any suggestions on where to get one?
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