A-z - Animals


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Crayfish inhabit freshwater in both the northern and southern hemispheres, but are more common in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia, where they occur in bodies of water such as rivers, creeks, swamps, rice fields and streams. However, they are not as abundant in the southern hemisphere.

These crustaceans go by many names, including mountain lobsters, crayfish, crayfish, freshwater lobsters, mud worms, and crayfish. Crayfish breathe through their feathery gills, and some species cannot survive polluted water, but others are stronger.

Crayfish are omnivores, eating plants, animals and detritus. There are more than 540 species of crayfish in the world, 330 in North America alone, but they vary in size and appearance.

Three Amazing Crayfish Facts!

  • Most crayfish species are aquatic, but some species occur in semi-aquatic environments. These crayfish get water by burrowing into the soil to breathe.
  • They have incredible vision, and like other related species, they can move their eyes independently of each other.
  • These crustaceans are usually nocturnal and feed primarily on insect larvae, snails, amphibian tadpoles and worms. In addition, they can also feed on the vegetation of their habitat.

Crayfish Taxonomy

These crustaceans belong to the decapod order, which consists of more than 8,000 species and includes lobsters, hermit crabs, shrimps, crabs and crayfish.

Members of this order are primarily marine animals; however, like crayfish, some species inhabit freshwater. Their numbers are abundant in shallow, warm tropical waters, but many species are exploited commercially throughout the planet.

Some crayfish species include:

  • Red Marsh Crayfish ( Procambarus clarkii )
  • Dwarf orange crayfish ( Cambarellus patzcuarensis )
  • Blue Crayfish ( Procambarus alleni )
  • Marmorkrebs ( Procambarus fallax )
  • Common Yabby ( Cherax destructor )
  • Australian Red Claw Lobster ( Cherax quadricantus )
  • Brazos Dwarf Lobster (Cambarellus texanus)

crayfish appearance

Red Marsh Crayfish Claw Spread
Males use their claws by pinching or poking their opponents.


Crayfish are members of the crustacean family and have three body parts, including:

  • head
  • Chest
  • abdomen

Additionally, they have a hard shell or exoskeleton for support and protection. However, their exoskeleton hinders their growth rate. It's like growing a pair of pants; therefore, crayfish need to shed these shells and grow new ones, which is called molt.

Unfortunately, when they regrow their exoskeletons, their soft bodies are no defense against potential threats and predators.

While crayfish vary in size and appearance, they are typically 3 inches long. One of the smallest crayfish is called Cambarellus diminutus, which is only 0.98 inches long. These tiny crustaceans inhabit the southeastern United States. One of the largest species is Astacopsis gouldi , which can grow to 15.7 inches long and weigh about 8 pounds.

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crayfish behavior

Most crayfish are usually active at night while foraging. Therefore, during the day, they retreat to caves, under rocks or hide under ruins. Additionally, these crustaceans are often very territorial, especially towards other members of their species.

When they engage in combat, they exhibit the following behaviors:

  • wrestling
  • Grasping – males use their claws by pinching or poking at opponents
  • Meral spread – when the male raises the front of his body in a menacing pose

crayfish habitat

Most crayfish species are freshwater crustaceans, especially running water such as streams, streams, and rivers. They prefer this type of habitat because their immune system does not allow them to live in polluted water.

Standing or stagnant water is more likely to be polluted because there is no fresh water flowing into it to flush out stale water and rot away.

crayfish diet

Most species of crayfish are not picky eaters and will eat anything they come across in their path; this includes live and dead animals such as:

  • fish
  • shrimp
  • Plankton
  • algae
  • worm
  • insect

However, they also eat plant matter that decomposes in the water, such as weeds, grass, and leaves. But, as mentioned above, they eat almost anything.

What do artificially raised crayfish eat

Fortunately, the nutrition of captive crawfish is relatively simple. No need to spend hours scouring your pond for plants or fishing.

People can buy commercial sink pellets online that include the following ingredients:

  • kelp
  • algae
  • salmon

Plus, you can feed them vegetables like carrots, peas, zucchini, broccoli, and Java moss. However, if the owner wants to take a more natural approach, crayfish will eat any small fish that are added to the tank.

But crawfish don't need that much protein, so a diet with commercial pellets as the main source of nutrition is more than adequate.

Crayfish Predators and Threats

Juvenile crayfish become prey for members of their species and certain fish, while adults are eaten by otters, larger fish, raccoons, great blue herons, and minks.

The biggest threat to crayfish is overfishing by humans for commercial purposes. While most countries have limits on how many people can catch or how big they need to be, poachers don't care because many fishing locations are not patrolled by authorities.

In addition, crayfish are also susceptible to a few infectious diseases such as crayfish plague. Acid rain can also cause problems. Whole ecosystems of Canadian lakes plagued by acid rain have seen catastrophic declines in crayfish populations as it weakens their exoskeletons, researchers have found.

Crayfish Breeding, Babies, and Lifespan

Male crayfish court females through a series of specific movements. First, they clamp their claws and turn the female over. They'll then place the sperm cells into a protective container in the female's abdomen. Their mating rituals can last from a few minutes to over an hour.

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The number of eggs a female can lay depends on their size. For example, larger females lay more eggs, which mature faster. Female crayfish carry the eggs until they hatch, which usually takes 3 to 8 weeks, depending on species and temperature. As in many other species, males are not involved in parenting.


When hatchlings emerge, they are duplicates of their parents, but much smaller. Surprisingly, some species of crayfish larvae are initially unable to survive without a mother. So instead, they use special hooks on the tips of their legs to attach themselves to their mother's gastropod setae, where they stay for weeks.

Female crayfish aren't all that maternal either. In fact, they must secrete a pheromone, called a maternal pheromone, that encourages them to care for their offspring and prevents them from eating their young. However, these pheromones wear off eventually, and if the pups are still with their mother, she won't waste time cooking them a meal.


Crayfish mature relatively quickly, reaching adulthood in 3 to 4 months. Additionally, they can live anywhere from 3 to 8 years, depending on the species.

crayfish population

Most crayfish species in the world are endangered. For example, in the United States, 1 in 5 crayfish species (1/3 of the world's crayfish species) is almost extinct.

Different Uses for Crayfish

Humans have 3 different uses for crayfish, they include:


Cultures around the world eat crayfish. But, like other edible crustaceans, people can only eat a small part of their bodies. As a result, many recipes require only the tail, such as bisques, soups, and étouffées.

Dishes such as crayfish boil are presented with the whole body of the crayfish, but people usually only eat the meat of the crayfish. One culture that does not eat crustaceans, however, is Jewish, since crayfish are not aquatic and lack fins and scales, meaning they are not kosher.


Humans are not the only species that enjoy crayfish meat; they are also preyed upon by ray-finned fish and are often used as bait to catch these prized fish. Therefore, anglers can use crayfish as live bait, or they can only take part of the tail meat.

Other fish that respond well to crawfish baits are:

  • catfish
  • largemouth bass
  • smallmouth bass
  • sea bass
  • to perch
  • Parker
  • Muskie

To ensure that the crayfish remain active as live bait, fishermen hook them between the eyes and pierce their hard, pointed beaks, apparently without harming them.


In some parts of the world, these crustaceans are kept as pets, and pet crayfish come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. Some crayfish are small, alert, and shy, while others are curious, robust, and sometimes destructive.

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Crayfish are actually great pets for children or novice owners because they are relatively easy to care for and don't require a lot of space to thrive. Plus, they're fun to watch while they're active.

Where to Buy Pet Crayfish

There are several ways to legally obtain pet crayfish. For starters, many exotic pet stores carry them, and they often have several different breeds to choose from. Also, many restaurants have live crayfish in their tanks. Of course, you can always ask the waiter if you can buy a live one to take home.

The most obvious way to get crayfish is by catching them from a stream, river or creek. However, make sure there are no restrictions in your area that prohibit the capture of crayfish.

However, no matter where you take them, they need time to adjust to their new surroundings before they can calm down and feel comfortable.

Never bring home sick crawfish; always make sure they are healthy before buying. If crayfish are not moving around or seem lethargic, they may have a disease that can reduce their quality of life or even kill them. If in doubt, consult your local aquatic veterinarian for peace of mind.

How much does a pet crayfish cost?

Compared to other pets such as hamsters, dogs or cats, it is actually more affordable to buy pet crayfish. First, the cost of setting up an aquarium is between $30 and $200. Well, crayfish can cost between $6.25 and $149.95, depending on where and what they are.

You might think it's expensive to feed them, but commercial food costs about $5-$10 a month. Plus, owners rarely need to take their crayfish to the veterinarian, saving them a small fortune. In the end, they don't need toys, but it's up to the owner if they want to pamper them with extra stimulation.

Are crayfish an invasive species?

In Europe, China and Louisiana, crayfish are considered an invasive species. Unfortunately, they can easily destroy local rice crops.

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No, lobsters are a different species.

Cultures around the world eat crayfish. But, like other edible crustaceans, people can only eat a small part of their bodies. As a result, many recipes require only the tail, such as bisques, soups, and étouffées.

The taste of crayfish meat is similar to a combination of lobster, crab and shrimp, less salty and more sweet.