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Keeping a Crawfish as a Pet

Updated on June 13, 2012

Basic Crawfish Care


There I was at my families crawfish boil with a three year old crying girl clinging to my leg. She could not stand by and watch all of those innocent crawfish become food. So, long story short, I became the proud owner of a lovely, red, creepy, crawfish.

I will be completely honest here: I didn’t expect the thing to live through the night. It’s now months later……

Since I was now responsible for well-being of this little guy, I figured we should name him. We decided on “Wilbur”, of course in reference to the runty pig Fern saved on Charlotte’s Web.

Sorry, I am rambling. My point is that I noticed there is not an abundance of information on keeping them as pets. I hope to compile all of the information a new crawfish owner would need.

* I am NOT an expert, this is simply the information I have gathered through trial-and-error or research*


Housing

Perhaps the most important thing you will need is a suitable house for your new pet.

Size: It is recommended that you have at least 10 gallons per one crawfish. Obviously, the bigger the better. Do not house more than one crawfish together unless you have a very large tank (50gal or larger). They are very territorial and will fight until death.

Substrate: Crawfish love to burrow and dig in substrate. When I first brought Wilbur home I have him in a bare bottom container, which he hated. He didn’t move, and would stay tucked against a rock all day and night. After adding aquarium gravel to his home he really perked up. He now rarely hides and is one of the most interesting pets I have ever owned. Gravel, pebbles, or sand would work fine. I would recommend at least two inches in depth so that it can burrow.

Unfiltered: If you are unable to acquire a filtered tank for your new buddy, they can live in an unfiltered system. The most important thing you will need to do if you are not using a filter is make sure that you have the water shallow enough for the crawfish to come to the surface for air, but deep enough so that the gills stay hydrated. What I did at when I first brought mine home was place large rocks in the tank so that he could climb them to the surface.

Also, they are not the cleanest aquatic creatures; you will need to change the water regularly if you don’t have a filter.

Filtered: A filtered tank is the ideal set-up for a crawfish. It will help you reduce the amount of tank cleanings you have to do and oxygenate the water for you. If you have a filtered tank it is not necessary to keep the water level low; you can fill it to the top!

Regardless of what type of system you use, make sure that you have a secure lid. I mean no cracks or crevices. These guys are escape artists and can travel some distance before drying up. Many people report losing their pet because he found a way out of his tank.

Shelter: Your crawfish is going to need plenty of hiding places. They mostly stay hidden during the day and are active at night. I have used the following: PVC piping, baby food jars, empty baby bottles, and homemade Lego houses. The decorations you can find at local pet shops would work great also.

Tank mates: Crawfish are best housed ALONE! As mentioned above, they will fight with each other, so two crawfish (unless in a very large tank) are out of the question. Also, they will eat smaller fish, and bigger fish will eat them during their vulnerable molting stage. Turtles will eat them also, and the crawfish will consume other aquatic life such as frogs, snails, and anything else it can catch. Some people have has success keeping small, fast moving fish with their crawfish. If you want to chance it feel free, but don’t become alarmed when your fish are gone.

I was one of the individuals who decided to test this theory. I purchased very cheap feeder goldfish and added them to the tank. Within two days, three of the six were completely gone. Two of the remaining were injured. I understand that goldfish are not fast moving fish, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that would likely be eaten.

* There are some people who are so adamant to house their crawfish with fish that they remove either part of, or the entire, front pincers. I didn’t have the heart to look Wilbur in the eye and do this, but many people suggest it.

Live Plants: Just as the crawfish will eat tank mates, it will also devour plants. If you want to add plants to your pet’s tank, use fake plants.

Feeding:

Luckily, they are not picky eaters. They are scavengers by nature, and will happily eat anything you offer. I feed mine sinking goldfish pellets, floating tetra flakes, left over vegetables, and any fish from the community tank that die. You could also feed them live feeder fish or earthworms. They can eat an entire fish very fast. I can place a dead one in the tank, go to the restroom, and when I come back it is gone. Really, trust me, they are not picky.

Molting:

Crawfish need to molt when they outgrow their shell. If you wake up one morning and see what appears to be a dead crawfish in the tank, inspect closer. It is likely just his old shell. After molting a crawfish will remain soft for a few days, and will want to hide. This is the time that tank mates can take advantage and get their revenge. If you are keeping your crawfish with fish you will need to quarantine it until the new shell hardens. How often your crawfish will molt is determined by a number of things including diet, habitat, and temperature.

Sometimes molting goes wrong, and the crawfish dies as a result. There is little that can be done to combat this issue, and unfortunately there is no way to know beforehand if something will go wrong.

So, why have one:

After reading all of that you may be wondering why anyone would keep a crawfish as a pet. Yes, they have to be housed alone, and can be a pain at times, but I would not give mine up for anything! As stated above he really is the most interesting pet I have owned. Each crawfish has a different personality, and they are fascinating to watch. Also, and this is just my opinion, they seem like hardy creatures. Mine was shipped from Louisiana to Missouri, tossed in a cooler with hundreds of other crawfish, salted, and sprayed with freezing cold water before we rescued him. He survived all of that and much more and is still happily investigating his tank.

I am sure that new crawfish owners will have many unanswered questions, such as sexing and breeding crawfish, diseases and illnesses of crawfish, and more. There is a great resource site that I found at this site.

Comments

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      nikki 23 months ago

      My car ran hot we was on my way to my sister's some how when we stopped at the spring for water we happen to get a baby crawfish did know it until a ways down the road so I didn't want it to die it wasn't it's fault so now we have a pet crawfish and as for u Linda how can u be so judging I'm sure u have had some sort of pet in your life or do you not like any kind of pets at all ?

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      EDG 2 years ago

      Just put them in a tank with a turtle and forget them.

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      Charles 2 years ago

      I have a craw fish everyday I come home he watches me go inside what I thank is cool is I get to pet it without it pinching me its name is Thomas Norman and I have another one named Noah Norman they are cool you should get a CRAWFISH

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      linda 2 years ago

      This is so sad! These crawfish belong in their natural habitat, not some tiny enclosed tank!

      All animals deserve freedom! This is cruel for your pleasure. Not a good example of how to treat animals for your kids...

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      emily 3 years ago

      I have a pet crayfish and I've had him for a while. Recently he has stopped coming out into the open. Well I saw him and it looks like he shrunk! he used to be really big and now he looks like the day when we first bought him, is this possible?

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      chieko 4 years ago

      I've had very good luck keeping 4 crawfish together. They share rocks and kind of generally "hang out". They don't fight. They came from a crowded crate and I did consume their brothers. I feel that since they were farmed, not wild, they lived in more crowded conditions and therefore are used to living in close proximity to a lot of other crawfish. I didn't expect them all to make it. Surprise! These I chose were all the same size and had the same claw size. I've had crawfish before that were "rescues". One shared a tank with a turtle for ages!