Crayfish Tank Set-Up Guide For Beginners [12 Easy Steps]

If you want an eye-catchy colored interesting and hardy pet, crayfish can be an excellent choice to keep as a pet. Besides, this smart pet is greatly aware of the environment, as the crayfish interact with occasional human accompaniment. So, this is highly significant to set up the crayfish tank properly with all required equipment in the proper way. 

In this article, I’ve shed some light on the shopping list of tank items, the process of tank setup, and other additional suggestions. So, if you’re a beginner, I’ll urge you to go through this article to get a detailed crayfish tank setup guide.

In the very beginning, let’s check out the shopping list of the required items that you’ll need to set up the crayfish tank.

Tank Items: What Do You Need For A Crayfish Tank?

Before going into the tank setup procedures, you should assemble all the required things first. Hence, I’ve made a small list that’ll help you buy the essential kinds of stuff at once. These are-

  1. Tank
  2. Crayfish hideouts
  3. Aquarium sand
  4. Aquarium heater
  5. Aquarium light
  6. Filter
  7. Air pump
  8. Ceramic filter media
  9. Plants
  10. Décor
  11. A skimming net
  12. Water testing kits
  13. Tank lid

How Can I Setup A Crayfish Tank?

Crayfish do not require a fancy tank setup. For this reason, the entire procedure of setting up a crayfish tank will not be much troublesome. Let’s jump on the steps.

Step 1: Choosing The Perfect Crayfish Tank

The very first step of setting up a crayfish tank is to select a crayfish tank of the right size. You need to choose the tank according to the size and number of your pet crayfish. A 5-gallon tank is the minimum required area for keeping an adult crayfish. 

If the crayfish is around 2-3 inches, the suitable tank size will be around 15-20 gallons. For the species of 4-5 inches crayfish, you should choose a tank of 30-gallon capacity.

But, this is ruled for keeping only a single crayfish. If you keep multiple crayfish, you must choose a larger tank.

For example- if you place one crayfish in a 10-gallon tank, you will have to keep two crayfish in a 20-gallon tank. Because of having aggressive temperament, these crayfish can’t thrive well in a small tank.

Crayfish Tank Pic Submitted By Scott Apple

What Size Tank Do Crayfish Need?

The ideal tank capacity for crayfish is 57-76 L or 15-20 US gallons. But, you can also keep a crayfish in such a tank having the capacity of around 5-10 gallons of water (19-38L).

In addition, you can click here to know more about how big should be a crayfish tank!

What Kind Of Tank Do You Need For A Crayfish?

You need a large tank for your crayfish. These crayfish produce a large amount of waste. So, you will need to provide a larger tank so that you need not change the water frequently.

Moreover, these aggressive creatures tend to fight when the space remains narrow. Hence, the best decision will be to choose a 15-20 gallon tank for your crayfish.

Can I Put A Crayfish In A 5 Gallon Tank?

You can keep a crayfish in a 5-gallon tank if you make frequent water changes. This is the least capacity extent of the ideal range.

However, keeping crayfish in a 5-gallon tank can be a temporary placement of your crayfish. But, you’ll need a larger tank for the long run. Dwarf crayfish will be the perfect choice to be kept in such a small tank.

Can Crayfish Live In A 20 Gallon Tank?

20 gallons is adequate for keeping one or two crayfish together. It’ll provide ample space to move comfortably. Maximum experts suggest not to keep crayfish in any smaller tank than 20 gallons.

Step 2: Adding Substrate

According to the experienced owners, sands can be an excellent choice for crayfish. Also, you can choose small gravel as a crayfish substrate.

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Make sure that the substrate is also deep enough to dig. So, you can keep the substrate 3-4” (7-10cm) deep. However, you must not make the substrate too deep as it’ll be hard to clean.

Also, you must keep in mind to prepare the substrate before adding it to the crayfish tank. You should clean and rinse the substrate well even if there is mention of pre-cleanness in the substrate bag.

As there remain huge amounts of detritus particles in the sand, you need to rinse the sand over and over. The sand substrate might make the tank water cloudy for some time.

But, it’ll eventually get settled at the bottom of the tank over time. Check out this article to get recommendations for the best substrate for crayfish.

Do Crayfish Need Substrate?

In the wild, you may find crayfish burrowed in the mud of nearby streams, ponds, ditches, etc.

Crayfishes are excellent burrowers who tend to dig the ground creating a cone-shaped mound. Such is because these mounds are their ready sources of oxygen underwater. That’s why your crayfish need substrate in captivity.

When you keep pet crayfish in captivity, you should create a tank to encourage their natural activities. Hence, you need to choose a substrate carefully that is perfect for digging.

In addition, the substrate should be finer so that crayfish can smoothly dig, sift, or rearrange the substrate.

Crayfish Tank Pic Submitted By Jenna Marder Grenier

Step 3: Adding Décor

Like any other setup, you need to add décor to the crayfish tank. Décor helps crayfish to hide when the crayfish start molting. Besides, those hideouts can be comfortable zones for crayfish, whenever they get stressed.

Also, these décors are protective homes for crayfish by letting them hide from any territorial battles. To improve the quality of their life, you should add varieties of decoration items to your crayfish tank. These décors will add naturalistic charm in captivity.

Several options for décors are rocks, driftwoods, hollow ornaments, PVC pipes, bottles, porous bricks, skulls, coconut shells, etc. However, you must not forget to clean and boil the décor items properly before adding them to the crayfish tank.

Do Crayfish Need A Hiding Spot?

Crayfish require hiding spots to improve their living conditions. Whenever these crustaceans feel stressed, they can hide in those hiding spots. Besides, they involve in fighting frequently.

Hiding spots help them reduce the number of fighting. Not to mention, hiding spots are a must to provide spaces for molting.

Step 4: Adding Plants

If you look at the natural habitat of crayfish, you’ll find crayfish living in plant dense areas. Moreover, these crayfish tend to consume aquatic plants too. The aquatic plants will provide not only oxygen but also aesthetic beauty.

But, the adult and larger crayfish tend to chop and uproot the plants. Further, they use these uprooted plants to escape the tank by riding over them. Hence, Any experts suggest using only artificial plants.

Despite having some disadvantages, you must add several live plants too. You can add Anubias, Java moss, Java fern, hornwort, Dwarf Sagittaria, Cabomba, Anacharis, Red tiger lotus, water lettuce, etc.

Step 5: Installing An Air Pump

Although crayfish have low demands for living, installing an air pump is an optional setup step. But, an air pump will provide additional comfort to your crayfish, as these crustaceans require a lot of oxygen.

If you set up an aeration system, it’ll pump out through air stone. As a result, more oxygen will get added to the tank water. There will be more surface agitation due to the produced air bubbles through the air stone. I’ll recommend buying a Tetra Whisper Air Pump for your crayfish tank.

Hence, oxygen will not fall short in your crayfish tank if you keep an air pump. Otherwise, if you do not want to add an air pump, you should set up the crayfish tank conveniently.

You must ensure that your crayfish can reach the water level when they do not have access to much oxygen.

However, you can keep a large stone in the middle of the tank. Your crayfish will reach up the surface level by climbing over the stone.

Do Dwarf Crayfish Need Air Pump?

Dwarf crayfish are known as hardy pets, because of their adaptation to the non-ideal tank. These crustaceans can survive well even if the oxygen level remains low. So, an air pump isn’t mandatory equipment for a dwarf crayfish tank.

Crayfish Tank Pic Submitted By Jenna Marder Grenier

How Much Oxygen Do Crayfish Need In The Tank?

Crayfish tend to absorb the dissolved oxygen from the water through their gills. So, these crayfish require a minimum of 2 ppm (parts per million) of dissolved oxygen in the water of their tank. When they lack oxygen, these crustaceans come up to the water surface for air.

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Do Crayfish Need An Air Bubbler?

An air bubbler isn’t a basic requirement for crayfish. But, an air bubbler produces beneficial bubbles that oxygenate the water. Since crayfish can’t thrive in the low-oxygen area, adding an air bubbler improves their living condition of them.

Step 6: Installing Heater

The experienced owners suggest adding a heater when the room temperature where the crayfish tank is kept fluctuates a lot. Although crayfish can tolerate slight temperature changes, these crustaceans need a constant temperature for breeding purposes.

In such a case, a thermostat heater can be a suitable option where the heater runs at a temperature falling from the ideal range. So, you can also use adjustable heaters.

Also, if you live in a country with a cold climate, you should install a heater in your crayfish tank. According to the experts’ reviews, I recommend Fluval E200 Heater to adjust with your pet’s tank.

Make sure that the selected heater is appropriate for your crayfish tank size. Besides, the heater should not overheat the tank. Otherwise, your crayfish will die. Check out this article to know about other reasons why crayfish die.

Do Crayfish Need A Heater?

You might know that crayfish are extremely sensitive to temperature changes. Hence, you need to keep an ideal range of temperature in your crayfish tank.

Crayfishes thrive well in temperatures of 64-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the room fails to keep the tank warm within the ideal temperature range, your pet crayfish will need a heater.

In addition, warmer water aids your crayfish to fasten their natural activities. Their metabolism, growth rate, and activeness will get higher at a higher temperature. Besides, crayfish require a constant temperature for their molting and breeding purpose.

Step 7: Adding Light

When you look at the natural habitation of crayfish, you’ll find them hiding under rocks or clump of vegetation. So, there is no special demand for lighting in a crayfish tank. Such is because your crayfish prefer dark tanks in captivity too.

Also, you must avoid bright lighting and minimize the natural sources of lighting. If you want to add light, you can go for blue LED lighting. You can also choose fluorescent light.

Step 8: Installing An Aquarium Filter

Since crayfish absorb the dissolved oxygen from water, the tank water should remain fresh. If the oxygen level gets low in the water, your crayfish won’t survive.

Moreover, after adding crayfish, the water bounds to get toxic with the presence of ammonia from the wastes. Hence, you must install an aquarium filter.

On the other hand, you can consider this installment as an optional task. If you don’t want to add a filter, you will have to change 20% of the tank water regularly.

If you’re confused about choosing the best filter, you should pay a visit to this article.

Step 9: Filling The Crayfish Tank With Water

After adjusting all devices, the next work is to fill the crayfish tank with water. As crayfish are aquatic living, their lifespan highly depends on the water quality.

In the wild, crayfish live in freshwater as well as muddy water nearby stream and ponds. But, the presence of human pollutants in water can kill your crayfish. Besides, the water where these crustaceans live remains a little bit acidic.

The ideal range of temperature should be within 65-77 degrees Fahrenheit in tank water. In addition, you should not fill the tank with water completely. Since crayfish tend to stay at the bottom of the tank, a deep level of water can’t contribute them sufficient oxygen.

So, make sure that the crayfish tank water should not be deeper than 6”. Otherwise, you need to adjust an aerator to oxygenate the water of your crayfish tank.

Can Crayfish Survive In Tap Water?

Tap water isn’t much safe for crayfish. Besides, these crustaceans are not able to tolerate chlorine and other metals. But, you can use tap water by conditioning it a bit.

 On the other hand, tap water may contain metals if the pipes are old. You should keep the tap water sitting for at least 24 hours before adding your crayfish. Make sure that there is no presence of chlorine, ammonia, nitrite, or other fluoride contents.

If you can drink the tap water that you want to use, your crayfish can also survive in that tap water. But, the experts suggest not to take the risk of adding tap water to the crayfish tank.

Step 8: Condition The Water

Despite using fresh water, there remain risks of having the presence of harmful chemicals. But, you must keep the water parameters ideal for your crayfish. The ideal range of water parameters in a crayfish tank is given below.

Water Parameter In Crayfish TankIdeal Range
Temperature64-77 degrees Fahrenheit (18-25 degrees Celsius)
pHAround 7
TDS100-300 ppm
KH3-8 ppm
GH4-10 ppm
Ammonia0-0.05 mg/L
NitriteLess than 0.6 ppm
Nitrate0 ppm

To keep the parameters right, you should use a water conditioner. Such conditioners remove lead, chlorine, chloramines, etc. This step will make the tank water safe for your newly bought crayfish.

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Step 9: Introducing Your Crayfish

The most exciting part of the setup process is introducing your crayfish to the new tank. But, you can’t simply throw this new guy into its tank. It may come as a shock to your crayfish.

In this introduction part, you need to acclimate the crayfish at first. For this, you should keep the small bag of crayfish that you’ve received from the market in the tank water for 20-30 minutes. In this way, the crayfish will get adjusted to the water temperature.

Then, you can add the tank water into the bag carrying crayfish in a small amount. After keeping around 30 minutes, you can slowly release your new pet into the water of the newly set up tank.

Step 10: Cycling The Crayfish Tank

After adding crayfish, it’s pretty normal to expect organic wastes to pollute the tank water. No wonder crayfish release ammonia through their excretion. On the other hand, this ammonia breaks down into nitrite which is lethal to crayfish.

Maintaining ammonia and nitrite level must be a difficult task for every beginner. The tolerable level of ammonia and nitrite has to be 0-0.6 ppm. Hence, you need to cycle the crayfish tank so that the harmful products can get neutralized.

The experts tend to add more ammonia to reduce the ammonia level. Such is because the excessive amount of ammonia forms nitrate instead of nitrite.

After 24 hours, you need to check whether the ammonia level gets reduced from the amount used in the first place. When the ammonia level gets to zero, the cycling is completed. This cycle is also popular as the nitrogen cycle.

Do You Need To Cycle A Tank For Crayfish?

You must cycle your crayfish tank to help your crayfish live longer. It is one of the most crucial processes of setting up a crayfish tank.

Also, this process will make the tank habitable by processing the organic wastes. If you do not cycle the tank for your crayfish, you must change 20-40% water in a week.

Step 11: Adding Tank mates Of Crayfish 

Because of being social creatures, you can add tank mates of crayfish. But, these crayfish can show aggression and stress under several conditions.

There are several examples of fighting between two crayfish over death. Due to their aggressive temperament, you need to research a bit to find out the compatible tank mates for your crayfish.

While choosing tank mates for crayfish, you should avoid the bottom feeders, slow-moving fish, and fish with fancy tails and fins. On the other hand, your crayfish may become prey to large and aggressive fish. Hence, you need to choose tank mates carefully.

Go through this article to know more about suitable crayfish tank mates.

What Fish Can Live With Crayfish?

While choosing fish as tank mates, you should pick the fast-moving fish. Also, make sure that the fish remains at the top of the tank.

I’ve found some compatible fish that can live peacefully with crayfish. These are-

  • Tetras
  • barbs
  • mollies
  • platies
  • danios
  • red tail shark
  • rasboras
  • silver hatchet fish
  • rainbow sharks
  • furcata rainbow fish
  • small catfish
  • swordtail
  • rosy red minnows
  • white cloud minnow
  • rainbow darters
  • African butterfly fish
  • sparkling gourami etc.

Can Guppies Live With Crayfish?

Guppies are generally slow-moving fish with large tails and fins. Thus, crayfish tend to attack slow-moving fish like guppies when it cohabits with them. So, you can’t keep guppies with crayfish.

Moreover, these guppies breed faster than other fish. They can give birth to 20-50 babies each time. Also, you’ll have to welcome their new members after every 30 days.

But, when you keep guppies as the tank mates of crayfish, you need to be prepared to lose maximum babies of guppies. Such is because your crayfish will devour the babies. Hence, the experienced owners do not recommend keeping guppies with crayfish.

Step 12: Keep The Crayfish tank Covered

You might be aware that crayfish are excellent escape artists. These crustaceans can climb air hoses, rocks, or any other things. In this way, they tend to get out of the tank. To prevent such incidents, you need to adjust a tight-fitting lid over the crayfish tank.

If you’re interested to know about their escape, you should go through this article: Why Is My Crayfish Trying To Escape?

Final Words

Keeping pet crayfish is a set of responsibilities that start by setting up a proper tank. I hope this article helped you with detailed information on the setup guide step by step. Follow the steps and create a comfortable home for your crayfish.

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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