How Do Crayfish Breathe? [In & Out of Water]

Crayfish are interesting pets that have unique respiratory systems. It’s pretty assuring that crayfish breathe oxygen. All living beings breathe in either water or air. So, you might wonder- how do crayfish breathe?

Like all other aquatic living, crayfish breathe through their gills. These crustaceans draw oxygen from not only water but also air. The gills of crayfish are designed to absorb dissolved oxygen from the water. But, their moist gills can extract oxygen from the air too.

You might wonder how the crayfish gills work, the duration of surviving on land, and so on. In this article, I’ve elaborately discussed all information regarding crayfish breathing.

So, let’s get started!

Do Crayfish Breathe Oxygen?

Crayfish breathe oxygen. These crustaceans use their gills to absorb oxygen. Although gills are used for pulling oxygen only from water, the gills of crayfish can breathe oxygen from the air. But, it is possible as long as the gills remain moist.

Do Crayfish Use Gills To Breathe?

All livings require either gills or lungs to breathe oxygen. If any living doesn’t have any of these respiratory organs, it’ll absorb oxygen through gas exchange.

Like all adult crustaceans, the respiratory organs of crayfish are gills that they use to breathe oxygen. Crayfish have 10 pairs of gills placed at the base of each leg.

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Their gills are adapted in such a way that they can breathe in and out of the water. Although gills are specialized to breathe only in water, they use their gills differently while breathing from the air.

How Do Crayfish Breathe In Water?

There’s a misunderstanding among people that crayfish hold their breath underwater. But, this is not the case. Since the aquatic environment is their home, they can breathe underwater.

Crayfish can breathe in water with the help of gills. Gills are paired and fuzzy extensions of these crustaceans, which play multiple roles. When water passes over the crayfish, gills work as respiratory organs.

These gills tend to extract the dissolved oxygen from the water. Also, the blood of crayfish remains in close contact with the surface of gills for easy diffusion.

After extracting the dissolved oxygen, the gills pass the oxygen into the bloodstream of the crayfish. Similarly, gills pass out carbon dioxide from the blood of crayfish.

How Do Crayfish Breathe On Land?

You might have seen crayfish crawl around the sea or lake area on the land. Now, the question arises of how crayfish breathe on land, whereas their respiratory organs are gills.

These crayfish use gills differently to breathe when they are on land. All these crustaceans need to do is keep their gills moist. For this, the area of the land has to be humid too.

The crayfish absorb the oxygen from the air and diffuse the oxygen into the moisture of the gills. This process of diffusing oxygen continues until the gills dry out. Besides, you might not know that crayfish store water in the gill chamber that keeps the gills moist.

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As a result, crayfish can perfectly adapt to land. But, the condition of retaining moisture is a must. Hence, crayfish breathe on land where the air has lots of moisture. Otherwise, the soil should be damp.

Can Crayfish Breathe Out Of Water?

Generally, crayfish tend to be aquatic or semi-aquatic. But, these crayfish can breathe out of water. These crustaceans can breathe oxygen out of the water as long as their gills remain moist.

Do Crayfish Have To Come Up For Air?

Although crayfish can breathe oxygen from the air, these crustaceans do not necessarily come up for air.

If there is a lacking of oxygen in the water, the crayfish will require to come up for air.

In several cases, all oxygen may get depleted in the water of the tank. Crayfish need something to climb out of the water in such cases. Otherwise, these crustaceans will drown due to a lack of oxygen in the stagnant water.

How Long Can A Crayfish Live Out Of Water?

It depends on the humidity level of the environment. When crayfish live out of the water, these crustaceans breathe oxygen from the air.

On the other hand, the gills of crayfish should remain moist to breathe oxygen from the air. So, crayfish can live out of the water as long as their gills remain moist. Generally, crayfish can stay 5-7 days out of water.

If the environment is humid, these crayfish can live on land for up to several months. Sometimes, these crustaceans tend to make their gills wet by dipping into the water. Afterward, they come back to the shore again.

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For details, you can go through this article (how long can crayfish life out of water).

Final Words

I hope this article fulfilled your curiosity about the crayfish respiration system. In short, these amazing crustaceans can breathe in and out of water.

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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