How To Take Care Of Pet Crayfish? [Beginner’s Guide]

If any beginner wants to handle a hardy and entertaining pet in an aquarium, crayfish must be an excellent option. As crayfish can interact with its owner, people have become keen to bring these crayfish home. But, bringing this crustacean as a pet comes with the question of how to take care of pet crayfish?

If you’re a beginner, you should know about their complete care guide. In this article, I’ve covered the habitat setup, feeding guide, handling, reproduction care, molting care, and other related queries about crayfish.

So, I shall urge you to go through the details of this article if you want a detailed care guide for crayfish.

Do Crayfish Make Good Pets?

If you look for an interesting pet, crayfish will remain among one of the top listed pets. You will find an active pet with short requirements by keeping crayfish as pets.

Crayfish are one of the easiest pets to keep alive. These pets do not require much stuff to thrive happily. So, crayfish do surely make good pets.

Although you can’t handle them much, you can enjoy observing these fish outside the aquarium. Crayfish enjoy human companionship as well. So, you can also play and interact with your crayfish.

Overview Of Crayfish

Before going into the detailed care guide, let’s go through a short overview of crayfish, in the very beginning.

Scientific NameCambarus sp.
Common NameCrayfish, Crawfish, or Crawdad
Size7.5 cm (3 inches)
Weight0.18-83.43 g
Optimal Temperature65-77 degrees Fahrenheit
Optimal Humidity70-100%
Social NatureSocial but territorial
Lifespan2-3 years

Are Crayfish Hard To Keep?

Crayfish are easy to care for any beginners or experienced owners. These are known as extremely hardy pets.

These crayfish do not require much space to thrive. Besides, the requirements are also pretty minimal.

You only need to maintain the ideal water parameters to keep your crayfish happy. Also, you need to take much hassle about their foods as these crayfish are omnivores.

What Do You Need For A Crayfish?

It’ll be easier to set up the habitation of your pet crayfish when you have all the required supplies together. For your convenience, I’ve made a small list of basic supplies that you will need for your crayfish.

So, let’s check out the following list before going out shopping.

  1. A tank
  2. Aquarium sand
  3. Air bubbler
  4. Freshwater
  5. Water testing kits
  6. Plants
  7. Rocks
  8. Décor items
  9. Crayfish hideouts like PVC pipes, gerbil tubes, etc.
  10. Crayfish food pallet
  11. Tank lid
  12. Aquarium filter
  13. Ceramic filter media
  14. Aquarium heater
  15. Lightings

How Do You Keep A Crayfish In A Tank?

Before buying a crayfish of your favorite species, you should prepare its habitation. Another thing to remember is that these crayfish are freshwater crustaceans. So, you need to make a freshwater aquarium.

Let’s see how you should keep a crayfish in a tank.


Firstly, you should select an aquarium of the right size. The correct size depends on the species, age, size, and the number of crayfish to keep as pets.

Make sure to add all the basic stuff in the aquarium. Also, install the devices safely so that these won’t risk the lives of your crayfish.

After completing the entire setup, you should clean the tank with hydrogen peroxide. This process will drive away the risks of having any toxic residues that may be fatal for your pet crayfish.

Also, make sure that there remains no hole or leak in the tank. However, some owners tend to paint the backside of the crayfish tank.

For more details, you can check out this write-up: crayfish tank setup guide for beginners with 12 easy steps.

How Big Of A Tank Does A Crayfish Need?

Crayfish are generally active pets. These crustaceans also require hiding spots in their tank. So, you should provide enough space to hide and play around in a tank.

The ideal capacity is 10 gallons for keeping one crayfish in a tank. Generally, the experts recommend having an aquarium of 10-15 gallon capacity for a crayfish.

As you may add plants, décors, and other devices to the tank, you should provide such a big space for your crayfish. Moreover, you can keep around 10-12 crayfish in a 10-gallon tank for the short term.

But, in long term, you must keep only 1 crayfish in a 10-gallon tank. In the same way, you can keep 2 crayfish in a 20-gallon tank. However, you should not keep any crayfish in a 5-gallon tank. It’ll be a congested habitat for your pet.

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What Is A Good Tank For A Crayfish?

There are several options left for choosing a perfect aquarium for pet crayfish. Before buying a tank for your crayfish, you should consider a few factors.

You might be aware that there are different types of crayfish species of different sizes. So, the selection of a good tank will be based on the species of your pet crayfish.

If you pick dwarf crayfish as pets, you can keep two of them in a 5-gallon tank. Since the size of dwarf crayfish species reaches up to only 2.5 cm, these species do not require much space.

On the other hand, when you have bigger species like marbled crayfish, you should buy at least a 20-gallon tank. In addition, you should provide a bigger room if you want to add other fish.

How Many Dwarf Crayfish Can You Have In A 10 Gallon Tank?

Since dwarf crayfish don’t grow much, you can readily keep 2-3 dwarf crayfish in a 10-gallon tank. This space can be sufficient to keep 2-3 dwarf crayfish, plants, décor, and other additional stuff altogether.

However, keep an eye on the crayfish to check if they are fighting. Crayfish are very aggressive towards each other and in a limited space, they can fight to death for establishing their territory.

What Do You Put In A Crayfish Tank?

An aquatic habitation setup doesn’t only mean adding the water and the pets. You need to add other required items and devices to make the aquarium living-worthy. But, you should not overstock the tank.

Let’s see what things you should put in your crayfish tank.

1. Substrate

You might know about the specialty of burrowing habit of crayfish. In the wild, crayfish tend to dig out the mud or soil of their habitat. To match their natural habitation, you should keep such substrate that helps your pet crayfish dig or burrow.

However, you might have seen sand holding the red flag as the substrate for other pets. But, in the case of crayfish, the best option for substrate will be sand. Otherwise, you can use soil or gravel.

These substrates are not too sturdy for your crayfish to dig deep down. Make sure that the depth of the substrate should be a minimum of 7-10 cm.

Although some owners think of keeping crayfish in a bare bottom tank, it isn’t suitable for such burrower pets. Click here to know more about substrate options for crayfish.

2. Plants

The specialty of a freshwater aquarium is having lots of plants. Crayfish love to have their snacks over the leaves. Also, you may notice your pets eating tender plants. These crustaceans enjoy eating java plants too.

But, an overly planted tank may hinder your crayfish from burrowing comfortably. So, you have to keep plants in balanced way. You should choose plants that are easy to maintain.

Besides, your crayfish may nip out or eat the live plants. In addition, if you plant delicate plants, these pets may uproot the plants.

3. Décor

To increase the naturalistic vibe and aesthetics, you can add various décor items to your crayfish tank. These crustaceans love to hide a lot. Moreover, you can enjoy their accompany by playing with them. For this, you need to create a stimulating environment to help your crayfish play with you.

In addition, when your crayfish start molting, they require several hiding places like caves, pipes, and tubes. Besides, these décor items provide them spaces to rest.

Crayfish use these décor items as their breeding spots as well. These décors help your crayfish hide when they feel stressed.

Hence, you can use PVC pipes, gerbil tubes, driftwoods, artificial caves, rocks, coconut shells, overturned pots, etc. Make sure that the décor items do not have any sharp edges.

4. Lighting: Do Crayfish Need Light?

Crayfish do not have any special lighting requirements. You can use an average lighting system like LED. Naturally, these crayfish prefer a dark environment.

5. Air Pump: Does crayfish need an air pump?

Keeping an air pump is absolutely an optional step in the crayfish habitat setup. The necessity of an aeration system depends on the water level and oxygen quantity dissolved in the water.

Although your crayfish do not necessarily need an air pump, you should keep it to help your crayfish thrive well.

If you want to fill the tank with water to the top, you should adjust an air pump. It helps dissolve more oxygen through surface agitation.

Since crayfish tend to stay at the bottom of the tank, the deeper tank may not supply sufficient oxygen. Hence, an air stone creates air bubbles with the help of an air pump. These bubbles cause surface agitation which helps oxygen dissolve into the water.

If the water level is low, the filter of the tank may draw the entire water. Also, you can keep the water level a few inches lower than the surface. In that case, crayfish can come up to the tank surface to breathe when the dissolved oxygen gets lower in amount.

Do Crayfish Need Air?

If you want to keep your crayfish healthy, they require a minimum of 2 parts per million dissolved oxygen in the tank water. Usually, crayfish do not need air.

These crustaceans come up to the surface for air when they lack oxygen in the tank. The gills of crayfish are so specialized that these crustaceans can breathe oxygen from the air.

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6. Heater: Do Crayfish Need A Heater?

As crayfish are hardy pets, these pets can smoothly adjust to any temperature. But, these crustaceans become less active in cold temperatures.

Generally, crayfish do not require a heater. If your room temperature fluctuates a lot, keeping a heater will help your crayfish thrive well.

However, the necessity of a heater depends on the heat requirement of the species of your crayfish. In case of adjusting a heater, you should use thermostat heaters to set the ideal temperature. These crayfish enjoy being in the temperature of 18-25 degrees Celsius (64-77 degrees Fahrenheit).

Do Crayfish Like Warm Or Cold Water?

It depends on the crayfish species and the tropics of crayfish where they live. Some of them prefer warm water, while some crayfish prefer cold water.

If you talk about the preference of the species of United States continental, these crayfish will like to live in cold water. These crustaceans do not prefer to live in warm water.

On the other hand, crayfish from tropical areas tend to live in the water at higher temperatures. Such species of crayfish are blue crayfish, white river crayfish, Australian red claw crayfish, Tasmanian giant freshwater crayfish, etc.

7. Filter

Since crayfish are good scavengers, these crustaceans clean up the aquarium. For this reason, crayfish do not require a strong filtration system.

But, you should install a filter to keep the water parameters right by avoiding the buildup of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, etc. 

As crayfish and other tank mates continuously produce waste, a good filtration system is essential. If you do not adjust any filtration system, you should change 50% water every two weeks. Go through this article if you want to know more.

8. Tank Lid

Generally, aquatic frogs or several fish try to jump out of the water when the water quality is poor. But, this may not be the case when your crayfish tries to escape.

These crayfish are natural escape artists that tend to escape from the tank without any reason. For this reason, you must fix a well-fitted tank lid in your crayfish tank.

You can also go through this article to know the reasons for their escaping.

Water Quality Of A Crayfish Tank

In the wild, almost all crayfish tend to live in freshwater. Only a few species of them live in saltwater.

When you keep crayfish as pets, you should be careful about the water quality. You should use chemical-free, fresh water. For this, well-conditioned tap water can be used.

Make sure that there remains no presence of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. The ideal water pH for crayfish is between 6.5-7.5. Moreover, you should keep the water temperature to 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moreover, you should keep the water hardness within 140-210 KH. The dGH of water should be within 8-12. After all, these crustaceans can thrive well in hard water.

How Much Water Should Be In A Crayfish Tank?

It’s pretty obvious to fulfill the crayfish tank entirely with water. But, you should remain careful about not exceeding the water depth of 6 inches. If the water level is too deep, there may remain lackings of proper oxygenation.

Can Crayfish Survive In Tap Water?

You can use the tap water for your crayfish by making them conditioned. All you need to ensure is keeping the water parameters constant.

In the case of tap water, there remains the risk of having the presence of metal when the pipe is too old.

Besides, tap water may contain chlorine, chloramine, ammonia, and so on. These chemicals are fatal to crayfish. Hence, you need to dechlorinate the tap water before leaving your crayfish in that water.

You can also use the reverse osmosis process. Otherwise, you can simply boil the tap water and let it cool down. Then, you can fulfill the crayfish tank with this conditioned water.

Do Crayfish Need Running Water?

If you look at the natural habitation of crayfish, you’ll find them in running water. So, these crayfish must prefer running water in captivity. Besides, rapidly moving or running water contains more dissolved oxygen than still water. As crayfish need lots of oxygen, they’ll thrive best in running water.

Feeding: What Do Pet Crayfish Eat?

There is no hassle of feeding crayfish in captivity as these crustaceans are omnivores. You can feed them decaying vegetation, water plants, planktons, rotten leaves, worms, snails, twigs, insects, small fish, larvae, amphibian tadpoles, shrimp, etc.

Since crayfish are effective scavengers, they usually eat organic matter, decomposing organisms, moss, algae, etc.

But, these aren’t sufficient to keep your crayfish fit and healthy. You should maintain a protein-rich diet. For this, you can include varieties of vegetables and greens.

Besides, you can offer them vegetables like lettuce, peas, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, java moss, etc. They enjoy fruits like bananas, apples, papaya, and others. Also, these crustaceans enjoy fish, raw chicken, fruits, table scrap, pallets, liver, leafy greens, and so on.

You can also provide your crayfish with something to hunt. However, some owners stick to feeding commercial food pallets. If you don’t want to give much effort, you can choose to feed algae wafers, fish food, sinkable pallets, etc.

Make sure not to overfeed your pet crayfish. If you do, its exoskeleton will become soft and weak. Check out this article to know more about the crayfish diet.

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How Often Should I Feed My Crayfish?

As crayfish are scavengers, these pets tend to eat all day long. So, you need not provide them with a heavy meal.

In the case of juvenile and young crayfish, you should feed them once a day. If your crayfish is an adult, you should feed them every other day.

The size of the food should be three-quarters of an inch wide. Make sure to introduce various types of food into their diet.

Handling: Can I Hold My Pet Crayfish?

Handling crayfish is a bit tough as they have claws. But, you can hold your pet crayfish following proper cautions.

The very first thing to remember is not to pick your crayfish from their front or tail. Firstly, observe these pets closely. Then, you can gently grab them behind their pincers.

Hold them over their body shell. Also, make sure to keep your crayfish moist when you pick them up.

These crayfish may try to pinch you with their pincers. Although these pincers are not fatal, you may get hurt by these pincers. However, it’s all about the practice to learn to handle crayfish without getting pinched.

What Is The Difference Between Crayfish and Crawfish?

Tank Mates For Crayfish

Because of being freshwater crustaceans, it’ll be better not to add various fish or other tank mates. Sometimes, you can see them fighting among their species to death.

Although you can keep certain compatible tank mates, the aggressive temperament of crayfish encourages keeping them alone. So, the experienced owners suggest keeping only one crayfish in a single tank for the beginners.

Besides, you might know that crayfish are bottom feeders. So, you should not pick those fish that tend to stay at the bottom.

In addition, you must rule out the slow-moving fish from the list of their tank mates. Besides, you should not pick fish with fancy tails and fins.

I’ve made a small list of compatible tank mates for crayfish. If you want to bring any tank mates for your crayfish, you can have a look at the following list. These are-

  • Hatchetfish
  • Rasboras
  • Tiger barbs
  • Tinfoil barb
  • Zebra danios
  • Rosy red minnows
  • White cloud mountain minnows
  • Furchata rainbowfish
  • Giant danios
  • Neon tetras
  • Golden panchax
  • Wrestling halfbeak
  • African butterflyfish
  • Brown pencil fish
  • Golden wonder killifish
  • Red tail shark

These fish may work better as the tank mates of crayfish. Their fast-moving trait can save them from the threat of crayfish claws.

If you want to know more, you should check this write-up: what are the suitable tank mates for crayfish?

Molting Care Of Crayfish

Molting is a healthy sign of the growth of crustaceans. But, this is an extremely stressful phase in their life. In captivity,  you should ensure that your pet crayfish receive the essential care and proper environment during molting.

When your crayfish is ready to molt, you may notice its behavioral changes. It’ll become less active.

Also, these crustaceans tend to hide more often than usual time. You might not see your crayfish coming out of their hideout in such a period. Check this article to know about how often crayfish molt.

Let’s see how you can help your crayfish during their molting phase.

  • To keep the molting stage smooth, you should remain concerned about the water parameters at first. The GH of the water has to be within 4-10 ppm. Also, the KH should be 3-10 ppm.

If the water contents do not remain suitable, the exoskeleton of crayfish may not form well. Moreover, their shell may break easily because of being fragile due to the wrong water hardness range.

  • These crustaceans become pretty weak and vulnerable in the molting phase. To help them, you must ensure to keep lots of hiding spots in their tank. Otherwise, their tank mates may hurt them during the molting process.
  • You should wait to see your crayfish get out of their old shell on their own. It may take a few hours to several days. Some of them may die if they can’t free themselves from their old shells entirely.
  • Besides, you can add potassium iodine in the tank to prevent iodine deficiency of crayfish during molting.  
  • You can leave the old shell letting your crayfish consume it.

Breeding Care: How Do You Take Care Of A Pregnant Crayfish?

You need not wait for any specific season to breed crayfish because they can breed at any time. But, you have to remain patient as sexing crayfish isn’t easy. The increasing amount of food and proper water parameters can influence crayfish to mate.

Generally, the male crayfish release their sperm on the female crayfish. Then, the females pass their eggs to get fertilized. Depending on the water quality and food quality, the female crayfish carry the eggs under her tail. After spawning, it can take around 24 hours for the eggs to become fertilized.

One of the most significant conditions is to keep the water temperature above 73 degrees Fahrenheit for breeding. The hatching procedures of eggs depend highly on the temperature of the water and its consistency. 

Baby Crayfish Care Infographic

baby crayfish care infographic

Want to get a printable version of this infographic? Click here! [If you want to use this infographic on your website, please link back to this post as the source!]

Final Words

If you take proper care of crayfish, these crustaceans can accompany you for 2-3 years. I hope this article helped you get a proper idea about taking care of crayfish in captivity.

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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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