What Do Crayfish Eat? [The Most Comprehensive Guide]

What Do Crayfish Eat

Diet is one of the most important factors for keeping a crayfish. In order to keep the crayfish happy, you’ll need to know what it eats. There are lots of information on the Internet about diet of a crayfish. None of them is wrong, but I wanted to write something that is very comprehensive and you’ll know almost everything there is to know about crayfish feeding.

In the wild, crayfish mainly eats decaying vegetables as well as animal matters. They can also hunt small fishes. In captivity, crayfish can eat commercial fish foods, vegetables, aquatic plants, live food, insects, worms, etc.

As crayfishes are omnivorous like us, they are not picky about foods. You can practically feed them anything you want to. Also, crayfishes are scavengers. They’ll look for food and live on decaying organic matters.

In the rest of the article, I’ve discussed in detail each type of the food you can feed to your crayfish, how much and how often to feed, etc.

Without further ado, let’s get started with what crayfishes eat in their natural habitat.

How Do Crayfish Eat Food?

The eating process of crayfish is not what we are used to see. It can strike you as odd! Crayfishes mainly use their claws to catch food. Along with the claws, they also use the first 2 walking leg pairs to bring the food near the mouth and eat.

The walking leg pairs have pincers at the end. These pincers are great for catching food as well as hunting other aquatic animals.

It is rare to see a crayfish eating. They are nocturnal & very skittish. So, they generally don’t come out of the hiding place until it is night & everything is calm.

What Do Crayfish Eat In The Wild?

In the wild, crayfishes generally live in shallow water bodies such as lakes, ponds, streams, etc. Their natural habitat surrounds lots of stones, woods, rotting leaves, etc.

Crayfishes like some flow in their habitat. The flow is important to keep their habitat clean. It cleans the water from all types of impurities & dirt. A good flow also ensures good oxygenated water.

In the wild, crayfish mainly lives on decaying things. As they are omnivorous, they can eat pretty much anything under the sun. Starting from leaves, plants to rotten dead fishes, everything is in their diet list!

It is not easy for them to catch live fish in the wild. As the fishes have enough places to swim around, the crayfish can’t keep up with the fish. However, that won’t happen in captivity. In captivity, crayfishes are known for their hunting nature and aggressive behavior!

Crayfishes are even cannibalistic. If there isn’t enough food support, they can even try to kill and eat each other.

What Do Crayfish Eat In Captivity?

Well, the food options are endless for crayfish. From commercial foods to blanched vegetable, cooked prawns, crayfishes can eat anything. However, that doesn’t mean crayfishes don’t need a balanced diet.

In order to make the food options easier to understand, I have divided them into 8 categories. When feeding your crayfish, make sure the diet consists of at least 3-4 types. It is important to feed a variety of foods to your crayfish. This ensures it is getting enough nutrients to stay healthy & live longer.

Let’s talk about each of the food types:

1. Commercial Foods

Commercial foods are great for forming the base of the crayfish diet. As they contain almost all of the nutrients crayfish need, it is vital to get a high quality food from a reputed brand.

Here are some of my favorite commercial foods for crayfish:

API Bottom Feeder Shrimp Pellets

If you are in the aquarium hobby for some time, you must’ve heard about API. API is one of the most reputed brands in the aquarium industry. Though they are mostly famous for their amazing test kits, API foods are very high-quality too!

This API shrimp pellets will be great for crayfish. As these are sinking pellets, you don’t have to go through the trouble of making the pellets sink. They’ll sink to the bottom automatically.

Here’s why I prefer API foods:

  • Rich in naturally enhanced protein (good for bringing out bright coloration)
  • Easy to eat for the crayfish
  • Produces less waste as well as 30% less Ammonia than most other commercial foods
  • Doesn’t contain a lot of filler elements like most of the fish foods these days

Ingredients:

Whole menhaden fish mealWhole wheatPea ProteinFish oil
Shrimp mealWheat MiddlingDried Seaweed mealHydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicate
Squid MealDried grain yeastMenadione sodium bisulfite complex (Vitamin K)Inositol
Garlic powderCane molassesManganese amino acid chelateL-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (Vitamin C)
BHA/Citric acid/propyl gallate Copper amino acid chelateManganese oxidea-Tocopherol acetate (Vitamin E)
Vitamin D3 supplementCopper sulfateZinc oxideNicotinic acid
Copper amino acid chelateVitamin B12 supplementVitamin B1 supplementIron amino acid chelate
Calcium iodateFolic acidFerrous sulfateCalcium pantothenate
BiotinVitamin A acetate Zinc amino acid chelatePyridoxine hydrochloride

There are lots of other sinking pellets in the market. You can choose any one you want. Just make sure you do a thorough research before committing to any brand.

I like API Shrimp Pellets for my crayfish like many other crayfish keepers do. So, I’ll suggest it for your crayfish!

Hikari Algae Wafer

As I have said before, I like to spice up the diet of my crayfish. That’s why I don’t just offer them sinking pellets. I like to mix things up with a good quality algae wafer too!

Though crayfishes are omnivorous, they prefer to eat vegetable stuff more. An algae wafer is great for that!

There are lots of algae wafer in the market. Why I love the Hikari Algae Wafer?

  • Rich in vegetable matters
  • contains pure cultured spirulina which is extremely good for fishes
  • High in vitamin C
  • Doesn’t cloud the water

Ingredients

White fish mealdehydrated alfalfa mealdried seaweed mealastaxanthin
 krill mealwheat flourfish oilgarlic
spirulinawheat-germ mealdried bakery productmonosodium glutamate
enzymealpha starch brewer’s dried yeastvitamin C.

Of course you can use any other algae wafer, but I love the one from Hikari and that’s what I’ll recommend!

2. Vegetables

Vegetables are important to bring a change to your crayfish’s diet. Also, it is not recommended to always feed your crayfish commercial foods. Sometimes vegetables offer the nutrients a good commercial food can’t.

Also, giving vegetables to your crayfish is practically free as you don’t need to buy any extra. Just take a piece of vegetable from your fridge, boil it for 5-10 minutes until softened and offer it to the crayfish! It’s that simple!

Here are some good choices:

  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Peas
  • Lettuce, etc.

3. Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants can be a great option for long-lasting food. They’ll stay fresh and won’t deteriorate the water. You can buy them from any local fish store extremely cheap!

Just put the plants inside the substrate and your crayfish will enjoy them for a long time!

Some cheap aquatic plants:

  • Hornwort
  • Densa
  • Cabomba
  • Guppy grass
  • Moss
  • Micra, etc.

Remember to wash the plants well under running water before planting. These plants can carry snail eggs. So, you need to be careful!

Otherwise, soon you’ll see pond snails lurking around the crayfish tank (another food source for the crayfish!).

4. Frozen Foods

Frozen foods are extremely high in nutrition. They are wonderful treats for any aquatic animals. You can offer frozen foods to your crayfish once or twice a month. They’ll go crazy for it!

When looking for frozen foods, the choices are endless. However, try to buy one from a reputed brand. It will ensure good quality protein and other nutrients.

Frozen foods can be of different types such as frozen bloodworms, frozen mysis shrimps, etc. All are excellent food sources for crayfish.

If you want my recommendation, I’ll recommend JumboKrill Frozen Shrimp from Tetra. Tetra has always been one of the most reputed fish food brands in the world. This frozen food comes with the krill shells which acts as an excellent source of iodine.

5. Live Foods

Live foods are a good option when you are going on a vacation. They are a sustainable food source for the crayfish. I don’t like to give live foods regularly because they deteriorate the water quality badly.

If you want, you can give some once a month. Cheap goldfish or guppies can be good live foods for the crayfish. However, make sure the fish is healthy and doesn’t contain any parasite or sickness. Otherwise, your crayfish can get sick too!

6. Insects & Worms

Insects & worms are wonderful sources of protein for the crayfish. Once in a while you can definitely give some worms or insects. They’ll go crazy over it!

When giving insects, make sure you don’t give any that are dead from insecticides. Insecticides can even cause death to your crayfish. It is better to buy canned insect food from a reputed brand. You’ll be sure that the insects are 100% safe.

I’ll recommend Fluval Bug Bites for insects. It primarily contains Black Solider Fly Larvae (very rich in nutrient). Also contains essential minerals, vitamins, amino acids, etc.

For worms, you can give bloodworms to your crayfish. They are an excellent protein treat for any aquarium fish. You don’t need to feed bloodworms daily. Once or twice a month will be more than enough to keep your crayfish happy!

If you are looking for bloodworms, try the Freeze Dried Bloodworms from Omega One. It is made of authentic bloodworms and extremely rich in minerals as well as vitamins. Also, your crayfish will be safe from any parasite, bacteria or other pathogens.

7. Fruits

You can also offer fruits to your crayfish. But I won’t recommend to give fruits daily. Just once a month as a treat will be fine. Practically any fruits will be okay in a small amount.

Some good options can be:

  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Pears, etc.

8. Dead Fish

I don’t recommend giving dead fish to your crayfish as food. However, crayfishes are scavengers and they can eat dead fishes comfortably.

If you have other fish tank mates with your crayfish, you might often see one or two fish has disappeared. They were either killed by the crayfish or they were already dead and the crayfish took care of the dead body!

If you want, you can also offer boiled prawns, fishes, chickens, etc to your crayfish. They are very good protein source and bring change to the diet.

Comparison Of Different Foods In Terms Of Nutritional Value

In this section, I’ll try to compare different foods in terms of their nutritional value. Nutrition is very important for a crayfish to grow properly. That’s why it is important to know how much nutrition it is actually getting.

Food NameCrude Protein Crude FiberCrude FatMoistureAsh
API Shrimp PelletNot MentionedNot MentionedNot MentionedNot MentionedNot Mentioned
Hikari Algae Wafer33%3%4%10%17%
Jumbo Krill Frozen Shrimp52%19%10%6%Not Mentioned
Fluval Bug Bites40%5%12.5%10%9%
Freeze Dried Bloodworms55%5%3%5%Not Mentioned

What Do Baby Crayfish Eat?

To understand what baby crayfishes eat, we need to understand the lifecycle of a crayfish. The baby crayfishes start their life from eggs. It takes about 3-4 weeks (depending on the temperature and other atmospheric conditions) to hatch the eggs.

The eggs hatch into larvae. The larvae will start to look like tiny crayfishes in about 2 weeks. As the larvae are very tiny, they can’t fit regular size foods in their mouth.

So, in the wild, they hang around the mother’s tail and try to grab floating food particles. However, we can’t keep the parents with the babies in captivity. This is because crayfishes are known for eating their babies.

So, how to feed the babies in captivity?

The solution is simple. You just need to take the regular crayfish food and crush them to make powder. Then feed the powdered food to the babies.

Suppose, you are feeding your crayfish API shrimp pellet. In case of feeding the babies, take a few pellets, crush them using something heavy and throw the powdered food in the tank.

Make sure the food particles are sinking to the bottom. Baby crayfishes can’t swim upwards for catching food particles. So, it is important that the foods sink.

Also, try to feed some vegetables once a week. Blanch the vegetable well until it is very soft. Then feed it to the babies. Once the babies start to grow a bit, they can enjoy occasional vegetables along with a protein rich diet.

How Much Food Should You Give?

Well, it depends on how often you are feeding the crayfish. If it is everyday, I’ll say feed about 3/4th of an algae wafer. If you are feeding every other day, 1 algae wafer is fine per feeding.

I’ll not recommend to feed your crayfish everyday. It will just deteriorate the water quality too much. Crayfishes are natural scavengers and they’ll look for food in the tank themselves.

They can comfortably go without food for a week! So, don’t worry that you are starving your crayfish!

How Often Should You Feed Crayfish?

Well, it varies from one keeper to another. The important thing is to not overfeed your crayfish. Overfeeding can cause many problems in the future.

Also, crayfishes are natural scavengers. They’ll search for food and eat decaying organic matters. So, it is not important to feed them every single day.

I like to feed my crayfish every other day with altering foods. Here’s what the schedule looks like:

Week 1:

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
API Shrimp PelletHikari Algae WaferBlanched Vegetable/boiled shrimp/boiled fish, etc.

Week 2:

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
API Shrimp PelletInsects/WomrsBlanched Vegetable/boiled shrimp/boiled fish, etc.

Week 3:

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
API Shrimp PelletFruitsBlanched Vegetable/boiled shrimp/boiled fish, etc.

Week 4:

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
API Shrimp PelletHikari Algae WaferBlanched Vegetable/boiled shrimp/boiled fish, etc.

What Do Crayfish Eat In A Lake & Pond?

Lake & Ponds are still water bodies. These water bodies grow plenty of aquatic plants, moss, etc.

In the lake & ponds, crayfish mainly live on decomposing plant materials. Rotting leaves, dead fishes, rotting plants, etc. fall into their diet.

Plants are easier to catch and eat than a live fish. That’s why the primary portion of a wild crayfish’s diet consist of plant matters. However, they are scavengers and can eat decaying organic matters, insects, worms, other fishes too.

If there is scarcity of food, crayfishes can get cannibalistic and turn on each other.

Do Crayfish Eat Algae?

Yes, in the wild, crayfish eats algae. However, that doesn’t mean you can hire a crayfish in your algae eater crew! They’ll be terrible for cleaning algae in captivity.

Crayfish needs a specific setup on their own and they are absolutely not suitable for a planted tank.

Do Crayfish Eat Fish?

Yes crayfishes are omnivorous and they’ll eat fish. In the wild, crayfishes often fail to catch live fish as the fishes have plenty of space to escape. However, in captivity, your fishes will often fall into the prey of crayfish.

Crayfish can also eat dead fish bodies as they are scavengers. Generally, any organic matter can fall into their diet list.

Do Crayfish Eat Snails?

Yes, crayfish can eat snails. In fact, snails will be a delicious treat for crayfish. They are slow and perfect for the crayfish to hunt.

So, if you have any expensive or favorite snail in your crayfish tank, it is better if you shift it to a new tank as soon as possible.

On the other hand, if your tank is infested with pond snails, crayfish can amazingly decrease that infestation.

Final Words

So, this is everything I could find about crayfish feeding. I hope you have a clear understanding of what to feed your crayfish now.

Basically when keeping crayfish, feeding them is the least of any worries. They can eat pretty much everything under the sun. Just make sure you are not overfeeding and the diet is exciting. Don’t feed them the same pellet everyday. Try to change the diet.

This is why I have divided the food options into 8 types. Try to mix 3-4 types when feeding your crayfish. A variety of diet ensures your crayfish is getting all the nutrient it needs to grow properly. It also keeps the crayfish happy & healthy!

Muntaseer Rahman

I have been keeping shrimps as a pet for many years now. I’ve fallen in love with these cute pets from the moment I saw them. That’s why I am writing articles to share my shrimp keeping knowledge with you.

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