Why Is My Crayfish Trying to Escape?

Why Is My Crayfish Trying to Escape

Almost 7 out of every 10 crayfish keepers complain their crayfish always tries to escape. Though being adventurous is one of crayfish’s natural instincts, trying to escape can also indicate something is wrong with its tank.

Crayfish tries to escape if the environment is not suitable for them. If the water parameters are not right, there is lack of oxygen in the water or if the crayfish feels threatened, then it will try to escape.

Crayfish can try to escape for various reasons. Let me explain some of the most common ones and what you can do to prevent it.

Crayfish – The Escape Artists

Yes, you read it right. Crayfish are quite an artist when it comes to escaping. Among all the crustaceans, only crabs have an escape mechanism as good as crayfish do.

In the wild, where crayfish live in natural reservoirs like sea and rivers, the main reason behind their tendency to escape is the attack of predators. When a crayfish senses the presence of any predator in the vicinity, it tends to escape by producing very powerful and fast swimming strokes to get away from the danger zone.

However, this is rarely the case for your crayfish in your tank. A number of reasons cause a crayfish to try to escape. Let’s discuss them one by one.

  1. The Tank for Your Crayfish: While crayfish is not a high-maintenance pet, you have to make sure you keep it in a topnotch environment. If its tank is very small in size, it may make your crayfish try to escape.
  2. Smell of the Water: How the water in the tank smells is a sign of your crayfish’s attempt to escape. If there is something in the water that smells bad or your crayfish does not like, it will try to climb the tank and escape.
  3. Enemy Neighbors in the Tank: Crayfish are not great as a tank mate. If you put any other fish in the tank or aquarium where you also keep your crayfish, there is a big chance that they will not be good neighbors. As a result, the crayfish will end up trying to escape from the tank.
  4. Hunger: If your crayfish is not well fed, it might try to get out of the tank and start looking for food on its own.
  5. Dissolved Proteins in the Water: The quality of the tank water is a very important issue regarding this particular matter. It the water of the aquarium is filled with nitrates or crayfish waste, it will make it hard for the crayfish to survive. So if your crayfish shows unusual activities, you should check the water quality before it tries to escape.
  6. Temperature of the Water: Along with the elements in the water, the temperature also matters. Crayfish usually come from environments of both mild and high temperatures. If the temperature of the tank water is higher than where your crayfish has originally come from, it will become uncomfortable for the crayfish to continue living in the tank. Thus, it may try to get rid of the tank water and look for a better place.
  7. Holes in the Aquarium: If you discover that your crayfish has escaped, immediately check the tank lid and look for holes. If the lid has holes, that might be it. It is completely possible that you crayfish climbed the tank glass while swimming and got itself on top of the lid because of the hole.
  8. Oxygen Level of the Water: Crayfish need a lot of oxygen in order to live. If the oxygen level of the water is not sufficient, it is only a matter of time that your crayfish will try to get rid of the tank. Moreover, the crayfish may also try to get out of the tank if the water is not filtered or changed regularly.
  9. Others: It is not like crayfish always escape because of the reasons mentioned above. It can also happen that your crayfish likes to explore or stay in the water keeping its upper part of the body in the air (probably to get oxygen from the air).
See also  How Big Should A Crayfish Tank Be?

What Should I Do to Prevent My Crayfish from Escaping?

Now that you know why your crayfish may try to escape from the tank, you should focus on the steps you should take in order to stop your crayfish from slipping away. We hope the following discussion will be able to help you out in this regard.

Making a Suitable and Comfortable Housing and Environment:

Although the first discussion might make you think that taking care of a crayfish is very demanding, actually it is quite simple. All you have to do it is manage an aquarium or tank and fill it with fresh and clean water.

There should be enough water to cover the entire body of your crayfish. You should put a rock on the floor of the aquarium so that the crayfish can climb it to stay out of the water. DO NOT FORGET to make sure that the rock will not help the crayfish get out of the tank!

You must choose a tank that is longer than the length of your crayfish. If you cannot do that, at least use a lid that fits the tank perfectly. The lid will help you to keep your crayfish. Otherwise, you should expect to have it lost within a very short time.

You can follow the steps below to ensure that your cray cannot open it from the inside:

  • Use duct tapes, aluminum foil, or rubber bands to seal the lid off. But do not let the foil paper get wet in the water. It is not safe for the crayfish.
  • Take an ice-cream box lid, mark an X in its center, and cut it. Keep sliding it until you reach the filter. This will block the filter’s opening part.
See also  How Do Crayfish Protect Themselves?

You can also keep your crayfish from escaping by making the water tank a safe and secure place for it. Making caves in the tank will make it feel secure. It can use the caves to burrow or live inside them.

Caves are especially needed if you decide to put more than one crayfish in one tank. Because they are often intolerant of each other particularly if you put the 2nd one after a long period of putting the 1st one. The 1st one may not welcome the 2nd one warmly and both of them may feel threatened by each other. This could lead them to try and escape from the aquarium.

You can use ABS/PVC pipes or yellow gerbil tubes that are transparent to make caves in the tank.  At the same time, if you plan to keep more than one crayfish in one tank, please remember to use a large tank so that they can have their own caves and territory to hide and live.

Choosing Tank Neighbors VERY Wisely:

Crayfish are often aggressive toward each other. Apparently, they do not make good tank mates.

There is a very small number of neighbor fish that get along with crayfish and vice versa. Still, I cannot guarantee you 100% that they will get along just fine. Rosy red minnows, white cloud mountain minnows, and red darters are the ones that have a good chance of not ending up as your crayfish’s food.

Some people try goldfish but I would say otherwise. Because goldfish get bigger in size and their wastes will ruin the tank water faster.

Keeping the Tank Water Fresh and Clean and Filtering It Regularly:

There are some basic things you have to maintain while preparing the tank water:

  • The water should be fresh and clean. There can be no compromise with that.
  • The PH level of the water has to be 7, better if it is higher than 7. Otherwise, the water might make your crayfish uncomfortable.
  • Check the parameters of the water once every 2 or 3 weeks to see if the condition is healthy and stable. If you are not sure about your water parameters, check it once a week so that you can keep tracks and change it whenever necessary.
  • 20%-40% water changes are highly recommended on a weekly basis.
  • Use dechlorinated tap water. Bottled spring water is also fine.
  • While cycling the water, remember that there should be 10%-20% nitrate, 0% nitrite, and 0% ammonia. If the nitrate level jumps to somewhere between 40% and 80%, change the water as soon as you can.
  • When you change the water, see if its temperature is the same as that of the existing water in the tank. Because if the new water’s temperature is different, it will give your crayfish a temperature shock.
  • If you do not install any filtration system, clean the water once a week at the very least.
  • If you have gravels in the tank, keep it clean and get rid of the extra detritus. You can keep the bottom empty instead. That would be easier to clean.
  • Do not clean the tank sides. It will let the bacteria live and keep the tank water clean.
  • Crayfish from tropical places can tolerate temperatures from 77 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit at most. But crayfish from temperate places need lower temperatures to survive. So keep the water temperature in accordance with your crayfish’s origin.
  • The water in the tank should be just as much as it needs to cover the crayfish. If it is several inches over the cray’s head, the crayfish will not get enough oxygen and thus it will try to get out of the tank. You can also try using tall bubble walls and air bubbles to provide sufficient oxygen in the water.
  • Sometimes crayfish get out of the tank while exploring or swimming even when everything in the tank and water is just fine. In that case, you really have nothing to do except for keeping tracks of its movement and having the tank lid sealed off.
See also  How Do Crayfish Breathe? [In & Out of Water]

What Should I Do When I Find My Crayfish out of the Tank?

Suppose, you found your crayfish after it had escaped and it was out for at least 5 hours. The first thing you might do is put it in its tank immediately. But this is exactly what you CANNOT do.

What you have to do is put it in a separate bucket with tall walls and cover it with little water. This will give the gills of the crayfish some time to get readjusted to the water and save it from drowning.

Put a stone in the bucket so that it can rest on it whenever it likes to. Again, choose a bucket with tall walls to prevent it from escaping again. Use a lid if needed. Then leave the cray like this for an entire day.

If you find it alive and kicking on the next day, lift it up and keep it upside down for a short while so that the hidden air bubbles lying in its gills can vanish away. Only and only then it is safe enough to be put in its old tank.

What Should I Keep in Mind When I Find My Escape Artist?

If you find your lost crayfish and decide to take it back to the wild thinking it is better off there, you would be doing a serious MISTAKE. If you maintain a cray in captivity and return it to nature after a while, it will fail to adjust and then cause disruptions in the whole ecosystem.

There have been many cases regarding this UK and the USA. If you think that your crayfish is from your local area and it can adapt to the wild environment easily, you would be wrong. The released crayfish can spread diseases to the wild cray population within a short time and it can be disastrous.

So, you must keep your crayfish well maintained in your tank and follow the steps we have just discussed whenever you face any problem. Hopefully, your crayfish will do great. Good luck!

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of AcuarioPets.com. 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.


This site is owned and operated by Muntaseer Rahman. AcuarioPets.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.