Crayfish, also known as Crawdads, are popular as pets, but many people are confused about what they consume and what diet to feed them.
Crayfish belong to the same family as crabs, lobsters and shrimp; however, they are considerably smaller and live in freshwater.
This article is about the species generally referred to as crayfish in the United States, however, the word is also applied to other species in other countries.
In some countries like Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Africa Crayfish refers to spiny lobsters that live in saltwater settings rather than the American freshwater species.
Crayfish are popular pets and it is endlessly entertaining to watch them scavenge for food in their fish tanks, munching on all the scraps, live and dead, animal or plant. It is because they will eat almost anything that they are so easy to keep as pets.
Keeping crayfish as pets is very similar to keeping fish as pets. They have the same needs but are less choosy about their diet.
In the wild, a crayfish will mostly eat decaying animal matter and rotting vegetation. This is the food of choice because it requires less effort than catching live prey.
However, should a shrimp swim too close then the crayfish will happily supplement its diet, although living shrimp are unlikely to make up a substantial part of the crayfish diet.
And even though they are related, they do not shy away from eating family members or even members of the same species. This cannibalism is quite common among crustaceans including crabs but also among crayfish themselves.
Crayfish are unable to swim to the surface of the swamps, streams, and rivers that they inhabit. They tend to be found in the muddy bottoms, any rocks that they find, and the expanses of vegetation.
Living on the bottom, they are supplied with dead animal matter that sinks down to their habitat and can be torn apart using their claws. They will also feast on the vegetation and algae that they can easily access.
While they have a hard time catching prey that is mostly found in the surface, like frogs or insects, they may encounter bottom feeders like shrimp and other crustaceans.
As for shrimp, they tend to be a little fast for the slow-moving crayfish. so their success in catching them is limited. Crayfish are not strong swimmers. They will use the claws and first two pairs of legs (which are equipped with small pincers) to hold their food.
Do Crayfish Only Eat Dead Shrimp?
Crayfish have such a wide variety of food sources available to them. As stated, they will eat both vegetation and animal-based food.
They are opportunistic and will eat whatever food is easiest available. Shrimp that have died and dropped to the bottom of a tank is a relatively easy food and crayfish will take advantage of the natural deaths of shrimps.
Crayfish eat a wide variety of plant materials as well as animals, and the amount of animal matter they eat largely depends on the species, habitat and season.
Catching live shrimps (depending on the breed) requires much more effort and is not so common. That said, if shrimps get too close to a crayfish they will not be able to resist trying to grab them.
Do Crayfish Eat Ghost Shrimp?
Ghost shrimps (aka glass shrimps) are freshwater shrimp that are popular with fish keepers. They live about one year and play a useful role in keeping a tank clean.
Crayfish will certainly eat ghost shrimps if they are placed in a tank together and there are insufficient places where the ghost shrimps can hide. The larger the tank the more chance the ghost shrimps have of survival.
One of the better mixes for sharing a tank would be the Ghost Shrimp and the Electric Blue Crayfish.
This breed of crayfish is the only native crayfish in the Florida Everglades. Ghost shrimps are fast-moving creatures and will normally be able to avoid the crayfish, and their chances will be increased with a larger tank.
In such a tank provide some caves or somewhere they can burrow. Electric Blue Crayfish are also agile climbers and it is essential to ensure that the tank has a secure lid to avoid them escaping.
Can I Put Crayfish and Shrimp Together?
Crayfish are found in roughly 500 species worldwide, with half of them found in North America. There are more crayfish species in Alabama than anyplace else. The Red Swamp Crawfish, which is predominantly found in southern Louisiana, is the most significant farmed crayfish.
Crawfish from the Red Swamp
This crayfish species is classified as an opportunistic carnivore. During the summer, it consumes significantly more vegetation. Males and juveniles eat a lot more animal matter than females.
This is due to their increased mobility and longer claws. They are generally, but not always, nocturnal. This variety of crayfish is more aggressive than the Dwarf Orange or Cherax types, thus putting them in a tank alongside shrimps is usually not a smart idea.
Orange Dwarf Crayfish
Dwarf orange crayfish and shrimp can coexist in the same aquarium since these crayfish are more gentle than other varieties.
These crayfish may grow up to 2 inches in length and they require several hiding places since they are susceptible to assault when they molt. Due to their small size, they are more reluctant to see larger shrimp as a viable food option.
Orange Dwarf Crayfish
The only hostility you will see is in the form of short-lived territorial disputes amongst crayfish. If you observe a dwarf orange crayfish devouring a shrimp, it was almost certainly dead before the crayfish discovered it.
Cherax Species of Crayfish
This crayfish species is much bigger than the Dwarf Orange Crayfish. Due to the difficulties of moving swiftly with their huge claws, this species is generally peaceable.
The only reason it would be safe to keep them in a tank with shrimps is that the crayfish can’t capture them. Although they will eagerly try to capture a passing shrimp if the occasion arises.
The usual rule for keeping crayfish and shrimps together is to not put too many of them in the same tank and to give plenty of hiding spots for both the shrimps and the crayfish.
If you’re going to put fish in the aquarium, it’s best if you stick to fish that swim near the surface. Bottom feeders should not be included since they will be an attractive target for the crayfish.
Yes, you can place crayfish and shrimp together in a tank. Some breeds will work out better than others. You should bear in mind that there will be the occasional shrimp casualty and this should be part of your planning when stocking the tank.
Do not put any fish or shrimp into the tank with crayfish that you do not want to lose. Ghost shrimps are relatively cheap and stand a better chance than most varieties of shrimp, so they are perhaps the best choice to go with.