How Much Water Does My Crayfish Need in an Aquarium?

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Crayfish, also referred to as crawfish or crawdads, are beautiful creatures that resemble small lobsters. They are an attractive option for an aquarium pet and require no more care than tropical aquarium fish when they have proper care and enough water in the tank so that they are fully submerged.

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Crayfish are an attractive option for an aquarium pet.
Image Credit: Vladislavs Zaharovs/iStock/GettyImages

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Crayfish water depth

Crayfish are freshwater animals who live on the bottom of the aquarium. You do not need to fill the aquarium completely, and in fact, this can be harmful to crayfish. Make sure there is enough water to fully cover the backs of all the crayfish. Don't fill the aquarium more than 6 inches deep.

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Crayfish have gills and breathe oxygen from the water. Deeper water does not have sufficient oxygen where the crayfish live on the bottom. If you opt to fully fill the aquarium, be sure to set up an aerator in the tank to oxygenate the water for the crayfish.

Fresh water for crayfish

Crayfish need fresh water, but tap water is not safe for your crayfish or any other inhabitants of your aquarium. Make sure you treat tap water with a water conditioner to remove the dangerous chlorine from the water before you put your crayfish in the tank.

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Keep the water temperature between 64 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The specific temperature range can vary by species, so be sure to check the specific requirements of your crayfish before you bring them home. Clean the tank every week, replacing about 25 percent of the water. More frequent cleaning may be necessary if the water gets cloudy

Aquarium setup considerations

Select an aquarium that provides about 1 square foot of space for every two medium or large crawfish. A 10- to 30-gallon tank is usually sufficient depending on the size of your crayfish. They can be kept in a smaller container for short periods while you are cleaning the larger tank.

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Crayfish are nocturnal animals, and they enjoy having places to hide, burrow, and dig. Equip the aquarium with hiding places using items such as caves, hollow logs, and clay flower pots. Keep the lid securely closed. While the crayfish can't swim to the surface, they have been known to climb out of their enclosures using the pipes from the filter or by piling up the substrate on the bottom of the tank.

Crayfish tank companions

Some types of crayfish are prone to fighting and aggression, so don't overstock your aquarium. To add more interest to the tank, consider freshwater fish as long as they don't dwell on the bottom of the tank, as crayfish can show aggression to other species and may eat any fish they can catch. Small species of crayfish will do well with fish such as neon tetras, mollies, and small catfish. Larger crayfish do well with goldfish and Malawi cichlids.

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Aquatic plants not only help oxygenate the water but they are also a beautiful addition to the aquarium. Unfortunately, crayfish will gladly dine on live plants. Consider plants that grow directly on rocks and logs or that float on top of the water, as these are more likely to survive. Examples include java fern, java moss, African water fern, dwarf baby tears, and anubias. Alternatively, you can use plastic plants for decoration.

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