Crayfish are small crustaceans that live in freshwater water habitats in which do not freeze over in cold conditions. Depending on where you are location wise, the crayfish is also referred to as a crawdad or crawfish.
The physical appearance of the crayfish looks like a smaller version of a lobster. It has the same conjoined like body structure and they both come from similar family genes. Their body structure is made up of one interconnected piece of head and midsection. Their eyes have the ability to wander around and see a large spectrum of vision. Their outside shell is a mix between yellow and brown with a hint of green at times.
There are vivid bright colored crayfish that have been genetically modified for appearance. They are commonly kept as pets in fish aquariums. Electric Blue Crayfish, Mexican Dwarf (orange color), White Spectre species, and MORE. These vibrant colors are not found in natural habitat though.
Rivers and brooks are the main living habitat for the crayfish due to their water clarity and thin ice conditions. Humans will rarely see crayfish during the day but if you shine a flashlight in the water at dark its a whole different story. These guys do their traveling and feeding during the darkest hours of the night. You will see them walking ever so slow to their destinations but when danger arises, the flap their strong tail and their gone in the blink of an eye.
Freezing water conditions are enough to destroy crayfish habitat and that’s a main reason they thrive in rivers of moving water. During the day, they nestle underneath rocks and hide from predators. Crayfish are on the feeding menu of a lot of larger animals. Lots of species of fish, birds, alligators, and more. During the battle of eating, the crayfish actually escapes quite often due to its very fast swim speeds from its rear tail. They snap their very strong rear tail and are no where to be found by the predator.
Food & Feeding Behaviors
The water bottoms and water floors are where crayfish spend all of their time. They are somewhat lazy when it comes to finding food so whatever is easiest will work. Anything decaying at the bottom or near is a great meal for them. Dead insects, worms, algae types, dead fish, and so forth. If you can think of something that is worth eating on the water bottoms… Crawdads will eat it up very fast. They are constantly battling with other bottom feeders like catfish so they must move quick.
Due to how fast crayfish actually are, they will even catch live fish that are found right in front of them. You commonly hear the horror story of the crayfish in an aquarium and killing the “ever so beautiful angelfish.” It’s somewhat rare for them to kill live fish but if the kill is easy enough for them… they will jump on the occasion. A very smart technique if you ask me. Why not use the least amount of effort possible when trying to get your next meal.
Catching With Bait
Catching crawdads in traps is by far the easiest way to catch them. If you plan to find them and catch them all by hand.. your going to find out quickly how fast and skillful they are at escaping predators. They are pretty hard to catch without a trap, but it can be done. The best thing to use in a crayfish trap are usually going to have a very strong scent because crayfish use their tentacles to go off of sent in the water. But I have had the best luck with personally is just dead fish or dead fish guts. I know its gross to work with the organs and guts but they work very well. In the natural wild you will find the crawdad diet consists mainly of fish.
The best time of year is around April. You will find the biggest and most juicy crawdads you could think of. What happens is all of the adults are on a rampage to breed and your not going to catch babies because they aren’t born yet. What you catch at this time of year will all be adults. These have the most meat on then and will be pretty juicy with all the new spring feeding going on. There are different times of the year in which crawdads are a lot cheaper in price to buy.
There are multiple reasons to catch crayfish. You can use them for fishing because numerous species of fish absolutely love them as a meal. Having them as a new pet to your aquarium is also a cool pet to own. Eating them for a family meal is also very common since they are so closely related to the delicious lobster. Reasons to find and catch these crustaceans is your business and we understand. Heck… I remember going to look for these at night just as a hobby when I was a kid.
To find crayfish, look for spots in lakes and streams in which you can get to some flat stones. These flat stones are going to be what crayfish hide under. Their habits consist of coming out at night and hiding for most of the day. If you can find sections of the river where the water has current, they love this because it gives them extra speed when taking off away from predators. They are harder to catch in the moving water but you will find higher numbers of them in these areas. You will find that spot near shore are sometimes filled with algae and seaweed that has been brought in with water currents that sometimes get in the way of searching.
Literally catching & grabbing them with your hands might be the hardest part of all of this. Once finding your rocks that you plan to tip over, go at them very slowly. Tipping over a rock is by far easy to begin with.. but then to also tip it over slowly really adds some fun to this task. You might find that the first 5 crayfish get away but they will train you to be a little more smooth with your actions.
Don’t be too afraid of the crawfish because their pinchers do hurt but it’s not going to make you cry or anything. Finding crayfish in the lake is actually a lot of fun and you will enjoy it and look back as a childhood memory that your father and your siblings did together. I actually have the same childhood memory and to this day I still have it and my father passed away a couple of years ago and it was a lot of fun for us to do.
Keeping as Pets
The crawdad is a great addition to a fish tank because they are bottom feeders. They feed on the decay if what is making your water become dirty. Sometimes aquarists call them “garbage disposals” because they consume the unwanted aquarium decaying matter. Not to mention that a crawdad is somewhat of a species that you never see in fish aquariums. Don’t forget there are also “blue” colored crawdads that can add some crazy cosmetic appeal to your fish aquarium. They don’t cost a lot of money unlike a lot of other exotic aquarium fish.
When looking to setup your aquarium for a crawdad, the number one variable is if your aquarium is “established”. This means that it has been running efficiently for some time and has cycled and fish are living inside of it healthily. Too many people try to setup a fish aquarium the same day as getting their fish keep dying quickly because the water parameters need to be cycled. Don’t use too small of a tank size either. Do some research on setting up a proper aquarium for freshwater.
They are a great addition to freshwater tanks and prefer to hide during the and come out to feed when the lights go off. They will use their tentacles to feel their way around. If you have a dead fish at the bottom of your tank, you might find your crayfish feeding on it and may even disappear before you see it. The only thing to watch for with crawdads in aquariums is the fact that they might kill fish that swim too close to it. They are lazy killers but will take advantage of fish that swim right in front of them. Be aware of this fact.
Grabbing the Body Of It
There are multiple tricks to getting a hold of the actual Crawdad itself. The oldest method in the book is o just be very smooth with your actions and sneak your hand to the actual body of it… and grab a hold of its midsection. It will flap it’s tail but if you have a hold of its midsection, it can’t get a way. The body of the crustacean is hard and you won’t break it with your grasp. I’ve found that the hardest part of grabbing a crawdad is wrapping your mind around the matter. It seems somewhat weird to just dip your hand into the water and “catch or grab” this crustacean that looks somewhat awkward to hold on to.