Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans that closely resemble a lobster. They have two claws in the front and their bodies are covered by a semi-hard shell. Approximately 300 different species of crayfish exist worldwide, according to the Science Encyclopedia. As nocturnal creatures, they are most active during the night, foraging for dead organic matter, aquatic plants and small aquatic animals. Their main predators include otters, turtles and fish, which prey upon them during the molting period, when they shed their shells.
Crayfish live and thrive in shallow waterways with moving current, such as rivers and ponds. Crayfish in artificial habitats should have a filtration system installed or the water will need to be changed once a week. They prefer to live in cool, dark temperate water conditions. During the day they are reclusive, often choosing to seek shelter under rocks, sticks or burrow into the gravel.
Healthy breeding in crayfish is dependent on overall health and a well-balanced diet. Crayfish are omnivorous scavengers and will feed on algae, plants and organic detritus, which is a non-living organic material made from fecal material and dead organisms. They will rarely catch and consume a live fish, preferring their meals in a half-decomposed state. Crayfish in captivity should be fed daily and mostly plant- or algae-based food, rather then animal proteins. Inadequate feeding hinders the crayfish's ability to mate successfully.
Identifying Crayfish Genders
Identifying the gender of your crayfish will help in pairing a male and a female together. Male crayfish generally have larger pincers and smaller tails. Examining the under-body of the crayfish can give you a more accurate assessment of their gender. Females have long leg-like attachments, called pleopods, underneath their body and a small pore between the walking legs. The males, under their tale, have two pairs of pleopods that are white tipped and are situated between the last pair of legs.
Crayfish mating typically takes place in the spring and requires one of each sex. After the mating, the female will carry an egg mass of up to 200 eggs underneath the tail. Eggs will typically hatch around seven weeks after mating, and the baby crayfish will often spend the first few days swimming alongside the mother's tail, consuming bits of food in the water. It is important to include various shelters, such as rocks and plants in the aquarium for the young crayfish to hide amongst.