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3 Simple Keys to Growing Freshwater Crayfish in Tanks

Over a year ago we talked briefly about growing freshwater crayfish in aquaponics.  We touched on the need for hides and habitat to reduce the loss through predation or as I prefer to call it “protein sharing”.  This article will give the enthusiast and even those thinking about some commercial venture an idea how to increase the production of the crayfish grown at home, for food or for the aquarium trade. [heading] Growing Freshwater Crayfish at Home [/heading] Outside of having the correct water parameters for the species of crayfish you want to keep, these 3 simple keys to growing freshwater crayfish in tanks will help you grow more of any crayfish you want to grow, anywhere in the world. Key #1 – Crayfish Habitat Crayfish habitat is different from hides and it is essential for growing freshwater crayfish in tanks and ponds.  Creating the most complicated habitat you can is very important for juvenile crayfish survival.  Avoid structured habitat like pipes etc.  The messier the better! Generally onion bags, orange netting bags or just plain bird netting is ideal.  Sometimes simple shade cloth is effective.  Hessian bags can be used but be aware they break down in water quite quickly but the crayfish will chew on them.  Simply scrunch it up  and put a zip tie around the middle to make a “bow tie” shape, connect them up and tie it to something heavy at the bottom (usually a brick will do). As juvenile crayfish are very much high protein feeders, this is the time they generally eat each other and where most of the losses to predation will happen.  Later in life protein sharing is more opportunistic than intentional and most will happen when the crayfish molt.  Keeping them “tangled up” with plenty of nooks and crannies will increase the final amount of crayfish you end up with. You will find when growing freshwater crayfish in tanks will start to wander around on the bottom of the tank avoiding the habitat in search of better hides.  This is a great time to start to introduce them to hides or the hides to the crayfish.  Generally, you will get better results if you introduce the crayfish to the hides, not the other way around. Key #2 – Crayfish Hides As I mentioned the hides for crayfish are very different to habitat.  This replicates a “safe haven” for the larger crayfish in which they can drag feed back to and can defend themselves from within.  Most commercial crayfish farmers will use some form of hides (eg ag pipe) and it is no different when growing freshwater crayfish in tanks. Hides can be structured which will save you on space and can be made out of just about anything that will sink or you can tie up to a weight.  Any form of pipe work will work well.  Such as PVC or agriculture drainage pipe, anything large enough for them to hide in.  Hence the name “hide”. The hides will provide some protection for the crayfish when they molt, which is the most dangerous time for larger crayfish.  Be sure to allow enough size for the crayfish to turn around in the hide.  This will give them enough room to safely moult in the hide or they will come out to do that and protein sharing will begin again… A very effective use of tank space, especially for rectangular shape like hydroponic deep water culture or floating raft culture tanks is to use 2 inch tree seedling pots.  These can be stacked along the walls of the raft and a V-shape along the centre of the length of the tank.  Most of the pots come with trays to hold them together.  You need only weigh them down where you want them.  You will see an example of this pictured to the right. Key #3 – Crayfish Food Crayfish a grazers.  Like cattle they will graze all day long on what ever is available and sometimes through the night.  So unlike your fish, who eat in set feed times, crayfish will like food available 24/7/365. All age crayfish will eat fresh fish.  Though large amounts of animal proteins will mess your water quality up.  Sinking commercial pellets work very well for the young of year crayfish.  There are some plant species the young crayfish will enjoy and some of them water weeds (not duck weed) which will readily grow in your integrated system. Other vegetable matter, broken down wastes from your plant growing system will work well for all ages of crayfish, though it is important to let it break down a little.  Fresh veg the crayfish will generally play with  or store it until it you get the furry looking detritus bacteria invading.  Then it becomes very tasty to them. Grains work very well especially micronized soy which is a horse feed and very cheap to have around and lasts longer than fish feeds on the shelf.  Most grains will need to be soaked in water for a few days before using them. To sum it up Be sure there is plenty of feed, all the time They might live in rubbish but love great water quality. Give the young crayfish lots of habitat to get tangled in At least 3 to 4 times the number of hides for the older crayfish Regards Paul…

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