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Fish may be the most common species used in aquaponics, but that doesn’t mean other aquatic creatures don’t have a place in your system. If you’re feeling adventurous and you want to keep unique creatures that can benefit your setup, you may want to consider caring for Crayfish in aquaponics systems as an alternative to traditional fish. These crustaceans may not be your typical aquaponics resident, but they can definitely help in the sustainable method of growing crops.
In this article, you will learn valuable tips on how to raise Crayfish in an aquaponics setup.
Why Raise Crayfish in Aquaponics Systems?
Crayfish (also called crawdads or crawfish) are freshwater crustaceans found not only across water bodies in the U.S, particularly in Mississippi through Louisiana, but also in different parts of the world. They may not be as popular as most fish species in aquaponics systems, but they have been successfully raised in thriving aquaponics setups. Because they’re readily available, keeping Crayfish can be an inexpensive way of adding that unique touch to your system.
Different Crayfish Varieties
While Crayfish can be fun to keep in your aquaponics system, many species cannot thrive in captivity. If you are considering adding Crayfish to your setup, consider the following species:
- Red claw – this species is native to Northern Australia and they can have an interesting color spectrum ranging from blue-green to almost black with yellow lines or spots. They can reach a length of 8.5 inches, so they will need to be housed in a larger tank.
- Miami Cave Crayfish – native to Miami, Florida, this species is colored bright to light yellow-orange. They can grow up to three inches only, but they’re considered among the more tolerant of the different crayfish species.
- Dwarf orange – native to northern Mexico and southern/southeastern U.S, this species is the most popular among hobbyists because of their small size and their interesting bright orange color. It’s less aggressive than other species, which makes them ideal for keeping.
Requirements for Caring for Crayfish in Aquaponics Systems
Check out the requirements to have a thriving crayfish aquaponics setup:
Crayfish need space to move around, so ideally, the stocking density would be 5 gallons of water for every Crayfish. For larger species, the stocking density is at 15-20 gallons of water per Crayfish.
You need to consider how many Crayfish you want in your system. Given the stocking density, if you want to keep five crayfish, for example, then you will need a 25-gallon tank. Keep in mind that your tank should be taller than longer as most crayfish species like to climb out of the tank. Another thing to keep in mind when preparing a tank for Crayfish is that it should have plenty of hiding places.
Maintain your tank’s temperature between 70 to 75 deg F to keep your crustaceans happy.
Crayfish don’t really require light in their environment, so either provide shade for your tank or provide many hiding spots inside the tank.
The ideal pH level is between 7.2 and 8.2
Note that Crayfish need lots of oxygen. If you don’t have a filter or airstone, they will climb up to get the oxygen from the air. However, if they have no way to climb out of the water, they will drown. Ideally, dissolved oxygen requirements should also be maintained above two parts per million (ppm).
Fish diet/nutrient requirements
Crayfish are omnivorous so that means you can feed them a varied diet. They can consume plant matter, as well as mussels, worms, and snails. You can give sinking shrimp pellets or flakes; in fact, these should consist of a majority of their diet.
Giving a small number of vegetables or one or two shakes of shrimp pellets per day should be enough. Remove any leftover after feeding the Crayfish.
How to clean the tank
When caring for Crayfish in aquaponics systems, a water change should be done at least once a week. Crayfish are heavy waste producers, and this can demand so much from a standard filtration system. To change the water, drain ½ of the total volume of water in your tank and slowly replace it with the same volume of fresh, clean water.
Crayfish plague is the most common disease found in all crayfish species caused by the organism Aphanomyces astaci. Infected Crayfish may or may not present signs of the disease. However, if you notice whitening of the abdomen or even loss of coordination in movements, it’s likely that the Crayfish is sick.
In this case, it’s best to control the spread of the infection by isolating the affected Crayfish.
Aquaponics plants best suited for
Best Breed To Use
While Crayfish can be mixed with other fish without problems given they are of the same size, the most peaceful type is the dwarf orange.
Ideally, a crayfish tank should have a hang-on-back (HOB) filter. A cheaper alternative is a sponge filter, but this filter’s airline, which leads out of your tank, can be used as an escape route for your Crayfish.
Can they be mixed with other breeds?
Be careful when adding Crayfish to your existing aquaponics system. Fish can attack juvenile Crayfish. After all, anglers use the crustaceans as bait for fish. However, Crayfish have peacefully coexisted with fish such as perch and catfish, especially when they’re already too big for the fish to eat.
At the same time, Crayfish can also attack fish that are smaller than them. So, if you want to mix both aquatic creatures, make sure they are of the same size.
You might be surprised if you’ll see your crayfish multiply because they tend to breed anytime, especially when they are provided with the right living conditions. Once mating begins, the male deposits a sac containing the sperm on the female. The female will then pass the eggs through the sperm, and then fertilization will begin.
Once the eggs have been fertilized, the female keeps them by the tail. At this point, collect the female and isolate her on a separate tank. In about four weeks’ time, the eggs will hatch and you’ll have new young Crayfish.
Can You Eat Crayfish?
Crayfish resemble lobsters, but they’re not as big. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them as part of a heart-healthy meal. Crayfish are edible with less tough meat and more subtle texture than shrimp. They can be prepared as bisques, in soups, or boiled and eaten with salt.