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All About Lousiana Crawfish

What looks, tastes, and smells like seafood, but doesn't come from the sea? It's the Louisiana Crawfish – also known as Procambarus Clarki and
the Red Swamp Crayfish, a freshwater shellfish that is considered a Louisiana delicacy. Crawfish resemble tiny lobsters, and are referred to by several common names, including crawdads, crawfish, river crab, and mudbugs.

Adult Louisana Crawfish range from 3 to 5 inches and 1.8 ounces to 2.8 ounces. The natural habitat for the Louisiana Crawfish is from northern Mexico to Florida, and north to southern Illinois and Ohio.

The Louisiana Crawfish is well suited to both aquaponics and major commercial aquaculture operations. It is a very hardy species that can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, including low oxygen levels, poor water conditions, and both low and high water temperatures, though the Louisiana Crawfish thrives in temperatures between 72˚ and 86˚ F. Its ease of reproduction and lack of free-living larval stages are other reasons this crustacean has been widely coveted for culturing ponds and aquaponics systems around the world.

Louisiana Crawfish Diet
Crawdads are scavengers. They are a bottom dweller and will eat anything they come across, as they are opportunistic eaters. They will eat all of the leftover food your fish miss, as well as detritus and other waste off the bottom of your aquarium. A healthy diet includes both vegetables and animal proteins. The primary diet should include
plant detritus, plant seeds, green plant material, insect larvae, tadpoles, snails, high-protein fish and crustacean sinking food.

Reproduction
To be successful in the maintenance and reproduction of brood stock in indoor holding systems, be sure to:
* Select healthy mature adults
* Maintain warm temperatures (preferably between 72˚ and 86˚ F)
* Maintain good water quality
* Provide proper nutrition
* Isolate berried females (females carrying eggs)
to hatching tanks

In a hatchery, Louisiana Crawfish can spawn almost continuously throughout the year if conditions are suitable. They generally reach sexual maturity by the age of three to six months. During reproduction, the male makes a small sperm packet and places it on the female's stomach. The female's eggs are then passed through the sperm packet, then attached to the swimmerets on the tail. The female will release her eggs between several weeks to months after mating occurs, depending on water quality, food supply and other various conditions. She will then brood her eggs for six to 10 weeks, depending on water temperature.

The number of eggs laid varies with the size and condition of the females, but it usually ranges from 100 to 500 eggs. When hatched, fry are generally 5 mm long at two days old, growing to 2 cm about one month later, and up to 3.2 inches within three months.

Broodstock And Hatchery
Breeding tanks should be checked every one to two weeks for berried females. Once the fertilized eggs are affixed to the female's pleopods, "swimmeretts" situated on the underside of the tail, It is highly recommended that berried females be moved to a separate tank. Berried females should be carefully netted, keeping them with their abdomen curled around the eggs during transfer to hatching tanks. (to prevent egg loss). Incubation takes approximately six to 10 weeks and the newly hatched juveniles rapidly become independent. The hatching tank will then become the nursery tank for raising the young Louisiana Crawfish.

Louisiana Crawfish are cannibalistic, so they do require housing. PVC pipe sections in multiple sizes, mesh bags, burlap, rocks, or anything that the crawfish can climb through and hide in for shelter will suffice. Young crawfish will moult many times during their first year of life, as they grow quickly. The shed exoskeleton (moulted shell) is used as a source of calcium and is typically eaten by its owner or other crawfish. The fry prefer vegetable food, boiled lettuce leaves left to decay, along with a high-protein sinking pellet. Fry are very cannibalistic, so for a higher survival ratio, a large tank is required.


Louisiana Crawfish as Pets
Crawfish can be an exciting addition to your aquarium. The ideal tank environment consists of about 5 inches of aquarium sand or gravel on the bottom with pipes, tunnels, decorative rocks and caves. You can plant hardy plants in the aquarium, but small, weaker plants won't survive. You will want to make sure the aquarium has a filter to keep the aquarium clean. Use an aquarium heater and thermometer to measure the water temperature and maintain the aquarium between 70˚ and 85˚
F.

Plenty of cover should be included in the aquarium, including both rocks and plants, though the plants will not last long as the crawfish get larger. Crawfish have a flexible exoskeleton that is repeatedly shed as the animal grows. During shedding, they crawfish will lie slightly on its side, and will look dead, but in most cases it is not. The new shell is still soft and pliable, and during this time the crawfish is vulnerable to predators in the aquarium. If the exuvia (shed exoskeleton, moulted shell) is removed from the tank after shedding, the crawfish will likely die as this shed will be consumed for vital calcium. However, if your water has enough calcium in it, this will not be an issue.

Louisiana Crawfish are excellent escape artists! If the water level is near the top of the tank, if you have rocks and decor large enough for them to reach the surface, or if equipment such as airline tubing or heater cords extend over the side of the tank, they will climb out. To reduce the likelihood of escape, equipment should be suspended overhead so that it does not touch the sides of the tank. If housed in an aquarium, a lid may be required.


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