The Humble Louisiana Crawfish

In traditional fish-keeping, there is often an emphasis on creating beautiful and peaceful landscapes with a myriad of colorful fish. Rightly so! However, there are other types of tanks that often go over-looked. I've always been a huge fan of planted aquariums and often strove to create similar landscapes, but I soon wanted to try something else out.

A few years ago, through a rather long and convoluted story, I randomly came into ownership of a blue crawfish that someone had fished out of a nearby rice paddy. Being a native and resident of Louisiana, I figured (rightly) that this little girl was a Procambarus clarkii. I was a little disturbed to have this weird alien-thing to take care of, especially since it also happened to be something that I ate a couple of times a year. I did my research and set up a 10-gallon aquarium. This random crawfish ignited a passion that's stayed with me ever since.

Initially, I regretted having a pet crawfish. Because of their penchant for irreverent snacking, I was unable to create and maintain a lush greenscape like I had for every other tank I'd had until that point. Crawfish are detrivores and will eat almost anything indiscriminately: plant matter, dead organisms, small live prey, etc. Instead, I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and use plastic plants in the aquarium. I also got one of those tacky fake caves so that my crawfish had a place to hide and molt. Luckily, with a bit of ingenuity, I was able to get the tank to look pretty decent, and my crawfish appeared to be relatively happy.

Even though the tank wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be, I soon discovered that crawfish supplied the missing link in my own dabbling within the fish-keeping hobby. These extremely hardy fellows fit in well into my schedule. I keep them in room-temperature tanks, and they happily scavenge for food in the tank when I'm not there to feed them. They're pretty tolerant of less-than-immaculate fish tanks (a god-send for a college student like me), and, most importantly, they're actually interesting to watch.

Although I love fish, I'd definitely been missing out on another dimension of fish-keeping by not working with crawfish and other invertebrates before. These guys have huge personalities. My first crawfish, Tubs, helped ignite my cray-craze by being a total goof-ball. She would climb up her filter's in-take valve and just launch off, parachuting down with her tail. Every time I would enter the room, she would come to the front of the tank and beg for food, eventually taking it directly from my hands. My other crawfish following her also had their weird personality quirks and even had their own forms of inter-personal drama within my tanks.

I don't recommend keeping crawfish for everyone, but their hardy nature and interesting personalities make them a worthwhile addition to the "canon" of commonly-kept aquatic critters. However, as always, do your research before adding a new and exciting variable to your tank!

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