Last Updated on September 15, 2021 by cmoarz
In the United States, they’re known as “crawfish,” and in other countries, they go by different names. Around the world, however, it’s common to hear people refer to them as crayfish. I use the terms interchangeably in this article. So what do crayfish eat?
No matter where you are from, they are both the same (red, or electric blue crayfish), and it’s important to know what crayfish eat and what to feed your pet crayfish (crawfish) to keep them healthy. This also includes young crayfish with more specialized dietary needs.
Crayfish are tiny crustaceans that resemble tiny lobsters and can be found in streams, ponds, and marshes. People across the world enjoy crayfish as a delicacy. Many homes, on the other hand, consider them their beloved pets.
Whether you’re farming them for food, Or for love, It’s important to know what to feed them.
What do crayfish eat?
You can keep your crayfish healthy by feeding them what they would normally find in their natural habitat.
In their natural habitat, Crayfish are omnivores, so what do crayfish eat? Crustaceans like shrimp and other fish. They also enjoy vegetation, fruits, and vegetables.
If you don’t want to hunt for crustaceans or head to the produce aisle at the supermarket, then you could try feeding your pet crayfish (crawfish) commercial fish foods made, especially for crayfish. Just make sure what you do feed crawdads is free of preservatives and chemicals before you feed it to them.
Sinking pellets will be a large part of your crayfish’s diet. They should make up at least 75% of it.
These will consist of Shrimp Pellets, Shrimp (Or catfish) sinking wafers, as well as sinking algae wafers.
It’s important to note the high need for calcium and protein in your crawfishes diet, so algae wafers should be supplemented with additional protein pellets or wafers.
Some flake foods are also ok. But you should also keep in mind crayfish diet needs some live foods just like they would eat in the wild. While you don’t actually need to go out and catch live fish, You can jog over to the pet store to pick up some feeder fish! A list of appropriate live foods is below.
Fresh and freeze-dried and frozen foods, and fruits
A varied diet is important when you’re looking at what to feed crayfish. As freshwater crustaceans, they have special dietary needs, especially young crayfish which will be talked at the bottom of the article.
There’s a lot of healthy vegetables and fruits you can provide your crayfish to supplement—and even replace—the sinking pellets in their diet. Those would include, but are not limited to:
Vegetables and frozen foods:
- Romaine lettuce
- dried seaweed
- Frozen peas
- green beans
High calcium vegetables:
As invertebrates, Crayfish require a large portion of calcium so they can molt every couple of months.
For calcium, you can feed them:
- cabbage leaves
- beet leaves
- collard greens
- kale leaves (sparingly) Greens can be fed occasionally, but it’s important to note they’re high in oxalic acid. This binds with calcium and makes it unavailable to your crayfish. So don’t make greens the mainstay of their diets.
All of these can either be given frozen or prepared fresh. It’s important the harder vegetables should be blanched first. If you have problems getting the lighter ones to sink, blanching may also be required.
Additional sources of calcium should be added to the tank in the form of cuttlebones and eggshells.
Eggshells require a fair bit of preparation first, and cuttlebones are much easier, however, if you wish to add eggshells, here is the procedure for preparation:
Boil the eggshells for 5-10 minutes to kill bacteria
- Allow them to dry completely before proceeding.
- Microwave them for 5-10 minutes, They should be very brittle and dried out.
- If any of the inner shell membranes remains after microwaving, remove it. It may harbor bacteria.
- Grind eggshells into a powder in either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.
- Sprinkle the newly created powder into the aquarium on occasion.
An easier step is to buy reptile calcium powder. You can get it at any reptile-focused pet store or on Amazon (this one we recommend). Avoid ones with vitamin D additives.
The fruit you can feed your pet crawfish
Fruit is a bit of a complicated matter when it comes to feeding crayfish. Fruit should be used sparingly as it’s not nearly as nutritious and beneficial to crayfish as vegetables are. In fact, Any and all acidic fruit should also be avoided as it can throw off the pH balance of your aquarium or pond which could end up killing your pet!
Some of the fruits you CAN feed them as a treat:
- Frozen bananas
- fresh bananas
- Frozen apples
- fresh apples
Fruits that should be avoided would be:
- and anything high in citrus or other acids
As crayfish often will eat other fish and seafood in the wild, You can safely give them the same in captivity… These include:
Live and Frozen fish
- sardines and other frozen fish etc
- Frozen, fresh, dried, and freeze-dried bloodworms
- Decaying plants (they do eat plants sometimes!)
- java moss and other aquatic plants and other plant matter
- They will eat snails
- Brine shrimp (and other small live foods)
- other aquatic animals smaller than them
- Amphibian eggs
Baby crayfish’s diet consists of:
Everything the adult can eat, But crushed or cut up smaller in size. Due to the smaller size of the baby crayfish, small fish, insect larvae, brine shrimp, and other tiny fish and smaller shrimp pellets are advised until they get a bit older.
However, it’s safe to give them anything on this list that the adult crayfish can eat as long as it’s cut or crushed down appropriately to match the size of the crawfish.
A note on the aggressiveness of the crayfish.
Crayfish are NOT social aquarium friendly. Anything you place in the aquarium or pond with a crayfish is almost certainly to be viewed as a quick meal and will most definitely be eaten. They are also considered very aggressive feeders and particularly strong swimmers, able to catch prey which you would think were much faster than them.
Crayfish are extremely aggressive towards anything they perceive as food.
They will kill and eat ANYTHING, including:
Fish – small fish will be eaten in a matter of hours when in an aquarium with crayfish.
Snails – Crayfish eat snails whole (if the snail isn’t too large). Some people suggest you add some plants with your snails, because at least then they’ll have a chance of hiding from the crayfish before getting eaten. Personally, I recommend not having any snails in the tank at all, but if there is enough plant cover, it could be an ok option. Snails tend to wander out and get eaten regardless of cover so keep that in mind.
Insects – Any insect larvae or aquatic insects that happen to fall into the tank will get themselves an express ticket to becoming dinner pretty quickly.
Aquatic animals – any small aquatic animals such as shrimp and crabs will become food pretty soon after being added.
Fish fry – Small fish may be left alone for a while, but there’s no guarantee they won’t get eaten. What happens is the crayfish will leave them ALONE until they get bigger and then it’s basically “Crayfish eats 1/2 grown fish” time.
Any animal that could possibly fit in their mouth WILL BE EATEN.
What do crayfish eat in the wild?
other than commercial foods, they eat just about anything local in their ecosystem that’s on this list. So while they won’t be out getting broccoli, they will chow down on most of the live fish, snails, and plants, and insects they encounter in their environment.
Where do crayfish come from? What’s their natural habitat like?
Crayfish are found all over North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa in slow-moving bodies of water such as swamps, ponds, rivers, etc. Usually, the diet of crayfish is quite varied with lots of different types of animals present in large numbers allowing for a balanced diet.
How long to feed them before they die? What about if I quit feeding them? What happens then?
As mentioned in the food section above, Crayfish are omnivores meaning that they eat meat and plants. If you don’t feed them for too long they will eventually starve to death but it takes much longer than you might expect. What happens is that first they will start eating other dead crayfish and then after a while, if they’re still without food, they will slow down and may become unable to defend themselves (if the tank has other aggressive animals like cichlids).
What this means is that if you don’t feed them for very long, they’re likely to get eaten by anything else in the tank fast enough before they starve.
I heard frozen bloodworms are bad for crayfish, is that true?
While crayfish will certainly prefer smaller fish and live food, Frozen bloodworms are not bad for them and they will eat them, Especially young crayfish. Consider the crayfish as you would a bottom feeder, as in they will eat just about anything that’s edible.