Crayfish Tank Mates

Crayfish Tank Mates
Written by Daniel Paul

Crayfish can be an exciting addition when you set up a fish tank at home. They are an excellent choice for the people who want to keep pets but don’t want to spend too much time taking care of them. Looking at them when they move here and there in search of food and exploring their surroundings is a pleasure. They usually interact with their owners, which makes them enjoyable to keep as a pet. Crayfish are not safe for a community fish tank, but many people successfully keep crayfish and other fish together.

You only need to do some research on finding their attributes, behavioral changes, and best tank mates so that whatever species you choose to keep with other fishes to be safe. It is awful to lose a large, costly fish to a crayfish over the night. Their aggressiveness can change under certain conditions. For example, some species, such as the Australian crayfish (Cherax Dispar), are extraordinarily aggressive when they molt or before it. In some species, increased or decreased water temperature can be the cause of aggressiveness. Some species are more aggressive and try to hunt tank mates when hungry.

There are approximately 600 species of crayfish present on Earth. Half of them occur in North America. Due to this diversity, they are present in almost all types of aquatic habitats, including freshwater and brackish water. Some species live in brooks and streams where there is freshwater running. Some others can be found in ditches, swamps, paddy fields and sloughs. These aquatic invertebrates can be a challenge sometimes, but their unique attributes and beautiful colors make it all worth it. We can easily keep them as pets in a home aquarium. If we understand its different nature and respond to certain stimuli, we can manage an environment where they can live with their fellows comfortably.

The aquarium crayfish can be divided into three main categories:

1) Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus sp.)

2) American Crayfish (Procambarus sp.)

3) Freshwater Lobsters (Cherax sp.)

Some examples are here:

Orange CPO (Cambarellus sp.):

They look like a tiny version of lobsters, having bright, eye-catching fiery orange coloration. They can grow up to 1.6 inches in length. They are very active and don’t require lots of care so, very easy to keep.

Louisiana Crayfish (Preocambarus clarkia):

These crayfish are native to the river Nile and can grow up to 6 inches in length. They are adjustable to a variety of tanks, but a problem with this specie is, they have a knack for climbing out of the walls of aquariums.

Tangerine Lobster (Procanarus clarkia):

A Tangerine Lobster is famous for its bright reddish-orange shell and dark eyes. It has graceful legs, powerful claws, and make excellent little scavengers. They offer hours of new and exciting behaviors to watch.

Red Claw (Cherax quadricarinatus):

They can be a beautiful addition to an aquarium. The color ranges from blue-green to black color with yellow lines and spots on the body. They can grow up to 8.5 inches in length. One of its distinguishing features is bubble-like growth on the claws.

Fish That Can Be Kept With Crayfish

Fish That Can Be Kept With Small Crayfish

  • Livebearers
  • Tetras
  • Mollies
  • Platies
  • Swordtails
  • Small catfish like Ancistrus

Fish That Can Be Kept With Large Crayfish​

  • Small fish
  • Redtail shark
  • Rainbow Darters
  • Tiger Barbs
  • South American cichlid fish
  • Goldfish
  • Aulonocar
  • Labyrinth fish

Usually, the crayfish claws are giant and bulky to allow them to catch small, fast fish. They have hooks on their claws. One ponderable thing is that when you buy a crayfish and put it in the tank, the fish will generally need two or three days to get used to the fact that they are now living in a space where other creatures are sharing space with them. Crayfish eat the same food as other fish eat like soft plants (Elodea), sinking pellets, flakes and decomposing plant matter, rotten vegetation, small fish, etc. They are predators that hunt and eat small invertebrates, such as mussels, snails, leeches, and worms.

Crayfish Need A Big Size Tank

The best way to keep aquarium crayfish is to set up a one-of-a-kind species tank. Of course, they can live with some special kind of fish that do not disturb them, but they like to live alone. When making a crayfish species tank, you should start with a container at least 20 gallons (long) in size. A small tank (15 gallons) can not provide the required space, and they will fight with each other eventually. Crayfish need more space and water so, having an appropriate aquarium is mandatory.

Consider the footprint of the tank also as Aquarium crayfish need sufficient area on the tank bottom to move around. Keep in mind that these creatures need an environment with plenty of places to explore, hide, dig, and call their own. A densely-populated tank will also create disturbance because the crayfish can’t live in such kind of environment. Crayfish are usually added to the aquarium when they are small and taken out and keep in solitary confinement when they become mature. They are notorious for fighting with each other. If you put crayfish of different sizes in a single tank, the smaller ones may become malnourished because the bigger one will not allow them to eat adequately.

Crayfish Can’t Be Kept With:

It is crucial to create the desired environment and the fish community for crayfish as they are not suitable tank mates for tropical community fish.

These water creatures are not suitable to keep with crayfish:

  • Swordtails
  • Corys
  • Otocinclus
  • Tiny Amano shrimp
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Freshwater snails
  • roughens

Keeping aquarium crayfish with roughens, cichlids, and other cichlids like creatures can be just as tricky. Roughens may attack the crayfish and get hurt when the crayfish defends itself and attack it back. On the other hand, the giant fish may win the battle, and the crayfish lose a claw, an eye, a leg, or get eaten. Either way, the result can be painful.

Some Famous Crayfish And Their Tank Mates

Dwarf Crayfish

(Orange CPO, Cajun dwarfs, Mexican dwarf )

Dwarf Crayfish​

Dwarf crayfish are fantastic aqua creatures and enhance the decorations of the home aquarium. The Cajun dwarf fish looks similar to Orange CPO. They are good at hiding and can hide for a whole day under a leave, behind a stone or in their hideout. They don’t kill or harm other fish so, best to keep in community tanks. Their speed is deficient in threatening most aquarium inhabitants. They can eat anything that other fish eat like pallets, vegetables, bloodworms, brine shrimps, etc. one thing to remember is, the crayfish is a scavenger so, whenever a fish dies in a tank, they come forward and eat the dead body. In this way, they prevent the spoiling of the tank water.

  • They can be kept with most community fish like livebearers, swordtails, and Neon tetras. And they can defend themselves against Tiger Barbs and other fish that can harm them by picking their limbs.
  • Dwarf Crayfish can also be kept with Snails, freshwater shrimps, and other invertebrates. They can eat baby shrimp, snails, and weak or sick clams if they catch them.
  • Larger fish, such as eels and cichlid fish, eat the young of this crayfish and sometimes the adults, too.

Tank mate compatibility

Can Be Kept With:

  1. Tetras
  2. Livebearers
  3. Dwarf cichlid fish
  4. Pink Ramshorn snails
  5. Neon Tetra
  6. Platies
  7. Guppies
  8. Chili Rasbora
  9. Sparkling Gourami
  10. Hatchetfish
  11. Neocaridina shrimp

American Crayfish

Red swamp crayfish, Louisiana crayfish

The American crayfish are bluish-brown to reddish-brown with elongated, robust, and smooth claws. They have bony exoskeleton with bright red spots covering the body. Very little or no spines are present on the side of the carapace. They may vary in length between 2-5 inches. They live in a variety of freshwater habitats and eat snails, fish, insects, amphibian eggs, and plants. Some of its species are large enough to not fit with other fish in a tank. They are not suitable to keep in community fish tank because they threaten most aquarium fish and will overpower and eat anything they can catch live, or dead. They can grow and mature very quickly, which enables them to be dominant freshwater crayfish in the world. Red swamp crayfish can’t bear environmental stress like extreme temperature, lack of water, high salinity, and pollution.

  • They are very aggressive and try to fight all the time with their tank mates. They pinch and claw when they feel threatened.
  • A large tank is necessary to keep multiple crayfish together.
  • American crayfish should be well fed with a mixture of plant and animal matter. This trick will significantly decrease their tendencies to be aggressive.
  • These crayfish are solitary and territorial creatures. The can live best when kept in an isolated but safe environment.
  • They are not recommended to keep with other pet fish in the same tank because they are omnivores, scavengers, and opportunistic eaters, which means they can attack and eat other fish when given a chance.
  • They can eat small snails with their shells and shrimps. You will lose these tiny creatures if you try to keep them with crayfish.

Can Be Kept With Surface-Dwelling Fish Like:

  1. Rasboras
  2. Danios
  3. Tetras
  4. gourami

Can Not Be Kept With Bottom-Dwelling Fish Like:

  1. Plecos
  2. Corydoras
  3. lobsters

Blue Crayfish

Electric blue crayfish

The blue crayfish (also known as electric blue freshwater lobster) is the most colorful freshwater creature, often reclusive by nature. This specific crayfish is highly active and spends hours digging the floor of the aquarium floor. They are omnivorous scavengers and eat any meat or plant-based food. When they reach adulthood, they will become territorial so that they may show aggressiveness towards other animals present in the fish tank. They are famous for keeping the tank clean and free of debris.

  • Fish that can swim fast and fish that swim near the top of the water are best to keep with blue crayfish
  • Fish that have a little bit of attitude themselves can work well with them.
  • Blue crayfish can be kept with other crayfish easily, but the size of the tank should be big enough. They should not be kept in a water aquarium smaller than 20 gallons.
  • There should be plenty of hiding places(hideouts) in the tank because they need to hide themselves during molting.

Can Be Kept With:

  1. Red Tail Shark
  2. Rainbow Shark
  3. Rainbow Darters
  4. Tiger Barbs
  5. Danios
  6. Rosy Red Minnows
  7. Guppies
  8. Dwarf shrimps

Freshwater Lobster

Tasmanian Giant Freshwater Lobster

They are the largest freshwater invertebrates. Like American Crayfish, Freshwater Lobsters are a danger to bottom-dwelling and slow-moving fish. They are very active and can easily catch other creatures like snails and dwarf shrimps. Due to their large size, they need extra space to live well with other water animals. Burrowing space is very important when we plan to keep them as pets in a tank where other organisms are present. The reason is that they have to molt themselves several times to ensure growth. They become very delicate and vulnerable after molting so the large fish can gulp them quickly. The hideouts will give them protection.

  • Animals that stay away from the bottom will go well with Tasmanian giant water lobsters, even if they are small.
  • Some large fish can also live with them if they are fed adequately.

Can Be Kept With:

  1. Surface dwellers
  2. Hatchetfish
  3. Tetras
  4. Rainbowfish

Can’t Be Kept With:

  1. Bottom dwellers and other invertebrates
  2. Larger cichlids
  3. Vampire shrimps
  4. Cherax crayfish


Crayfish are beautiful freshwater creatures that come in multiple colors. They are scavengers, thus help in keeping the environment clean. They can be kept as pets, but their nature is different from other fish and water inhabitants. It is better to keep them in a separate tank where there are fish of the same species live. They need some extra space and features like burrowing space, hideouts, thick floors and a variety of good things to eat.