Red Claw Crayfish
Red Claw Crayfish, Image by @SmallestMamoru From

Red Claw Crayfish – Full Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

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Red Claw Crayfish, also known as Cherax quadricarinatus, is a species of freshwater crayfish native to the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. This species is known for its vibrant coloration, flexible diet, fast growth, high fecundity, and stress tolerance. These characteristics make it an ideal candidate for both commercial aquaculture and as a pet in large freshwater aquariums.

Red claw crayfish are a popular pet in large freshwater aquariums. They are known for their hardy nature, delicious meat, and invasive potential. Red claw crayfish can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, making them easy to care for in captivity. They are also an excellent source of protein, making them a popular choice for aquaculture. However, red claw crayfish can also be an invasive species, outcompeting native crayfish and other aquatic animals.

Cherax quadricarinatus, also known as Australian red claw crayfish, are a popular choice among aquarists and aquaponic enthusiasts due to their vibrant coloration and unique behaviors. In this article, we will delve deep into the world of red claw crayfish, exploring their habitat, care requirements, and even tips for successful breeding.

It’s important to note that Red Claw Crayfish should never be released into the wild as they are nationally and globally classified as an invasive species.

Red Claw Crayfish
Red Claw Crayfish, Image by @SmallestMamoru From

Scientific Table for Red Claw Crayfish

Characteristic Description
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Subphylum Crustacea
Class Malacostraca
Order Decapoda
Family Parastacidae
Genus Cherax
Species Cherax quadricarinatus
Common Name Red Claw Crayfish
Distribution Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and nearby areas
Habitat Freshwater rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds
Size Up to 25 cm (10 inches) in length
Color Olive-green to dark brown with red patches on claws
Diet Omnivorous – feeds on plants, algae, and small animals
Behavior Nocturnal, burrows in the substrate, social species
Reproduction Sexual reproduction, females carry eggs and juveniles
Lifespan Up to 5 years in the wild
Conservation Status Not evaluated (IUCN Red List status as of 2021)
Special Features Possesses a unique red patch on the claws
Red Claw Crayfish Habitat
Image by Bubbleleg96 From Wikimedia Commons

Red Claw Crayfish Habitat and Distribution

Red Claw Crayfish habitat prefer high turbidity and slow-moving rivers, lakes, lagoons, or static water holes. However, they have also been found in freshwater irrigation channels, fast-flowing rivers and streams, and brackish-water lagoons.

In their natural habitat, Red Claw Crayfish thrive in slow-moving freshwater bodies with an abundance of vegetation and hiding spots. These crustaceans are known for their burrowing behavior, which allows them to create shelter and establish territories. Red Claw Crayfish are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they feed on both plant matter and small animals. This varied diet enables them to adapt to different food sources in the wild.

In the aquarium setting, they exhibit interesting behaviors, such as scavenging for food, exploring their surroundings, and interacting with tankmates. However, they can be territorial and may become aggressive towards their kind or smaller tankmates if their space is limited. Providing ample hiding spots and enough room for them to roam helps reduce stress and promote natural behavior.

Red Claw Crayfish Distribution
Red Claw Crayfish Distribution, Photo copyright from

Red Claw Crayfish Distribution

Red Claw Crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. These regions are characterized by a diverse range of freshwater bodies, including rivers, streams, billabongs, and ponds. The crayfish have also been introduced to several other countries for aquaculture and aquarium purposes.

1. Australian Distribution

In Australia, the Red Claw Crayfish is widely distributed throughout the northern regions of the country. They can be found in waterways across Queensland, Northern Territory, and Western Australia. These regions offer an abundance of natural water sources, which are essential for their survival.

2. Papua New Guinea Distribution

In Papua New Guinea, Red Claw Crayfish are found in the lowland and swampy areas of the country. They inhabit various river systems and bodies of water that provide suitable conditions for their growth and reproduction.

3. Impact of Human Introductions

Due to their appealing appearance and potential economic value, Red Claw Crayfish have been introduced to other countries, often outside their native range. Some of the countries where they have been introduced include the United States, Mexico, and China. In some cases, these introductions have led to concerns regarding their potential impact on local ecosystems and native species.

4. Ecological Concerns

In regions where Red Claw Crayfish have been introduced, they can compete with and displace native species, affecting local biodiversity. Their ability to consume both plant matter and small animals, coupled with their aggressive nature, can disrupt delicate ecological balances. In some areas, they have become invasive species, posing a threat to local aquatic habitats and native fauna.

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5. Conservation Efforts

As a response to concerns about the potential ecological impact of introduced Red Claw Crayfish populations, there have been efforts to regulate their trade and prevent further introductions in some regions. Conservationists and researchers continue to study the interactions between introduced populations and native species to better understand and manage the potential consequences.

Red Claw Crayfish
Red Claw Crayfish, image by @ChrisConey from

Red Claw Crayfish Physical Characteristics

Red Claw Crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) is an eye-catching freshwater crustacean known for its distinctive physical features. As an intriguing addition to aquariums, it is essential to understand their unique characteristics to provide them with the best possible care and appreciation.

1. Body Structure

The body of a Red Claw Crayfish is divided into two main parts: the cephalothorax and the abdomen. The cephalothorax houses the crayfish’s head, which is equipped with a pair of compound eyes and two pairs of antennae. The larger antennae, called the antennules, are sensitive to touch and help the crayfish detect changes in its environment.

2. Coloration

One of the most striking features of the Red Claw Crayfish is its vibrant coloration. The body color ranges from olive-green to dark blue, while the abdomen typically exhibits shades of lighter blue. Bright red patches adorn the claws, legs, and abdominal segments, giving the species its name.

The intensity of the red coloration can vary based on factors such as age, gender, and environmental conditions. For instance, males tend to display more vibrant red colors, especially during the breeding season, to attract potential mates.

3. Claws and Carapace

The crayfish’s claws, or chelae, are robust and well-developed. The larger claw, called the “crusher claw,” is used for gripping and crushing prey, while the smaller claw, known as the “pincer claw,” is more dexterous and helps the crayfish handle food. The contrasting red color of the claws further accentuates their appearance.

The carapace, or the hard protective shell covering the cephalothorax, is another notable feature. It exhibits a series of distinct ridges or carinae, which add texture and definition to the crayfish’s appearance. These ridges can vary in prominence, contributing to individual variations in the crayfish’s appearance.

4. Size and Growth

Red Claw Crayfish are known for their substantial size compared to other crayfish species. In the wild, they can grow up to 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) in length, with males often being larger than females. In captivity, with optimal care and nutrition, some individuals have been known to exceed these size ranges.

5. Molting

Like other crustaceans, Red Claw Crayfish undergo a process called molting. As they grow, their exoskeleton becomes restrictive, prompting them to shed it periodically. During molting, the crayfish retreats to a secure hiding spot to protect itself while its new exoskeleton forms and hardens.

Molting is a vulnerable time for the crayfish, as its soft exoskeleton offers little protection against predators. It is crucial to provide plenty of hiding spots and a stress-free environment during this phase to ensure the crayfish’s safety and successful molting.


Red Claw Crayfish Tank
Red Claw Crayfish Tank, image by cdazzlesockmonkey

Setting Up the Ideal Habitat for Red Claw Crayfish

Creating an ideal habitat for Red Claw Crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) is essential to ensure their well-being, happiness, and longevity. These fascinating freshwater crustaceans thrive in environments that mimic their natural habitats. To provide the best care for your Red Claw Crayfish, consider the following detailed aspects when setting up their aquarium:

1. Tank Size and Water Volume

Red Claw Crayfish are active and territorial creatures that require ample space to roam and establish territories. A larger tank not only accommodates their size but also dilutes waste, leading to better water quality. For a single crayfish, a tank size of 20 gallons is the minimum requirement. However, providing more space, such as a 30 to 40-gallon tank, offers additional benefits.

For each additional crayfish, add another 10 gallons to the tank capacity. Keeping multiple crayfish in a larger tank helps minimize territorial disputes and stress.

2. Water Parameters

Maintaining appropriate water parameters is crucial for the health and well-being of Red Claw Crayfish. They prefer slightly alkaline water with a pH range of 7.0 to 8.0. Additionally, the water temperature should be maintained between 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C) to support their metabolic functions and overall health.

Regularly test the water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels to ensure optimal water quality. Performing partial water changes of around 20% to 25% every one to two weeks helps keep the water clean and free from harmful toxins.

3. Substrate and Hiding Spots

Selecting the right substrate and providing hiding spots are crucial for the well-being of Red Claw Crayfish. A soft substrate, such as sand or fine gravel, allows them to burrow comfortably. Burrowing is an essential natural behavior that provides them with security and stress relief.

Introduce various hiding spots, such as caves, PVC pipes, driftwood, and rocks, to create a diverse and stimulating environment. These hiding spots not only serve as shelters but also contribute to reducing stress and territorial conflicts.

4. Filtration and Aeration

Red Claw Crayfish are sensitive to high levels of ammonia and nitrite, which can be harmful to their health. A reliable filtration system is crucial to remove debris and waste from the tank, maintaining optimal water quality. Choose a filter that suits the tank size and consider adding a pre-filter sponge to protect smaller crayfish from being pulled into the filter.

Aeration is equally important, as it ensures a continuous supply of oxygen in the water. Provide sufficient aeration to oxygenate the water, especially in heavily stocked tanks or those with live plants.

5. Lighting

While Red Claw Crayfish do not require intense lighting, providing a suitable light cycle is beneficial. Crayfish are generally more active during the night and in low-light conditions. Consider using low-intensity LED lights or provide natural ambient lighting by placing the tank away from direct sunlight.

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6. Tank Decorations and Plants

To create an engaging and enriching environment, add tank decorations like small bridges, tunnels, and caves. These features encourage exploration and promote natural behaviors in the crayfish.

Live aquarium plants not only enhance the aesthetics but also offer additional hiding spots and contribute to water quality. Choose hardy plants like Anubias, Java Fern, and Vallisneria, as crayfish may disturb or consume more delicate plant species.


Health and Common Issues in Red Claw Crayfish

Ensuring the health of your Red Claw Crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) is essential for their overall well-being and longevity. These crustaceans are generally hardy, but like all living creatures, they can face health challenges. Being proactive in observing and addressing any potential issues is crucial for maintaining a thriving aquarium environment. Here are some common health concerns and tips to keep your crayfish healthy:

1. Molting Problems

Molting is a natural process for crayfish, during which they shed their exoskeleton to accommodate growth. However, molting can sometimes pose risks, especially if the crayfish doesn’t have proper hiding spots or if water conditions are suboptimal. Crayfish are most vulnerable during molting, as their new exoskeleton is soft and offers little protection.

Prevention and Treatment: Provide plenty of hiding spots, such as caves or dense plants, where the crayfish can molt in peace. During molting, avoid disturbing the crayfish to prevent stress. After molting, leave the old exoskeleton in the tank; the crayfish may consume it to reabsorb valuable minerals. If a crayfish fails to molt or gets stuck in the process, consult an experienced aquatic veterinarian for guidance.

2. Parasites and Diseases

Crayfish are susceptible to various parasites and diseases, especially when introduced into a new aquarium or from contaminated tankmates. Common health issues include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and parasitic infestations.

Prevention and Treatment: Quarantine new crayfish and other tank inhabitants before introducing them to the main tank. This helps prevent the spread of potential diseases. Maintain excellent water quality and perform regular water changes to minimize stress and improve overall health. If you notice any signs of illness, such as lethargy, discoloration, or unusual behavior, consult an aquatic veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

3. Aggressive Behavior

Red Claw Crayfish are generally peaceful toward their own species, but territorial disputes can arise, especially in smaller tanks with limited space. Aggressive encounters may lead to injuries or stress among crayfish.

Prevention and Treatment: Provide sufficient hiding spots and space for each crayfish to establish its territory. In larger tanks, territorial behavior is usually less intense. If you observe severe aggression, consider separating the aggressive crayfish from the others to prevent injuries.

4. Nutritional Issues

A balanced diet is essential for the health and vibrant coloration of Red Claw Crayfish. Inadequate nutrition can lead to deficiencies and weakened immune systems.

Prevention and Treatment: Offer a varied diet that includes high-quality commercial crayfish pellets, vegetables, and protein-rich foods such as insects, shrimp, and small fish. Monitor their feeding habits to ensure they are actively consuming food. Overfeeding should be avoided, as it can lead to water quality issues.

5. Stress Factors

Stress is a significant factor in crayfish health and can result from poor water conditions, sudden changes in the environment, or aggressive tankmates.

Prevention and Treatment: Maintain stable water parameters through regular testing and partial water changes. When introducing new crayfish or tankmates, do so gradually to allow for acclimation. Avoid sudden changes in water temperature or chemistry.

Red Claw Crayfish Breeding
Image by Yusri Dwi Milyardini From twitter

Red Claw Crayfish Breeding

Breeding Red Claw Crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) can be a rewarding and captivating experience for aquarium enthusiasts. Understanding their breeding behavior and providing the right conditions for successful reproduction is essential. Let’s explore the fascinating journey of Red Claw Crayfish breeding:

1. Separate Breeding Tank

To initiate breeding, create a separate breeding tank with suitable conditions. The breeding tank should have a size of at least 20 gallons and be equipped with a sponge filter to protect the delicate offspring from being sucked into the filtration system. Ensure the water parameters in the breeding tank are stable, with a temperature between 75°F to 78°F (24°C to 26°C) and a slightly acidic to neutral pH.

2. Mating Behavior

In the right conditions, male Red Claw Crayfish exhibit courtship behavior to attract females. The male will approach the female, and using his specialized swimmerets, he transfers sperm packets known as spermatophores to the female’s body. The female stores these packets until she is ready to fertilize her eggs.

3. Carrying and Hatching Eggs

After mating, the female carries the fertilized eggs under her abdomen. This process can last for several weeks, depending on the water temperature and the individual female’s reproductive cycle. During this time, it is crucial to minimize disturbances and provide ample hiding spots for the female to feel secure.

Once the eggs are ready to hatch, the female will release the juvenile crayfish, known as “miniatures” or “mini-mes,” into the water. These tiny, translucent offspring are fully formed but lack the protective exoskeleton that adult crayfish have.

4. Caring for the Offspring

The newborn crayfish are highly vulnerable and need special care to survive. They will instinctively hide and find shelter in the tank’s decorations or plants. The mother will try to protect them, but she may also eat some of the offspring, which is a natural behavior.

To increase the survival rate of the newborn crayfish, you can move the mother back to the main tank after hatching and transfer the babies to a separate rearing tank. This will reduce the risk of predation and ensure they have access to food and hiding spots. Feed the juveniles with powdered or finely crushed fish flakes or specialized crayfish food to support their growth.

5. Juvenile Development

As the juvenile crayfish grow, they will molt several times to accommodate their increasing size. Provide hiding spots and a soft substrate to support their molting process. Proper nutrition and water quality are crucial during this stage to ensure healthy development.

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6. Sexual Maturity

Red Claw Crayfish reach sexual maturity at around 5 to 6 months of age. At this stage, they are ready to breed and continue the fascinating cycle of reproduction.


Feeding Red Claw Crayfish

Feeding Red Claw Crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for their health, growth, and vibrant coloration. These opportunistic omnivores have a varied diet in the wild, consisting of both plant matter and small animals. Replicating their natural diet in captivity is essential to ensure their well-being. Here’s a detailed guide on feeding Red Claw Crayfish:

1. High-Quality Crayfish Pellets

Commercially available crayfish pellets are specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of Red Claw Crayfish. These pellets are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins, promoting healthy growth and vibrant colors. Look for high-quality pellets from reputable brands and feed them as the staple diet for your crayfish.

2. Vegetables

Supplementing the diet with fresh vegetables is essential for providing additional nutrients and fiber to the crayfish. Offer blanched vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, peas, and cucumber. Blanching involves briefly boiling the vegetables and then cooling them down before feeding. This softens the vegetables and makes them more easily digestible for the crayfish.

3. Protein-Rich Foods

In the wild, Red Claw Crayfish feed on small insects, shrimp, and fish, which provide them with essential proteins and fats. You can mimic this part of their diet by offering various protein-rich foods. Small live or frozen foods, such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and blackworms, are excellent options.

4. Commercial Fish Foods

In addition to crayfish pellets, you can provide commercial fish foods like sinking pellets, granules, or flakes. Many of these fish foods contain a mix of animal and plant-based ingredients, offering a varied diet for your crayfish.

5. Natural Foods from the Environment

If you have a well-established and properly maintained planted aquarium, Red Claw Crayfish may occasionally graze on decaying plant matter or algae. While they may enjoy these natural foods, it is essential to ensure that they receive a balanced diet from other food sources.

6. Frequency and Portion Size

Feed your Red Claw Crayfish once or twice a day, providing only as much food as they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues and obesity in crayfish. Remove any uneaten food after feeding to prevent it from decomposing and affecting water quality.

7. Feeding Behavior

Observe your crayfish during feeding to ensure they are actively eating and to gauge their appetite. Healthy crayfish will be energetic and show interest in food. If you notice a decrease in appetite or lethargic behavior, it could be a sign of stress or an underlying health issue.

8. Calcium Supplementation

Calcium is essential for the molting process, as crayfish require it to form a new exoskeleton after shedding the old one. Providing a calcium source, such as cuttlebone or crushed eggshells, helps support successful molting.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Red Claw Crayfish

How long do Red Claw Crayfish Lifespan ?

Answer: Red Claw Crayfish have a lifespan of about 4-5 years in captivity. However, with optimal care, they can live up to 6 years.

  • The lifespan of Red Claw Crayfish is affected by a number of factors, including water quality, diet, and stress level.
  • Crayfish that are kept in clean, well-oxygenated water and fed a balanced diet are more likely to live longer.
  • Crayfish that are stressed, such as those that are kept in overcrowded tanks or that are handled frequently, are more likely to die prematurely.

Red Claw Crayfish Price Per Kg?

Answer: The price of Red Claw Crayfish per kg varies depending on the size, location, and supplier. However, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $30 per kg.

Additional details:

  • The price of Red Claw Crayfish is typically higher in the United States than in other countries.
  • The price of Red Claw Crayfish is also higher during the breeding season.
  • The size of the crayfish also affects the price. Larger crayfish are typically more expensive than smaller crayfish.

Where can I buy Red Claw Crayfish For Sale Near Me?

Answer: You can buy Red Claw Crayfish from a variety of online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Some popular places to buy Red Claw Crayfish include:

  • Local fish stores
  • Online retailers like Amazon and eBay
  • Live fish hatcheries

Additional details:

  • When buying Red Claw Crayfish from a local fish store, it is important to make sure that the store has a good reputation.
  • When buying Red Claw Crayfish online, it is important to read the reviews before making a purchase.
  • When buying Red Claw Crayfish from a live fish hatchery, it is important to ask about the hatchery’s breeding practices.

Red Claw Crayfish Temperature?

Answer: Red Claw Crayfish prefer water temperatures between 22 and 28 degrees Celsius (72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit). They can tolerate colder temperatures, but their growth and development will be slower.

Additional details:

  • Red Claw Crayfish are ectotherms, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the temperature of their environment.
  • If the water temperature is too low, Red Claw Crayfish will become sluggish and their growth will slow down.
  • If the water temperature is too high, Red Claw Crayfish may become stressed and their health may suffer.

Red Claw Crayfish Water Conditions?

Answer: Red Claw Crayfish prefer soft, slightly acidic water. The pH level should be between 6.5 and 7.5, and the hardness should be between 5 and 10 dGH. The water should also be well-oxygenated.

Additional details:

  • The pH level of the water is important for the crayfish’s ability to absorb nutrients.
  • The hardness of the water is important for the crayfish’s ability to build a strong exoskeleton.
  • The oxygen level of the water is important for the crayfish’s respiration.

Red Claw Crayfish Breeding?

Answer: Red Claw Crayfish are relatively easy to breed. The female will lay her eggs in a burrow or under a rock. The eggs will hatch after about 3-4 weeks. The young crayfish will be independent after about 2 months.

Additional details:

  • Red Claw Crayfish are sexually mature at about 1 year old.
  • The female crayfish will lay her eggs in a burrow or under a rock.
  • The eggs will hatch after about 3-4 weeks.
  • The young crayfish will be independent after about 2 months.

Can I keep Red Claw Crayfish in an aquaponics system?

Answer: Yes, Red Claw Crayfish can be kept in an aquaponics system. They are a good choice for aquaponics because they are hardy and they help to control pests. However, it is important to make sure that the water conditions are suitable for Red Claw Crayfish.

Additional details:

  • Red Claw Crayfish are not as sensitive to water quality as some other fish species.
  • They are also able to tolerate a wider range of temperatures.
  • However, it is still important to monitor the water quality and temperature in an aqua