Brazos Dwarf Crayfish – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus texanus)

Although Brazos Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus texanus) are relatively new to the aquarium hobby, they have already become rising in their popularity as ornamental species in recent years. The reason behind it is pretty simple.

Because Brazos Dwarf Crayfish are very easy to care for. They are pretty hardy and can withstand huge fluctuations in water parameters and temperature. In addition, these crayfish are relatively peaceful and easy to breed in freshwater tanks, making them a great choice for beginner aquarists.

Although crayfish are a somewhat unorthodox pet, more and more aquarists are giving crayfish keeping a try.

It can be intimidating as a first-time crayfish owner to learn how to care for these unique animals. Keep reading for everything you need to know about Brazos Dwarf Crayfish’s care and keeping in your own aquarium.

Quick Notes about Brazos Dwarf Crayfish

Name Brazos Dwarf Crayfish
Common Names Dwarf Texan Crayfish
Scientific Name Cambarellus texanus
Tank size (optimal) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy
Breeding Easy.
Size up to 3 cm (~ 1.5 inches)
Optimal Temperature 18 – 24°C  (~65°F – 75°F)
Optimal PH 7.0 – 8.0 (6.5 – 8.5)
Optimal GH 3 – 18 
Optimal KH 3 – 15
Optimal TDS 200 – 300 (100 – 500)
Nitrate Less than 20 ppm
Diet Detritivore / omnivore
Temperament Conditionally Peaceful
Life span up to 2 years
Color Form Olive to brown with darkish stripes

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish and other Dwarf Species of Crayfish

According to the latest research, there are 19 species belonging to the genus Cambarellinae. To the untrained eye it can be difficult to differentiate them because they are all pretty small (3 – 5 cm or 1.5 – 2 inches long) and look very similar except some variation in color grading and color pattern.

For example, on the market, we can find such crayfish species as:

  1. Cambarellus ninae – brown-colored,
    2. Cambarellus montezumae – yellow-colored,
    3. Cambarellus patzcuarensis  – orange-colored,
    4. Cambarellus shufeldtii – grey/reddish to brown-colored.
    5. Cambarellus texanus – olive to brown-colored.

The only problem is that this method of “classification” is not completely accurate and, in some cases, it is totally compromised. The point is that these species of dwarf crayfish can crossbreed creating some new color variations and patterns.

Basically, it means that nobody can be absolutely sure what kind of species they might have. 

Origins, Natural Habitat of Brazos Dwarf Crayfish

This is a freshwater crayfish native to Texas. Brazos Dwarf Crayfish inhabits ditches with standing water with lots of plants and will burrow when the habitat becomes dry.

It was first found in a ditch near Bay City in Matagorda County, Texas. It has since been found in the Colorado River, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish Description

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus texanus)Brazos Dwarf Crayfish is on the smaller end and can reach a maximum size of 3 cm (1.5 inches). Carapace length of crabs usually ranges from 8 to 12 mm (0.3 – 0.47 inches).

This crayfish has many beautiful curved, wave-like, and dotted lines. The abdomen has a pale olive ground color, and there is a middorsal stripe lighter than the ground color and outlined by a dense stripling.

A clearly visible dark spot is located in the center of the tail. Their bodies are also covered with tiny dots that have a lot of pattern and color variations.

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish have graceful elongated and narrow shape pincers.

The lifespan of Brazos Dwarf Crayfish is only about 1.5 – 2 years but they have been known to live even a little bit longer under optimal conditions. 

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish Behavior

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish are one of the few types of crayfish that can be kept in captivity relatively safely.

Although they are not very aggressive as their bigger cousins (Blue crayfish, Red crayfishMarbled crayfishCherax Destructor, etc.), they are still not completely peaceful and inoffensive.

Despite their small size, Brazos Dwarf Crayfish are quite territorial (especially males) in nature and will defend their homes, threaten and fight each other if they come too close to each other. Some of these fights may end really badly for one of them. That is why they prefer to keep a distance from their own kind.

Therefore, if you overpopulate your tank they will “regulate” the number in their own way. In addition, from time to time you will notice that one or two would lose a leg or claw. Of course, it will grow back after some time. However, it shows us their temper.

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish are good diggers and often construct burrows. In nature they burrow when some of their habitats become too dry or too cold.

They are mostly nocturnal.

Feeding Brazos Dwarf Crayfish

Brazos Dwarf crayfish almost always spend their time scavenging for food and wandering around their habitat. They are omnivores and prefer organic food.

Suggested foods for your crayfish are:

  • blackworms,
  • crushed snails,
  • earthworms,
  • brine shrimp,
  • dead fish or shrimp.

As a special treat, you can feed your Brazos Dwarf crayfish algae wafers, which is something they seem to really enjoy.

Keep in mind these little critters are great scavengers and will eat basically anything you throw in the tank. You will want to feed your crayfish bottom-dwelling live food along with sinking pellets of any brand (examples with links to check the price on Amazon):

Surprisingly crayfish also enjoy vegetables such as shelled peas and zucchini.  You can read my article “How to Blanch Cucumbers and Zucchini for Shrimp, Snails, and Fish the Right Way.”

Supplement their diet and make sure they get enough calcium (for the exoskeleton) by regularly feeding specialized invert foods.

I highly recommend reading my article “How to Supplement Shrimp and Snails with Calcium”.

Note: Lots of aquarists noticed that snails and any meaty foods are preferred and it helps them grow much faster. Algae wafers, vegetables should only be a supplemental diet. The main diet needs to be meat (protein) anyway.

Tip: Color enhancing food can be a good option to go for if you want to maintain or improve that bright orange coloration.

You can read my article “How to Enhance Shrimp Color?”

How Often to Feed Brazos Dwarf Crayfish?

There is no easy answer to this question because it has to be a delicate balance with crayfish and teammates (fish or shrimp).

What I want to say is that if you feed too much, you will risk to foul up the water and cause a lot of problems (such as Black bearded algae, Hydras, Planaria, Ellobiopsidae or Cladogonium ogishimae, etc.). On the other hand, it is absolutely important crawfish be fed enough not to go after the shrimp or fish.

You can start with 3 – 4 times a week and change it to your livestock’s requirements.

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish and Live Plants

They are safe to keep with any type of live plant. Brazos Dwarf crayfish do not eat healthy plants and can, therefore, be kept in beautifully planted aquariums. Even more, they will benefit from live plants by collecting bacteria and microorganisms off them.

Keeping and Housing Brazos Dwarf Crayfish

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish are usually straight forward and easy to care for. However, for optimal results, here are some handy tips that you should follow in order to keep them in an aquarium.

First of all, although they are very hardy, there is no reason to test their limits. Therefore, if the tank is not cycled do not add the crayfish to cycle the tank. High ammonia and nitrates can still harm them

Tank Size:

The first thing you should consider when setting up a tank for the Brazos Dwarf Crayfish is the size of the tank.

The bigger the tank, the better it may be to setup with diverse areas for them to dwell.

Tip: Brazos Dwarf Crayfish are great escape artists and will climb air hoses and silicon sealant because of this, you should place a fitted lid on the tank. When keeping any type of dwarf crayfish, it is a good idea to make sure the water line in your aquarium is not too high.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: In nature, Brazos Dwarf Crayfish can live in a wide range of temperature conditions 4 – 32 C (40 – 90 F). However, the optimal temperature in the aquarium should be in the range of 18 – 24 °C (65 – 75 °F).

They do not require a heater. Room temperature will suit them absolutely fine.

pH: Although they come from areas that have a high pH, they can also tolerate low pH (6.5) as well. Nonetheless, optimal water pH should be provided for this species in the range of 7.0 – 8.0.
Hardness: Brazos Dwarf Crayfish will appreciate optimal KH 3 – 15 and GH between 3 – 18 GH.

As we can see, they are a very hardy animal, but regular water changes are vital to their optimal health. Installing the proper filtration system along with changing the water will ensure that your crayfish stays properly oxygenated.

Filtration:

Regarding filtration, sponge filters are the best option (because of the surface area). I would highly recommend using Matten filters for any dwarf crayfish or shrimp tank. They will not damage and tear apart the sponge as large crayfish species often do.

You can also read my article “The Best Filtration System for Breeding Shrimp” (the principle with dwarf crayfish is the same).

Last but not least, I always recommend using RO/DI water remineralized with Salty Shrimp GH/KH+. Of course, you can keep Brazos Dwarf Crayfish in your tap water but it is not the best option.

Note: If you have a canister or hang on the back filter and plant to breed them, the filter intake should be covered with a sponge or net. Because of the small size of the offspring (the babies of the Brazos Dwarf Crayfish are very tiny (about 2 mm), they can be easily suck up.

Substrate and Decorations:

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish should be provided with sand or gravel substrate into which they can burrow. They can adapt to their environment and slightly change their coloration in response to their background. They use this survival technique to camouflage against predators.

There should be plenty of dark areas for them to hide in and these should be created out of rocks, driftwood, PVC pipe, plants, etc.
Note: If you are planning to house several Brazos Dwarf crayfish, each of them needs a hiding place to feel secure in different parts of the tank! Keep in mind that they are territorial and do not like neighbors.

Note: It is unlikely that they will leave the tank the way that it was initially set up. With time, the Brazos Dwarf crayfish will rearrange it, digging into the substrate and dragging anything that is light enough for them to move.

Regardless of their hardiness, it will be better to acclimate them (read more about it).  

Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish Male and Female Difference

The gender of Brazos Dwarf Crayfish can be determined externally:

  1. The female and male Brazos Dwarf Crayfish can be told apart by looking at the lower part of their abdomen (the lower part of the white section of the underbelly).

Males have an extra set of pleopods used for internal fertilization. Therefore, if you see that there is like a triangular-ish forming of small legs. That will indicate a male.

Females have seminal receptacle and lack the extra pleopods found behind the walking legs on males. Females do not have the same section. There will not be that triangular-ish forming of small legs. What you will see is a small nub. That will indicate a female.

Note: It is easy to differentiate males and females once they hit about 1/2 an inch (~1.5 cm). At this size, they will be about 2 months old.

  1. Females are a little bit bigger than males and have a wider abdomen.

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish Molting

The same as any crustaceans, Brazos Dwarf crayfish need to shed their exoskeleton in order to grow in size and also regrow any lost limbs. An adult crayfish only needs to shed its skin up to five times a year whereas a juvenile crayfish will shed its exoskeleton every 7 to 10 days.

When they are in the molting process they will look for a place to hide. The reason they like to stay hidden during this process is that they are completely defenseless until their skeleton fully hardens.

That is why, driftwood, rock, and plants are crucial to a successful crayfish tank. Otherwise, they can fall prey not only to other crayfish but even to dwarf shrimp!

You can read my article “Driftwood in Shrimp Tank”.
You can read my article “Top 5 Plants for Your Shrimp Tank”. 

Breeding Brazos Dwarf Crayfish

Mating:

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus texanus) matingBreeding Brazos Dwarf crayfish is considered an easy process because not much intervention is needed on the caretakers part. The crayfish will do the work all on their own.

First of all, you need to make sure you have at least one male and one female in your tank. Brazos Dwarf crayfish reach maturity when they are about 2.5 – 3 months old.

If a female is ready to mate, she will allow a male to approach. After that, the male clamps her claws and puts her on the back. Mating can last from several minutes to an hour or so.

Note: If you wait and watch closely the male crayfish will pounce on top of the female crayfish placing semen inside of what’s referred to as the female’s semen receptacle. The female crayfish will then fold over her tail, placing it under her body so that she may fertilize her eggs.

Eggs:

Female Brazos Dwarf crayfish usually carry anywhere between 10 and 50 eggs. In some cases, big females can have more eggs. The female uses her appendages to keep the eggs clean from dirt and well oxygenated. Her body also keeps the eggs protected from predators and other dangers in her habitat. It usually takes from 3 – 4 weeks to hatch depending on temperature.

Hatching Day and Baby Brazos Dwarf Crayfish

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus texanus) with eggsIf you can see dark spots (developing eyes) on the eggs it means that they are about to hatch.

After hatching, they ride on the mom’s back and under her tail for a couple of days. In some cases, it can be even a week or two. At this stage of life baby Brazos Dwarf crayfish can only wiggle but unable to actually walk. After that, they will start detaching from the mother and crawl away.

This is a very important time. There are pheromones that the female crayfish secretes which is called maternal pheromones. They encourage the young to stay close and the female to protect those their babies.

Once, these pheromones wear off, it is to their advantage to be as far away from their mother as possible. Therefore, ideally, you need to isolate them in a rearing tank from a beginning. Otherwise, there is a great risk of her attacking and eating the babies

Important to know about Brazos Dwarf crayfish babies

DO NOT keep different generations together. Dwarf crayfish babies are also very aggressive. Especially, larger ones to smaller ones. Even with a small size difference, they will not hesitate to catch smaller ones and kill them. Only babies of similar size can be kept relatively safe together.

At the early stages, you need to feed Dwarf crayfish babies daily. Otherwise, they will die due to hunger or aggression. As long as they are well-fed, it will decrease their aggression.

Once they are about 1.5 – 2 cm (2/3 inch) long, you can set them with the adults. It should be relatively safe by then for them to be not seen as free food.

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish and Fish Tankmates

Brazos Dwarf crayfish are not social. Frankly saying, they do not like anybody and prefer to be by themselves in a community tank.

They have a tendency to react defensively. For example, they can run even at you with their risen up claws! The same is with any tankmates.

Fish:

No aggressive fish should be kept in the same tank with them.

They may behave aggressively towards a fish if they feel threatened. They do not have the capability to kill most fish, but they will not hesitate to take chunks of fins if they feel threatened.

People often keep them with small and peaceful fish like Guppies, Mollies, Dwarf swordtails, etc. Only ill and weak specimens can be caught removed by the Brazos Dwarf crayfish, helping to preserve the health of the entire community.

Shrimp:

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus texanus) and cherry shrimpFrankly saying, you will get mixed answers on this because it is going to depend on the individual.

Some aquarists say that they manage to keep Brazos Dwarf Crayfish with Dwarf shrimp and they were doing just fine. While others blamed them for the drastic reduction of the shrimp colony.

Do not think that shrimp are too fast for them. When it is needed, Brazos Dwarf crayfish can surprise you how quick their reaction can be.

Personally, I never recommend keeping even dwarf crayfish species with small shrimp. Except maybe  Ghost shrimpAmano shrimp, Bamboo shrimp, and Vampire shrimp, these species can grow bigger than Brazos Dwarf crayfish and should be safe.

In addition, any molting shrimp is an easy meal for a crayfish. If crayfish gets hold of a shrimp, the shrimp usually does not have any chances.

Even baby Brazos Dwarf crayfish can try to catch baby shrimp. Therefore, keeping them together with dwarf shrimp should be avoided. Nonetheless, if you agree to lose one or two shrimp here and there you are good to try.

Note: Keep them well-fed, it will reduce their hunting instinct.

Snails:
Brazos Dwarf crayfish will definitely try to catch small snail species (for example, bladder (pest) snails (read the guide about them) that do not have a trapdoor to protect itself.

Large snails are usually safe. The problem is that they can nip off the antennae periodically.

Bad Tank Mates: 

In Conclusion

A relatively recent addition to the aquarium hobby, Brazos Dwarf crayfish are low maintenance and simple species to care for. They do not require large tanks, so even beginners will be able to keep them without problems since they are hardy and undemanding.

Nonetheless, adding even dwarf crayfish to your aquarium is a great idea, only if you are ready to fulfill their needs and provide a certain level of attention and care.

In my opinion, Brazos Dwarf crayfish are much more enjoyable to watch and much more active than most fish. All of them have unique personalities.

Related articles:

Introduction to the Crayfish Care – Setup, Diet, and Facts
Can You Keep Crayfish With Other Fish?
Dwarf Mexican Crayfish – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Foto courtesy to vladimirnif

Brazos Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus texanus)

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