Also known as Crawdaddies and Mudbugs, Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans which are often quite colorful and always fun to watch. So, if you are considering keeping them as pets, you may be searching for the answer to the question, “How long do crayfish live?”
As always, this depends on the species. For instance, the Dwarf Orange Crayfish lives about 2 years in captivity, while the Electric Blue Crayfish may live up to 5 or 6 years in your tank – provided that their environment and diets are carefully managed. The title on ‘longest-lived crayfish’ actually goes to the Tasmanian giant, which may live for up to 40 years!
Today I’ll talk about the lifespan of different crayfish species and what can affect them in captivity. This way you can add them to your tank and with a little luck and care, enjoy them for a long, long time!
Dwarf Crayfish species (Cambarellus sp.)
Dwarf crayfish species (Cambarellus sp.) live about 2 years in captivity and are hardy little additions to your tank. These guys are tiny, measuring in around 2 inches (up to 5 cm) in length, and ideally should be housed at a ratio of 2 – 3 for every 10 gallons (40 liters) of water.
These little guys will do well with many different tankmates, as they are too small to be a threat to most. That said, they have been known to go after Dwarf Shrimp and the occasional small snail on so if you have those in your tank, just consider yourself duly warned!
For more information, read the detailed guides:
- Dwarf Mexican crayfish (Cambarellus patzcuarensis)
- Cajun Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus shufeldtii)
- Brazos dwarf crayfish (Cambarellus texanus)
- Smallest crayfish (Cambarellus diminutus)
- Swamp Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus puer)
Electric Blue Crayfish (Procambarus alleni)
Electric Blue Crayfish will live for around 5 – 6 years in captivity and are pretty active even during the daytime.
These guys are brilliantly colored and larger than dwarf crayfish species, measuring in at 4 – 5 inches (10 – 12 cm) when fully grown.
Like most crayfish species, Electric Blue Crayfish are natural loners. They are not social and do not like to be kept in groups. They often become more aggressive as they age and there is a very high chance that will fight fellow members of their own or any other species.
For more information, read the article “Blue Crayfish – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.
Yabbies (Cherax destructor)
Under optimal aquarium conditions, Cherax destructor may live up to 8 years, however, on average they usually live 3 – 5 years.
Also, Yabbies grow pretty big compared to other crayfish species. The carapace of an adult Cherax destructor can reach 8 inches (20 cm) or even more. So, keep that in mind when choosing them as pets.
These crayfish are also natural diggers. In their natural habitat, Yabbies can create long tunnels up to 2 m (6 ft) deep. They are also very aggressive and territorial.
For more information, read the article “Cherax Destructor Crayfish – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.
Marbled Crayfish (Procambarus virginalis)
These crayfish have a relatively short lifespan. Generally, they live around 2 – 3 years and reach about 3 – 5 inches (7 – 12 cm) long.
Marbled crayfish, also known as the Self-cloning crayfish, is one of the most popular pet species in Europe and North America. As their nickname states, these crayfish are unique because they are all genetically identical!
These crayfish do not even have to mate to breed. A single marbled crayfish can overpopulate a home aquarium in a short time.
These are extremely interesting creatures but check your state’s laws before purchasing. Due to its invasion potential, this is a restricted (banned) species in some US states and European countries.
For more information, read the article “Marbled Crayfish – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.
Red swamp crayfish (Procarambus Clarkii)
Procarambus Clarkii can live up to 5 years in captivity if they are provided with proper aquarium conditions. On average, though, their lifespan rarely exceeds 3 – 4 years.
Fully grown Procarambus Clarkii can reach 3 – 4 inches (7 – 10 cm) in length. There are reports that in the wild some individuals can measure up to 12 cm (5 inches).
Procarambus Clarkii is also one of the most popular and easily obtained crayfish in the aquarium hobby.
This is a hardy, undemanding, and highly adaptable species. Red swamp crayfish are considered low-maintenance pets and have given great pleasure to both veteran and novice aquarists for many years.
For more information, read the article “Procambarus clarkii – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.
Red Claw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus)
The lifespan of the Red claw crayfish is about 4-5 years long. However, under optimal conditions, they can live up to 6 years in the tank.
This is a very fast-growing species. They can reach 13 inches (up to 35 cm) with a maximum weight of 500 g (1.1 lb) for males and 400 g (0.9 lb) for females.
Cherax quadricarinatus is considered as the 2nd most cosmopolitan crayfish species globally, after Procarambus Clarkii.
This is a hardy, undemanding, and extremely adaptable species.
For more information, read the article “Red Claw Crayfish – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding”.
Tasmanian crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi)
As with many animals, there is a correlation between body size and lifespan. Bigger crayfish usually live longer. Therefore, Tasmanian giant crayfish is an undisputed champion here.
In general, these giant crayfish have been known to live up to 40 years. They reach their maximum size at 30 – 35 years of age.
Some individuals can grow to an impressive size – over 30 inches (more than 80 cm) long and attain weights of up to 6 kg (13 Lb).
For more information, read the article “Tasmanian Crayfish Profile. The Largest Crayfish in the World”.
Longevity Tips for your Pet Crayfish
Obviously, the life expectancy of any crayfish depends on a number of factors such as disease, living conditions, diet, and even shipment stress!
Therefore, there are a few things that you can do to help ensure that these and other crayfish species which you are housing get a chance at good, long lifespans. Here are a few tips to keep them happy and healthy:
1. Handling stress.
Crayfish are not pets you can play with. Do not take them out just because you want to. It will only stress them out.
Even short-term stressors can have adverse effects on their health. If it continues over time it may weaken their immune system, making them more vulnerable to diseases.
2. Molting stress
Like all crustaceans, crayfish need to molt to grow in size and also regrow any lost limbs.
When a crayfish molts, it becomes vulnerable for a brief time as its new shell hardens. So, it is very important to minimize stress to your crayfish by giving it a lot of places to hide.
It will also improve their chances of survival. Remember, most crayfish are aggressive, they will not hesitate to make a meal out of their tankmates.
Don’t skimp on hiding places or your crayfish will feel vulnerable and stressed.
3. Avoid copper
Avoid foods, medications, or even plant fertilizers with copper content, as these are toxic to crustaceans.
Crayfish and shrimp are almost similar in that matter. I’d recommend reading my articles:
4. Calcium supplements and proper diet
Calcium plays a huge role for crayfish. Calcium supplements will help your crayfish to build strong, solid shells. It will also affect their lifespan.
Also, crayfish are natural-born scavengers. In nature, they mainly feed on vegetable debris, roots, dead insects, tadpoles, worms, larvae, etc.
Nonetheless, even though they are omnivores and can eat almost anything, each species has its preferences. Therefore, it is better to give them a good mix of meats and vegetation.
5. Control your water parameters
Although most crayfish species 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.
6. Use lids
Crayfish are excellent escape artists, they also like to explore every nook in the aquarium.
As a result, they can fall and break their carapace or their gills will dry out. Generally, crayfish can live a few days out of the water and in a humid environment.
To prevent that, it is good to have your tanks covered as much as you can. In addition, you can keep the water level slightly below the surface, it will make them harder to get out.
7. Aggression stress
The absolute majority of crayfish species are aggressive, territorial, and very competitive. They can behave aggressively towards anybody on their territory.
Obviously, it will only decrease their lifespan.
So, if you are planning to keep more than one crayfish in the tank, ideally, you need to introduce them to the tank all at the same time. By doing so it can help to reduce the level of initial aggression. Otherwise, the first one is much more likely to view newer ones as invaders and immediately attack.
Provide as many hiding places as you can and do your research on the species. Some dwarf crayfish are pretty peaceful.
List of Crayfish and Their Lifespan
Here are typical lifespans of some well-known crayfish species.
|Species||Average lifespan||Maximum lifespan|
|Tasmanian giant crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi)||25 to 35 years||up to 40 years|
|Yabbies (Cherax destructor)||3 to 6 years||up to 8 years|
|Electric Blue Crayfish (Procambarus alleni)||3 to 5 years||up to 6 years|
|Red claw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus)
||4 to 5 years||up to 6 years|
|Marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis)||2 – 3 years||up to 4 years|
|Red swamp crayfish (Procarambus Clarkii)||3 – 4 years||up to 5 years|
|Thunderbolt Crayfish (Cherax pulcher)||3 – 4 years||up to 5 years|
|Dwarf Mexican crayfish (Cambarellus patzcuarensis)||1.5 – 2 years||up to 2.5 years|
|Cajun Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus shufeldtii)||1.5 – 2 years||up to 2.5 years|
|Brazos dwarf crayfish (Cambarellus texanus)||1.5 – 2 years||up to 2.5 years|
|Smallest crayfish (Cambarellus diminutus)||1.5 – 2 years||up to 2.5 years|
|Swamp Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus puer)||1.5 – 2 years||up to 2.5 years|
|Cuban crayfish (Procambarus cubensis)||3 – 4 years||up to 6 years|
|Procambarus milleri||2 – 3 years||up to 4 years|
||2 – 3 years||up to 4 years|
||3 – 4 years||up to 5 years|
|3 – 5 years||up to 7 years|
|Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus)||6 – 16 years||up to 20 years|
Some final words on crayfish and their longevity
While the longest-lived crayfish is the Tasmanian giant, which lives a whopping 40 years, in captivity, an average crayfish species will usually live from 2 to 5 years.
To help them to reach these lifespans, just be sure to check their water weekly, feed them the proper diets of shrimp pellets, algae wafers, and veggies, and consider some protection and hiding places for molting.
These little guys are not only beautiful but quite hardy, so as long as you invest a little time and care, you should be enjoying their antics for well into the foreseeable future!