Procambarus cubensis – Detailed Guide: Care, Diet, and Breeding

Procambarus cubensis (Cuban crayfish) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding

Procambarus cubensis (also known as Cuban crayfish or Blue Cuban crayfish) are one of the rarest crayfish species you can find on the U.S. pet trade market. In my opinion, it is a huge loss for this hobby because this crayfish species can make great pets in paludarium and aquarium setups.

Cuban crayfish is an extremely adaptable species. These hardy animals are gorgeous, easy to care for, low maintenance, and can be bred in captivity.

I need to start off by saying that knowledge of these crayfish is scanty. The ecology of this species is poorly researched and much is still unknown about them. Basically, it is going to be one of the first guides about this species.

In any case, if you are thinking of keeping Procambarus cubensis in your aquarium, or simply got curious about this species, you have come to the right place. I have gathered all information about this species based on existing studies, experiments, researches, and the experience of enthusiasts.

Quick Notes about Procambarus Cubensis

Name Cuban crayfish 
Common Names Cuban crayfish or Blue Cuban crayfish
Scientific Name Procambarus cubensis
Tank size (minimum) 10 gallons (~40 liters)
Keeping Easy
Breeding Easy-Medium
Average size 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) long
Optimal Temperature 64 – 72 °F (18 – 22 °C)
Optimal PH 7.0 – 8.5
Optimal GH 3 – 25 
Optimal KH 3 – 20
Diet Detritivore / omnivore
Temperament Aggressive as adults
Very aggressive as juveniles
Life span up to 6 years
Color Form Blue (dark to light blue) and brown

Note: Procambarus (from Latin Cambarus) is an alteration of Latin Cammarus meaning “Lobster” (from Ancient Greek κάμμαρος (kámmaros))

Origins and Natural Habitat of Procambarus Cubensis

Procambarus cubensis (Cuban crayfish) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - distributionCuban crayfish are endemic to Cuba where these crayfish occur in scattered localities except in the southwestern mountains. According to the studies, this species has a very restricted range of distribution of approximately 15,000 km2.

Cuban crayfish occupy a range of freshwater environments including slow streams, rivers, ponds, and swamps.

So far, there are no reports of Cuban crayfish in natural habitats outside their native range.

Description of Procambarus Cubensis

Procambarus cubensis (Cuban crayfish) – Detailed Guide Care, Diet, and Breeding - color morphsCuban crayfish do not grow very large. On average, this species grows only to 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) long. Males usually grow larger than females. There are reports that some individuals can measure up to 4 inches (10 cm) or even slightly more.

This species can have several color morphs, the most common are blue and brown. The blue color is especially remarkable.

Depending on the environment, diet, and age of the crayfish, the color can vary from being almost transparent to shiny beige.

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Lifespan of Procambarus Cubensis

Currently, there is no data available on the maximum lifespan for Cuban crayfish in the wild.

According to the study, if appropriately cared for, Cuban crayfish lived up to 5−6 years. However, the average lifespan is around 3 – 4 years.

In captivity, their life expectancy depends on a number of factors such as disease, diet, poor living conditions, and shipment stress.

Typical Behavior of Procambarus Cubensis

Procambarus cubensis is an aggressive and territorial species.

Like most crayfish species, Cuban crayfish are natural loners. They are not social and do not like to be kept in groups.

These crayfish have some fascinating behavior and personality. They readily display aggressive postures towards anything around them. In fact, it is almost certain that they will fight almost anybody of their size.

Note:  Juveniles of this species are also very aggressive and display a strong competition for resources. According to some reports, cannibalism is one of the main ways to regulate their numbers.

Although Procambarus cubensis is a fully aquatic species, these crayfish are also excellent climbers. Given the opportunity, they will try to get out of any tank.

Related article: Do crayfish need to come out of water?

Cuban crayfish are nocturnal animals. They have an extremely low level of motor activity during the day. They become active almost exclusively at twilight and in darkness.

Interesting fact: Although the crayfish have a highly developed visual system containing both peripheral (compound eyes) and central (optic lobes of the brain) features. They do not rely on their eyes to orient. Instead, they use their antennae to explore a novel environment.

Cuban crayfish are also natural diggers. In nature, they often do that at the edge of the water bodies. In aquariums, if there are not enough hiding places, they can push out some soil to make their own dens.

They are pretty messy and destructive. Be prepared that these crayfish will redecorate your aquascape to their liking.

Features:

  • Social: No
  • Active: No
  • Peaceful: No
  • Burrowers: Yes

Feeding Procambarus Cubensis

Like most crayfish species, Cuban crayfish are classified as opportunistic omnivores (because they have adapted to eating both animal and plant material dead or alive).

Multiple observations indicated that these crayfish have a strong preference for high protein supplemented with a variety of vegetables and cereals.

  • 20 – 30% of the diet for adults.
  • 30 – 40 % of the diet for juveniles.

Note: Adults can be more herbivorous, whereas juveniles tended to be more predatory. Juveniles rely on protein (animal prey) for their rapid growth. They are cannibalistic and will not hesitate to eat other crayfish in the tank.

Foods Procambarus Cubensis will enjoy, for example:

  • Shrimp food (pellets., granules, flakes).
  • Fish food. 
  • Blanched vegetables (broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, corn, spinach, peas, squash, leafy greens, etc.).
  • Fruits (Apple, banana, pearl, melon, mango, etc.).
  • Leaves.
  • Frozen blood worms.
  • Detritus worms.
  • Brine shrimp.
  • Tubifex worms.
  • Blackworms.
  • Earthworms.
  • Freshly crushed snails.
  • Dead fish or shrimp, etc.

Leaves (for example, Almond leaves, dead beech, oak leaves, etc.) should always be on the menu, as they feed on these and require the detritus from the leaves. 

Make sure that Cuban crayfish get enough calcium (for the exoskeleton) by regularly feeding specialized invert foods with eggshells, cuttlebone, etc.

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

Related article:

Features:

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Food Preference: Mix of meats and vegetation.
  • Feeding Frequency: 2 – 3 times a week

How Often to Feed Procambarus Cubensis?

Adults can be fed 2 – 3 times a week whereas juveniles should be fed daily. 

Important: Cuban crayfish are aggressive, so do not let them starve or they will go after fish, fry, snails, shrimp, or even cannibalize.

How often should we change the food for Procambarus Cubensis?

Crayfish are slow eaters. Leave their food for 24 hours before removing it.

Leaves can be left for several days in the tank. Just make sure that whatever Cuban crayfish do not consume in one day is removed to prevent water contamination.

Keep in mind that crayfish often drag and store food in their hiding spots for later consumption. Check them from time to time to prevent any bacterial contaminations.

Do not give them the same food all the time. Change their diet regularly.

Tip: It is better to feed Cuban crayfish at night (at least in the evening). By doing so, you will replicate the conditions and environment under which they eat naturally.

Are Procambarus Cubensis Plant Safe?

No, you absolutely cannot keep Cuban crayfish in planted tanks! They will eat, cut, and uproot just about any plant they can get their claws on. 

The only viable options for this species are:

  • plastic plants,
  • floating plants,
  • some cheap plants that you are ready to lose and replace.

You can also read my articles:

Keeping and Caring for Procambarus Cubensis

Cuban crayfish is a very hardy species. In fact, some scientists have been working with them (as model organisms) for over 20 years precisely because this species has low requirements to various external conditions (Burmistrov and Shuranova, 1996). They are insensitive to the quality of the water.

Nonetheless, owning any pet carries significant responsibility and obligation to address their core needs! 

Here are some care guidelines to help you out:

Tank Size:

Therefore, the minimum recommended tank size for one Cuban crayfish is a 10-gallon (40-liter) tank. A pair (male and female) will require at least 15-gallons (60 liters).

If you are going to breed them, you should consider having a separate tank for offspring.

Note: Crayfish are known to be able to climb vertical surfaces, and often they use this ability to escape from any tank. So, a tight-fitting lid is essential.

Water Parameters:

TemperatureProcambarus cubensis lives well at room temperature 64 – 72 °F (18 – 22 °C). However, can easily tolerate a wide range of temperature between 59 – 86 °F (15 – 33 °C).

pH: Ideally, pH should be provided for this species in the range of 7.0 – 8.5.

HardnessThey will appreciate optimal KH 3 – 20 and GH between 3 – 25 GH.

Dissolved oxygen:

According to the laboratory experiments, even when the water in their home tanks was changed once every 2−3 weeks, and the animals never showed signs of oxygen deficit.

Filtration:

I’d say that there are only two options here:

  1. Hang on the back,
  2. Canister filters.

Having sponge filters in the aquarium with Cuban crayfish is just a very bad idea. The point is that these crayfish will definitely chip, chew and break apart the sponge.

Lighting:

Cuban crayfish are nocturnal animals and prefer subdued lighting. Basically, you can choose whatever you like.

Substrate:

In the aquarium, Cuban crayfish should be provided with small gravel and/or sand substrates. It will be an ideal setup for them.

Decorations:

A key requirement for any crayfish is shelter and protection from predators. They also like spots that are as narrow as possible for them to fit in.

Cuban crayfish will appreciate all types of leaves, rocks, wood, PVC pipes, and other decorations to enrich the environment in your tank. It is very important to minimize stress to your crayfish by giving them a lot of places to hide.

It can be especially vital if you decide to breed them or keep them in a community tank. This is crucial for the molting process. Cannibalism after molting can become a big problem.

You need to give them a lot of places to hide. A LOT! At least 2 places per crayfish.

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Acclimation:

Regardless of their hardiness, do not forget to acclimate them.  

Molt Cycle of Procambarus Cubensis

The crayfish exoskeleton is multi-layered and consists of calcified chitin and protein material.

The exoskeleton ensures protection of the internal organs of the crayfish, but, at the same time, it limits their growth. Therefore, growth and development involve periodic shedding and reconstruction of the hard calcified exoskeleton. 

When crayfish is about to molt it becomes less active, stops eating, and seeks the shelter of some kind where protection. Otherwise, they can easily fall prey to their tankmates.

Important:

  • NEVER disturb your crayfish when they are molting. Do not panic even if you have not seen them for a few days in a row! Give them time. This is the most stressful moment in their
  • Keep putting and replacing food in the tank! You never know when they can come up from the molt.
  • Keep giving them calcium-rich food.
  • Also, do not remove the old exoskeleton from the tank. It contains lots of minerals and your crayfish will eat it later.

Related article:

Breeding Procambarus Cubensis

Ideally, you need to have a separate rearing tank.

Maturity:

Depending on the temperature, Cuban crayfish reach sexual maturity at 6 – 8 months old. 

They can breed all year round.

Mating:

The males initiate the process and use the claws to grasp and hold the female during copulation. Mating can last up to a few hours.

After fertilization, females retreat to shelter and safely incubate the eggs. They rarely come out even for feeding.

Tip: throw some food very close to her, so she does not have to come out to grab it and she will eat.

Eggs:

The number of eggs varies with female size and water temperature. Under warm temperatures, large females can carry a few hundred eggs. Low temperatures reduce fecundity to a few dozen eggs.

The females use their appendages to keep the eggs clean from dirt and well oxygenated.

There is high mortality in eggs. Out of a few hundred eggs, only 50 – 70 will make it to hatchlings.

Hatching:

Eggs are ready to hatch within 4-6 weeks.

Cuban crayfish have no larval stages, and all the development occurs inside the egg. So what emerges from the egg is a tiny copy of adult crayfish

Newly hatched young are incapable of living separately from the mother. They stay with her for almost 2 weeks. After that, they leave her as completely independent miniature adults.

Generally, there is no cannibalism of eggs and young by brooding females. Unfortunately, it cannot be said about juveniles.

The fact that juveniles molt frequently and that competition for resources lead to size hierarchy among individuals only aggravates the situation.

Juveniles can be fed the same thing you feed the adults, it just needs to be in smaller proportions.

Related article

Procambarus Cubensis and Suitable Tankmates

Cuban crayfish are aggressive and predatory. They are territorial (especially males). Males are extremely likely to fight when housed together.

It is not recommended to keep them in a community tank with fish, freshwater snails, small frogs, crabs, and other crayfish species.

Bottom-dwelling, slow-moving, or fish with long fins (like Betta) will be the first ones to get hurt.

Adult Cuban crayfish usually do not hunt for dwarf shrimp. Dwarf shrimp are too small and too fast for them. However, they are opportunistic and will eat whatever they catch. It means that you may still lose shrimp from time to time.

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In Conclusion

Procambarus cubensis is a simple species to care for. This species can be easily recommended even for beginners because it does not have any specific requirements for the tank set up to thrive.

These crayfish are beautiful and have some fascinating behavior and personality.

The biggest concern is their aggression, as they may attack other crabs, fish, snails, frogs, and other crayfish.

Keeping Cuban crayfish as pets will certainly keep you occupied.

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References

  1. Hobbs H. H. 1984. On the distribution of the crayfish genus Procambarus (Decapoda: Cambaridae). Journal of Crustacean Biology 4: 12–24.
  2. Habituation to a Novel Environment in the Crayfish Procambarus Cubensis. Journal of Crustacean Biology, Volume 25, Issue 3, 1 July 2005, Pages 488–494
  3. The sperm-receptacle in the crayfishes, Cambarus cubensis and C. paradoxus. Proceedings of the Washington Academy of Sciences, 10 (1908), pp. 167-185
  4. The crayfish Procambarus cubensis: Behavioural studies in the laboratory. January 2010.
  5. Mexican, Central American, and Cuban a. e. Ortmann. Washington academy of sciences. Vol. VIII, pp. 1-24. May 3, 1906.
  6. Caracterizacion de la Macrofauna dulceacuícola deinvertebrados del río Sevilla, municipio Niquero(Granma). Revista CENIC Ciencias Biológicas, Vol. 36, No. Especial, 2005
  7. Procambarus cubensis (a crayfish, no common name).Ecological Risk Screening Summary.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, April 2014
  8. Morphofunctional study of the statocyst of the Cuban crayfish Procambarus cubensis. Journal of Evolutionary Biochemistry and Physiology; New York. Vol 25, # 2. pp. 71-77.

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