An Adventure in Sustainable Living
|Crayfish Farming - Raising Red Claw Crayfish|
|Farm Animals - Wildlife|
See also: Sources for Red Claw Crayfish
Farming crayfish in ponds or tanks has been the subject of considerable investigation over the past 20 years. I have been looking into the possibilities for a while now. Below is some of what I've learned about raising crayfish commercially or for personal consumption.
The questions I've tried to focus on: Is it profitable to farm crayfish? How difficult is it to manage crayfish in an intensive production environment? How do you keep crayfish healthy - food, water temperatures and other environmental conditions in captivity?
Research into the possibilities crayfish farming might present began in earnest in the US about 20 years ago. Research was centered in the south east and much of it considered primarily raising crayfish, particularly Australian red claw crayfish, in ponds under intensive conditions.
Initially there was great hope for the Australian species that have been farmed in Australia. The red claw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) proved particularly suited to captive production. It grows large, is generally hardy under the right conditions and taste tests clearly indicate it is well received by the general public.
The crayfish farms once imagined by entrepreneurs have failed to materialize however, for a number of reasons I'll explore below. This does not mean the subject is closed though. There may be good reasons to explore possibilities as methods and circumstances change. I'm presonally interested in raising crayfish for personal consumption, for example. And any extra I may be able to produce would off set my own production costs.
In North America, wild crayfish are easily raised, abundant and surprisingly tasty. The Australian species are larger and may offer more options for those looking to sell them, and at a much higher price.
One area I'm most interested in is whether the Australian crayfish might be economically raised in an aquaponic system - combining aquaculture with a hydroponic system used to grow spinach or other vegetables. In theory at least, the waste produced by the crayfish could be recycled to provide nutients for the plants, and the waste plant matter (roots, etc) could be fed back to the omnivorous crayfish.
A study conducted by S. Dasgupta at Kentucky State University concluded that sales of fresh water prawns at a temporary food site such as a prawn festival or county fair would break even if the crayfish sold for $5.77 per serving. This assumes the vendor sells 800 pounds of crayfish tails over a 2 day period with fixed costs of $16,624 – which includes production of the crayfish. Assuming each serving sold for $8.00 would yield a profit of $2.23 per serving or $3,211 per day.
Source: Selling freshwater prawns at Kentucky Food Festivals
The Australian red claw crayfish is considered to be a popular crustacean species for aquaculture due to its potential large size and resemblance to American lobsters.
The red claw has many positive attributes that make it suitable for semi-intensive and intensive culture. They exhibit an unaggressive and nonburrowing behavior in captivity. Red claw tolerate relatively crowded conditions, with limited cannibalism exhibit fast growth rates over a broad range of temperatures require relatively simple spawning technique.
They also tolerate a wide range of water qualities.
About 30% of the total body weight of the red claw is edible tail meat, compared to 15 – 20% for native crayfish
Partial and total replacement of fish meal with soybean meal and brewer ’s grains with yeast in practical diets for Australian red claw crayfish: Cherax quadricarinatus
Laura A. Muzinic a, Kenneth R. Thompson a, Aaron Morris a,
Information regarding raising crayfish (including red claws) from the aquarium industry ...
Basic Care in captivity
Longevity: Most of the Cherax (Australia, Indonesia) will live about five years.
Large redclaw require at least two square feet per animal.
Introduced crayfish that will be kept together at the same time to avoid cannibalism.
The crayfish require dechorinated water with a pH of 7.2-8.2.Their water should be moderately hard and contain a fair amount of calcium.
Crayfish will not tolerate high ammonia or nitrite (waste byproducts) levels in their water so require biological filtration and aeration or regular water changes.
Sudden deaths of groups of crayfish in aquariums are often due to an ammonia or nitrite surge.
Test water frequently to make sure amonia and nitrite levels are at acceptable levels.
Crayfish suffering from ammonia/nitrite toxicity become suddenly listless with little limb movement.
Their water temperature should be between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and slightly alkaline water, with a pH level between 6.5 and 8. Red Claws are scavenging omnivores, and will eat whatever they can get their claws on. Their primary diet should include plant matter, worms and even certain vegetables. However, they will munch on what ever falls to the bottom of the tank.
The Red Claw will most likely breed between September and April. During spawning, the male deposits sperm on the belly of the female. Eggs are released in the next 24 hours, and are fertilized by the sperm. The eggs are attached to the legs of the female, and will hatch roughly 10 weeks later. If disturbed during this period, the female will give up on them. Approximately, 200 to 1000 eggs are produce in each spawn. The Red Claw is capable of reproducing when it is one year old. This species has been bred in captivity.