Breeding Redclaw Crayfish for Fun and Profit

Whether at home or for commercial purposes, the key to successful crayfish farming is to start with a breeding colony. Crayfish (also called crawfish) are very hardy, and the breeding colony will easily reproduce in your home aquarium, aquaponics system or farm.

When selecting crayfish for your breeding or stocking needs, it’s important to choose top-quality animals. Breeding colonies should consist of only the most carefully selected, mature males and females. They should be fed a high-protein diet, and they should have been raised to be both disease free and completely hormone free. That way, by farming your own crayfish at home, you will be assured that you know what you are raising and eating because you will have direct knowledge of how the crayfish were raised from birth to your dinner table.

Why Purchase A Breeding Colony?
Whether you’re interested in raising crayfish for personal consumption or for profit, starting with a mature breeding colony will allow you to achieve your goals with a faster return on your investment. Crayfish usually take between three and 12 months to grow from craylings into sexually mature adults.

In their natural habitat, they typically breed in the fall and, sometimes, in the spring as well, yielding between one and three spawns per year. In a controlled hatchery, crayfish can reproduce continually throughout the year, giving you an abundance of crayfish.

With each spawn, Australian Redclaw Crayfish average 100 to 1,000 eggs. However, not all eggs or craylings survive. In fact, on average, 30% of eggs are lost during incubation. In the wild, an average of 97% of craylings fail to survive. With the science of aquaculture behind you, and by closely monitoring your breeding colony, your crayling survival rate will be many times higher than in the wild. And with plenty of hiding places, a nutritious diet and proper water quality, a healthy breeding colony in an optimal breeding environment will help you raise an abundance of crayfish.

Successful Reproduction
To be successful in the maintenance and reproduction of brood stock in indoor holding systems, be sure to:
* Select healthy mature adults
* Maintain warm temperatures (preferably between 75˚ and 85˚ F)
* Maintain good water quality
* Provide proper nutrition
* Isolate berried females (females carrying eggs) to hatching tanks

In a hatchery, Redclaw can spawn almost continuously throughout the year if conditions are suitable. They generally reach sexual maturity by the age of six to 12 months. As noted earlier, mature male Redclaw develop a distinctive red or orange patch on the outside margin of the claws; animals of this same size without the reddish claw patch are usually females. The sexes are best identified, however, by examination of the genital openings on the underside of the cephalothorax at the base of the walking legs. Females have a pair of genital pores at the base of the third pair (counting from the head) of walking legs. Males have a pair of small genital papillae (small projections) at the base of the fifth pair of walking legs.

Individual females do not spawn when going through a growth phase (i.e.,moulting). Each female will produce 100 to 1,000 eggs per spawn depending on her size and general health. The first spawn of young females usually has fewer eggs than latter spawns. Newly spawned eggs average 10 eggs per gram of female. About 30 percent of the eggs are lost during incubation, resulting in an average of 7 eggs (that hatch) per gram of female. For example, a female weighing 3 ounces (85 grams) would produce about 600 eggs. This can be used to estimate the number of eggs a female of a given size will produce.

Broodstock and Hatchery
Mature broodstock Redclaw Crayfish can be kept at a density of one to two animals per square foot of tank bottom. The ratio of females to males in each tank should be between one and four females for each male. Good spawning success has occurred using tanks with water depths of 1 to 3 feet. Small rectangular tanks of 15 to 20 square feet have been used successfully, as well as large circular tanks of 15 feet in diameter with 1 to 3 feet of water. For example: A 20-square-foot tank that is 2 feet deep could be stocked with five to 10 males and 15 to 30 mature female Redclaw. Broodstock tanks should maintain a water temperature between 75˚ and 85˚ F for optimal reproduction.

Breeding tanks should be checked every one to two weeks for berried females. Once the fertilized eggs are affixed to the female's pleopods, "swimmeretts" situated on the underside of the tail, It is highly recommended that berried females be moved to a separate tank. Berried females should be carefully netted, keeping them with their abdomen curled around the eggs during transfer to hatching tanks. (to prevent egg loss). Incubation takes approximately six weeks and the newly hatched juveniles rapidly become independent. The hatching tank will then become the nursery tank for raising the young Redclaw.

While Redclaw Crayfish have a low level of aggression, "homes" are essential. PVC pipe sections in multiple sizes, mesh bags, burlap, rocks, or anything that the crayfish can climb through and hide in for shelter will suffice. Young crayfish will moult many times during their first year of life, as they grow quickly, while mature Redclaw will moult only once or twice a year. The shed exoskeleton (moulted shell) is used as a source of calcium and is typically eaten by its owner or other crayfish. Redclaw in tanks can handle a temperature range from 60˚ to 90˚ F. Temperatures below 55˚ and above 95˚ F will result in casualties.

To learn more, visit the Crayfish page on this website. Live Aquaponics also sells a high-protein crayfish food perfect for raising Redclaws. If you have any questions about raising Redclaws, feel free to contact us.  We love to talk with our customers.