Red crayfish in one of our holding tanks
We currently have a large number of surplus crayfish segregated by size in several holding tanks. Like other crustaceans, crayfish molt - shed their rigid exoskeleton or shell for a soft larger shell that awaits underneath - as they grow, and become vulnerable during this period until the new shell hardens. Significantly larger crayfish can and will injure or even kill much smaller crayfish even when they are not molting.
A crayfish exhibiting a typical crayfish greeting
Two neighboring adults in their respective PVC pipes
Crayfish at all life stages will cannibalize each other so they need to have places in which they can hide and protect themselves from predation. To minimize conflict and for protection between molts, each crayfish is given a PVC tube which they can use as a burrow and fend off tank-mates. However, adult crayfish not only fight with their neighbors, but occasionally find mates as well. When they do "find love", they mate face to face with their claws and legs locked together, making it difficult upon first glance to tell if they are fighting or...not fighting. Recently a few pairs have been doing a lot of "not fighting" in the adult tank and the results are evident in the video that follows.
As shown next to a metric ruler, the juveniles are currently 7 - 9 mm long
After mating, the mother broods the eggs below her tail and the hatched young often remain with her for a while after. When they can feed (on detritus, or in their case crushed fish flakes) and protect themselves they simply head off on their own. These cute little crayfish are already pretty scrappy and quite active; in fact they are probably several molts old at this point and more than capable of fending for themselves. So in anticipation of the inevitable crayfish battles to come, I constructed a habitat specifically designed for the needs of our young crayfish community.
A newly constructed, state of the art, all inclusive, crayfish condo