Dwarf Crayfish Care Guide: Types, Food, Tanks, Tank Mates, Breeding

Are you looking for exciting creatures to add to your freshwater tank? If so, one of the best options is the Mexican dwarf crayfish.

These little creatures are fun for any aquarists to have. They will add much-needed color to your tank, help you with its cleaning and, as a bonus, be very peaceful around other fish in community tanks.

You aren’t alone if you’re stressed about adding other fish or invertebrates to your aquarium. Most fish keepers go through uncertainty when it comes to introducing new creatures to community tanks. While it’s scary at first, with the proper water parameters, they can settle in with other tank mates in no time.

If you’re feeling ready to add a dwarf crayfish to your freshwater aquarium, this article covers several important tips about their required diet, water parameters, and ideal tank mates that will help you give them the best care.

Species Overview

With the name dwarf crayfish, it’s no surprise that these creatures are on the smaller side compared to the standard crayfish you find in most aquariums.

If you’re curious about their origins, they’re native to Mexico and parts of the southern United States. You’ll likely find them in slow-moving and shallow waters crowded with vegetation.

There are different types of dwarf crayfish, but they all have the exact needs regarding food, water quality, and tank size.

With a lifespan of only 1.5 to 3 years, you don’t have much time to spend with these creatures. But luckily for you, the lifespan of a dwarf crayfish depends on numerous factors, including their living conditions like water quality.

To be better prepared when you take them home, here are quick facts about the dwarf crayfish you should know:

  • Origin: Mexico and Southern parts of United States 
  • Tank size: Minimum of 5 gallons per crayfish  
  • Lifespan: 1.5 -3 years 
  • pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Adult size: 1.6-2 inches 
  • Water temperature: 60- 82°F
  • Water hardness: 6-12 dKH
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Temperament: Peaceful 

If you want to know more about caring for these creatures, read on! 

Appearance and Size

When fish keepers say these creatures are small, they mean small. With an adult dwarf crayfish only growing to a maximum of 2 inches, they’re closer in size to shrimp than other creatures.

While the Mexican dwarf crayfish is more common due to its orange color, these invertebrates come in other colors like blue, brown, orange-red, and yellow.

On their body, they have five pairs of walking legs and a tough segmented exoskeleton. Only 4 pairs are needed for walking, while the last pair, commonly called claws, is used for defense. The appearance of a dwarf crayfish is slightly similar to that of a lobster, so be careful not to confuse them (though one is typically much bigger of course)

You’ll find sets of short and long antennas on their head that detect chemical information and guide them in the water. If you look closely, you’ll notice the sharp horns on their head that can cause damage if they choose to use them. 

One unique fact about their appearance is that they have a powerful tail with strong abdominal muscles that helps propel them forward and backward as they move in the water.


Almost seven times a year, you’ll notice your dwarf crayfish molting. Molting is the process where invertebrates shed their exoskeleton.

The crayfish need to do this because it helps them replace lost limbs and build their new exoskeleton. These crayfish are constantly growing, so they need to replace their smaller and older exoskeleton with larger ones as they increase in size.

A dwarf crayfish will lay on its back when molting because it’s easier to shed off its shell. Molting can take anywhere between 3 hours to 3 days. Younger and baby crayfish will molt more frequently as they grow than adult dwarf crayfish.

Types of Dwarf Crayfish

There are various types of dwarf crayfish species that you can find at your local fish store. The best way to differentiate them when choosing the one you want for your tank is through their color. 

Below are some of the more popular dwarf crayfish that you can find for your aquarium: 

The Mexican Dwarf Crayfish

If you check your local or surrounding fish store, you’re more likely to see some Mexican dwarf crayfish than the other crayfish species mentioned below. They have a striking bright orange coloration that’s mesmerizing to stare at.

mexican dwarf crayfish

This is one of the reasons most fish keepers find it necessary to have these beautiful creatures in their tank. They are also known as the Orange dwarf crayfish, dwarf Mexican crayfish, or Mexican crayfish. 

The Brazos Dwarf Crayfish

Also known as the cambarellus texanus or the blue Brazos dwarf crayfish, this is one of the more sought-after crayfish species among fish keepers because of its brilliant blue colors with grey dots and stripes on their bodies.

Brazos dwarf crayfish

The name Brazos is because these crayfish are primarily found in the Brazos river in Texas.

Cajun Dwarf Crayfish

Commonly termed the cambarellus shufeldtii, the cajun dwarf crayfish comes with a reddish brown to grey color with different patterns of dots or stripes.

cajun dwarf crayfish

Like the other crayfish mentioned above, they are native to Mexico and the southern USA.

What To Look For When Buying Dwarf Crayfish

You don’t want to take a sick crayfish home and risk it dying in a tank with other fish. To make the best decision, you must choose a crayfish that seems healthy and active.

Firstly, go to a reputable store and explore their available species before buying. A healthy dwarf crayfish will be active in the tank and have bright colors.

If they are missing any limbs, they could be in the process of molting, as mentioned above. The limbs will grow back, so that shouldn’t scare you too much.

Like when buying fish, don’t take home a dwarf crayfish from a tank with sick or infected fish.

Where To Buy Dwarf Crayfish

If you’ve already decided and are ready to buy a dwarf crayfish, do your due diligence on the local pet shop or online store you want to buy from.

You can get a healthy dwarf crayfish from these online stores below: 




Dwarf Crayfish Care

The dwarf crayfish are not as demanding as other fish regarding what they need to eat, the kind of water they like, or the tank they will be comfortable living in. While you can easily manage taking care of them, there are specific requirements you shouldnt ignore. 

Below is everything you need to know to make a dwarf crayfish happy.

Tank and Water Parameters

You must be careful when setting up a tank for a dwarf crayfish. This is where they will live, eat and excrete, so it needs to be as similar to their natural habitat as possible.

Tank Size

Due to their tiny bodies, most dwarf crayfish will be comfortable in a nano tank or larger aquarium. Because these creatures feel safer in large groups, getting a 10-gallon tank or larger for them to feel at ease is the best choice.

For those on a tight budget, as long as the dwarf crayfish has enough space and there aren’t strong currents, they will be comfortable at the tank’s bottom.

With their playful nature, you should ensure that your fish tank has a strong lid that you can only remove when feeding or cleaning the tank. 

How Many Dwarf Crayfish Should Be Kept Together?

One of the common questions most fish keepers have is the number of dwarf crayfish they should put together. They will feel comfortable if you keep two or more together. 

It’s hard to estimate the best tank size for more than one dwarf crayfish, but because they prefer being together, it’s better not to keep them alone.

Number of Dwarf CrayfishTank Size
15 Gallons
2-310 Gallons
5+20+ Gallons

If you put a male and female dwarf crayfish, don’t be surprised if they start breeding in your tank.

Water Parameters

Unlike fish, you don’t need to constantly change the water in a dwarf crayfish’s tank to keep it healthy. One thing to remember is the water must be warm at a temperature of between 60-82°F.

25% volume water changes are best, but that percentage can vary depending on the other inhabitants of the community tank.

Here are the water parameters these creatures need to survive:

  • Water temperature: 60-75°F
  • Water hardness: 6-12 dKH
  • PH levels: 6.5 to 8.0

You don’t necessarily need a heater, but if you live in an area with fluctuating temperatures, it’s best to consider getting one. Drastic changes in the water temperature will affect your dwarf crayfish, so don’t risk it.

Whether you’re a first-time or experienced aquarist, getting some aquarium test kits is advisable if you want to maintain the water parameters mentioned above.


Heavy filtration for their tank isn’t necessary, so a small filter can do the job of cycling and removing particles from the water. 

Strong currents from powerful filters affect your dwarf crayfish because they may not have enough strength to swim against the current. You don’t want them afraid to explore your tank just because they can’t reach a specific part of it.

If you put your dwarf crayfish in an uncycled aquarium, they are likely to react badly due to the high levels of nitrates and ammonia in the water.

Tank Decorations

These invertebrates love to hide, so your tank should have plenty of hiding spots like rocks and caves to keep them happy and stress-free. 

Due to their fragile states after molting, most dwarf crayfish like finding a spot to hide for a couple of hours a day as their exoskeleton grows back.

You can also add plants and wood to the tank to keep the dwarf crayfish entertained because they will spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank.

Food and Diet

Dwarf crayfish are omnivores, so you have various options when coming up with their menu. They can eat live foods, vegetables, plants, and frozen foods as part of their regular diet.

You shouldn’t overfeed your dwarf crayfish because that will only increase the tank’s waste. As much as they are great tank cleaners, they aren’t able to take on the maintenance you should be doing as a fish keeper.

Here are some common foods that you can feed your dwarf crayfish when they get hungry: 

  • Algae wafers
  • Sinking pellets
  • Blanched vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini
  • Shelled/cooked peas

If you want to feed them live foods to spice up their diet, you should mainly go for creatures like bloodworms, earthworms, and brine shrimp. These live foods are more likely to stay at the bottom of the tank, like the dwarf crayfish, so eating them is easier.

If you get them any live food that prefers staying in the middle or top of the tank, a dwarf crayfish won’t be able to reach them.

Like most aquarists, you will be tempted to drop as much food as possible for these adorable creatures, but you shouldn’t. Too much food in the tank can quickly damage the water quality, putting all your creatures at risk.

Common Diseases in Dwarf Crayfish

The dwarf crayfish is generally healthy but sometimes suffers from certain illnesses that their tough exoskeleton cannot protect them from.

One of the significant illnesses you should be worried about is called the crayfish plague. The crayfish plague is a highly contagious disease caused by water mold in the tank.

You shouldn’t take it lightly because it can quickly spread to other invertebrates or fish in their tank.

Here are some signs that your dwarf crayfish has the crayfish plague: 

  • Tail whitening
  • Dark brown discolorations on their body
  • Unusual behavior

While most cases of the crayfish plague result from introducing a wild or new dwarf crayfish into the tank, you still have to ensure that the water conditions are alright for these creatures.

As a remedy, isolate the infected crayfish and improve the water quality that likely caused the disease.

If you plan on introducing crayfish into the tank with other inhabitants, you should quarantine them first. 

Another way to prevent your dwarf crayfish from getting sick is by maintaining their habitat and providing them with the right food.   

Behavior and Temperament

One of the reasons why these invertebrates are a favourite among fishkeepers it’s because they are very active during the day and at night.

You will likely find them climbing on the tank’s wall, so make sure your tank has a lid in case they feel like jumping out to explore.

cajun dwarf crayfish

You don’t have to worry about fights because the dwarf crayfish are peaceful and won’t damage the plants or other tank decorations. 

If you plan on keeping them in a community tank, they might either acknowledge the other fish’s presence or ignore them while living together.

They’ll be coming out of their caves once in a while with their claws up and might even play fight with other dwarf crayfish to keep things interesting, so you’ll never have a dull moment.

Suitable Tank Mates

There are no horror stories about a dwarf crayfish being aggressive to its tankmates, so you can comfortably keep them with other fish in a community tank as long as they are peaceful.

Because most fish like swimming towards the top of the water column, there won’t be any fighting over water territory because the dwarf crayfish prefers to be at the bottom of the tank.

If you don’t want them alone, here are suitable fish you can keep with the dwarf crayfish:

  • Neon Tetra
  • Guppies
  • Swordtail fish
  • Ember Tetra
  • Sparkling Gourami
  • Harlequin rasbora
  • Hatchetfish
  • Congo Tetra
  • Platies 

You should avoid putting them in a tank with bigger and more aggressive fish like cichlids because they can eat crayfish when hungry. 

Keeping them with small invertebrates like small shrimps is also not a good idea because the dwarf crayfish could decide to eat them.


The process of breeding dwarf crayfish is easy. You don’t even need to intervene for them to start laying eggs. All you need is one male and one female dwarf crayfish in the tank, and the breeding process will begin.

After the male initiates breeding, the female dwarf crayfish will carry the eggs for around one to four weeks. If the temperature is correct, the female dwarf crayfish will lay between 20 and 50 eggs in a shaded area like a cave or an overhang.

The female then fertilizes the eggs while forming a mucus sack to protect them from predators and other fish in the tank. 

When the eggs finally hatch, it would be best to leave the young dwarf crayfish with their mother as they grow. Baby dwarf crayfish don’t need a special diet, but as long as there is enough food for everyone, they will be alright.

If you are worried about their safety, you can set up a separate tank to protect them from other invertebrates or other fish in the tank. Ensure that the separate tank also has plenty of hiding spaces and substrate because they like scavenging for their food.

The parameters in the separate tank should be the same as in the main tank.


Are dwarf crayfish aggressive?

No. the dwarf crayfish isn’t aggressive but very peaceful and can tolerate living with other fish. They aren’t very territorial because they spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank, so you don’t have to worry about fights breaking out with other inhabitants.


If you’re looking for a new challenge in your fish-keeping journey, you should get a dwarf crayfish for your aquarium. These invertebrates have a peaceful nature, easy to manage water parameters, and are not destructive to their tank environment.

The Dwarf crayfish is also an excellent option for beginner and experienced fishkeepers because as long as you feed them and give them numerous places to hide, you’ll enjoy having these companions as friends.

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