Procambarus clarkii

About This Animal

SIZE: 4 - 6 inches long

RANGE: Native to Northern Mexico to Southern Mississippi and North to Illinois; introduced in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia

HABITAT: Crayfish like areas that alternately wet and dry and will burrow during dry months

DIET: Crayfish are omnivores and feed on plants, smaller crustaceans, fish and detritus

ON EXHIBIT: Discovery Hall in River Journey

Red Swamp crayfish, as the name implies, are typically found in swamps, although many other crayfish species can be found in lakes, rivers and fast flowing streams. There are over 100 million pounds of crayfish harvested annually from the swamps of Louisiana, but China has topped the list in crayfish production by more than double because they have a longer season.  Louisiana crayfish are farmed in rice fields, where the crayfish can feed naturally and no chemicals are used.  They are generally sold whole and often alive. Crayfish from China are usually available as frozen tail meat.   Crayfish are not native to China and have caused severe environmental damage to the land there. When choosing crayfish to eat, choose American farmed crayfish, because they are raised sustainably and support a huge industry in the Southeastern United States.

Red swamp crayfish often have a relationship with a worm that helps keep them clean and free of parasites and bacteria. These Branchiobdellid worms look like tiny hairs and live in their gills and all over their bodies.  Our red swamp crayfish are housed in the Delta exhibit, which also contains western mosquito fish.  Mosquito fish like to eat the worms off of the crayfish. Crayfish have many common names such as crawfish, crawdads and mudbugs….all are tasty. 

The old wives tale of rinsing crayfish in salt water is a waste of your time and salt.  Crayfish excrete waste through their gills, and this takes time. A short rinse is great for cleaning existing waste from the animal, but the salt will not cause them to purge themselves. So rinse your crayfish well, but save your salt. To rinse them, submerge in fresh water multiple times until rinse water runs clear.