Crayfish facts for kids

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Crayfish
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Crustacea
Subclass: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Suborder: Pleocyemata
Infraorder: Astacidea
Superfamily: Astacoidea
Latreille, 1802
Parastacoidea
Huxley, 1879
Families

Astacoidea
  Astacidae
  Cambaridae
Parastacoidea
  Parastacidae

Crayfish, also known as crawfish, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters, mudbugs or yabbies, are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters, to which they are related.

They breathe through feather-like gills. Some species are found in brooks and streams where there is running fresh water, while others thrive in swamps, ditches, and paddy fields. Most crayfish cannot tolerate polluted water, although some species such as are hardier. Crayfish feed on living animals and plants, and detritus. There are about 150 crayfish species in North America, and over 540 species worldwide.

Habitat

Crayfish live in streams, rivers, swamps, ponds, and other freshwater habitats. Most crayfish are strictly aquatic but some live in semi-aquatic environments. The semi-aquatic crayfish burrow into the soil to get to water (so that they can breathe).

Diet

Crayfish are omnivores; they eat plants, animals, and decaying organisms. They are nocturnal (most active at night) and eat fish, shrimp, water plants, worms, insects, snails, and plankton. Larval crayfish are very tiny; they eat plankton.

Uses

Food

Crawfish Boil
Crayfish, boiled with potatoes and corn

Crayfish are eaten worldwide. Like other edible crustaceans, only a small portion of the body of a crayfish is eaten. In most prepared dishes, such as soups, bisques, only the tail portion is served. At crawfish boils or other meals where the entire body of the crayfish is presented, other portions, such as the claw meat, may be eaten.

Like all crustaceans, crayfish are not kosher because they are aquatic animals that do not have both fins and scales. They are therefore not eaten by observant Jews.

As of 2005, Louisiana supplies 95% of the crayfish harvested in the US. In 1987, Louisiana produced 90% of the crayfish harvested in the world, 70% of which were consumed locally. In 2007, the Louisiana crawfish harvest was about 54,800 tons, almost all of it from aquaculture.

Bait

Crayfish are commonly sold and used as bait, either live or with only the tail meat, and are good at attracting channel catfish, walleye, trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pike and muskellunge. Sometimes the claws are removed so that the crayfish do not stop fish from biting the hook. Crayfish easily fall off the hook, so casting should be slow.

Pets

Pet-crayfish-(Clippy-II)-in-freshwater-aquarium-with-apple-snail
Procambarus clarkii in a freshwater aquarium

Crayfish are kept as pets in freshwater aquariums. They will sometimes consume their old exoskeleton after it has moulted. They are also relatively non-aggressive and can be kept safely.

Since crayfish are accustomed to being in ponds or rivers, they will have a tendency to shift gravel around on the bottom of the tank, creating mounds or trenches to emulate a burrow. Crayfish will often try to climb out of the tank, especially if an opening exists at the top that they can fit through.

Crayfish may spread into different bodies of water because specimens captured for pets in one river are often released into a different catchment. There is a potential for ecological damage when crayfish are introduced into non-native bodies of water (e.g., crayfish plague in Europe).

Invasive species

Crayfish have been recorded as an invasive species from Louisiana to Europe to China. They have been known to consume local rice crops in China.

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Crayfish Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.