How to Keep Crawfish Alive? What is The Best Way?

Crawfish are delicious crustaceans that closely resemble lobsters. Many people consider crawfish to be as delicious as lobsters, which is why these crustaceans are harvested all over the world. In the U.S., crawfish are closely associated with the haute cuisine and culture of Louisiana. In fact, crawfish are the official crustacean of the state. I normally prefer to harvest or purchase crawfish on the day I intend to cook them. 

However, many people prefer to purchase and eat them later but do not know how to keep crawfish alive in a sack or container for several days before finally preparing and eating them. Fortunately, I will provide you with some tips on how I keep my crawfish fresh and healthy for several days or even months with minimal effort.


What is the Best Way to Keep Crawfish Alive?

Things You'll Need

  • Fish container, bucket, or aquarium
  • Gravel
  • Tree branch
  • PVC pipes


Crawfish are some of the least demanding crustaceans to keep. All they need are simple living conditions with filters and air pumps. However, even the filters and air pumps are non-essential and they can live without them., I normally keep them in water tanks equipped with filters and air pumps for their ultimate safety and health.

Nevertheless, the bare minimum for keeping a crawfish is a water container that is deep enough to cover the crawfish altogether and a tree branch or something that it can use to climb out of the water, without being able to escape. It is important to know that having a rock or branch for the crawfish to climb out of the water is essential in case the water is not filtered or aerated.

how to keep crawfish alive

Crawfish require lots of oxygen. Therefore, they will have to obtain the oxygen from the air if they are kept in still conditions such as a tank. If the crawfish in your tank cannot easily climb out of the water, they will ultimately drown. These crustaceans do not need to be kept in an aquarium setting, although I normally keep mine in such a setting because it provides the best viewing and most ideal conditions for their survival.

how to keep crawfish alive

A 5-gallon bucket or plastic shoebox can make a simple housing container for crawfish. However, make sure that the height from the water to the rim of the container is longer than the average crawfish. These crustaceans are incredible escape artists. Consider using a vented lid if the container is not tall enough.

how to keep crawfish alive

Crawfish also burrow. When kept in a container, they will feel relatively secure if they can have areas in which they can hide. Consider adding a few PVC tubes inside the container for them to reside in. add gravel (of course, before placing the crawfish) if the container is large enough. Having numerous hiding places is important, especially if you want to keep a good number of crawfish in one container.

Although some crawfish species may be tolerant of one another, some can be territorial and aggressive. Even the ones that are not territorial may consume tank mates, especially during molting when crawfish are normally weak, soft, and vulnerable. Therefore, it is important to provide plenty of spaces for crawfish to hide during these perilous times.

how to keep crawfish alive

Water Quality

In case you decide not to use filtration in your water tank, you will have to completely change the water on a regular basis, preferably once a week. You will also have to replace the gravel inside the tank to get rid of excess detritus. However, you can leave rocks and tree branches placed inside the tank because they have beneficial bacteria that will help keep the water clean.

how to keep crawfish alive

Avoid using under gravel filters in the container because the crustaceans will move the gravel and expose the filter plate, which might significantly reduce the efficiency of the filter. Consider using internal and external canister filters or hang-on-the-back filters to provide biological filtration. Alternatively, use air powered sponge filters, although you should know that some crawfish species like to chew on them. This may not harm the crawfish, but you will have to replace the sponge material of the filter regularly.

how to keep crawfish alive


how to keep crawfish alive

Crawfish live in both temperate and tropical regions. The ideal water temperature for keeping crawfish is determined by the species you are keeping. Most North American species do not require a heater in their tanks. On the other hand, species from Southern United States can tolerate high temperatures.

It is important to know where your crawfish come from so that you can keep them in the ideal temperature settings. However, most crawfish species do well when kept at room temperature. For North American species, you may err towards keeping them cool instead of keeping them too warm. You should also know that some states might require you to obtain a license before keeping crawfish in an aquarium setting, especially at home.


Crawfish are omnivorous and feed primarily on plants, algae, and organic detritus. Crawfish do not often hunt and find it difficult to find animal proteins such as dead fish. However, they like animal proteins and would aggressively defend such meals from other crawfish or scavengers.

This is an important consideration to make, especially if you decide to keep your crawfish with other fish in an aquarium. It is uncommon for crawfish to attack live fish and eat it. However, the odds of that happening is determined by how well you feed the crawfish, the size of the aquarium, number of fish in the aquarium, and the type of crawfish species you have in the aquarium.

how to keep crawfish alive

Although crawfish are unlikely to attack other fish in an aquarium, the possibility of an attack increases if the fish inside the aquarium are slow moving or small. Most times, crawfish would eat fish that is already dead or dying.

Crawfish can survive on small amounts of food every other day. Remove excess food from the container. Examples of crawfish food include Romaine lettuce, algae or shrimp pellets, bloodworms, clam, krill, and squid. However, I usually feed my crawfish mostly on plant and algae based foods to lower the chances of predation.

crawfish food

If your crawfish remain soft for more than a day after molting, that could indicate that the crawfish is not receiving enough calcium or that the pH of the water inside the tank is low. I usually solve this problem by transferring the crawfish with the soft bodies to water with high pH.

However, I normally advise people to avoid the problem altogether by feeding them a diet rich in calcium. Some crawfish may die during the molting process. This problem could be caused by iodine deficiency. Consider adding iodine to the water inside the tank on a weekly basis to prevent problems associated with the molting process.


Avoid putting crawfish from different continents in the same tank to lower the risk of spreading diseases. One of the most serious diseases that can spread in this manner is the Crawfish Plague, more prevalent among North American species. However, the North American species are simply carriers of the disease.

This disease is caused by a fungus that is lethal to other types of crawfish including Australian and Eurasian. Therefore, avoid putting crawfish from different continents or regions in the same container. On the same breath, avoid sharing equipment such as nuts and buckets when working with different types of crawfish.

Crawfish can also be affected by the White Spot Disease. Although this disease mostly affects shrimps, it can spread to crawfish if they are fed raw food made from infected shrimp. Therefore, make sure that all foods containing shrimp have been thoroughly cooked before feeding the crawfish. There are times when I keep various types of crawfish in a single aquarium. However, I usually quarantine new ones for about a month before introducing them into the main aquarium.


Avoid releasing crawfish kept in captivity into the wild because they will likely not survive. If you decide to keep the crawfish in outdoor ponds or fish houses, make sure there is no possibility of them escaping into the wild. Crawfish can interfere with an entire ecosystem, especially if they are introduced into an area in which they are not native.

This is one of the reasons why some states impose restrictions on the transportation of crawfish. Even if you keep crawfish that are native to your area, avoid releasing them into the wild to lower the risk of spreading diseases.

release crawfish

Crawfish can be kept in containers, aquariums, and outdoor ponds for days with very few of them dying. However, it is important that you consider various factors if you intend to keep crawfish alive for a considerable period in a container or pond. Crawfish require food and oxygen to survive in a container. You also need to protect them from diseases by keeping crawfish from different regions and continents in separate containers. I hope you found this guide useful. I have not really exhausted all the tips.

Please share your tips and advices in the comments sections. Best of luck keeping your crawfish alive.

Lucas Bryant

Hi, I’m Lucas Bryant and fishing is one of the most important parts of my life. I usually go fishing with my friends and have many fishing competition. That why I like to research and create many tips to get more fishes to win a race. I hope my experience will be useful for you.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Dawnita - 3 years ago

I moved some crawdads from one area of my creek to another…into deeper water as it was getting very shallow and warm where they were. I also provided some food for them. 24 hrs later…they are all dead. What is the deal?

Imogene - a couple of years ago

It took me weeks to search for the information you’ve mentioned above and
it is a genuine blessing to find someone as interested in this topic as
myself. What I am trying to convey is that the significance of this problem cannot be hesitated.
People who increase it are all worth appreciation despite the fact that I,
personally, do not completely share your own views. Anyway, thank you for sharing your own experience!


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