Mexican Dwarf Orange Crayfish, Cambarellus patzcuarensis


Gerald Pottern


This beautiful and relatively peaceful 1.5 inch crayfish comes from Lago de Patzcuaro, a volcanic crater lake in Michoacán, Mexico, in the west-central mountain region. Wild Cambarellus patzcuarensis are mostly tan, brown, and rusty colored.. The bright orange mutation in the aquarium hobby rarely persist in nature due to predators, but is hardy in captivity. Some have a pair of longitudinal dark stripes and others are mottled, lacking stripes. They can be kept in soft to moderately hard water, pH 6.0 to 8.0, temperature 60 to 82 F. In soft water, keep aragonite gravel in the filter or on the bottom to provide calcium and pH buffering.

Unlike most crayfish, C. patzcuarensis doesn't destroy plants, and digs very little. They eat live or frozen worms, insects, brine shrimp, flakes, pellets, cooked shrimp, green peas – most any kind of fish food. They live peacefully with small fish and usually do not attack even newborn guppies, although they may eat fish eggs or non-swimming larvae, and will eat dead fish. They need hiding places when molting, as the new shell is soft and even small fish (or other crayfish) can kill them during this time. Volcanic rock with lots of small holes, or short segments of waterlogged bamboo are useful as molting refuges. Don’t keep crayfish with loaches or similar fish that probe nooks and crannies – the crayfish will be killed during their molt.

Adult males can be recognized by the first pair of pleopods, which are rigid with terminal hooks at the forward end (between the last pair of walking legs). In females the first pleopods are flexible and similar to the other four pairs of pleopods. They begin breeding at four months old. Crayfish mate belly-to-belly, after a claw-waving courtship ritual. Dark green eggs are laid in clutches of about 50, attached to the mother’s pleopods under the abdomen. They hatch in about 2 weeks, and the 3/16 inch baby crayfish drop off and scatter about a week later. The mother continues to eat while brooding, and won’t eat her kids as long as she has sufficient food. The babies eat newly hatched brine shrimp, flakes, pellets, etc. Soaked leaves from deciduous trees will provide hiding and climbing places, plus bugs, bacteria, and fungi that the babies can eat between feedings. If starved or overcrowded they will attack each other and tear off legs, but these will grow back as long as the crayfish can still get around and feed. The babies can grow up in the tank with the adults, or you can separate the mother before the eggs hatch and raise the babies in their own tank.


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