Orange Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus cf. patzcuarensis)
It’s tempting to treat dwarf crayfish like shrimp and expect the same peaceful, algae-eating habits. Don’t count on it! Dwarf crayfish are big mean crawdads at heart, but at only an inch long, they are too small to hurt any adult fish or plants. They still partake in all the typical crayfish activities like bulldozing around and threatening everything in sight—if you plan on keeping multiple, make sure there are enough hiding spaces for each of them. Molting is an important process where crayfish will shed their old carapace to grow in size and regenerate lost limbs, but freshly molted crayfish are very vulnerable to aggression from conspecifics before their exoskeletons harden.
A recessive gene in the tiny crayfish of Mexico’s Lake Patzcuaro created the bright oranges seen in these Cambarellus patzcuarensis. In the wild, they are enthusiastic hunters and scavengers; in captivity, dwarf crayfish will take a varied diet including pellets, blanched vegetables, and live blackworms.
Common name: Dwarf orange crayfish
Scientific name: Cambarellus patzcuarensis
Distribution: Lake Pátzcuaro in central Mexico
Habitat: Muddy lakebed, often among dense vegetation
Temperature: 68 – 78°F
pH: 7.0 – 8.2
Adult size: 1 inch
Diet: Dried foods, frozen and live foods, and blanched vegetables; feed a protein-heavier diet than you would feed dwarf shrimp
Conspecifics: Can be kept with it kind, but will threaten and occasionally fight with each other. Ensure there are many hiding spots so individuals can molt safely.
Tankmates: May prey on fish fry or small invertebrates, otherwise harmless to adult fish. Larger fish may attempt to eat them.
Notes: The bright orange color of dwarf orange crayfish comes from a recessive mutation: wild-type Cambarellus patzcuarensis are a pale greyish-brown. Treat these like larger crayfish—not dwarf shrimp—and expect some aggression between conspecifics. It is crucial to provide many hiding spots so smaller individuals can escape during territorial disputes and molting individuals have a place to hide during this vulnerable stage.
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