Adding Crayfish to Your Pond

Crayfish are like tiny freshwater lobsters. Most of us caught them from creeks and streams when we were kids. Are they a good addition to a pond? Possibly, in the right conditions. This includes having a deep enough bottom medium in order for them to burrow, while at the same time protecting the liner.

There are many species of crayfish. These freshwater crustaceans are easy to get from most local pet stores. Efficient bottom cleaners, crayfish can also be predatory. Basically, anything they can catch, they tear up. If you keep them in a fish tank, you’ll see them all the time but if you have them in your pond, you may never see them. First of all, they are nocturnal by nature. Also, crayfish may not stay in your pond.

A crayfish | Natural Pond Lover

If a small, still-water pond is not up to their standards, they might crawl out at night. They then search for a body of water more to their liking. The benefit of keeping crayfish in your pond is that they are bottom feeders. They help keep a pond clean.

While crayfish burrow down into the bottom medium, they seem to prefer hiding under rocks. Their sharp claws may make pond owners a bit nervous about the safety of their pond liner. With smaller dwarf species, having plenty of stone or bedding to dig into should discourage them from trying to dig into the liner. I’d be more nervous with PVC and not EPDM or polyethylene.

They’re not for me

I don’t keep crayfish in any of my ponds. I once added a single specimen to one of my smaller ponds. He soon crawled out in search of an alternative water source and I never saw him again. I’m not interested in introducing more crayfish to any of my ponds. My concern isn’t due to the threat they pose to the liner as much as their predatory habits and the likelihood of leaving.

Crayfish | Natural Pond Lover

If you add a crayfish species that are more akin to streams and creeks, it would be more likely to leave the pond setting.

Electric blue crayfish

The electric blue crayfish is striking in appearance. You can often find them at your local pet shop. If you do buy one, you’re probably not going to want to add it to your pond. They are not cheap, usually no less than $20 per crayfish. When you take into consideration that your newly bought crayfish might crawl out of the pond, you may find keeping them in an aquarium is a smarter option for your investment. They’ll look even more vibrant under the UVB lighting of the aquarium hood.

This species is naturally found in Florida. In nature, their colors aren’t as stunning as the ones you find at pet stores because they acquire their brilliant blue coloring through selective breeding. Don’t confuse them with another blue colored crayfish found up north. Although this northern species of crayfish is supposedly restricted to Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, I’ve seen them in a small lake found in Harriman State Park, New York. Many locals consider them an urban legend, but they actually do exist. They are easy to find in a small body of water called, Spring Pond in Harriman State Park.

Dwarf least crayfish

The dwarf least crayfish is one of the smaller species I referred to earlier. These crayfish stay small and are the least likely to do any damage to the pond liner. It’s rare for this species to reach an entire inch in length. They rarely pose a threat to any other pond inhabitants beside freshwater shrimp.

Dawf least crayfish are also happy to take out mosquito larvae that they happen to come across. These crayfish are also a good choice for an aquarium setting. With their inability to harm most of their tank mates, this species is the best of its kind to keep.

Freshwater shrimp

Freshwater shrimp also belong to the crustacean family and are found at most local pet shops. These shrimp are primarily used as feeders for larger species of fish such as cichlids. They have become popular among the aquarium keeping crowd because they help reduce algae and keep their environment clean. Most of these shrimp occur naturally in Asia with ghost shrimp as the only exception. The ghost shrimp are found in the southern United States.

If you decide to add freshwater shrimp to your pond, go with the non-invasive species.  They’ll have the best chance for survival. Although extremely small, these shrimp help with algae control. Depending on what kind of fish you have in your pond will depend on whether the shrimp will be able to survive and thrive. I added some ghost shrimp to one of my larger ponds. To be honest, I have no idea if any survived but there could be a colony present.

Crayfish and ponds | Natural Pond Lover


This concludes my thoughts of keeping crustaceans in natural ponds. There are some pros and cons. You can go with a smaller crayfish species to make sure your pond liner is safe. They do help keep the bottom of the pond clean of excess organic nutrients. Remember that they can also climb out of the pond and may never come back again. I think it’s best to enjoy them in an aquarium setting. This is especially the case if you go with the expensive electric blue.

As for freshwater shrimp, they give back to the ecosystem in which they live. It’s always good to keep algae-dependent pond inhabitants. They’re very cheap and easy to come by. The biggest question is whether or not the fish in the pond will quickly zap them up. Unfortunately, there’s a very good chance that they will. I would only add a couple of dozen ghost shrimp to a pond. If they make it on their own, they will breed and self-sustain.

Crayfish at Natural Pond Lover

Adding Crayfish to Your Pond