Most people who want to raise edible fish stick to growing tilapia in their aquaponic systems, but you can also mix in the delicacy of freshwater shrimp or crayfish which are sometimes referred to as crawdads. There are a variety of species of crayfish living in different areas around the world. Some types are better for just creating the nutrient rich water you need for your aquaponic lettuce and herbs as they have very little meat, like Marbled Crayfish. For readers in the US, native species can make your venture less expensive by catching them in the wild, but you will have to watch out for disease and learn how to identify males and females first.
The best choice for eating is without question Giant Red Claw Crayfish, a native of Australia. Not only does the type of crawdad have excellent meatiness, it also grow faster and larger than all other varieties. You can actually harvest red claws that weigh well over a pound apiece, which brings them to be known as freshwater lobster instead of shrimp. Whether you’re wanting to grow them for your own enjoyment or to sell, this can make your indoor meat and lettuce garden a lot more interesting. How much would a freshwater lobster go for on the market? Looks exciting. A quick search on Google turns up 9 ounces of softshell Louisiana crawdads going for $57 before shipping. Apologies for not being able to match it better, fresh crawdads were out of season at the time this article was written. Still, it could be very lucrative in the right market.
Crawdads are territorial creatures and they do have a tendency to want to go for a walk. Red Claw in particular are a bit homicidal as youth, but you can calm them down and stop the warring over space with sunken PVC pipe condos. Control their escape routes by not giving them an easy exit. Cover intake and outlet pipe openings with screen hoods and don’t let cords and tubes offer them a ladder out of the tank. Some people add slippery sides taller than the tank walls, or an added inward protrusion around the top of the walls that makes it difficult to get over the edge.
Red claw are super productive at breeding so they will keep you supplied with babies. The slow season for mating is May through June. How many Red Claws can you house in your tank? Space planning tips for healthy accommodations is 5-15 per square meter or 10.5 square feet. The water doesn’t have to be super deep as these crayfish thrive beautifully in shallow fast moving streams and slow, deep water alike in the wild. Be prepared to provide keen herd management. They procreate exuberantly, but many a crawfish farmer has no problem selling his harvest. Some even wish there was a little less demand so they had a few more to eat.
You can learn more about giant crawdads and order breeding stock at Stick-Fins Fish Farm in Florida. Note that if you live in the state of Florida, you need an aquaculture permit to grow imported species. For some great care and feeding info read this aquaponic forum thread, particularly Allen Patillo’s lengthy post toward the bottom of page two though you will find some other great tips before you get that far through the discussion.
Red Claw image courtesy of Stick-Fins Fish Farm.