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Caresheet: Dwarf orange crayfish | CPO crayfish

Cambarellus patzcuarensis 'orange', also known as the dwarf orange crayfish, are a dwarf crayfish species selectively bred to have a striking orange color. They are appreciated by shrimp keepers for their peaceful nature and are the perfect addition to a shrimp-/invertebrate setup or even a community tank.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about dwarf orange crayfish and keeping these crays in your own aquarium!


Scientific name: Cambarellus patzcuarensis 'orange'

Common names: Dwarf orange crayfish, CPO crayfish, Mexican dwarf crayfish

Difficulty level: Easy

Origin: Mexico


dwarf orange crayfish

Setting up a dwarf orange crayfish aquarium

Dwarf orange crayfish requirements

With a maximum size of around 2 inches (5 cm), dwarf orange crayfish stay quite small. Contrary to their larger cousins they do fine in small aquariums; something around 10 gallons (38L) would be a great place to start.

As with all aquarium inhabitants, a filter is a must when keeping dwarf orange crayfish. Without it, the tank won't cycle and your crayfish will be at risk. If you're considering breeding your crays you might want to go for a gentle filter such as a sponge filter to prevent the fry from being sucked in. A heater is not a necessity if your tank is placed indoors and ambient temperatures are stable, but if this is not the case you might want to consider one just to be sure.

Dwarf orange crayfish are prey animals that molt regularly. After molting the new exoskeleton doesn't harden right away, which means the crayfish is very vulnerable. As a result, these inverts love to have plenty of hiding places in the aquarium that they can retreat to during molting to avoid any possible predators or aggressive fellow crayfish. Multiple hides per crayfish are recommended; live plants or shrimp tubes should work well.

Dwarf orange crayfish water quality

Dwarf crayfish such as the dwarf orange crayfish aren't too fussy about water quality and you should usually be able to keep them without having to modify the water too much. This makes them a great option for beginners who don't have the experience to keep more fragile and expensive shrimp or crayfish yet.

This being said, as discussed earlier dwarf orange crayfish do need a fully cycled tank as they don't deal well with ammonia or nitrite. Nitrate is less of a problem but you should still do regular water changes to remove some of it (25% per week is a good place to start, but the exact frequency depends on factors like tank size and the amount of crayfish). As always the water values should be kept as stable as possible, because sudden fluctuations can easily prove fatal.

pH: 6.5-8.0

Temperature: 65-80 °F/18.5-26.5 °C

Hardness: 3-15 dkh

Dwarf orange crayfish tankmates

Crayfish in general are notorious in the aquarium hobby for their aggressive tendencies. Luckily, though, things are a little different with dwarf crays. Dwarf orange crayfish actually don't display aggression at all except during the occasional short territorial squabble with their own species. They can even be kept with shrimp! If you do spot your dwarf orange crayfish eating a shrimp or fish then you can safely assume it was already dead.

When choosing tankmates for your dwarf orange crayfish keep in mind that they aren't very large and might easily fall prey to hungry tankmates. Go for peaceful fish only and avoid anything that might be able to fit a crayfish in its mouth. If you're planning on breeding your dwarf orange crayfish in the same tank then it's probably a good idea to avoid fish altogether and only add other invertebrates like shrimp or snails.

Dwarf orange crayfish diet

Dwarf orange crayfish are omnivorous scavengers that will consume anything edible they come across. This makes them a good addition to your aquarium 'cleaning crew': they will eat any leftover bits that your fish miss.

A varied diet is the key to a healthy dwarf orange crayfish. A high quality invertebrate food makes a good staple and contains the nutrients your crayfish needs to grow and molt successfully. I imagine a color enhancing food such as this one might be a nice option to go for, as it might also help maintain that bright orange coloration. Supplement with anything you can think of! Frozen foods (mosquito larvae, bloodworms, brine shrimp), fresh blanched veggies, algae tablets, they'll happily devour it all.

Breeding dwarf orange crayfish

Breeding dwarf orange crayfish is not too difficult and a great option for the beginning breeder. If you have both males and females in your tank, breeding should occur soon enough. The male will pin the female down to mate, after which she 'saves' the sperm to later fertilize up to around 60 eggs. As with shrimp, these eggs will be carried between the back legs ('swimmerettes') until they are ready to hatch.

If there are enough hiding places in the tank you don't have to provide any extra care. The young crayfish might spend the first few days after being released in hiding to prevent being eaten. This is nothing to worry about and they should come out to forage alongside the adults soon enough!

Buying dwarf orange crayfish

Dwarf orange crayfish have become quite popular in the aquarium trade due to their peaceful nature and fun behavior. You should be able to find them at most aquarium stores. If you don't want to leave the comfort of your home, The Shrimp Farm also sells and ships them right to your doorstep: you can find dwarf orange crayfish at The Shrimp Farm here.

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