Crayfish Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Anna Reinking

Anni taught elementary school for eight years and is currently teaching college. She received her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.

Have you ever wondered what types of animals live in freshwater and move around at night? One of those animals is a crayfish. Learn some interesting facts about crayfish, such as where they live, what they eat, and even other names they go by around the world.

Nocturnal, Freshwater Animals

Can you imagine being awake during the day and asleep during the day? Well, that is how crayfish live. They are nocturnal animals, which means just that - they are awake at night and asleep during the day. These yellow, green, or dark brown animals, often called 'crawdads' or 'crawfish', live in bodies of freshwater like streams and rivers. They have a sharp snout and moveable eyes on long moveable branches that extend from their head.

Crayfish in North America tend to be about 1-6 inches long, though there are some species in other parts of the world that are two feet long and weigh 10 pounds!


What Do They Look Like?

Crayfish are part of the crustacean family. Crustaceans have a body that is made up of three separate segments, including a head, thorax, and midsection. They also have a hard exoskeleton, or a hard shell that provides support and protection. While the exoskeleton provides protection, it also does not let the crayfish grow larger. This is like growing out of a pair of pants and needing new pants that fit. So, crayfish get a new protective covering by shedding their old one and growing a new one through a process called molting. However, when they are in the process of growing a new exoskeleton, they have very limited protection from predators.

Living and Food

Crayfish live in fresh bodies of water in many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, New Zealand, and East Asia. Crayfish are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. They eat fish, shrimp, water plants, worms, insects, snails, plankton, and will even eat dead plants and animals. They eat by using their pincers - large claws that are specialized for defending themselves and cutting their food.

Crayfish pincers help them eat and ward off enemies
crayfish pincer

While crayfish eat specific things, other animals eat crayfish. Actually, people like to eat crayfish. Crayfish meat is usually eaten with your fingers and tastes sweet.

Just like a starfish, a crayfish can also grow back its legs if they are lost in a fight with a predator or for any other reason. This is called regeneration.

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