A wide range of cichlid species has been popular for decades within the fish keeping hobby but some of the previously less common species of cichlids have seen a spike in popularity in recent years.
Couple that with the increase in popularity for keeping pet crayfish in aquariums, it is easy to understand why so many people have been reaching out and asking if you can keep a crayfish with cichlids or not.
Keeping crayfish with cichlids is actually more complicated than pairing most other tank mates due to their being so many types of cichlids and crayfish out there.
The various different behaviors and sizes offer a wide range of variables and it can be difficult to match up the correct animals to be tank mates without there being problems with aggression between the two.
We would not recommend that someone new to the fish keeping hobby attempt to keep crayfish with cichlids as it can be difficult to find the right combination of species that get along and there is always a risk of aggression and injury.
However, if you are an experienced fish keeper and are looking for a new challenge, then keeping crayfish with cichlids can be a fun and rewarding but you will need a larger tank that may be out of budget for many of our readers.
Will Cichlids Eat Crayfish?
Some species of cichlids will happily try to eat a crayfish of anysize no matter the species of crayfish.
Oscars and mbuna cichlids will easily eat most species of crayfish after the molt but other species of cichlids can also easily eat some of the smaller species of crayfish too.
Smaller crayfish may not even have to molt to be eaten as they can be easily crunched up and swallowed whole by some of the larger species of cichlids.
The size of crayfish a cichlid can eat depends on the size and age of the crayfish, how much the crayfish has molted, and on the size of the cichlid.
Larger crayfish are more likely to be able to defend themselves from being eaten but they can still be at risk from some of the larger species of cichlids, especially if there are a group of cichlids.
Some of the African cichlid species can be particularly aggressive and will make very short work of most types of crayfish in their aquarium, especially after a fresh molt.
Will Crayfish Eat Cichlids?
Some species of crayfish will be able to eat some cichlids in their aquarium the main risk is the cichlids eating the crayfish after a molt.
Some of the more docile species of cichlid or larger, slower cichlids such as angelfish can be grabbed by the crayfish’ claws and eaten.
The cichlid species that sleep on the substrate in their tanks such as mbuna cichlids can be grabbed as their sleep and once your crayfish has the cichlid in its claws, it is very unlikely that it will be able to get away.
This will usually require a larger crayfish species though as most of the crayfish kept in aquariums will not be big enough to eat an adult cichlid.
Smaller crayfish tend to post less of a threat for adult cichlids but a hungry crayfish will often try to eat anything it is able to grab.
This means that fry and small juvenile cichlids are at the most risk from being eaten by crayfish, especially if there is not enough food in the tank for the crayfish to eat.
Can Crayfish Live With Cichlids?
There are some tank setups that can pair crayfish and cichlids together but it is not as easy as some people on social media claim.
If you want to keep crayfish with cichlids then you need to do your research carefully to make sure that the crayfish and cichlid species are compatible.
The first thing that you need to take into account is the size of both the crayfish and the cichlids as some species can grow very large with this usually being an advantage to the cichlid to prevent them from being eaten by your crayfish.
The issue is, even a large crayfish is still vulnerable to attack from a cichlid after molting making it difficult to pair.
It seems most fish keepers who do successfully pair crayfish with cichlids and keep them as tank mates use either severums due to the fish being too large for even a large crayfish to over power while also having jaws that are small and will struggle with a large crayfish.
Some people also keep convict cichlids and firemouths in tanks with crayfish but this is less common than severums.
What Size Aquarium Do You Need To Keep Crayfish And Cichlids Together?
Due to the large size of cichlids such as severums that are usually considered the best cichlid to keep with crayfish, a suitable tank size will be over 75 gallons for a basic setup.
The majority of setups will be between 100 gallons and 150 gallons though with the better options being even larger than that.
You will need to provide plenty of hiding spots and caves for both the crayfish and the cichlids in your tank as this will help to reduce stress levels and also provide a safe place for your crayfish to molt without being eaten by your cichlid.
You are able to purchase premade crayfish caves that have been sized accordingly for most species of crayfish to make sure that are safer after a molt and something like a severum will be too large to get into these caves.
As we mentioned back at the start of the article, this really is an expensive setup to keep and the majority of beginners will often not be able to afford a tank that is large enough to keep crayfish and cichlids together.
This is often the main reason that people fail when they try to keep these two species together as they try to reduce costs by reducing the available space in their tank resulting in their crayfish or their cichlids being eaten.
Is There Anything You Can Do Help Safley keep Crayfish With Cichlids?
If you are determined to keep crayfish with cichlids then there are a few things that you can do in order to make sure that they stay safe and have the best chance at surviving. The first thing that you need to do is to provide plenty of places for your crayfish to hide.
Live or fake plants can work to help with this but you really should be looking towards crayfish caves as they provide the crayfish with a place to feel safe and also somewhere to molt without being eaten by your cichlids.
You should have at least one cave for every crayfish that you keep in your aquarium as this will help to reduce stress levels and also provide a place for them to hide if they feel threatened.
Ideally though, in a large enough tank, we would actually recommend that you keep two caves per crayfish in your tank to give your crayfish options. The can be picky and issues with lighting intensity and water flow can make your crayfish prefer one cave over another.