When maintaining populations of live crayfish, a number of challenges are likely to be encountered. Cannibalism can be a major problem when quantities of individuals are confined together. Although cannibalism cannot be eliminated, the behavior can be minimized through a number of practices.
Access to food and shelter appear to help curb cannibalism, as do habitats that keep crayfish active. In addition to cannibalism, crayfish are subject to predation from birds, raccoons, and other wildlife. When crayfish are kept outside, these threats can be a serious problem.
Water quality can be an issue, especially during hot weather. To minimize mortality, crayfish tanks must be kept clean and the water changed often. Most closed systems require frequent maintenance in order to perform correctly.
One of the simplest systems for keeping crayfish alive can be rigged by equipping a large cooler with a few additional components. A small garden fountain pump can be added to circulate water. If possible shelter should also be added to a crayfish storage tank. Objects such as oyster shells, whelk shells, stones, or pottery make suitable shelters for crayfish.
When holding crayfish, the decision to feed or not is usually based on the intended use. If the intent is to purge crayfish briefly before cooking, feeding may not be necessary. In other cases, it may be desirable to feed crayfish every day or two in order to maintain peak condition. Popular foods include corn, rice, or small amounts of plant vegetation.
As an alternative to bait tanks or other closed containers, some enthusiasts store crayfish in pens or cages which are located in nearby ponds or creeks. As with bait tanks, these storage methods are subject to problems such as cannibalism, outside predation, and water quality fluctuations. Crayfish pens cages should be located out of direct sunlight when possible.
Despite their challenges, crayfish holding setups can be extremely useful on a small scale. They can provide a reliable source of fishing bait as well as fresh crayfish for the table. Tanks, pens, and other systems can also be used for storing baitfish or other aquatic life.