23 Jul 2004

When Is a Decapod Not a Decapod?

Dear Blue Lobster:

I cant believe it Chomper ripped off bloodreds arm, I hope it grows back, bloodred is acting normal, I didnt even seem to scare her when it came off any thoughts?

Dear Gentle Sir:

Crayfish, like most other aquatic crustaceans, have the ability to lose a limb without suffering dire consequences. In times of danger, stress, or anxiety crays can drop limbs off at will and so what happened to your cray's arm was actually a defensive move on her part. Long periods of depression in decapods like shrimp, crabs, and crays can also result in a seemingly random loss of limbs. Scientists have studied this ability for decades.

With the advent of DNA research, the ability to drop limbs at will has been isolated to the brachioperditis gene in the decopod family. Experiments in turning the brachioperditis gene off have resulted in crays who can no longer drop limbs under duress; likewise, other tests where the effect of the brachioperditis is intensified have resulted in crays that can remove their heads for short periods of time. Scientists desire to eventually splice the brachioperditis gene into humans.

After your cray's next molt a smaller version of her old arm should return that will grow with subsequent molts. In the meantime, she may experience what's known as phantom pain, a condition where an acute ache in the missing limb can be felt. Use an eye dropper to deliver painkillers, such as morphine, in liquid form to the cray until her next molt and all should be well.

21 Jul 2004

Caring for Adolescent Crays

Dear Blue Lobster:

i just got 3 baby lobsters they are family will they stil fight i was just asking i have them in a 15 gallon.

Dear Gentle Sir:

Just like any other family, your crays are dependent upon a stable home. Without their mother or father to care for them, you must provide the guidance and discretion required to raise a healthy family. Fighting is only one small facet of these young crays' behavior that will need touched upon in the years ahead as they mature and hopefully become self-sufficient, productive members of society. The dangers of letting these orphans grow up without a loving environment make it clear that you must provide a loving home.

Crayfish juvenile delinquency is a widespread problem in aquariums today, and one that does not garner the attention it deserves. One out of every five crayfish tanks is home to young crayfish with a history of illegal activity; it is estimated that 22% of all crays under the age of three will commit a violent act before their first thirty molts. Criminal tendencies especially present themselves in mixed environs where crays of different species grow up together. Such problems increase when other crustacean families, like prawn, crabs, and water fleas, cohabit. Animals of other phyla are also at risk for a clawing by unorderly cray youth.

To prevent unruliness and ensure a stable home, make sure your crays have plenty of hiding places, at least five gallons of water each to themselves, plenty of live plants in the tank to munch on, and healthy interaction with you, their new foster parent. Nothing is more important to a young cray than to know that they have a strong base where they can feel comfortable and unthreatened.

Open dialog helps maintain such an environment, so make sure to play with the crays early on, letting them become acclimated to physical activity with you. Touch is important at such a young age. As they mature, be sure to listen to their questions and comments regarding the tank and their food. It's hard to make a healthy home in a poorly-built house. When puberty hits and the crays start becoming territorial, increase the size of the tank and perhaps introduce more physical activity to help them burn off their frustrations. That algae brush is good for more than cleaning the sides of the tank!

Checking the childcare section at your local bookseller might aid in raising the crays as the years go by as undoubtedly unexpected problems crop up. With plenty of interaction and an attentive eye, you should be able to not only keep your crays from fighting but also nurture them into robust adults that can one day birth their own little cray-families.

Just think: One day you'll have grand-children to spoil!

11 Jul 2004

Postpartum Depression in Crayfish

Dear Blue Lobster:

We have a lone blue lobster in a tank with a pair of young Oscars. She has her cave and has dug it out (barricading the front) and retreated there for the last few weeks. She used to come out often to terrorize the fish and explore the tank. Now she only comes out to collect an algae wafer and only if it is right in front of her cave. Tonight we prepared to move the tank from one house to another, and in moving her we noticed she had about 25 small black eggs attached to her tail. She has been the only crustacean in the tank since we got her about 8 months ago. Immaculate conception or can they store the sperm for a REALLY long time after mating? :-) How long does it take the eggs to hatch and once they hatch, how long is it safe to leave her with then before she will start snacking on them? Thanks!!

K Sutter

Dear Gentle Sir:

Indeed, female crays can store sperm for years, silently producing broods based on one male's donation for several seasons. Female crays do this by use of a special compartment in their exoskeletons called the cambarum, where sperm is kept sealed off from the outside world. During mating season the female's mating instinct guides her to open the cambarum and smear the sperm across her face and vagina several times a day.

After fertilization, female crayfish will produce hundreds of eggs and carry them under her tail, at which point she is referred to as in berry. Sadly, if your female is carrying only twenty-five, the eggs were likely infertile or water conditions killed the eggs off before they could mature. In humans, this would be akin to carrying a still-born baby, giving birth to it, and dressing the tiny corpse in infant clothes and attempting to breast-feed it.

You may want to seek therapy for your female cray. Postpartum depression is a very real and very acute condition in crayfish just as it is in humans. You can take actions in your own home alongside the therapy, such as using live foods like earthworms, maggots, and dragonfly larva, exposing the cray to sunlight, and playing loud, cheerful music at all hours of the night. Your doctor may recommend psychoactive drugs for your cray, usually administered by eyedropper into the tank water.

With consistent treatment, your cray should recover from her depression and lead a long, healthy life. Good luck to you and your lady cray.