31 Dec 2006

An American Crayfish in London

Dear Blue Lobster:

I'm an American student moving to England to finish my degree and I plan on taking my crayfish with me. What do I need to know about caring for my cray in the UK? Is there anything I should be aware of?


Dear Gentle Sir:

First of all, if you're moving to England you should get used to the British spelling of lobstour, which is used to refer what Americans call crayfish or crawdads and is analogous to American English lobster.

In England, a lobstour's pincer and crusher claws are on reverse sides compared to an American cray's, which are thought to have crossed the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia some forty to fifty thousand years ago and are of different physical types than European crays. Today America and Europe are home to unique genera and species, though some American crays have made their way over the Atlantic to become pest species in the Old World.

Bringing your American cray to England can be quite a test. England only allows so many immigrant crays into the country, so a certain amount of smuggling may be involved. You should read up on how to properly ship a cray, and apply and international and local laws regarding your country of destination. Realize that the punishment for illegal immigration is usually detainment followed by deportation, for both the cray and its owner. Be careful!

When rearing a New World cray with aquarium hardware designed for Old World lobstours, one might want to take care to assure maximum comforts for the cray. You'll be using Celsius temperatures in England which are lethal to American crays. Be sure to bring an American heater that uses Farenheit units to warm the tank. Also beware of differences in units of measure, primarily between inches and centimeters. Tanks rated for centimeters might not take your cray, which grows in inches.

So what do you do if your cray has grown too large to house in cramped, claustrophobic Britain? The easiest answer is to release him in a local stream or pond, but pressure from animal rights extremists has made it illegal to release non-native species in British water tables. I would instead suggest placing the cray in a saltwater bath, allowing it to empty its bowels, and shipping it to a friend in a country that doesn't have prison time for returning a crayfish to nature.

Good luck, and I hope you and your cray avoid deportation!

27 Dec 2006

Fresh Crabs

Dear Blue Lobster:

As a kid, I always enjoyed hunting for crabs. It was just a lot of goddamned fun. Now, as a successful restauranteur, I don't have that kind of time. As I said, I'm very successful. I wonder, is there any way I could use an old water well behind my restaraunt to grow my own damn crabs?


Dear Gentle Sir:

As a restauranteur, you most likely serve marine species of crab, probably either the Blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) or the Dungeness crab (Cancer magister). Other species are fished and sold commercially in other parts of the world as well. But all of these species are salt-water, and well water is fresh water. Without the proper salinity, any marine species will perish in a matter of hours or days.

Having said that, there are ways to modify your well to accommodate such creatures.

First, your well should have a surface area of at least thirty square feet, which will ensure plenty of oxygen will be able to admix with the water. Without this admixture, your crabs will suffocate. Call a land contractor to redig and rebuild your well. This could run into several thousands of dollars, so when planning this with your contractor, be sure to make the well large enough so that you can later harvest profitably.

Secondly, get to know a local chemical supply company. You'll need unrefined sea salt (actually a medley of minerals harvested from sea water) to augment your fresh water. Optimally, you should buy from a supplier who harvests from the same waters as the crabs you wish to grow come from. In a pinch, however, pet store sea salt can be used.

After careful measurement of your well water, you will then formulate the proper dosage of sea minerals to mimic the crabs' natural habitat. You may have to call upon marine researchers from the area your crabs originate to ask about water conditions. A friendly professor at a local university might also be a good resource.

Once you have an appropriate well, you must buy live crab specimens and, once received, dump them into the well. You can do this by taking them out of their packaging, clipping the bands around their claws, and literally just tossing them down the well. After they have settled, which take anywhere from a couple of hours to a day, you can begin feeding them.

Proper feed for crabs is the same no matter the species. Earthworms, maggots, snails, and leftover shrimp and lobster scraps may be tossed into the well. Vegetables are also important, and you may feed them based on how you want to flavor them later. Onions, garlic, leeks, etc. all work well for Italian seafood tastes. Leafy greens can be thrown in as filler too.

If you live in a temperate clime, feed them daily during the summer and reduce this to once every two or three days during the winter. The reason for this is that crabs are exothermic (meaning their body temps are the same as their environment) and their metabolism slows or quickens depending on the weather and water temp.

With your new venture in place, your patrons should notice and appreciate the freshness of your well-bred crabs. Good luck with your business!

22 Dec 2006

The Glass Lobster

Dear Blue Lobster:

i heard someone is selling glass lobsters. can you help me before christmas please my wife will kill me and i think it would make a great tankmate for my cray


Dear Gentle Sir:

The Glass Lobster you refer to is one of the rarest invertebrates in the world with a population of under ten thousand living in the benthic depths of the Indian Ocean.

The first specimen was discovered in 1889 by German biologist Dr. Friederich Hummer on an expedition to survey prawn popluations near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Examining a catch on a local fishing vessel, he noticed what he first thought to be an oversized shrimp. He preserved the creature for study and later, after having collected several more specimens, submitted his research for the Homarus albus, or White Lobster.

Because specimens to this point had all been found dead, their flesh had turned white, obscuring their translucency. It was only decades later, with the advent of SCUBA, that a live specimen was photographed and found to be translucent. The name was subsequently changed to Homarus vitreus, Latin for "Glass Lobster."

Due to the Glass Lobster's deep-sea habitat, live specimens are difficult to keep in captivity for any length of time. It is also illegal to farm, poach, or otherwise collect Glass Lobsters for anything other than scientific study due to their suspected low population numbers. In other words, Glass Lobsters are not going to inhabit anyone's aquarium grottos any time soon.

To console you and your wife in this holiday season, I do suggest the next best thing: Taf Lebel Schaefer's Lobster, a beautiful piece done in glass and silver, that retails for a reasonable $3,700. It's sure to add class and sparkle to any crystal or glass collection or, if you can't resist, your aquarium.

Happy holidays!

18 Dec 2006

The Dragon Cray

Dear Blue Lobster:

Does Taiwan have crayfish, or Asia, for that matter? If so, what kind?

I'm planning a trip to Asia for a year, will be giving my crays to someone else but plan to carry on the hobby if they have crays there. I'd bring the crays along but of course that wouldn't be allowed.

I'd heard they have "the dragon cray", sixteen inches in length, three-clawed, spiked tail and firy red. But I'm not sure if this is just a myth.


Dear Gentle Sir:

Asia is home to a wide variety of cray species, most of which have yet to be scientifically described but are incredibly diverse and, in some cases, unlike any other species in the world.

Japan's national invertebrate is Cambaroides japonicus, the Japanese Crayfish. Usually an unassuming greenish-brown, it only reaches four centimeters in length and is one of the quicker crayfish in the world. It is closely related to Korea's own national invertebrate, Cambaroides similis, the Korean Crayfish.

Also in Japan was Ebirah, an ancient lobster relative that reached lengths of six meters and tooled around the shallows in search of beached marine life. It's theorized that it could use sound to stun prey underwater, but without a completely intact carapace this remains unknown. It also inspired Godzilla's foe in ゴジラ・エビラ・モスラ 南海の大決闘 (1966).

Taiwan, sadly, is without native cray species. The Rusty Crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) and the Signal Cray (Pacifastacus leniusculus) have both infested Taiwanese waters in what is thought to be an attempt by the People's Republic of China to weaken the tiny island nation's ecology. One can find shops and cafes offering steamed, boiled, or fried 小龍蝦 (soei leng-hei, or "little lobsters") all over cosmopolitan Taiwan.

The Dragon Cray is an unidentified member of the Cambroides genus that lives in the warm rivers and lakes of southern Chine and reaches up to sixteen inches in length. It is bright red and during its mating phase it shows bright blue mottling along its carapace and claws. Allusions to a pointed tale are probably incidental descriptions of the cray folding its tail-fins, while the third claw is completely mythical but has parallels seen in Chinese mythology.

The PRC has strict policies regarding even the study of native cray and crustacean species and a so-called Bamboo Curtain has fallen, making scientific cooperation with Chinese institutions strained. If visiting China, don't expect observation of the Dragon Cray or any other species.

Have a great trip otherwise, and bring back some pictures to share with us!

12 Dec 2006

True vs. Genetic Crays?

Dear Blue Lobster:

Hi, I was looking at some crayfish for sale and the seller has 2 of the same crayfish, One is true and one is genetic. Does anyone know the differance.


Dear Gentle Sir:

In arthropod nomenclature, "true" and "genetic" refer to the breeding background of the specimen in question.

True refers to specimens that have been naturally bred without the intervention of humans in the breeding process. So, for instance, crays in the wild are typically true specimens. Crays in fisheries or ponds, despite being housed by man, are also considered true specimens since their reproduction happens naturally.

Genetic specimens, on the other hand, have had some kind of human influence on their reproduction. In this case, "genetic" is short for "genetically engineered." For instance, all cray hybrids that do not occur in nature and only happen in artifical environments are considered genetic.

While in most cases a distinction between true and genetic animals is unimportant, researchers may need a specimen of a certain type, while some individuals prefer not to own or eat anything that has been genetically engineered. In these cases, knowing the birthright of your crustacean is important.

When purchasing crays, or indeed any crustacean, dealers label whether or not a specimen is true or genetic. However, the labels made have been made arbitrarily in order to boost the price of the creature. The only way to avoid this is to research the dealer. Are they reputable? Is there anyone else that has purchased from them?

Hopefully the dealer in question here is reputable and and isn't trying to charge you for a deceptively labeled animal. Good luck!