19 Jun 2007

The Clawed Ant Crayfish

Dear Blue Lobster:

Yesterday I happened across a strange little creature that I was hoping you would be able to identify. I had never seen anything like it before, so I will describe it the best I can in hopes that you will be able to shed some light on this mystery.

At first, it looked like an ant crawling around at my feet, but upon closer inspection, I noticed that this ant-like critter had what appeared to be lobster claws. Is it even possible for crustaceans to be that small? Or am I just trying to make an erroneous connection?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-Steve Kissinger

Dear Gentle Sir:

I assume you were speaking of an experience in a creek, pond, or river?

If so, the creature you observed that resembled a small clawed ant is none other than the Clawed Ant Crayfish (Pacifastacus myrminex), a member of a wide and varied Californian genus that includes several small cave and aquifer species. The myrminex is one of a few that lives topside.

So named for its small size and dark coloration, the Clawed Ant Crayfish lives in slow-moving creeks with sandy bottoms. It is a detrivore, feeding on tiny organic matter such as algae and insect larva. They grow to no more than two centimeters but their claws are, by proportion, the largest of any cray species.

This relatively uncommon species is endangered due to their high sensitivity to chemical pollutants. Indeed, until the Eighties, many people dumped ant poison in their watersheds thinking they were combatting their ant problems. Instead, they decimated the Clawed Ant population.

Today these gentle crustaceans are making a comeback thanks in part to environmental awareness and strict pollution laws. Please be sure to leave the Clawed Ant Crayfish unmolested should you observe one.

12 Jun 2007


Dear Blue Lobster:

Hello, I have two Johanii cichlids, 2 kenyi, 1 mbuna, 1 regular pleco, a Chinese algae eater, a red rainbow shark, and a fire mouth American cichlid. These are all in a 20 gallon tank I plan to upgrade to a 75 this coming winter.

I would like to add an electric blue lobster my only fear is what it will do to my pleco as it likes to dwell on the bottom as well as my Chinese is this highly not recommended? What are your thoughts?


Dear Gentle Sir:

That's quite a tankful you have there. For those size fishes, the seventy-five gallon tank is a must. If you can afford the extra expense, get a hundred gallon tank. The Chinese Algae-Eater alone can grow to gigantic proportions.

A crayfish in such a crowded tank is anything but a good idea; in fact, it guarantees at least some altercations if not mutually assured destruction.

Once you acquire your new tank, an Electric Blue Lobster or any other kind of crayfish could live happily and safely so long as you follow some simple rules, such as providing hiding spots, such as jars and pipes; plant coverage, which you can purchase at your local pet store; and feeding your cray high quality food.

You may want to find a steady supply of live earthworms, leeches, maggots, and shrimp. A nice steak once in a while is a good idea, and poached eggs will help keep the cray's shell shiny.

With these guidelines in mind, your cray should be able to live a tumultuous, violent life in your new aquarium. To that end I recommend Sun Tzu's The Art of War, a valuable strategy guide for both you and your cray that addresses combat and living in hostile situations.

For example, your cray may succeed in eating all of your fish, in which case he could enjoy complete and total peace not to mention quite a few nice meals. But after that, in the period of peace, his skills would begin to degrade and any new threat would surely topple him.

Other dangers lie ahead before victory, however. Your cray should learn to bow low and fart to the emperor, or in this case, the Chinese Algae-Eater; thus, hiding spaces are important. An empty sack fills no bellies; therefore, keep your cray well-fed, etc.

With these points in mind, and this book in hand, your cray will acclimate to your aquarium community as a sharp warrior of the claw.

6 Jun 2007

The Roman Sewer Crab

Dear Blue Lobster:

recently i had the pleasure of rome and there were these cute little freshwater crabs that look like fiddlers that walk around the streets eating garbage and being silly. i asked a native what they were and he said sono greci and spit. what does this mean?


Dear Gentle Sir:

This crab goes by a number of common names. For example, historians know it as the Etruscan Crab or Trajan's Crab while Sicilians call it the Greek Bug. It's generally known as the Roman Crab throughout Italy and Europe in general while local children call it a sewer bug. Its scientific name is Potamon fluviatile, which means little river-goer. Its characteristics are just as interesting as its names.

This crab was imported from Macedonia at Trajan's behest during the Cancercalia, Rome's pagan crab festival. Wishing to impress the populace, he had the crabs hauled into the center of his forum and dumped on open ground. Children ran after the crabs, catching them, while their parents cooked and ate them. Some of the crabs inevitably escaped and lived in the sewers the Etruscans had built centuries before and have thrived there ever since.

Compared to populations in nearby lakes, rivers, and ponds, the sewer crabs are more robust. Just last year, a survey on the crabs revealed that they are, on average, one and one half times the size of non-sewer populations. The reason probably lies in the fact that the omnivorous scavengers have an easier time finding food in the old sewage system. Indeed, a few specimens of this species kept as pets reach the large size of sixty centimeters.