Thunderbolt Crayfish (Cherax pulcher)

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Thunderbolt Crayfish
Cherax pulcher
Thunderbolt Crayfish (Cherax pulcher)
Name Thunderbolt Crayfish
Name Lat. Cherax pulcher
Synonym Cherax sp. 'Hoa Creek'
Family Southern Hemisphere Crayfishes
Family lat. Parastacidae
Order Decapods
Order lat. Decapoda
Origin New Guinea
Habitat Streams
Diet Crayfish food, leaves, carrion
pH 6.5-7.5
Behavior Peaceful
Keeping Individual, pair, group
Care Level Easy
Reproduction Oviparous
Breeding Moderately difficult
Life Span 3-5 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 8-10 cm
Temperature 20-25 °C
Hardness 5-15 °dH
Aquarium ~ 100 l
US Units
Size 3"-4"
Temperature 68-77 °F
Hardness 89-267 ppm
Aquarium ~ 25 gal

Distribution and habitat

Predominantly crepuscular to nocturnal, Blue Pink Crayfish are found exclusively on the Bird's Head Peninsula in northwestern New Guinea (Indonesia), where they live in the small Hoa Creek River.


They require a well-structured aquarium with roots, stones and robust plants, with hiding places (caves, crab tubes) and a moderate current. The burrowable substrate of sand or fine gravel should be partially covered with foliage (e.g. sea almond leaves, oak leaves), which also serves as food.

No ammonia, ammonium and nitrite should be detectable in the aquarium water, the nitrate value should not exceed 100 mg/l. To ensure water quality and oxygen content, a filter and heater adapted to the size of the aquarium is required, as well as lighting for the proper day-night rhythm of the animals.


They are omnivores that feed on animal organisms, carrion and dead plant material. For a balanced diet, feed once daily with a high-quality crayfish food (pellets, sticks) supplemented with insect larvae (live or frozen), fish, crayfish or shrimp meat, and foliage (e.g., sea almond, oak, beech). Occasionally, plant food in the form of spirulina, kelp or scalded leafy vegetables should be offered.

Unaccepted food must be removed after 2-3 hours. Regular and varied feeding promotes health and prevents deficiency symptoms.

Behaviour and compatibility

They behave peacefully within the species, but also towards other crayfish, therefore the keeping of several pairs or groups in a larger and richly structured tank is well possible. They can be socialized with shrimps, snails and peaceful fish, but it is better to keep them in a species tank.

Basically, only compatible animals with similar demands on water conditions and water temperature should be socialized.

Reproduction and breeding

Males can be identified by the gonopods (mating styli) on the abdomen of the underside of the body. During mating, the male turns the female onto her back shortly after her molt and transfers a sperm package with his gonopods. The female carries the eggs (50-100 of them) on her pleopods (webbed feet) and supplies them with oxygen by movement (fanning). Dead or non-developing eggs are eaten by the female. The young hatch after 4-6 weeks, depending on water temperature.


Each crab must have at least one cave (e.g. crab tube) of its own in which it can hide and also to be able to molt undisturbed

It can happen that a crayfish is missing a claw. Mostly these are females that have lost a claw during mating. The missing claw slowly grows back during the following molts. The strong claws are also used for digging. The aquarium must be well covered so that the animals cannot escape.

The well-being of the animals should be checked regularly. The temperature should be checked daily, the pH, hardness and nitrate value at least every 14 days. Regular partial water changes are recommended, even if the contaminant level has not yet reached the upper limit. Sudden changes in water quality should be avoided. Newly introduced animals must be accustomed slowly to the water in the aquarium

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: Barbara Pachner; Image: Franz Lowak

Source: LUKHAUP & PEKNY (2008): Süßwasserkrebse aus aller Welt, Dähne Verlag; ENGELMANN & LANGE (2011): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Wirbellose, Verlag Harri Deutsch