You can see in the righthand corner the largest crayfish challenging the photographer, ie, me. We named him Dr. Claw.
Dr. Claw is king of the tank, and he knows it. When feeding time comes, he lords over the tank, waddling back and forth with his claws fully extended, attacking the fish and crayfish. He always eats first, and the rest of the tank has to wait until he’s busy eating until they get a chance at anything.
We learned that the crayfish get extremely territorial once the food falls from the sky. They fight eachother violently. Surprisingly, the two smaller crayfish actually hold their ground when the giant Dr. Claw comes rolling by like a tank to take their food away, but they always lose in the end. There’s no winning against Dr. Claw. Fortunately, nobody has lost any limbs yet.
But if the crayfish-on-crayfish violence is bad, it’s nothing compared to the acts committed against the fish. All three crayfish have snapped and snagged at those fish.
The smallest crayfish, little Pinchy, even tried climbing up the plant to grab at passing fish, who quickly learned to stay high and out of reach of those claws.
I have to admit I’m pretty fond of Pinchy. She’s the prettiest crayfish of the three, and she’s scrappy enough to hold her own against the bigger crayfish. She also eats from my hand- after pinching it first.
The medium-sized crayfish, the one that only avoided being cooked and eaten as a snack by Jon and me because I dropped him in the tank by chance, is named Zoidberg. He has a broken antenna. He’s also been trying to teach himself to climb out of the tank using the light cord as a rope. I have to give him credit because Dr. Claw has so far has not taken any such initiative. Why should he when he rules over this tank with a vise-like grip? Maybe Zoidberg’s just trying to get away from him.
I was nervous for the fish at first, but then I relaxed after it seemed like overall the fish were just a bit too swift for the crayfish to catch. Until this happened:
Dr. Claw! You monster! Poor Whitey. I wanted to remove the sad remains of my fish, but Dr. Claw wasn’t willing to let go of his prize.
This turned out not to be a freak accident, as sooner or later all the fish suffered the same fate. And it always happened overnight. Do they get the fish while they’re sleeping?
Really? You too, Pinchy? After a week, not a single fish remained. So much for my fishtank. Now it’s a crayfish tank. I had thought I’d created a tidy little ecosystem, with some bottom feeders to clean the gravel and keep things nice and neat, but instead I’d created a brutal and violent world for these fish, from which they could not escape. I was like that gameshow host in The Running Man pitting these defenseless fish against armed and dangerous predators.
I wondered why as a kid I’d had a crayfish living peacefully alongside my goldfish without incident. I guess it’s because these crayfish are twice the size of the one I’d kept back then.
Sorry, fish. And to think, these crayfish, these unnatural top predators of the tank, haven’t the slightest idea how unlikely it is that they ended up in these luxurious conditions. Most likely they started out in Louisiana in a crayfish farm in a crowded tank, then shipped up the country in another crowded package with thousands of other crayfish, then tossed in a tank with hundreds more crayfish, then tossed in a baggie for me to take home, out of which only three escaped being eaten by Jon and me. They will never know how lucky they are. Their chances of this easy life full of tasty fish were less than those of winning the lottery ten times in a row.
Nevertheless, the carnage has to stop. I read more about the care of crayfish as pets and learned that the bulk of their diet in the wild is decaying plant matter. For them, the rare carrion is a valuable and precious treat that they crave. Point is, they shouldn’t be eating such a high-protein diet. So now I’m trying to convert then into gentle vegetarians. Pinchy still eats from my hand, and they look a lot cuter when they’re eating green beans. Even Dr. Claw likes them. I’m guessing it’s important to keep them well-fed, especially Dr. Claw, lest they start eating eachother.