Skip to main content

Red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii)

Red swamp crayfish Common Names: Louisiana crayfish, American crayfish, or Louisiana lobster

Description: Probably introduced through aquaculture, as it is a popular food worldwide.

Identification: Up to 5 inches (with claws); dark red body and claws with spiky, bright red bumps; black wedge-shaped stripe on underside; females can burrow.

Habitat: Native to the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River drainage to Illinois. Prefer flowing to non-flowing freshwater, salt water; permanent ponds; areas of streams and ditches with organic debris; agricultural areas; wetlands; builds chimney-like burrows.

Reproduction: Short life cycle and highly reproductive. It matures when it reaches a size between 6 and 12.5 cm. A 10 cm female may produce up to 500 eggs, while smaller females may produce around 100 eggs. Eggs are 0.4 mm, and newly hatched crayfish remain with their mother in the burrow for up to eight weeks and undergo two moults before they can fend for themselves. Populations contain individuals that are incubating eggs or carrying young throughout the year. This allows the crayfish to reproduce at the first available opportunity. In places with a long flodding period, greater than 6 months, there may be at least two reproductive periods in autumn and spring.

Impact and Damage: Red swamp crayfish can be a host for parasites and diseases and can carry crayfish fungus plague. Once established, they can impact and ecosystem due to its diverse diet, including plants, insects, snails, fish and amphibians. It aggressively competes with native crayfish and other species for food and habitat.

Similar species: The White River crayfish (Procambarus zonangulus).

Monitoring and rapid response: Clean your watercraft, trailer, motor, equipment, clothing, boots, buckets, etc. Remove all visible mud, aquatic plants and animals before leaving any water access. Drain water from your boat bilge, motor, jet drives and livewell by removing the drain plug and opening all water draining devices away from the boat ramp. Remove water from any bait buckets, diving gear, boots/waders, or any other gear. Dry everything at least five days before going to other waters or spray/rinse recreational equipment with high pressure and/or hot water.

Credits: The information provided in this factsheet was gathered from the Global Invasive Species Database and from "Invaders of the Great Lakes" produced by Wildlife Forever and the Sea Grant Great Lakes Network.

Individual species images that appear with a number in a black box are courtesy of the network ( photo author credits may not be included due to the small display size of the images and subsequent difficulty of reading the provided text. All other images appear courtesy of Google (


Priority Species

Common Name:

Red swamp crayfish

Scientific Name:

Procambarus clarkii


(Freshwater crayfish)



View Species Course